Tag: <span>Armed Conflict</span>

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.

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Confidence-building Measures in Asia-Pacific Appeals

Confidence-building Measures in Asia-Pacific: Reversing the Slide to Violence.

Featured Image: Photo by wu yi, Unsplash

With U.S. and Chinese military engaged near Taiwan, a miscalculation could lead to armed violence. The armed conflict in Ukraine has heightened the debate on the possibility of armed conflict between China and Taiwan.

Tensions between the two Korean states remain high. The border clash between Indian and Chinese forces in June 2020 has highlighted residual tensions between the two countries. One could add other tensions in the Asia-Pacific area to the list.

Less obvious are the possibilities of confidence-building measures that would reduce these tensions and might open doors to cooperation in the security, economic and social spheres.confidence-building.

Ukraine Conflict

 Image: Foto de Matti Karstedt: https://www.pexels.com/es-es/foto/una-nina-protestando-contra-la-guerra-en-ucrania-11284549/.

Preliminaries to Russia-Ukraine Negotiations: The Key Role of China.

Confidence-Building.

There are confidence-building measures that can be undertaken by governments. Where as we, outside of governmental positions, can make suggestions as to steps that governments could take, we nevertheless have little possibility to oblige action by them. Thus we have to consider what confidence-building measures we as academics and non-governmental organization activists can undertake.

Fortunately, we have long experience of working to reduce the tensions between the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union (NATO and the Warsaw Pact) which led to the Helsinki Agreements and finally the end of the Cold War. Much of the analysis is still of value such as Mary Kaldor (Ed) Europe from Below (London: Verso: 1991). Many of the peace organizations that were involved are still in existence and could focus on Asia-Pacific issues.

There have also been efforts on confidence-building in the Israel-Palestine conflict and in the wider Middle East. Repeated efforts concerning tensions between India and Pakistan often focused on the tensions in Kashmir.

Mary Kaldor

Mary Kaldor, The World Transformed 2018 in Liverpool. By Kevin Walsh from Preston Brook, England, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Processes of Dialogue have a Value.

Today, there is a need to draw upon these experiences to impart conflict resolution skills to new individuals and groups, thereby building and expanding the constituencies working for conflict reduction measures. New participants can have backgrounds in psychology, religion, law and communications with experience in social movements and community action programs.

There is also a need to draw upon categories of people who were not directly involved in earlier efforts. Often women were marginalized not only in government negotiations but even in non-governmental efforts. These processes of dialogue have a value in deepening understanding of a situation.

However, the emphasis should be on developing proposals for confidence-building measures.

Need for concerted action to reduce the slide to violence.

Tensions in the Asia-Pacific area are growing, and there is a need for concerted action to reduce the slide to violence. As Don Carlson and Craig Comstock point out in their book, Citizen Summitry: Keeping the Peace when it matters too much to be left to politicians (Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tacker, Inc. 1986):

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.”

 

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Child Soldiers Appeals

The Use of Child Soldiers: The Children of Conflict.

Featured Image: A child soldier of the Liberian rebel group LURD at the Po River (2004). By United States Army Africa, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

12 February is the United Nations sponsored International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers.  Efforts to counter the use of persons under 18 years of age in the military began with non-governmental efforts in 1979 – which the U.N. had proclaimed as “The International Year of the Child”. 

Nicolas Hulot, who later became well known in France for his reporting on ecology and the defence of the environment, had written “Ces Enfants qui souffrent” (Paris: Sipa-Press, 1978).  He highlighted children dying from malnutrition, disease, and injury caused by wars and natural disasters.  Hulot’s cry of conscience showed children fighting and being trained to fight in a number of countries in different parts of the world.

Nicolas Hulot

Nicolas Hulot at the Fête de l’Humanité 2008. By Olivier « toutoune25 » Tétard, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Impact of Armed Conflict on Children.

