Tag: <span>Citizens of the World</span>

Religious Liberty Rapprochement of Cultures.

Assault on Religious Liberty : 20 July 1937.

view to western wall Jerusalem and dome of rock. By Photo by Anton Mislawsky on Unsplash.

The Nazi Government of Germany had first moved against the Jews; considered as both a racial and a religious group. The Jews had long been a target of the Nazi movement; and the attack on them came as no surprise.

However;  the 20 July 1937 banning of the theosophical movement and of others « Theosophically Related »;  in the Nazi ideology was a turning point in Nazi repression.

On 20 July 1937;  the Theosophical Society and the related Anthroposophical Society;  which had been founded by Rudolf Steiner;  who had been president of the German section of the Theosophical Society;  were banned. The banning order was signed by the Reichfuhrer SS Heydrich;  who warned that:

« The continuation and new foundation of this as well as the foundation of disguised succession organizations is prohibited. Simultaneously I herewith state because of the law about confiscation of property hostile to people and state that the property of the above mentioned organizations was used or intended for the promotion of intentions hostile to people and state. » 

Thus all offices and buildings were confiscated.

Rudolf Steiner

 Rudolf Steiner By Pausoak2018, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Reichsfuehrer SS Heinrich Himmler

Left to right: Janowska concentration camp commandant Friedrich Warzok, SS-Gruppenfuhrer Fritz Katzmann, Reichsfuehrer SS Heinrich Himmler during official visit at a place of extermination of Polish Jews from the Lwow Ghetto.
By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

At the time;  there was little organized protest. The League of Nations;  while upholding tolerance and freedom of thought in general;  had no specific declaration on freedom of religion; and no institutional structures to deal with protests. Now;  the United Nations has a specific Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief of 25 November 1981;  which builds upon Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;  which states that:

« Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion : this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship or observance. » 

As with all U.N. Instruments relating to freedom of religion;  Article 18 represents a compromise. One of its achievements was the inclusion of the terms « thought » and « conscience »; which quietly embraced atheists and non-believers. The most divisive phrase; however, was :

« freedom to change one’s religion. »

The Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief;  took nearly 20 years of difficult negotiations to draft. Preparations for the Declaration had begun in 1962. One of the most difficult areas in drafting the Declaration; concerned the rights of the child to have: 

« access to education in the matter of religion or belief in accordance with the wishes of his parents and shall not be compelled to receive teaching on religion or belief against the wishes of his parents or legal guardians, the best interests of the child being the guiding principle. »

The Declaration goes on to state that: 

« The child shall be protected from any form of discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief. He shall be brought up in a spirit of understanding, tolerance, friendship among peoples, peace and universal brotherhood, respect for freedom of religion or belief of others, and in full consciousness that his energy and talents should be devoted to the services of his fellow men. »

The Declaration highlights that there can be no doubt that freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief and the elimination of intolerance and discrimination based on religion;  or belief are of a fundamental character;  and derive from the inherent dignity and worth of the human person.

The gradual evolution of U.N. norms;  on the issue of religious liberty has been a complex process;  and is often a reflection of bi-lateral relations among Member States. This was especially true during the 1980s – the last decade of the U.S.-USSR Cold War. However;  the end of the Cold War did not end religious tensions as an important factor in internal and international conflicts.

The 1981 Declaration cannot be implemented by U.N. Bodies alone. Effective implementation also requires efforts by non-governmental organizations (NGO). NGOs play a vital role in the development of the right to freedom of religion or belief;  especially by advancing the cause of those still struggling to achieve this right.

Thus;  the Association of World Citizens had been active in the late 1970s;  when the U.N. Commission on Human Rights moved from New York to Geneva;  on the formulation of the 1981 Declaration. Since then;  the Association has worked closely with the Special Rapporteurs on Religious Liberty of the Commission; (now become the Human Rights Council). The Association has also raised publicly in the Commission certain specific situations and violations. The Association stresses the need for sound research and careful analysis. Citizens of the World have an important rôle to play in bringing spiritual and ethical insights; to promote reconciliation and healing in many parts of the world.

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Religious Liberty

“Religious Liberty” was commissioned by B’nai B’rith and dedicated in 1876 to “the people of the United States” as an expression of support for the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom. Created by Moses Jacob Ezekiel, the first American Jewish sculptor to gain international prominence, the 25-foot marble monument was carved in Italy and shipped to Fairmount Park in Philadelphia for the nation’s Centennial Exposition. It was later moved to Independence Mall and now stands in front of the National Museum of American Jewish History. By Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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Gaza Economy Appeals

Ecologically-sound Gaza Development Programme.

