Author: <span>Rene Wadlow</span>

Tiananmen Square Appeals

4 June: Memories of Tiananmen Square.

4 June makes the security forces in China somewhat uneasy, especially in Hong Kong where, in the past, there were large memorial meetings tp remind people of 4 June 1989 when the military and police moved against those who had been protesting publicly for over a month.  Students from colleges and universities in China’s capital initiated protests after the death of the former General Secretary of the Communist Party, Hu Yaobang on 15 April 1989 who was considered a liberal reformer. 

The movement then spread over a number of weeks to most of the major cities.  Students made numerous demands, among them were calls for an end to government corruption, increased funding for education, and freedom of the press.  As the movement went on, students were increasingly joined by industrial workers.

Hu Yaobang (1986). By dati.camera.it, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

There were differences of opinion within the ruling government circle as to how to deal with the protests.  As the protests continued, there was more and more international media attention, especially as there were an increasing number of journalists in Beijing in advance of the visit of the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev with a large delegation of Soviet officials.

Mikhail Gorbachev in The White House Library, 12/8/1987. By Unknown photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Goddess of Democracy.

Students and intellectuals started writing petitions setting out demands that were signed by more and more people.  The decentralized structure of power and decisionmaking among groups in Tienanmen Square allowed for tactical innovation as each group was free to act as it desired and stress the symbols it wanted.  Thus art school students created the Goddess of Democracy, largely based on the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor.  The growth in support for the student-led protests led the more anti-reformist faction in the government to order a crackdown by the military and the police.  The tanks started to move into Tiananmen Square.

Replica of the statue “Goddess of Democracy” from the Tiananmen square protests in 1989. Photo taken in Victoria Park, Hong Kong, during the commemoration event for the 21st anniversary of the massacre. Photo by MarsmanRom & Isa Ng, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Goddess of Democracy: 4 June 1989.

Democratization from Below.

Since June 1989 there have been reforms within China – what we might call “democratization from below” but without large scale, highly visible public protests.  ‘Stability’ and ‘harmony’ have been the stated government policy aims, coloured by the breakup of the Soviet Union and fundamental changes in Eastern Europe.  So democratization needs to proceed quietly and gradually.  Such democratization requires long-term vision and skilful leadership.  Democratization is basically linked to individualization, to an ever-larger number of people thinking for themselves, creating their own life styles and ‘thinking outside the box’.  It can be a slow process and repressive forces within the government watch events closely. 

However, it is likely that the direction of individualism is set and cannot be reversed.

René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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

The Uprooted.

Increasing numbers of people in countries around the world, have been forced from their homes, by armed conflicts and systematic violations of human rights. Those who cross internationally recognized borders…

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International Museum Day Appeals

International Museum Day: The Advancement of Learning.

18 May has been designated by UNESCO as the International Day of Museums to highlight the role that museums play in preserving beauty, culture, and history. This year, 2024, the theme is:

“Museums for Education and Research, to develop a future where knowledge transcends barriers and where innovation unites with tradition.”

Museums come in all sizes and are often related to institutions of learning and libraries.  Increasingly, churches and centers of worship have taken on the character of museums as people visit them for their artistic value even if they do not share the faith of those who built them.

    Museums are important agents of intellectual growth and cultural understanding.  They are part of the common heritage of humanity, and thus require special protection in times of armed conflict.  Conserving a cultural heritage is always difficult.  Weak institutional capabilities, lack of appropriate resources, and isolation of many culturally essential sites are compounded by a lack of awareness of the value of cultural heritage conservation. 

Cultural Heritage Conservation.

However, the dynamism of local initiatives and community solidarity systems are impressive assets.  These local forces should be enlisted, enlarged, and empowered to preserve and protect a heritage.  Involving local people in cultural heritage conservation both increases the efficiency of cultural heritage conservation and raises awareness of the importance of the past for people facing rapid changes in their environment and values.

    In many societies, traditional systems of knowledge are rarely written down; they are implicit, continued by practice and example, rarely codified or even articulated by the spoken word.  They continue to exist as long as they are useful, as long as they are not supplemented by new techniques. They are far too easily lost.  Thus, it is the objects that came into being through these systems of knowledge that become critically important.

