Author: <span>Rene Wadlow</span>

Aung San Suu Kyi Appeals

Burma’s Crumbling Junta

February first marked the anniversary of the military coup which overthrew the government of Aung San Suu Kyi in 2021.  She was in practice the leader of the government but could not take the title of “President” . An earlier military junta had passed a law with her in mind saying that a person married to a foreigner could not become president.  Aung San Suu Kyi  had married a British anthropologist, Michael Aris, a specialist on Tibet who had died in 1989 of cancer.  Aung San Suu Kyi represented a new spirit in Burmese politics, because she had lived most of her life outside Burma and was not linked to existing political compromises.

Thirty Comrades.

    Her father, Aung San, who died when Aung San Suu Kyi was two years old, was one of the original “Thirty Comrades” – student nationlists who were inspired by Second World War Japanese propaganda which appealed for a common Asian struggle against Western imperialism.  Aung San went to Tokyo to assist the Japanese conquest of Burma. 

However, by 1944, the “Thirty Comrades” had decided that the Japanese were not liberators, that the occupation of Burma was carried out for Japanese rather than Burmese ains, and that the Japanese might lose the war.  In the last year of the war, the “Thirty Comrades” cooperated with Lord Mountbatten.

Earl Mountbatten of Burma. By Allan Warren, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Legend of her father.

Thus, on 27 January 1947, the British Prime Minister Clement Attlee and Aung San signed an agreement for full independence of Burma within a year.  On 19 July 1947, Aung San was assassinated by a political rival. He became a legend of Burmese independence.

 Clement Attlee, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1950). By Winterbergen, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

    Aung San Suu Kyi was educated in India (where her mother served as ambassador of Burma) and then at Oxford University.  She only retured to Burma in 1988 in order to care for her dying mother.  Her dynamism, combined with the legend of her father, led her to being named secretary of the National League for Democracy.

General Aung San. By Various collections, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Ethnic Minorities.

    The new military Junta is led by General Min Aung Hlaing, known for his leading vast killing of Muslim Rohingya and pushing them to Bangladesh. Since the military junta has taken power, he has intensified the struggle against the ethnic minorities – the Mon, Kachin, Karen, Shan, Wa, the Arakan Muslims and others.  The ethnic minorities represent some 40 percent of the population, the Burman, some 60 percent. 

However, population statistics are not based on real population surveys. Decades of self-imposed isolation, fabricated statistics and an absence of social and economic research have left even the authorities without an accurate appreciation of the distribution of the population.

The ethnic minorities live in zones on the frontiers of Thailand, China, India and Bangladesh.  The ethnic insurgencies are often close to the frontiers, and some move in and out of the neighboring countries, especially Thailand. Thus, the governments of Thailand, China, India and Bangladesh are all worried although for different reasons. 

In addition to the ethnic insurgencies, there are criminal gangs operating along the frontiers, dealing with prostitution, gambling and the traffic of gems.  These governments are increasingly worried as the Junta is crumbling and the ethnic insurgencies are taking over ever larger areas.  The Junta has turned to Russia for support and arms sales.  Russia  prevents any action in the U.N. Security Council. However, Russian arms are in limited supply as they are needed in Ukraine.

Kachin women in traditional dress. By Yoav David, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The sign the Geneva conventions of 12 August 1947.

    While we are critical of the repressive actions of the military Junta, we must not idealize the forces of the ethnic insurgencies.  In 1992-1993, I was involved in getting the National Council of the Union of Burma – created by the insurgencies and democratic Burman, who had taken refuge in the ethnic minority zones to sign the Geneva conventions of 12 August 1947 and the protocols additional which provide the basic rules of international humanitarian law in armed conflict. 

The Union President General Saw Bo Myn of the Karen National Union and the three Vice Presidents signed in January 1993. While the signature is symbolic – only governments may sign the Geneva conventions – the signature was widely noted. Thus, the Burmese government signed the Conventions which they had always refused to do until then.  The signature led to a mutual release of war prisoners – but not to a formal exchange as the two sides in the conflict refused direct contact at the time.

Leadership by personal interests.

   Burma, now renamed Myanmar after 1988, faces two basic and related issues: the installation of democratic government and a constitutional system which grants rea lautonomy to the minority peoples.  Both tasks are difficult.  There is little democratic tradition or ethos upon which to structure a democratic government.