Concern with the welfare of children has been an inter-governmental concern going back to the League of Nations days.  However, the use of child soldiers was rarely mentioned as the professional military prior to the Second World War had persons over 18, usually the youngest were in their 20s.  However, the German Nazi used very young men in the last days of the war to try to limit the impact of the Allied forces within Germany.  There were a number of films and books which told of their efforts.  However, attention did not carry on once the Nazi forces were defeated.

Building on the NGO efforts in 1979 during the International Year of the Child, in the period 1993-1996, there was a U.N. study on the “Impact of Armed Conflict on Children” led by Ms Graca Machel, later the wife of Nelson Mandela.  She wrote:

“For too long, the consequences for children have been tolerated as an unfortunate but inevitable side effect of war.  In reality, children have increasingly become targets and not incidental victims, as a result of conscious and deliberate decisions made by adults.”

League of Nations

 Image: Stanley Bruce chairing the League of Nations Council in 1936. Joachim von Ribbentrop is addressing the council. By Commonwealth of Australia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The League of Nations and its unused Peace Army.

As a result of the Graca Machel study in 1997, the U.N. General Assembly named Ambassador Olara A. Otunnu as Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.  He placed an emphasis on the moral vacuum in which all restraints have been eroded and discarded – a world in which children are no longer precious.  He wrote:

“At the heart of this growing phenomenon of mass violence and social disintegration is a crisis of values.  Perhaps the most fundamental loss a society can suffer is the collapse of its own value system.  Many societies exposed to protracted conflicts have seen their community values radically undermined, if not shattered altogether.  This has given rise to an ethical vacuum – a setting in which international standards are ignored with impunity and where local value systems have lost their sway.  Distinctions between civilians and combatants have broken down.  Children, women, the elderly – all have become fair game in the single-minded struggle for power.”

Graca Machel

Madame Graça Machel at the Sports for Peace Gala 2010 in Johannesburg. By Madame_Graca_Machel.TIF: Sportsforpeacederivative work: Rosentod, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Ambassador Otunnu was from Uganda which had seen more than its share of the breakdown of social norms and resulting violence such as that carried on by the Lord’s Reistance Army which systematically abducted children to be used as soldiers, porters, and sex slaves starting in 1987 but building on earlier armed movements. He was in exile and given citizenship by the Cote d’Ivoire which had appointed him Ambassador to the U.N.  During the sessions of the U.N. Committee on Human Rights, he was in Geneva, and we had long discussions.  He was very open to the spirit of Citizens of the World and the need to develop universal norms so as to move beyond an unregulated struggle for power.

Olara Otunnu wrote:

“Children represent the future of human civilization and the future of every society.  To permit them to be used as pawns in warfare, whether as targets or perpetrators, is to cast a shadow on the future.  From generation to generation, violence begets violence, as the abused grow up to become abusers.  Children who are thus violated carry the scars of fear and hatred in their hearts and minds.  Forced to learn to kill instead of pursuing education, the children of conflict lack the knowledge and skills needed to build their futures and the futures of their communities.   For a society, the lives destroyed and the opportunities lost could have a devastating effect on its long-term stability and development.”

René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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tensions among China Japan and U.S.A Appeals

When will we meet again?

Featured Image: Picture By Boris Ulzibat: https://www.pexels.com/es-es/foto/arquitectura-china-la-gran-muralla-china-lugares-de-interes-3262994/

In an article “Tensions in the Asian Trinity: China, Japan, U.S.A.” I noted that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was to visit Beijine for talks on 5-6 February 2023 and then set out some of the issues that might be discussed:

After five years of growing tensions among China Japan and the U.S.A., U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will make an official visit to Beijing on 5-6 February 2023.

There is a long list of possible issues to discuss although the list of common actions may be much shorter.  Probably at the head of the list is the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its geopolitical and economic impact.  There follows the status of Taiwan.  Some have made a parallel between the Russian intervention in Ukraine  and a possible attack on Taiwan. Russian difficulties in Ukraine have no doubt been discussed in Beijing, and the parallel discarded. 