Featured Picture: Photo by hosny salah in Pixabay

Jerusalem-Gaza 2021, An Effort is Needed For An Ecologically-sound Gaza Development Programme.

In early May 2021, Palestinians protesting the pending eviction of six  famlies from their home in East Jerusalem clashed with Israeli police.  For many Palestinians the eviction cases evoked a long history  of dispossesion.  Hamas, from its positions in the Gaza Strip, warned that it would “not stand idly by.” On 10 May, Hamas forces fired a fusillade of rockets and missils at Israeli villages and cities.  The Israeli Defense Forces responded with strikes on Gaza, inaugurating a conflict of depressing familiar dimentions after similar clashes in 2009, 2012, 2014.  After 11 days of destruction and loss of life and behind-the-scenes mediation by Egyptian diplomats, a ceasefire was declared. 

It is difficult to predict the political future of Gaza both in terms of relations between Hamas and Fatah as well as the future relations with Israel and Egypt.  What is certain is the Israel-Gaza conflict and the long embargos by Israel and Egypt for different national reasons have crippled and in some cases destroyed the manufacturing and agricultural sectors of the Gaza Strip;  where some one and a half million people depend on imports for most basic goods and on exports for livelihood.  The economic and social situation in Gaza distorts the lives of many with high unemployment, poor health facilities, and a lack of basic supplies.

Men take great decisions only when crisis stares them in the face.

As the political situation is so uncertain, it is important not to rule out in advance political and economic proposals even if at first sight, such proposals seem unlikely to be able to be put into practice. As Jean Monnet, one of the fathers of the European Common Market had said “Men take great decisions only when crisis stares them in the face.”  Just as the first steps of the European Common Market had to overcome the deep wounds of the Second World War, so in the situation of Gaza, there is a need to break strong psychological barriers with cooperative economic measures.

One possibility for socio-economic recovery of Gaza would be a trans-national economic effort that would bring together energy, knowledge and money from Gaza, Israel, the West Bank and Egypt, creating conditions which would facilitate the entry of other investors.

A Corporation clothed with the power of Government but possessed of the flexibility and initiative of a private enterprise.

TVA

TVA Logo: U.S. Government, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

A possible model is the trans-state efforts of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) of the US New Deal.  The TVA was a path-making measure to overcome the deep economic depression of the 1930s in the USA.  In May 1933, the Roosevelt administration and the Congress created the TVA.  In his message to Congress, Roosevelt suggested that the Authority should be a: 

“corporation clothed with the power of Government but possessed of the flexibility and initiative of a private enterprise.  It should be charged with the broadest duty of planning for the proper use, conservation and development of the natural resources of the Tennessee River drainage basin and its adjoining territory for the general social and economic welfare of the Nation…This in a true sense is a return to the spirit and vision of the pioneer.  If we are successful here, we can march on, step by step, in the development of other great natural territorial units.”

The central idea back of the TVA was that it should do many things, all connected with each other by the concrete realities of a damaged river full of damaged people.  To do all these activities well, it had to be a public corporation: public, because it served the public interest and a corporation rather than a government department, so that it could initiate the flexible responsible management of a well-run private corporation. 

Tennessee Valley Authority TVA

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Picture: Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

As Stringfellow Barr wrote in Citizens of the World:

“The great triumph of the TVA was not the building of the great dams.  Great dams had been built before. Its greatest triumph was that it not only taught the Valley people but insisted on learning from them too.  It placed its vast technical knowledge in the pot with the human wisdom, the local experience, the courage, and the hopes of the Valley people, and sought solutions which neither the Valley folk nor the TVA technicians could ever have found alone.  It respected persons.”

Only a New Deal is likely to break the cycle of violence and counter-violence.

The Gaza strip is not one of the great natural territorial units of the world, and respect for persons has been in short supply.  However, only a New Deal is likely to break the cycle of violence and counter-violence.  A Gaza Development Authority, an independent socio-economic corporation devoted to multi-sector and trans-national planning and administration  would be an important start in a new deal of the cards.  Such a Gaza Development Authority would obviously have Hamas members; but also persons chosen for their expertise as well as persons from community organizations.

Strong socio-economic structures are needed which can hold during periods of inevitable future tensions. A Gaza Development Authority can be a framework for such strong measures of cooperative effort.

 

Rene Wadlow, President Association of World Citizens.

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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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hungry Book Reviews

Michelle Jurkovich. Feeding the Hungry: Advocacy and Blame in…

Photo by Steve Knutson on Unsplash.

(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2020, 169pp)

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 (1952):

Since the hungry billion in the world community believe that we all can 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.”

The plan for a World Food Board.