While a federal or con-federal system would be the most suited for a pluri-ethnic state, the leadership of the Junta and also the insurgencies is motivated by personal and clan interests.  The  leaders recruit allies similarly motivated.  Only peace will allow new leadership to emerge with broader motivations and allow all citizens to participate in a renewed political process.

  René Wadlow, Association of World Citizens.

Gaza Conflict Appeals

Preventing the Expansion of the Gaza Conflict: Are Peace…

Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, has been again in the Middle East working to prevent the violence of the Gaza Strip of spreading to much of the area.  The Gaza Strip conflict has already spread to the West Bank with increased violence between Jewish settlers and Palestinian inhabitants.  There is increased violence along the frontier of Lebanon with the activities of the armed faction Hezbollah and the displacement of Israeli villages.  Negotiations in good faith seem far off, and political speeches grow more conflictual.  Could there be a role for unarmed, non-governmental peace brigades to monitor frontiers and lessen tensions?

    One possibility, inspired by the efforts of Shanti Sena (Peace Army) developed by followers of Mahatma Gandhi in India to deal with Hindu-Muslim violence is to place some nongovernmental teams on the frontier between antagonists in order to provide an opportunity for all parties to “cool off” and negotiate.

Antony J. Blinken, 71st U.S. Secretary of State. By U.S. Department of State, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

    Friends of Humanity.

One such effort in which I was directly involved was an effort to place a peace team on the Nicaraguan-Honduras frontier in 1981. At the time, it was thought that the 400 strong U.S. troops stationed in Honduras might cross the frontier to attack the Saddinista-leftest government in Nicaragua or to help actively the anti-Sandinista “Contras” to do so.  A group of persons associated with the Santa Cruz Resouce Center for Nonviolence in California and affiliated to the organization Peace Brigades International were able to put a team together and move to the Nicaragua-Honduras frontier on short notice.  The group called itself “The Jalapa Brigade” after the small Nicaraguan city near the Honduran frontier where it was posted.

    When the Jalapa Brigade was being put into place, the Ambassador of Nicaragua to the United Nations in Geneva was a former student of mine, and his brother, also a former student of mine, was the legal advisor to the President of Nicaragua.  In fact, when the team arrived, Daniel Ortega, the President, introduced the team as “Friends of Humanity.”

The Gulf Peace Team.

    Through the Ambassador, I was able to inform all the Central American Missions to the U.N. as to the aims and role of the Peace Brigade.  In the end, the U.S. military did not cross the frontier.  Perhaps it never intended to do so. It may also have been that the interposition of U.S. citizens with good organizational contacts helped to weigh in the U.S. military decision-making process.  When the team left, the leader of the Protestant “Evangelical Committee for Development Aid” said:

“The proof of your triumph lies in the fact that no attacks were made while you were in the Jalapa area.”

    There have been other such interposition efforts.  One was the Gulf Peace Team created at the time of the 1990 Iraqi annexation of Kuwait.  The aim of the 73-member Peace Team was to be an “international multicultural team working for peace and opposing any form of armed aggression by setting up one or more international peace camps between the opposing armed forces.  Our object will be to withstand nonviolently any armed aggression by any party to the present Gulf dispute.”  However, on 27 January 1991, the peace camp was closed by Iraq because the authorities had:

“decided that the continued presence of the camp was a security risk.”

Peace Team a Possibility?.   

Likewise a January 2022 proposal of the Association of World CitizensUkraine-Donbas-Russian Frontier: Is a Nongovernmental Interposition Peace Team a Possibility?” was followed three weeks later by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

    Thus the creation of interposition peace teams in the Israel-Palestine conflict would not be easy to create for political and logistic reasons.  There are economic and logistic resources required and, more importantly, there is the need to raise enough volunteers who are mature, culturally sensitive, and analystically-minded to achieve a critical mass that would make a difference in the decision-making of the conflicting parties.  There is also the need to keep the unity of purpose within the teams if they have not worked together before.

However, the current situation is very dangerous.  The dangers are widely recognized.  Therefore all forms of conflict reduction need to be explored.

Image: The famous Independence Square in Kiev on a sunny day. Photo by Euan Cameron on Unsplash.

Ukraine-Donbas-Russia: Can the Normandy Format Be Reactivated? 