The role of North Korea and its military potential is a concern to China, to the U.S.A. and also Japan.  The economic ties of North Korea to China as well as relations between North and South Korea is as aspect of the same Korean issue.  The dramatic growth of Japanese government investment in the military and security sector, no doubt related to its view of Chinese power, will be an aspect of the China-U.S.A. talks. A full two days is ahead of the delegations.

Until there are better conditions.  The reason given for the “postponment”.

Now, as an illustration of the tensions, the mission of Antony Blinken has been put off “until there are better conditions.  The reason given for the “postponment” by the U.S. officials was that there was a Chinese observation balloon floating over U.S. air space in the Western states – a violation of U.S. sovereignty.  The U.S. government officials put the focus on the fact that the balloon could observe military installations.  The Chinese officials replied that the balloon was a weather observation instrument (and implied but did not say that the Chinese had other methods to observe U.S. military installations).

Antony Blinken

This is the official State Department photo for Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, taken at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on February 9, 2021. [State Department Photo by Ronny Przysucha/ Public Domain]. By U.S. Department of State, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Weather Balloon.

One does not know what is behind the sending of the “weather balloon” at this time, the weather observations could wait.  From the U.S. side, the postponment may come as a relief since there was likely to be little progress on the key political issues.

The need to advance U.S. – China dialogue remains.  As mentioned earlier, it may be up to non-governmental representatives to take the lead.

 

René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

 

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Track Two Efforts Appeals

Ongoing Armed Conflicts and the Need for Stronger Track…

Featured Image: Photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash.
 
The continuing armed conflict in Ukraine and the likelihood that the conflict will drag on through the winter, the 11th year of the armed conflict and repression in Syria, the renewal of armed conflict in the frontier area between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo forces us to ask if more can be done on the part of non-governmental organizations such as the Association of World Citizens to encourage negotiations in good faith among the parties in conflict. 
 
 
 Image: Ukrainian diaspora in Brussels protests the Russian invasion, Processed with VSCO with acg preset. By Bartosz Brzezinski from Chicago, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Upholding International Humanitarian Law in Times of Armed Conflict: A World Citizen Appeal.

Track One. Official governmental negotiations.

 
Lengthy armed conflicts severely weakens the social structure of a society.  A culture of violence is developed.  A sense of mistrust makes collaboration within that society more difficult to achieve.
     There have been efforts by the United Nations Secretariat and by individual governments to encourage ceasefires and negotiations in these conflicts, but in each case negotiations seem deadlocked.  It must be hoped that the U.N. and government efforts will continue.
     These governmental efforts can be called Track One. 
 
Track One diplomacy is official governmental negotiations.  Governments have their backup resources of intelligence agencies.   Governments can also use “back channels” of informal and unofficial contacts.
 
United Nations
 
Image: Photo by Mathias P.R. Reding on Unsplash.

The United Nations: The Shift in Perspectives and Action.

Track Two. Non-official effort.

 
     Track Two is a non-official effort, usually carried out by a non-governmental organization often in cooperation with an academic institution or at least with individuals working on conflict resolution and peacebuilding.
     No non-governmental organization has the resources of a government with people trained and funds available. 
Therefore, Track Two efforts must often be the work of a cooperative alliance among a number of non-governmental organizations, often using people of different nationalities or cultures but motivated by the same desire of finding ways to the resolution of the armed conflict.
     Preparing for Track Two efforts is an important task.  Leadership rarely arises spontaneously.  There is a need for preparation and training.  However, there is also a need for continuity.  There are rarely sudden victories in Track Two efforts.  One must be ready to try again the next day.
     Often Track Two efforts are undertaken in tension areas that have a possibility to become violent but that are not yet in open armed conflict such as tensions between Israelis and Palestinians or between North and South Koreans.  (1)
 
Israelis and Palestinians
 
Picture: Al Jazeera English, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Jerusalem-Gaza Cease-fire: Broad Negociations Are Now Needed.

 

Track Two efforts are becoming increasingly important in world politics.

