Tag: <span>Africa</span>

Desertification Appeals

New Efforts for Land Renewal.

Featured Image: Photo by Marcelo Bermudez on Unsplash.

The States Parties to the United Nations sponsored Treaty on Desertification have been meeting in Abidjan; Cote d’Ivoire from 9 to 20 May, 2022.  The 197 member states agreed to an appeal to work more actively to prevent continuing desertification; and to win back lands currently under great pressure.  Because the conference was being held in Africa; much attention was given to the advances of the desert in the Sahel states; and the possibility of building a “Green Wall” of trees to stop the advance.

The Treaty was designed to be the centrepiece of a massive worldwide effort to arrest the spread of deserts or desert-like conditions not only in Africa south of the Sahara; but wherever such conditions encroached on the livelihood of those who lived in the desert or in its destructive path.

Desertification

Picture of Moroccan Sahara desert. By Fraguando, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Desertification is a Social Phenomenon.

The destruction of land that was once productive does not stem from mysterious and remorseless forces of nature; but from the actions of humans.  Desertification is a social phenomenon. Humans are both the despoiler and the victims of the process.

Increasingly; populations are eking out a livelihood on dwindling land resources.  Thus there must be renewed and strong efforts for land regeneration. Desertification needs to be seen in a holistic way.  If we see desertification only as aridity; we may miss areas of impact such as humid tropics.  We need to consider the special problems of water-logging, salinity or alkalinity of irrigation systems that destroy land each year. Because desertification disturbs a region’s natural resource base; it promotes insecurity.  Insecurity leads to strife.  If allowed to degenerate; strife results in inter-clan feuding between cultivators and pastoralists; cross-border raiding and military confrontation.

Hsuan Tsang (623 -664).

It is important to understand the way of life of those who live on the edge of deserts.  Hsuan Tsang (623 -664); is a symbol of such an effort at understanding. Hsuan Tsang crossed the harshest deserts; in particular the Takla Mahan; and the tallest mountains on his quest for the innermost heart of Reality.  He travelled from China to India to spend two years at the Nalanda Monestary; in what is now Bihar State in northern India; to study and translate into Chinese certain important Buddhist sutras.   He also studied the lives of the people he met; showing an openness to the cultures of others; especially those living on the edge of the desert regions he crossed.

Earth is our common home; and therefore in the spirit of world citizenship; we must organize to protect it.  It is up to all of us concerned with ecologically-sound development to draw awareness to the dangers of desertification and the promises of land renewal.

Hsüan-tsang

 

Statue of Xuanzang near the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi’an, China. By This image was produced by me, David Castor (user:dcastor). The pictures I submit to the Wikipedia Project are released to the public domain. This gives you the right to use them in any way you like, without any kind of notification. This said, I would still appreciate to be mentioned as the originator whenever you think it complies well with your use of the picture. A message to me about how it has been used would also be welcome. You are obviously not required to respond to these wishes of mine, just in a friendly manner encouraged to. (All my photos are placed in Category:Images by David Castor or a subcategory thereof.), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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Quincy Wright Rapprochement of Cultures.

Quincy Wright: A World Citizen’s Approach to International Relations

Featured Image: Quincy Wright, Professor of International Law at the University of Chicago, from the 1940 MacMurray College Yearbook, where he was one of the speakers on “The Essential Elements of a Durable Peace” at the MacMurray Institute. By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Contemporary movements that stressed the need for world citizenship started on the eve of World War II when the spirit of aggressive nationalism was at its height in the policies of Germany, Italy and Japan.  There was a need to develop balance by stressing the unity of humanity and the interdependence of the world.  These concepts of world citizenship were articulated by a leading professor of international law, Quincy Wright (1890-1970) of the University of Chicago who felt that States must shape their domestic laws and foreign policies in such a way as to be compatible with the tenets of international law.

A Study of War

Quincy Wright spent most of his teaching life at the University of Chicago.  He was active in debates among international relations specialists on the place of law – and thus of universal norms – in the conduct of States.  In 1942 he published his massive  A Study of War  which combined a philosophical-legal approach with a more statistical-quantitative one.  He was very concerned with the quality of university teaching on war and peace.  His 1955 The Study of International Relations remains an outstanding multi-disciplinary approach to the study of world politics. (1)

World Citizens Association

         He served as a bridge between professors of international relations and the growing ranks of peace researchers and the world citizens movement.  Quincy Wright was a leader of a first World Citizens Association founded in 1939 serving as its Secretary with Anita McCormick Blaine as Chairman. (2)

         Unfortunately, the strength of the nationalist tide was too great, and a balance by stressing world unity could not be created in time. The Second World War broke out in Europe shortly after the creation of the World Citizens Association. Japanese nationalism had already brought violence to China, but too few people reacted. Japanese nationalism continued in an unbalanced way, leading to the attack on the US base at Pearl Harbor, which  provoked U.S. entry into the war.

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A small boat rescues a seaman from the 31,800 ton USS West Virginia burning in the foreground. Smoke rolling out amidships shows where the most extensive damage occurred. Note the two men in the superstructure. The USS Tennessee is inboard (7 December 1941). By Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

In the modern world, the security and prosperity of all individuals and all groups are closely bound together.  The preservation of civilization depends upon the ability of national states and diverse peoples to live together happily and successfully in this rapidly shrinking world.  Since all individuals today suffer or benefit by conditions the World over, every man has interests and responsibilities as a world citizen.”

Second World War and The Cold War.

         Even though the Allies won the Second World War, the start of the Cold War presented many of the same issues as had been present in 1939.  In his 1949 address as President of the American Political Science Association, Wright posted a dark picture.