René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Israel y Hamás Appeals

World Citizens Call for an Inmediate End to Hostilities…

Featured image: The impact of the Israeli bombing on a civilian building in Gaza (2021). By Osama Eid, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The AWC, a Nongovernmental Organization in Consultative Status with the United Nations (UN) and accredited with the UN Human Rights Council, is deeply alarmed at the latest flare of violence between the armed militias of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Most importantly, we are appalled at the consequences of the deliberate attacks from both sides on the rights of civilians in Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Since the attacks launched by its forces in the early morning of October 7, Hamas has been targeting civilians in Israel, even capturing Israeli citizens, both civilians and IDF soldiers, to keep them as hostages. The legitimate cause of a people long deprived of their own land, a cause that even the UN recognizes as internationally legitimate, cannot be served in dignity by such methods that run counter to international law.

A map of the Gaza Strip showing key towns and neighbouring countries. By Gringer (talk) 14:01, 8 January 2009 (UTC), CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).

The current government of Israel has been constantly pushing the limits of disregard for the same international law, through repeated and insistent statements and practices aiming at systematic discrimination against the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Within the internationally recognized borders of the State of Israel, the current Israeli Government has also sowed the seeds of discord and political strife by trying to lessen the powers of the executive branch and, in so doing, to end Israel’s tradition of democracy with checks and balances.

Palestinian solidarity protester with Palestinian flag and a “Free Palestine” sign outside Downing Street, London, 5 June 2018, by Alisdare Hickson, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons.

The Middle East conflict right from its root causes.

This misguided conduct has proved harmful to both the Palestinian people and the citizenry of Israel. It is now creating new chaos in the region amounting to, in the very words of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, a threat to international peace and security. The situation could get even worse as Hezbollah, notoriously backed by Iran, has now unwisely joined the fight from South Lebanon.

Once more, the rights of civilians in Israel and the Gaza Strip are falling victim to the hatred and violence unleashed by both sides in the absence of a badly needed but constantly denied international effort to tackle the Middle East conflict right from its root causes, including the Palestinian people’s demand for justice and the State of Israel’s need for security.

Consequently, the AWC reiterates its call for an immediate end to hostilities in Israel and the Gaza Strip. We also call for the release of every person, civilian or military, taken hostage by Hamas.

We further urge the international community to finally undertake a genuine peacebuilding effort in Israel and the OPT by addressing the root causes of the conflict and duly acting on the legitimate claim of the Palestinian people for justice and the equally legitimate claim of the Israeli people for security.

There is truly no other option now.

Separation wall between Israel and the West Bank in Palestine. By Ilya Varlamov, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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Populism Book Reviews

Transformation of Populism in Europe and the Americas: History…

Featured Image: 1896 Judge cartoon shows William Jennings Bryan/Populism as a snake swallowing up the mule representing the Democratic party. By US “Judge” magazine, 1896., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

John Abromeit, Bridget M. Chesterton, Gary Marotta, York Norman (Eds).

Transformation of Populism in Europe and the Americas: History and Recent Tendencies (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016, 354pp.)

On 12 December 2015, Benedict Anderson;  the British historian, author of the widely cited 1983 book:  Imagined Communities died. In this influential study of nationalism;  he saw nationalism as a possible imaginative process that allows to feel solidarity for strangers.

He wrote: 

“In an age when it is so common for progressives, cosmopolitan intellectuals (particularly in Europe?) to insist on the near-pathological character of nationalism;  its roots in fear and hatred of the Other, of its affinities with racism;  it is useful to remind ourselves that nations inspire love and often profoundly self-sacrificing love…The cultural products of nationalism − poetry, prose fiction, music, plastic arts − show this love very clearly in thousands of different forms and styles.”

The rise of Hitler and the Nazis.

However, as a cosmopolitan intellectual, looking at the reactions to the flow of migrants and refugees to Europe,  and to the results of some recent elections with a sharp rise in populist nationalism;  I am among those who stress the near-pathological character of nationalism. 

The editors share my fears. The longest section of the book is devoted to the way scholars analyze the rise of Hitler and the Nazis during the Weimar Republic. While nationalist sentiments and the Staklhelm predated Hitler;  Hitler and the small group around him were able to mobilize the periphery against the center;  even the conservative center;  and thus to give voice to those who found themselves excluded from a meaningful role in German political life.