 
More and more armed conflicts exist between a government and one or more armed movements as we see in Yemen, with the ethnic minorities in Myanmar, with the Kurds in Syria and Iraq, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Governments are often reluctant to negotiate with armed groups fearing to give them legitimacy or fearing to encourage action by other such armed movements.  Yet peace negotiations require discussion with such armed groups.  We must not underestimate the difficulties of establishing contact with armed groups and bringing them to a willingness to negotiate.  Thus, the need for a deep understanding of how Track Two proceses can be carried out.  (2)
     It is likely that non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the United Nations are the best placed to undertake Track Two efforts.  (3)
     Track Two efforts must also keep doors open to government representatives, and government representatives must have confidence in those working on a Track Two program. 
 
As the Quaker economist and peace worker Kenneth Boulding wrote:
   

 “When Track One will not do,

      We have to travel on Track Two.

      But for results to be abiding,

      The Tracks must meet upon some siding.”

                             
Democratic Republic of Congo
Image: Movement militiamen M23 and Type 85 heavy machine gun. By Al Jazeera English, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Increasing Tensions and Danger of Violence.

Notes.

 
1) See Hussein Agha, Shai Feldman, Ahmad Khalidi, Zeev Schiff.  Track II Diplomacy: Lessons from the Middle East (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003).
2) See John Davies and Eddy Kaufman. Second Track/Citizen’s Diplomacy: Concepts and Techniques in Conflict  (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002).
     W.E. De Mars.  NGOs and Transnational Networks (London: Pluto Press, 2005).
3) See P. Willets (Ed). The Conscience of the World. The Influence of NGOs in the UN System  (London: Hurst, 1996)
   Rene Wadlow

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Rape Appeals

U.N. Highlights Rape as a War Weapon in Ukraine.

Image Featured: Photo by Melanie Wasser,  Unsplash 

Pramila Patten, the United Nations Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on sexual violence in times of conflict reported mid-October 2022 that rape is increasingly used in the armed conflict in Ukraine as a weapon to humiliate and discourage the populations.  Therefore, there had been an earlier 27 September report to the High Commissioner for Human Rights setting out many of the same facts and calling for international action.

Patterns of systematic rape become part of International Humanitarian Law.

In the past, sexual violence had often been dismissed as acts of individual soldiers, rape being one of the spoils of war for whom rape of women was an entitlement.  However, with the 2001 trials of war crimes in former Yugoslavia by the International  Criminal Tribunal for ex-Yugoslavia, the first convictions of rape as a crime against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war were handed down against Bosnian Serb soldiers.  Bosnian Serb fighters were charged with mass rape and forced prostitution involving dozens of Muslim women and girls some only 12 years old.  The case had taken five years of investigations and more than 30 witnesses for the prosecution.  The three soldiers being tried were given a sentence of 12 years imprisonment.

Since then, we have seen patterns of systematic rape become part of International Humanitarian Law, and since 2002 one of the crimes that can be prosecuted within the International Criminal Court.  (1)

Pramila Patten
Pramila Patten. Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Film Festival: Fighting Stigma Through Film in London, 23 November 2018. By Foreign and Commonwealth Office, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Rape as a war weapon.

There have been reports of systematic rape in Ukraine since 2014 with the creation of the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Louhansk by both Ukrainian and separatist soldiers.  However, little international attention was given to these reports.  It is only with the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops on 24 February 2022 that international attention has focused on reports of rape especially in areas that were for a time under the control of the Russian military or the militias of the two People’s Republics. (2)

Unfortunately, it would seem that the armed conflict in Ukraine will drag on.  There are few signs of a willingness for a negotiated settlement.  International Humanitarian Law moves slowly.  Rape as a war weapon is used in other armed conflicts, such as those in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Darfur, Sudan, and Syria. Strong non-governmental pressure is needed to keep governmental and United Nations efforts going.

People's Republics of Donetsk and Louhansk
Image: Return of released citizens to the territory controlled by Ukraine, December 29, 2019. By President.gov.ua, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Vital Autonomy for the People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Luhansk. The Way Ahead.