Museums as a place of Learning.

    Thus, museums must become key institutions at the local level.  They should function as a place of learning.  The objects that bear witness to systems of knowledge must be accessible to those who would visit and learn from them.  Culture must be seen in its entirety: how women and men live in the world, how they use it, preserve and enjoy it for a better life.  Museums allow objects to speak, to bear witness to past experiences and future possibilities and thus to reflect on how things are and how things might otherwise be.

    Museums help to build new bridges between nations, ethnic groups and communities through values such as beauty and harmony that may serve as common references.  Museums also build bridges between generations, between the past, the present, and the future.  Therefore on this International Museum Day, let us consider together how we may advance the impact of beauty upon the world.

   René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Education for Global Citizenship Appeals

A Flowering of Culture: A Goal of the UNESCO-led…

 A flowering of culture is an important response to major world challenges such as armed conflicts, persistent poverty, increased migration, and the consequences of climate change.  The UNESCO-led program of Education for Global Citizenship stresses the aim of developing a sense of belonging to a common humanity, sharing common values and responsibilities with empathy and solidarity.  Thus, there is a need to act effectively at the local, national and global levels for a peaceful and harmonious world society.

    Education for Global Citizenship aims to be transformative, building the knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes needed to contribute to a more inclusive, just, and peaceful world society.  Education for Global Citizenship applies a lifelong learning perspective, beginning from childhood and continuing through all levels of education, with both formal and extracurricular approaches.

    Culture plays a vital role in understanding shared values, and at the same time developing an appreciation of, and respect for, differences and diversity with respect to language, literature, music, and religion.  Given the strong position of Western culture on the world scene, there is a need for a greater understanding of the Asian philosophies of Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam.

    Increasingly, we see the growth of the awareness of harmony and the unity of humanity.  Nevertheless, there are still strong currents of fear, mistrust, and rejection of “the other” which we must overcome.  We are summoned to embrace an active, world-embracing morality and the ideal of freedom which is the political expression of that morality. The future will be the result of our choices at every level of activity. Let us make creative and profound choices!.

 René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Credits:

Featured Image: Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash.
International Criminal Court. Appeals

International Criminal Court: Upholding International Humanitarian Law.

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC), on May 20, 2024 announced that he had formally applied for arrest warrants for leaders of the Israeli government and the political and military leaders of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) for war crimes and crimes against humanity as set out in the Rome Statute which created the ICC.

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC). By Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The killing of Israeli civilians on October 7, 2023 and the taking of hostages.

The Israeli leaders are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Chief of Staff, General Herzi Halevi. The Hamas leaders are Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas since 2017, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri, the Commander-in-Chief of the Al-Assam Brigades – the military arm of Hamas, and Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas’s Political Bureau based in Doha, Qatar.

Benjamin Netanyahu MK, 9th Prime Minister of the State of Israel. By Avi Ohayon / Government Press Office of Israel, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Israelis are accused of violations of international humanitarian law including starvation as a method of war including the denial of humanitarian relief supplies and deliberately targeting civilians. The Hamas leaders are said to be individually criminally responsible for the killing of Israeli civilians on October 7, 2023 and the taking of hostages.

Yoav Gallant MK, 22nd Minister of Defence of the State of Israel. By Avi Ohayon / Government Press Office of Israel, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The lives of all human beings have equal value.

Karim Khan stated in an interview at the time of the announcement of the arrest warrants, “We must collectively demonstrate that international humanitarian law, the foundational baseline for human conduct during conflict, applies to all individuals and applies equally across the situations addressed by my Office and the Court. This is how we will prove, tangibly, that the lives of all human beings have equal value.”

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Chief of Staff, General Herzi Halevi. By  / IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

The application for arrest warrants is the first step. The warrants must be approved by a panel of ICC judges which oversee such decisions. Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, but Palestine accepted its jurisdiction in 2015. The legal aspect of the next steps is complicated and need to be followed closely.

Yahya Sinwar, commander of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, shakes hands with a soldier. By Fars Media Corporation, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Association of World Citizens has stressed that all elements of international humanitarian law must be safeguarded and charges of war crimes investigated.

Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas’s Political Bureau. By Council.gov.ru, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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

foreign influence Appeals

Start to Dangerous Regression of Liberty in Georgia: A…

Despite strong protests from Georgian Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) and street protests for three weeks in the capital Tbilisi, the Georgian Parliament adopted on May 14, 2024 the controversial law on “foreign influence”. The vote was 84 in favor and 30 opposed.

The law is likely to be vetoed by the Georgian President, Salomé Zourabichvili, a former French diplomat, but there are probably enough favorable votes in the Parliament to override the veto.

The law is very close to a similar law of 2012 in the Russian Federation used to hinder NGOs often considered to be “enemy agents” voicing opposition to the government. The law obliges NGOs and media to publish all financing from foreign governments, foundations, and individuals if it amounts to 20 or more percent of the funds of the organization. The law has been strongly opposed by officials of the European Union and the United States. Georgia has a candidate status for joining the European Union.

President of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili in Brussels, 2019. By President.ge, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

People without a Country.

The former Prime Minister and leader of the Georgian Dream Party in power for the last 12 years, Bidzina Ivanichvili, has attacked those opposed to the law as “people without a country” – a term used in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. He has been playing with a fear among some in power in Georgia that NGOs with foreign funding could create a “color revolution” to overthrow the government as was done elsewhere.

In the days prior to the vote, there was strong government pressure against journalists and NGO representatives, some being beaten and many threatened by telephone calls. As Citizens of the World concerned with the role of NGOs and freedom of the press, we need to watch developments in Georgia closely.

Prime Minister of Georgia Bidzina Ivanishvili in the Polish Senate.
Prime Minister of Georgia Bidzina Ivanishvili in the Polish Senate. By The Chancellery of the Senate of the Republic of Poland , CC BY-SA 3.0 PL https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/pl/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons.

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

Credits:

Featured Image: Image by Adam Lapuník on Pixabay.
Rafah Appeals

Rafah, Gaza Strip: A Human Catastrophe in the Making.

“I am disturbed and distressed by the renewed military activity in Rafah by the Israeli Defense Forces. Make no mistake – a full-scale assault on Rafah would be a human catastrophe,”

(UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters on May 7, 2024. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that more than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip, some 78,000 have suffered injuries, and nearly 2 million have been internally displaced. The number is rising as the ground invasion of Rafah begins.

The UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteurs have painted a grim picture of the disproportionate level of suffering experienced by girls and especially pregnant women in Gaza.

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. By Quirinale.it, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons.
United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. By Quirinale.it, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons.

“The treatment of pregnant and lactating women continues to be appalling with the direct bombardment of hospitals and the deliberate denial of access to health care facilities by Israeli snipers, combined with the lack of beds and medical resources placing an estimated 50,000 pregnant Palestinian women and 20,000 newborn babies at unimaginable risk.”

Many of these military actions are in direct violation of International Humanitarian Law as set out in the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949 and the Protocol Additional adopted in 1977. In order to meet new situations, International Humanitarian Law (IHL) has evolved to cover not only international armed conflicts but also internal armed conflicts. IHL prohibits the indiscriminate killing of civilians, the holding of hostages, and the destruction of medical and educational infrastructure.

The Association of World Citizens stresses the importance of IHL as a vital part of world law that will replace unilateral actions by States based on narrow domestic political considerations. The standards of IHL require political will if they are to function effectively. Thus, nongovernmental action on the Gaza Strip armed conflict is urgently needed.

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

A Palestinian refugee Camp near Tyre, Lebanon. Photo shows: IDF aroured troops inside Lebanon stationering near by a camp for Palestinians refugees. By Dan Hadani / Dan Hadani collection / National Library of Israel / The Pritzker Family National Photography Collection, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Credit:

Featured Image: Image by Amrulqays Maarof on Pixabay.
Uprooted Appeals

The Uprooted.

Increasing numbers of people in countries around the world, have been forced from their homes, by armed conflicts and systematic violations of human rights. Those who cross internationally recognized borders are considered refugees, and are relatively protected by the refugee conventions signed by most states. The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and its 1967 protocol give the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees an international legal basis to ensure the protection of refugees.