Yet as Larry Jones notes,  in his contribution-one must not lose sight of the fact that:

the Nazi assault against the Weimar Republic was not a movement that somehow arose spontaneously out of the frustration, hardship, and suffering  of those in German society;  who had been marginalized by the course of German political and economic;  development since the beginning of the First World War;  but a highly centralized and carefully controlled campaign that relied upon a party organization”… with an iron discipline that left little autonomy or capacity for spontaneity.

Larry Jones

At Institute for Humanist Studies dinner honoring Larry Jones’s Humanism, Aug. 24, 2013. By Roy Speckhardt, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

“Populism as an Identity: Four Propositions on Peronism”.

Only Juan Peron;  who came to power in a military coup in 1943 in Argentina;  consciously incorporated many of the Nazi techniques and symbols. However, as Mathew Karush stresses in his chapter “Populism as an Identity: Four Propositions on Peronism”;  Peron drew support from a fairly wide group of people,  which made his populism lack a specific and consistent ideology.  While Peron and similar Latin American leaders were not democrats;  they did not have the ability to kill those with different ideas on the scale of the Nazi.

Juan Domingo Perón

 

General Juan Domingo Perón has a coffee. By Pinélides A. Fusco, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

“Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe Today”.

Therefore, as Cas Mudde in his analysis of “Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe Today” notes “Today populist radical right parties share a core ideology ; that combines (at least) three features: nativism, authoritarianism, and populism”.  Nativism entails a combination of nationalism and xenophobia − an ideology that holds that a State should be inhabited exclusively by members of “the nation” and that “alien” elements, whether persons or ideas, are fundamentally threatening to the homogeneous “nation-state”.

Populist radical-right parties are experiencing their biggest electoral and political success in post-war Europe,  but fortunately, neither Marine Le Pen, nor Geert Wilders is Adolf Hitler. Therefore, there is a crucial role for us “cosmopolitan intellectuals”

Cas Mudde

Cas Mudde at Forum / Debate in KulturhusetStadsteatern in Stockholm on March 5, 2018 in a conversation about how liberal democracies can defend themselves against extremism without giving up basic values. By Frankie Fouganthin, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Non-Governmental Organization and The “National Heros”.

The populist right parties play on a loss of confidence in the major political parties, as well as in the civil servants of the European Union. We have little influence on the ways the major political parties operate and even less influence on the European Union secretariat. 

Thus, our role is to develop strong civil society – non-governmental organization walls by protecting human rights;  and by dealing creatively with migrants and refugees. Our role is not only to defend but also to counter-attack. We need to develop more strongly our cosmopolitan ethos.

We need to develop counter-myth figures to the “national heros”. We need to stress the unity of humanity as opposed to national-ethnic identities. We must take the current  populist-nationalist efforts seriously and to develop an organized response.

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

 

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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Danilo Dolci Book Reviews

Danilo Dolci: Development and Opposition to the Oppression of…

Featured Image: Portrait of Danilo Dolci. Conference in Geneva, Mai 25, 1992. By MHM55, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

“The Gandhi of Sicily”.

Danilo Dolci (1925-1997),  was active in the movement for world citizenship and deeply influenced by the non-violent methods of Mahatma Gandhi. He was often called “The Gandhi of Sicily”.

In 1952;  Danilo Dolci went to live in a small, very poor town of western Sicily. The towns-people watched him and wondered why an intelligent and well-educated man should come to live in an area where murder was commonplace;  and the poor stole from the poor. The people had tolerated Fascism for 21 years and the oppression of the Mafia even longer.

Danilo Dolci;  born near Trieste in the north of Italy;  was the son of a railroad official who had worked in Sicily in this youth;  and told his family of the poverty and suffering there – a place to be avoided if possible. When the Second World War began;  Danilo Dolci was conscripted but refused combatant training and was imprisoned. After the war;  he worked with a dynamic priest, Zeno Saltini who had built a community for abandoned children.

The Connections with the Mafia.

However;  Danilo Dolci went on to study architecture and town planning in Milan and Rome;  and wrote articles on the use of reinforced concrete. He had a spiritual awakening experience ; which led him to ask if his life goal was to build luxury apartments;  for those who were already well-off. He replied “no” and recalled his father’s accounts of poverty in Sicily.

Dolci moved to western Sicily;  and following the example of Gandhi; first set out to listen to the life experiences of the people around him. He later published these accounts in a series of books;  based on what the poor said of themselves and their lives. (1) Unemployment and under-employment were constant themes.