 

Notes:

1) For a good overview of both specific armed conflicts and the slow but steady international response see Carol Rittner and John K. Roth (Eds) “Rape: Weapon of War and Genocide” (St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2012)
2) See Amnesty International “Ukraine 2021”     www. amnesty.org Secretaru General’s Report, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.   www.osce.org

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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World Food Policy Appeals

War-related Famine: Action Needed.

In a 11 November 2022 presentation to the Paris Peace Forum, David Beasley, Director of the United Nations World Food Programme warned that there are real dangers of famine in countries currently in armed conflict or which have been in armed conflict in recent years such as Afghanistan.  He mentioned in particular Somalia where the conflicts have not received the media attention they deserved.  (1)

He also mentioned the situation in South Sudan, in Ethiopia, in the countries of the Sahel, and in Yemen.  In each of these countries, the agricultural infrastructure has been sharply damaged.  Infrastructure rebuilding, the creation of water wells, the redevelopment of livestock, the establishment of functioning markets would take a great deal of effort even if peace is restored.  These conflicts have led to migration, especially of men which has further weakened the agricultural potential.  In many of the African countries he mentioned, there is also the impact of climate change and a reduction of rainfall.  The war in Ukraine has also had a negative impact on food supplies and on food prices.

World Food Policy

Executive Director David Beasley meets women and men resorting degraded land in Burkina Faso. Photo: WFP/George Fominyen (January 2021).
By Editorstandard, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The current World Food Crisis.

There is a growing consensus that radical measures are needed to deal with the current world food crisis.  These measures will have to be taken in a holistic way with actions going from the local level with the individual farmer to the national level with new government policies, to the multi-State regional level, embodied by the European Union and the African Union, and to the world level with better coordinated efforts through the United Nations. In the past, food security has too often been treated as a collection of national food security initiatives.  While the adoption of a national strategy to ensure food and nutrition security for all is essential, a focus on the formulation of national plans is clearly inadequate.  There is a need for a world plan of action.

Ukraine

Photo by Dimitry Anikin on Unsplash.

Lifting the Odessa Blockade.

The world requires a World Food Policy.

Today, cooperation is needed among the U.N. agencies, national governments, non-governmental organizations, and the millions of food producers to respond to the growing food needs.  There is a need for swift, short-term measures to help people now suffering from lack of food and malnutrition due to high food prices, inadequate distribution, and situations of violence.  Such short-term action requires additional funding for the U.N. World Food Programme and the release of national food stocks.  However, it is on the longer-range and structural issues on which we must focus our attention.  The world requires a World Food Policy and a clear Plan of Action coupled with increasingly effective measures of armed conflict resolution through negotiations in good faith.

World Food Policy

Photo by Zen Chung on Pexels.

John Boyd Orr: A World Citizen’s Focus on Food.

The promotion of a coordinated World Food Policy.

The Association of World Citizens has taken a lead in the promotion of a coordinated world food policy with an emphasis on the small-scale farmer and a new awareness that humans are part of Nature with a special duty of care and respect for the Earth’s inter-related life-support system.  As Stringfellow Barr wrote in Citizens of the World:

“Since the hungry billion in the world community believe that we can all eat if we set our common house in order, they believe also that it is unjust that some die because it is too much trouble to arrange for them to live”.  (2)

In a Special Session of the U.N. Human Rights Council devoted to the food crisis, I outlined five areas that should be of special concern: the impact of climate change, energy costs, the use of ethanol and other biofuels, the food production and export policies of major agricultural-production countries, and the role of speculation in commodities.  (3)  These issues still require attention as we develop a World Food Policy.  Short-term and longer-range action is needed.

World Food Policy

Photo by Steve Knutson on Unsplash.

Michelle Jurkovich. Feeding the Hungry: Advocacy and Blame in the Global Fight Against Hunger.

Notes.