  Sir John Boyd Orr;  the first Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); had proposed a World Food Board to stabilize food prices and supplies.  The plan for a world food board was rejected following the lead of the US delegate;  who said “Governments are unlikely to place large funds needed for financing such a plan in the hands of an international agency over whose operations and price policy they would have little direct control” (1) Boyd Orr resigned when the food board proposal was not accepted by government representatives; and then devoted much of his energy to the world citizen movement.

World Citizen Josué de Castro;  who served as the independent Chairman of the FAO Council;  was a leader in calling attention to world hunger;  and for the need for strong governmental action to provide food security;  and highlighted the need to combine a world; a national, and a local approach to the fight against hunger.

The Green Revolution.

However  from the start;  the FAO and government agricultural ministries put an emphasis on technical aspects of greater food production: better seeds, appropriate fertilizers; “the Green Revolution”. There was also a growing realization of cultural factors: the division of labor between women and men in agriculture and rural development, the marketing of local food products, the role of small farmers, land-holding patterns and the role of landless agricultural labor.

As Jurkovich points out; there has been a growing emphasis on the right to food. Typical of this approach is the General Comment 12;  on the Right to Adequate Food of the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights:

The Covenant clearly requires that each State party take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that everyone is free from hunger and as soon as possible can enjoy the right to adequate food.  This will require the adoption of a national strategy to ensure food and nutrition security for all, based on human rights principles that define the objectives, and the formulation of policies and corresponding benchmarks.”  (2)

Humanity’s Freedom From Hunger.

Non-governmental organizations have played a vital role in efforts to ensuring humanity’s freedom from hunger. NGOs have been active both at the national level and in some of the world conferences organized by the FAO;  such as the 1996 World Food Summit.  As then FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said in his talk;  United Against Hunger:

Responding properly to the hunger problem requires urgent, resolute and concerted action by all relevant actors at all levels.  It calls for the need for all of us to be united. It underlines that achieving food security is not the responsibility of one single party; it is the responsibility of ll of us.” 

NGOs have also highlighted the specific problems of indigenous peoples, landless peasants, and the forced evictions of small farmers.

 

A Mother’s Milk Substitute.

What is new in Michelle Jurkovich’s approach is asking can one pinpoint blame for violations on the right to adequate food. In dealing with the violations of political rights NGOs;  such as Amnesty International are able to analyze who is responsible;  and to whom one should appeal to change the situation: the Minister of Justice, the director of a prison, the chief of a local police.  The violation is generally fairly clear;  and one can find the names of the higher up in the chain of command.  With food issues;  it is more difficult.  There is often no agreement on who is responsible for a situation;  and to whom to appeal.

There are exceptions.  A major effort developed;  in part from the Graduate Institute of Development Studies in Geneva;  where I was teaching. It was the International Baby Food Action Network;  that stressed breastfeeding  as against milk substitutes and baby food;  largely produced by Nestlé.  Nestlé had a widely used poster of a woman dressed in white;  (who could be taken as a medical worker);  advocating a mother’s milk substitute. Thus;  it was decided to direct a boycott of Nestlé products.  The advantage in the effort was that all the major decision-makers – Nestlé;  the World Health Organization (WHO) and the boycott organizers were around Lake Geneva.  The aim was to get a WHO Code on marketing and to get Nestlé to change its policies.

The “Big Ten” transnational Food.

The effort took 10 years;  with strong opposition to a code within WHO;  led by the USA, Japan, the Federal Republic of Germany and a few other conservative allies.  Wanting to maintain “consensus” and remove fears of financial consequences for WHO;  which depends largely on contributions from governments in addition to the regular budget;  WHO Secretariat members were not going to push for a code.  Finally a general and watered-down Code was finally set by the WHO.

Such victories are few.  There are few cases where a product is concentrated in only one company;  where blame can be centered on a common target. There are at least the “Big Ten” transnational food  and beverage companies.  Of course;  these companies are not the only ones responsible for hunger in the world.  Governments are primarily responsible for agricultural policies.  For NGOs wanting to influence governments;  there are varied understandings of the cause, responsibility, blame and solutions.  Jurkovich gives no set answers;  but she raises useful questions. A book worth reading closely.

Notes.

1) For an analysis of Boyd Orr’s proposal see Ross Tabot The Four World Food Agencies in Rome (Ames: Iowa State University  Press, 1990, 188pp.)

Also see the memoirs of a later FAO Director General B.R. Sen. Towards a Newer World (Dublin: Tycooly Publishing, 1982, 341pp.)

2) UNCESCR General Comment 12, UN Doc. ECOSOC E/C12/1999/5.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.