A job could be had only through the connections with the Mafia;  which controlled what little formal economy existed in the area. The Mafia had ties to the political structures as well as to the higher Roman Catholic clergy.

Mahatma Gandhi

You might to be interesting read Simone Panter-Brick Gandhi and Nationalism.

“Reverse Strike”

Dolci worked simultaneously on two fronts. On one;  he tried to give immediate help;  on the other;  he tried to address the causes of misery. In 1956;  Dolci and his local friends launched a “reverse strike” by repairing a long neglected road. Their justification for this was Article 4 of the Italian Constitution which affirms that:

“all citizens have the right to work and to promote conditions which render this right effective.”

The day before this “strike-in-reverse” the 700 participants fasted in preparation. Dolci and 22 others were arrested and sentenced to four months in prison. The trial, however;  drew international attention to Dolci and his ideas and efforts.

Dolci established a Centro Studie Insitiative; a sort of village university, close in spirit to the Danish Folk High Schools. The aim was to disperse the despair and hopelessness that the Mafia and poverty had brought to Sicily.

His work was of small, patient steps. The path is not easy but is being continued by others for whom he set out the way.

Danilo Dolci

Trappeto, Sicily 1952. Social activist Danilo Dolci in a hunger strike for eight days (October 14 to 21), in the home of Mimmo and Giustina, whose child died of hunger. [1], Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Note.

1) For two books of Danilo Dolci in English of Sicilians telling of their life experience see: Danilo Dolci. Sicilian Lives (New York: Pantheon Books, 1981, 304pp) and Danilo Dolci. To Feed the Hungry (London: Macgibbon and Kee, 1959, 327pp).

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

 

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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World Humanitarian Day Appeals

World Humanitarian Day: A Need for Common Actions.

Featured Image: Photo by Wylly Suhendra on Unsplash.

The United Nations General Assembly has designated 19 August as “World Humanitarian Day” to pay tribute to aid workers in humanitarian service in difficult and often dangerous conditions.  19 August was designated in memory of the 19 August 2003 bombing of the UN office building in Baghdad, Iraq in which Sergio Vieira de Mello,  UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and at the time Special Representative of the UN Secretary General was killed along with 21 UN staff members. Over 200 UN employees were injured. The exact circumstances of the attack are not known, and why USA and UN security around the building was not tighter is still not clear. A truck with explosives was able to dive next to the building and then blew itself up.

Sergio de Mellow had spent his UN career in humanitarian efforts, often with the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees and at other  times as Special Representative of the UN Secretary General. As an NGO representative to the UN in Geneva and active on human rights issues, I knew him during his short 2002-2003 tenure as High Commissioner for Human Rights. Many of us had high hopes that his dynamism, relative youth (he was 54) and wide experience in conflict resolution efforts would provide new possibilities for human rights efforts. His death along with the death of others who had been Geneva-based was a stark reminder of the risks that exist for all engaged in humanitarian and conflict resolution work.

Sergio de Mello
Brazilian diplomat Sérgio Vieira de Melo. By Wilson Dias/ABr, CC BY 3.0 BR <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/br/deed.en>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Collateral Damage.

This year the risks and dangers are not just memories but are daily news. On 3 May 2016, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2286 calling for greater protection for health care institutions and personnel in light of recent attacks against hospitals and clinics in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Afghanistan.  These attacks on medical facilities are too frequent to be considered “collateral damage.” The attacks indicate a dangerous trend of non-compliance with world law by both State and non- State agents.  The protection of medical personnel and the  treatment of all the wounded − both allies and enemies − goes back to the start of humanitarian law.

The Association of World Citizens has stressed the need for accountability, including by investigation of alleged violations of the laws of war.  The grave violations by the Islamic State (ISIS) must be protested by as wide a coalition of concerned voices as possible. There is a real danger that as ISIS disintegrates and no longer controls as much territory, it will increase terrorist actions.

(Red Cross) Conventions.

The laws of war, now more often called humanitarian law, have two wings, one dealing with the treatment of medical personnel in armed conflict situations, the military wounded, prisoners of war, and the protection of civilians. This wing is represented by the Geneva (Red Cross) Conventions. The second wing, often called The Hague Conventions limit or ban outright the use of certain categories of weapons. These  efforts began at The Hague with the 1900 peace conferences and have continued even if the more recent limitations on land mines, cluster weapons and chemical weapons have been negotiated elsewhere.