1) For a good overview of the many-sided conflicts in Somalia see Serah G. Phillips. When There Was No Aid: War and Peace in Somaliland. (Ithaca. NY: Cornell University Press, 2020, 227pp.)
2) Stringfellow Barr. Citizens of the World. (Garden City. NY: Doubleday and Co, 1952, 285pp.)
3) Association of World Citizens Written Statement: A/HRC/S-7, NGO/2,  21 May 2008

René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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International Humanitarian Law Appeals

Upholding International Humanitarian Law in Times of Armed Conflict:…

Featured Image: Ukrainian diaspora in Brussels protests the Russian invasion, Processed with VSCO with acg preset. By Bartosz Brzezinski from Chicago, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

By René Wadlow.

The invasion by Russian troops into Ukraine has raised in a dramatic way the issue of the respect of international humanitarian law. There have been reports of the use of cluster munitions fired into civilian areas. The Association of World Citizens (AWC) was very active on efforts which led to the convention banning cluster weapons.

Regular military personnel of all countries are theoretically informed of the rules of the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949, and the Protocol Additional adopted in 1977.

When the 1949 Geneva Conventions were drafted and adopted, it was possible to spell out in considerable detail rules regarding prisoners of war and the protection of civilians, in particular Common Article 3 (so called because it is found in all four Conventions) provides that: 

“each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions: Persons taking no active part in the hostilities…shall in all circumstances be treated humanely without any adverse distinction founded on race, color, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.”

 

The importance of Common Article 3 should not be underestimated. It sets out in straightforward terms important protections that all parties to a conflict must respect. In order to meet the need for additional protection, international humanitarian law has evolved to cover not only international armed conflict but also internal armed conflict. Today, international human rights standards are also considered part of international humanitarian law, thus providing additional protection for vulnerable population groups such as women, children, and minorities.

As situations of internal violence and strife proliferate, abuses committed by non-State actors, such as armed militias, are increasing concerns. Fundamental standards of international humanitarian law are intended to ensure the effective protection of human beings in all situations. The standards are clear. (1)

Geneva Conventions

Geneva Conventions – signing in 1949. By British Red Cross., CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

There are two major weaknesses in the effectiveness of International Humanitarian Law.

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 promotional activities, the dissemination of information through general education, specific training of the military, outreach to armed militias, and cooperation with a wide range of non-governmental organizations.

The second weakness is that violations of international humanitarian law are rarely punished. Governments too often tolerate these violations. Few soldiers are tried, or court-martialed, for the violations of international humanitarian law. This weakness is even more true of non-governmental militias and armed groups.

In fact, most violations of international humanitarian law are not actions of individual soldiers or militia members carried away by a sudden rush of anger, fear, a desire of revenge or a sudden sexual urge to rape a woman. Soldiers and militia members violating the norms of international humanitarian law are acting on orders of their commanders.

Thus, the only sold response is an act of conscience to refuse an order of a military or militia higher up and refuse to torture, to bomb a medical facility, to shoot a prisoner, to harm a child, and to rape a woman. Conscience, that inner voice which discerns what is right from wrong and encourages right action is the value on which we can build the defense of international humanitarian law. The defense of conscience to refuse unjust orders is a large task but a crucial action for moving toward a law-based world society.

Original Geneva Conventions

The original document of the first Geneva Convention from 1864, on loan to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum in Geneva, Switzerland. By Kevin Quinn, Ohio, US, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Notes

(1) For useful guides to international humanitarian law see:

D. Schindler and J. Toman, The Laws of Armed Conflicts (Martinus Nihjoff Publishers, 1988)

H. McCoubrey and N.D. White, International Law and Armed Conflicts (Dartmouth Publishing Co., 1992)

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

 
 

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Environment Appeals

Protecting the Environment in Time of War.

November 6 is set by the United Nations General Assembly in Resolution (A/RES/56/4) as the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict.
Throughout history; in armed conflicts water wells have been poisoned, crops set on fire, forests cut down, and animals killed to gain military advantage.  Today, many armed conflicts have been linked to the exploitation of natural resources such as timber, diamonds, and fertile land and water.
 

     The Association of World Citizens has stressed that protection of the environment needs to be an important part of conflict prevention. 