While inventions in the fields of communications and transport and interdependence in commerce and security make for one world, the actual sentiments of people have been moving toward more exclusive loyalty to their nations,  more insistence that their governments exercise totalitarian control over law, defense, economy, and even opinion.  Materially the world community steadily becomes more integrated, but morally each nation gains in solidarity and the split in the world community becomes wider.  Under these conditions, people await with a blind fatalism the approach of war.  Disaster seems as inevitable as in a Greek tragedy.”

Montage of Cold War pictures. By 麩, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

What have world citizens to propose?

   Wright sets out three steps which remain the framework for world citizen action today.  As a first step, world citizens must provide a process of systematic observation: what new political conflicts are likely to develop?  What methods are likely to be used? What goals are likely to be striven for?  In short, what is the nature of current tensions, struggles and conflicts?

System of world law

         The second essential step is to provide proposals for negotiated resolutions to these struggles and conflicts within the framework of a system of world law.

  What arrangements will assure that world politics operates with reasonable respect for human personality, for civilization, for justice, for welfare – all values which most men will recognize?  How do we work so that the political struggles going on in the world will utilize only methods consistent with human dignity and human progress?  World citizens are willing to take one step at a time anticipating that if one step in the right direction is taken, it will be easier to win sufficient consent for the next steps.”

Education for World Citizenship

         Thus today, the Association of World Citizens which builds on the earlier efforts of the World Citizens Association has made proposals for mediation, conciliation, and confidence-building measures for armed conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, Afghanistan, Myanmar (Burma) and the Ukraine-Russia conflicts.

Education for Global Citizenship.

The third step which Wright proposed was longer term but essential: education for world citizenship.  If men must be world citizens as well as national citizens, what picture of the world can command some of their loyalties however diverse their cultures, economies and government? 

The primary function of education – developing in the individual attitudes appropriate to the values of the society in which he is to live – and, in progressive societies of adapting those values to changing conditions – all citizens need to feel themselves citizens of the world.”

         Thus, through education, a widespread sentiment of world citizenship must be developed.  Thus,  the Association of World Citizens works in cooperation with UNESCO’s major program “Education for Global Citizenship.”

         Today,
the Association of World Citizens is proud to build on the steps outlined by
Quincy Wright.  We face the challenges of
our time as he faced the challenges of his time.

 Notes:

1) See Quincy Wright. The Study of International
Relations
(New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1955)

    See also
Quincy Wright. The World Community (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1949)

2) For biographies of Anita Blaine, see! Gilbert A.
Harrison. A Timeless Affair. The Life of Anita McCormick Blaine (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1979) and

Jacqueline Castledine. Cold War Progressives.
Women’s Interracial Organizing for Peace and Freedom
(Urbana: University of
Illinois Press, 2012)

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

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Tigray Appeals

Ethiopia’s Tigray, a New Biafra?.

Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash.

By Rene Wadlow.

On 4 March 2021; at the United Nations, Mark Lowcock; the U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs; warned that a campaign of destruction is taking place in Ethiopia’s Tigray  Provence; saying that nearly five million of the six million population of the Provence, needed food assistance.  For the first time; a high U.N. official highlighted the role of the Eritrean Defense Forces fighting along side of the Ethiopian central government’s forces were committing crimes of war.  He indicated that as the Tigray fighting enters its fourth month;

there are “multiple credible and widely corroborated reports from Tigray of widespread atrocities, involving mass killings, rapes, and the abductions of civilians.”

The fighting in Tigray began at the time of the harvest of agricultural production. Much of the harvest has been destroyed as well as farm markets.  Thus; there is wide-spread hunger.  The question which;  we must ask is if famine is a consequence of the fighting;  or a deliberate policy to starve the Tigray resistance – starvation as an arm of war.  The famine situation in Tigray today brings to mind the Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967-1970.

The International Committee of the Red Cross.

During the Biafra war; I was a member of a working group of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva.  The armed conflict was the first in Africa; in which only an African State was involved; no colonial party used to the European laws of war. The International Committee of the Red Cross faced a new socio-cultural context; in which to try for the respect of humanitarian law.

We find many of the same elements in the lead up to the fighting in Tigray: a change in power in the central government;  an effort of the new administration to centralize the administration; demands for autonomy or independence based on ethnic criteria; a flow of refugees toward other provinces of the country; the influence of neighboring or other States in the conflict. The Nigeria-Biafra war dragged on for 30 months; and at least one million lives were taken.

Blocking food aid to Biafra became a deliberate policy. Starvation became not a consequence of war; but an arm of war.  The policy of starvation is remembered and still colors politics in Nigeria. (1)

 

To Uphold Human Dignity.

The fighting in Tigray becomes more complex by the day as Ethiopian Defense Forces, Eritrean Defense Forces, ethnic militias from the Amhara region face Tigrayan forces. There is a buildup of Sudanese government forces on the Ethiopian-Sudan border; and there are growing ethnic conflicts; in the Benishangul-Gumuz region; as Tigrans flee into Sudan.  Reporting on the war is very limited.  Communications are deliberately cut; and journalists unwelcome and under heavy government pressure.  Starvation as a government war policy is denied. One would not expect otherwise.

However; we know little of the military planning of the central Ethiopian government. For the moment; all efforts for mediation proposed by the United Nations or the Organization of African Unity have been refused by the Ethiopian central government; and the former officials of the Tigray province have fled.  For the moment; we on the outside can only watch.

We need to do more to uphold human dignity.

 

Note.

1) See: Ifi Amadiume and Abdullah An-Na’im (Eds)  The Politics of Memory: Truth, Healing and Social Justice; (London: Zed Books, 2000, 207 pp.)

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.