The ban on the use of weapons are binding only on States which have ratified the convention. Thus the current use of USA-made cluster weapons in Yemen by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition is, in a narrow sense, legal as the USA, Saudi Arabia and Yemen have not signed the cluster weapon ban. The Association of World Citizens was one of the NGOs leading the campaign against cluster weapons. My position is that when a large number of States ratify a convention (which is the case for the cluster-weapons ban) then the convention becomes world law and so must be followed by all States and non-State actors even if they have not signed or ratified the convention. The same holds true for the use of land mines currently being widely used by ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

The current situation concerning refugees and internally-displaced persons can also be considered as part of humanitarian law.  Thus those working with refugees and the displaced within their country are also to be honored by the World Humanitarian Day.  To prevent and alleviate human suffering, to protect life and health and to ensure respect for the human person − these are the core values of humanitarian law.

There needs to be a wide public outcry in the defense of humanitarian law so that violations can be reduced. The time for action is now.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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Peace Planners Appeals

 Peace Planners: Awake!.

Featured Image: Photo by  Eddie Kopp,  Unsplash.

The recent NATO Summit in Vilnius is an indication that the war planning community is busy at work in the spirit of Von Clausewitz that war is a continuation of politics by other means.  Thus there is a need for the peace planning community to be awake and be equally busy.  The challenges which humanity faces today: armed violence, persistent poverty, mass migration, and the consequences of climate change, require strong collective action at the local, the national, and the world level.

Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831). By Karl Wilhelm Wach, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.   

For peace planners, we need to analyse current armed conflicts and the strong tensions which may lead to violence.  Sometimes these tensions start as small localized events, such as tensions between military forces on the India-China frontier, but such tensions contain the seeds for later armed violence.  The recent trip of the 100 year old Henry Kissinger across the Pacific to discuss with the Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu is an indication that tensions in the Indo-Pacific area are being taken seriously.

Chinese Minister of National Defence, General Li Shangfu in Singapore at the Shangri La Dialogue on Sunday, 4th June 2023. By Photographer: Danial Hakim, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons.

NGOs bring their early warning capacities and problem-solving.

    For peace planners, there is a need to stregthen measures for early intervention.  Too often intervention by the United Nations or other intergovernmental agencies such as the African Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe occurs only once the conflict has become a serious dispute involving violence.

    For those of us who are outside of governmental institutions, there is a need to strengthen the capacity of non-governmental organizations (NGO) for peace planning.  NGOs on bring their early warning capacities and problem-solving knowleadge to the United Nations and regional intergovernmental organizations.  Among NGOs, exchanges of information, the creation of regional or thematic working groups, and co-ordinated information campaigns are vital needs. 

Henry Kissinger at the 2009 premiere of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Photographer’s blog post about event and photograph. By David Shankbone, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Adlai Stevenson.

As soon as well-researched material is available, the issue is to get the information to the right people, at the right time, and in the right wording.  Timeliness and clarity of message are crucial.  Many governmental decision-makers receive thick reports, jargon-laden faxes, and briefing notes.

    The challenge for us who plan for a more peaceful world is to help develop processes for dialogue.  As Adlai Stevenson said at the U.N.

“We do not hold the vision of a world without conflict.  We do hold the vision of a world without war – and this inevitably requires an alternative system for dealing with conflict.”

Adlai Stevenson, Democratic candidate for president. Note: Contrast slightly increased from original image (see below) (1956). [1], Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.   

René Wadlow, President, The Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

World Refugee Day.

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China-India Frontier Appeals

Track Two Efforts Needed to Reduce China-India Frontier Tensions.

Featured Image: Arunachal Pradesh – India. Photo by Unexplored NortheastUnsplash.

There has been a constant buildup of military forces by the governments of both India and China along their common frontiers.  The Indian provence of Arunachal Pradesh (called Zangman by the Chinese) with Itanagar as its capital is claimed by the Chinese.  The frontier was drawn in 1914 and is called the McMahon Line. The frontier dispute led to the October-November 1962 China-India armed conflict with important consequences especially for Indian foreign-policy making.

    In recent years there have been flashes of tension along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as the military of both China and India have built new roads and observation posts along the LAC. Such tensions could grow as the relative political power of India and China grows and takes the form of a struggle for power.  Currently there are no public negotiations between the Chinese and Indian governments. India, this year, is the chair of the G20 grouping of states.  The Indian government has organized a number of G20 seminars on different issues in a number of Indian cities.  However, for the moment, China has not sent representatives to these seminars.