 
The resource base that people depend upon for their livelihood needs to be safeguarded.
Most recently; the Association of World Citizens has highlighted the deliberate destruction of food-related resources in the armed conflict between the Ethiopean federal forces and the opposition movements in Tigray.
 
Tigray
 
Image: Ethiopian national defense force 2nd Lt. Aweke Demesse talks with his troops on where to station their perimeter watches during Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa’s “Train the Trainer” course. By right, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Tigray: After the Calm, A Possible Storm.

 

The restoration of the agricultural infrastructure will be a lengthy process.

 
     Since 4 November 2020; fighting has gone on in Tigray with the deliberate destruction of crops and agricultural infrastructures.  U.N.-led humanitarian food relief was prevented from entering the area. Fortunately; at the start of November 2022; a ceasefire and a peace agreement facilitated by the African Union was signed in South Africa; where the negotiations had been held.
 
The African Union has designated a team of 10 persons to follow up the process.  However; the restoration of the agricultural infrastructure will be a lengthy process.  It is not sure that all the factions involved will agree to the creasefire.  The situation merits a close watch.
 

Efforts  of protection need to be permanent. 

 
     There are currently other conflicts linked to natural resources such as those in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The International Day must serve as a reminder; but efforts  of protection need to be permanent.
The Association of World Citizens will continue its efforts.
 
 
  René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.
 
Democratic Republic of Congo

Photo by Kaysha on Unsplash.

Democratic Republic of Congo — Need for Reconciliation Bridge-Builders.

Credits:

Image Featured: Photo by Thomas Richter on Unsplash.

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Uyghurs Appeals

U.N. Human Rights Report: Spotlight on the Fate of…

Featured Image:  Khotan (Hotan / Hetian) is an oasis city in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. Uyghur people at sunday market. By Colegota, CC BY-SA 2.5 ES <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/es/deed.en>, via Wikimedia Commons.

On the final day in office, 31 August 2022, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, presented the long-awaited report on the violations of the human rights of Uyghurs and other Muslim populations of the province of Xinjiang.  The 46-page Report highlights massive detention in camps, torture, sexual violence against women, restriction of religious practices, forced sterilization of women and separation of families.  Many of the facts in the U.N. Report had already been set out by non-governmental human rights organizations (NGOs) such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and in newspaper reports.

The Office of the high Commissioner for Human Rights had been collecting information on the situation since 2018 when Michelle Bachelet became High Commissioner.

Michelle Bachelet

Michelle Bachelet (2018). By Ministerio Secretaría General de Gobierno, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Influence on NGO positions. 

The possible strong impact of the Report will depend in large measure on what pressure NGOs will be able to develop on the Chinese authorities.  Chinese government influence within the U.N. Secretariat has been growing.  Chinese diplomatic pressure on government diplomats within the U.N., always active, has also been growing in part linked to trade and debt consideration.  While Chinese diplomats watch the representatives of NGOs closely during meetings of the U.N. Human Rights Council and other U.N. human rights bodies, the Chinese diplomats have little influence on NGO positions. 

“Re-Education”.

NGOs have developed close links with scholars working on Chinese policies and with a number of research institutes and “think tanks”.  Some of the same NGOs representatives, such as those of the Association of  World Citizens, had earlier been involved with the human rights of Tibetans, often facing the same type of repression and efforts at “re-education”.  The Chinese diplomats at the U.N. have grown in sophistication and must not be underestimated.

However, with the U.N. Report in hand, objective and based on a wide range of observations and interviews, NGOs have a clear avenue for action.  Although the armed conflict in Ukraine and tensions concerning Taiwan draw attention of  governments and NGOs, the Uyghur issues are a test for NGO effectiveness and should be watched closely.

Tibetans

Sakya Monastery, Tibet. Sakya Monastery was founded in 1073, by Konchok Gyelpo and is situated about 130 km west of Shigatse on the road to Tingri. By I, Luca Galuzzi, CC BY-SA 2.5 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Crackdown on Buddhism in Tibet?.

René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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