Banner of UN High Commissioner for Refugees – Geneva – Switzerland. By Adam Jones, Ph.D., CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

However, those who are displaced within a country, as is the case currently for many in the Gaza Strip and in Ukraine, are not protected by the international refugee conventions.

Thus, displacement within a State poses a challenge to develop international norms, and ways to address the consequences of displacement, and the possibility to reintegrate their homes, though in the case of Gaza many of the homes have been destroyed.

Warsaw Central Station during Ukrainian refugee crisis in March 2022. By Kamil Czaiński, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

A need to provide protection and assistance to the uprooted.

Armed conflicts within States often reflect a crisis of identity within the State. This can occur when a State becomes monopolized by a dominant group to the exclusion or marginalization of other groups. There is a need to provide protection and assistance to the uprooted.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has been able to act in some cases as has been true also for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) which is mandated to protect civilians in war zones. The obligation to assist populations in immediate danger of starvation is largely recognized, and the UN World Food Program has been able to act. In some cases, nongovernmental humanitarian agencies have been able to be active.

However, each situation requires new negotiations and results differ.

United Nations World Food Programme Logo. By United Nations World Food Program, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The strategies to address mass displacement need to be broad and comprehensive.

Thus, what is essential is that there be predictable responses in situations of internal displacement and that attention be paid not only to material assistance but also to the human rights of those displaced. To be effective, strategies to address mass displacement need to be broad and comprehensive.

There is a need for political initiatives that seek to resolve the conflicts as the consequences often involve neighboring countries. Efforts must engage local groups, national institutions, and Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) to prevent situations that lead to persons being uprooted. As the representatives of NGOs, we have an opportunity to discuss with other NGOs the most appropriate next steps for action.

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

Featured Image: Picture by Rosy / Bad Homburg / Germany en Pixabay
UN Security Council Appeals

UN Security Council Reforms: Necessary But Difficult.

    Ambassador Pedro Comissario of Mozambique who is chairing the UN Security Council for this month of May said:

“The veto should never have been allowed in cases of flagrant violations of international humanitarian law as we are witnessing in Gaza at the moment.” 

Some 35,000 persons have been killed in the Gaza Strip since 8 October 2023.

Many bodies are still under the ruined buildings and are not yet counted.  The United States has vetoed four resolutions concerning Gaza, despite the fact that many governments are calling for a lasting ceasefire, for the freeing of hostages held by the Palestinians, for the release of political prisoners held by the Israelis and for increased humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip.

HE Mr Pedro Comissário Afonso, the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Mozambique, presents his credentials to Dr Lassina Zerbo, Director of the International Data Centre and Executive Secretary-elect of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, on 1 July 2013. By The Official CTBTO Photostream, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

UN membership for Palestine.

    Under a new UN procedure voted late in 2023, when there is a veto in the Security Council, the subject is moved to the General Assembly for consideration.  The State having cast the veto must explain its position and its justification for the veto.  Thus on 10 May 2024, the General Assembly will discuss the US veto of 18 April concerning UN membership for Palestine, a debate worth following closely as it is closely related to current events in the Gaza Strip.

    Since the start of the United Nations in 1945, a total of 312 vetos have been cast in the Security Council: 152 by the Soviet Union and its reincarnation as the Russian Federation.  91 vetos have been cast by the USA.

Two Major issues in the on-again, off-again discussions concerning reform of the UN Security Council.

 One issue has been the veto power of the five permanent members. The other issue has been the make up of the Security Council: should there be additional permanent members, if so should they have the veto?  In addition to the discussion of new permanent members, should there be more than the current 15 States?  There has been no agreement of these issues. In practice, more issues are moved to the General Assembly, but finding adequate solutions to crucial issues is difficult also in the General Assembly.

    The review and reform of UN structures has often been advocated.

However, a Charter Review Conference on the UN agenda for 1955 was pushed under the rug by an agreement of the USA and the USSR both of which did not want their policies in the UN discussed.  Such a review would be helpful but difficult to create.

   Professor René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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.