Group photo of the G20 leaders during the 2021 meeting. By Casa Rosada (Argentina Presidency of the Nation), CC BY 2.5 AR https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/ar/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons.

Track Two.

    The Association of World Citizens has expressed its active concern with these tensions on the China-India frontier and the possibilty that the tensions will increase.  With the lack of formal China-India negotiations, the Association of World Citizens raises the possibility of strong Track Two discussions.

    The term Track Two was coined by the U.S. diplomat Joseph Montville in his book The Arrow and the Olive Branch.  Track Two discussions are organized by non-governmental organizations often with the help of academic institutions.  Track Two discussions among non-officials of conflicting parties aim to clarify outstanding disputes and see on what issues negotiations might progress.

    As Adam Curle, experienced in Quaker mediation efforts has written:

“In general, governments achieve their results because they have power to influence events, including the ability to reward or to punish.  Paradoxically, the strength of civilian peacemaking resides specifically in their lack of power.  They are neither feared nor courted for what they can do.  Instead, they are trusted and so may sometimes be enabled to play a part in peacemaking denied to more official diplomats.”

     Thus, it will be important to follow as closely as possible the results of  the G20 seminars in India and then build upon them in a Track Two pattern. Concerning the China-India frontier issues, both governments must be convinced that there is a considerable desire for peace among their citizens.  There is also a need for some involved in Track Two efforts to hve an integrated perspective of peacebuilding techniques and a long-term view of possibilities for transforming political relations.

  René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

World Refugee Day.

June 20 is the United Nations (UN)-designated World Refugee Day;  marking the signing in 1951 of the Convention on Refugees. The condition of refugees and migrants has become a “hot”…

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Democratic Republic of Congo Appeals

Democratic Republic of Congo: Sky Getting Darker.

Photo by  jorono,  Pixabay.

The armed conflict in the eastern area of the Democratic Republic of Congo (RDC) on the frontier with Rwanda seems to be growing worse and is impacting in a negative way the lives of people. The current fighting adds to the insecurity of the area and has virtually stopped cross-frontier activities largely done by women small traders. As a result, the price of existing food supplies has increased greatly, and shortages are to be feared.

The current armed conflict is among a Tutsi-led militia, the Mouvement du 23 Mars (M23), the forces of the RDC government and different ethnic militias. The President of the RDC, Felix Tshisekedi, sponsored the creation of local militias to help government soldiers, but the government does not control these militias. The United Nations (UN) Stabilization Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO) which has been in the RDC since 1999 is the largest UN peacekeeping force with some 15,000 members.

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo meets with Democratic Republic of the Congo President Felix Tshisekedi on the margins of the NATO Ministerial at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., in Washington, D.C., on April 3, 2019. [State Department photo by Michael Gross/ Public Domain]. By U.S. Department of State from United States, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Helmet Icon of United Nations Peacekeeping Logo. By United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

A theoretical UN sponsored arms embargo.

However, it has been unable to halt the fighting or to protect civilians. In fact, the area of conflict has grown and engendered a catastrophic humanitarian crisis, causing the displacement of more than one million civilians in North Kivu Province. The M23 has recently launched attempts to win allies in South Kivu Province, in particular the armed group Twirwaneko, with the objective of opening a front in South Kivu.

The government of Rwanda has become increasingly involved in the Kivu conflict with direct intervention by the Rwanda Defense Force (RDF) and, despite a theoretical UN sponsored arms embargo, with weapons and other military equipment. The M23 is also fighting against the Forces démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) a Hutu-led group hostile to the government of Rwanda.

Non-State actors and armed militias such as those in the RDC.

Recent attacks by M23 on populations associated with, or presumed to support the FDLR, have grown. Incidents of rape, including gang rape, by M23 combatants are prevalent but are not limited to the M23. The armed conflict is colored by a tense political situation with general elections, most significantly a presidential election, scheduled for December 2023.

The increased violence indicates the need for local non-governmental peacebuilding efforts which can be also facilitated by international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). There is also a greater need to build respect for International Humanitarian Law (IHL). When the framework of current IHL as drafted in the 1948 Geneva Conventions in light of the experiences of World War II, the focus was upon the actions of national armies. Today, much violence and strife is due to non-State actors and armed militias such as those in the RDC.

There are two major weaknesses in the effectiveness of IHL.

  1. The first is that many people do not know that it exists and that they are bound by its norms. Thus, there is an important role for greater educational activities, the dissemination of information to the wider public, specific training of the military, outreach to armed militias, and cooperation with a wide range of NGOs.
  2. The second weakness is that those violating IHL are rarely punished. Few soldiers are tried or court-martialed. This weakness is even more true for non-state militias and armed groups. There is yet much to do for the realization of the rule of law.

Note.

  1. For useful guides to International Humanitarian Law see: D. Schindler and J. Toman, The Laws of Armed Conflict (Martinus Nihjoff Publishers, 1988).
  2. H. McCoubrey and N.D. White, International Law and Armed Conflict (Dartmouth Publishing Co. 1992).

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

World Refugee Day.

June 20 is the United Nations (UN)-designated World Refugee Day;  marking the signing in 1951 of the Convention on Refugees. The condition of refugees and migrants has become a “hot”…

1 2 11

world refugee day Appeals

World Refugee Day.

June 20 is the United Nations (UN)-designated World Refugee Day;  marking the signing in 1951 of the Convention on Refugees. The condition of refugees and migrants has become a “hot” political issue in many countries; and the policies of many governments have been very inadequate to meet the challenges. The UN-led World Humanitarian Summit held in Istanbul, Turkey on May, 23-24, 2016 called for efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts by:

“courageous leadership, acting early, investing in stability, and ensuring broad participation by affected people and other stakeholders.”

If there were more courageous political leadership; we might not have the scope and intensity of the problems that we now face. Care for refugees is the area in which there is the closest cooperation between nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the UN system. As one historian of the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has written:

“No element has been more vital to the successful conduct of the programs of the UNHCR than the close partnership between UNHCR and the non-governmental organizations.”

The 1956 flow of refugees from Hungary was the first emergency operation of the UNHCR. The UNHCR turned to the International Committee of the Red Cross;  and the League of Red Cross Societies;  which had experience and the finances to deal with such a large and unexpected refugee departures and re-settlements. Since 1956;  the UNHCR has increased the number of NGOs; both international and national, with which it works given the growing needs of refugees and the increasing work with internally displaced persons; who were not originally part of the UNHCR mandate.

World Refugee Day
Immigration – Refugee arrivals in Australia – Athol Townley, Minister For Immigration of Australia, with the first Hungarian refugees to arrive after Hungarian uprising. By Department of Immigration, Central Office, Australia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Investing in Stability.

Along with emergency responses − tents, water, medical facilities − there are longer-range refugee needs, especially facilitating integration into host societies. It is the integration of refugees and migrants; which has become a contentious political issue. Less attention has been given to the concept of “investing in stability”. One example:

The European Union (EU); despite having pursued in words the design of a Euro-Mediterranean Community; in fact did not create the conditions to approach its achievement. The Euro-Mediterranean partnership; launched in 1995 in order to create a free trade zone and promote cooperation in various fields; has failed in its purpose. The EU did not promote a plan for the development of the countries of North Africa and the Middle East and did nothing to support the democratic currents of the Arab Spring.

Conflict Management.

However;  today  the immigration crisis from the Middle East and North Africa has been dealt with almost exclusively as a security problem.

The difficulties encountered in the reception of refugees do not lie primarily in the number of refugees;  but in the speed with which they have arrived in Western Europe. These difficulties are the result of the lack of serious reception planning; and weak migration policies.

The war in Syria has gone on for five years. Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, not countries known for their planning skills; have given shelter to nearly four million persons; mostly from the Syrian armed conflicts. That refugees would want to move further is hardly a surprise. That the refugees from war would be joined by “economic” and “climate” refugees is also not a surprise. The lack of adequate planning has led to short-term “conflict management” approaches.

Fortunately; NGOs and often spontaneous help have facilitated integration; but the number of refugees and the lack of planning also impacts NGOs.

World Refugee DaySyrian refugee camp on theTurkish border for displaced people of the Syrian civil war. By Voice of America News: Henry Ridgwell on the Turkish border, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Thus;  there is a need on the part of both governments and NGOs to look at short-term emergency humanitarian measures and at longer-range migration patterns; especially at potential climate modification impact.

World Refugee Day can be a time to consider how best to create a humanist, cosmopolitan society.

 

By Prof. René Wadlow,  President of the Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.