Tag: <span>Myanmar</span>

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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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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Conscience and Belief Education of World Citizenships.

Upholding Freedom of Conscience and Belief.

Featured Image: Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash.

By Rene Wadlow.

 
25 November is the date anniversary of the U.N. General Assembly resolution in 1981 to proclaim the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. The Declaration is a development of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights highlighting freedom or thought, conscience, religion or belief. The 1981 Declaration is now recognized as articulating the fundamental right of freedom of conscience, religion, and belief.
 
The efforts for such a U.N. declaration began in 1962. Two conventions were proposed by African States, many of whom had joined the U.N. after their 1960 independence. One convention was to deal with racism. Since racism in the minds of many delegates was largely limited to apartheid in South Africa, work on a racism convention progressed quickly and was adopted in 1965. Freedom of religion was more complex. The effort was led by Liberia, but ran into East-West Cold War devisions. Work on a convention was largely completed by 1967 when the Six Day War in the Middle East broke out, making religious issues all the more sensitive at the U.N.
 
Human Rights
Eleanor Roosevelt holding poster of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (in English), Lake Success, New York. November 1949. By FDR Presidential Library & Museum, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

you might be interested on Human Rights: The Foundation of World Law.

Thought, Conscience, Religion or Belief.

 
One issue was that there was no agreed upon definition as to what is “religion”, thus the longer term used of “thought, conscience, religion or belief”.
 
Work was still slow. Thus, it was decided to change the proposal from a “Convention” which is a treaty which must be ratified by the parliament of the Member State to a “Declaration” which can be voted by the U.N. General Assembly.
 
The second modification was to change the declaration from a positive one – “freedom of religion or belief” to a negative one “elimination of intolerance and discrimination” based on religion or belief.
Work on the Declaration had begun at the U.N. in New York. When the human rights bodies of the U.N. moved in 1977 to Geneva, a working group on the Declaration was set up in which representatives on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as the Association of World Citizens, were particularly active. By the summer of 1981, the drafting of the Declaration was complete. The text was sent on to the delegates in New York and was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on 25 November 1981.
 
General AsemblyBasil D Soufi, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.
After 1981, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights (become since the Human Rights Council) created the post of Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion in 1985. The post continues today. The Declaration has given NGOs an agreed upon standard to which to hold governments. The 1981 Declaration cannot be implemented by U.N. bodies alone. Beginning with the shift of the U.N. human rights secretariat to Geneva and the closer cooperation with NGO representatives, the role of NGOs is more often written into U.N. human rights resolutions, calling on NGO cooperation, education and fact-finding.
 
Thus in the 1981 Declaration there is a paragraph which:
 

“requests the Secretary-General in this context to invite interested non-governmental organizations to consider what further role they could envisage playing in the implementation of the Declaration.”

 
Thus, the Association of World Citizens has continued to play an active role in the U.N. human rights bodies when the right of belief and conscience has been under attack in different parts of the world. Our policy has been to take a lead when a community under pressure was not part of an NGO in consultative status with representatives in Geneva who could speak for them.
 
In practice, the World Council of Churches speaks for Protestant and to a lesser degree for the Orthodox Churches. The Vatican, which is considered a State, participates actively in human rights bodies and speaks for Roman Catholic churches. Thus, the Association of World Citizens has, in recent years, raised the issues of the Mandaeans, also known as Sabian Mandaeans, in Iraq, the Yazidi in Iraq and Syria, the Rohingya fleeing Myanmar (Burma), the Baha’i in Yemen after having raised starting in 1980 the persecution of the Baha’i in Iran.
 
Religion

The Falun Gong.

 
Starting in 1985, there being no active Buddhist organization active at the U.N. in Geneva at the time, we raised the condition of religious liberty of the Tibetans in Tibet. This was followed by presentations of the fate of the Falun Gong movement in China. They are basically Taoist but consider themselves as a separate movement or belief. There was no Taoist NGO at the U.N. that I knew of.
 
There is a worldwide erosion of the freedom of belief and conscience in many parts of the world causing large-scale suffering, grave injustice, and refugee flows. Belief and conscience are efforts on the part of individuals and communities to understand and to seek to live in harmony with the laws of Nature and often to communicate their understanding and devotion to others.
 
The anniversary date of 25 November should be an opportunity to consider how to strengthen freedom of conscience and belief.
 
The Falun Gong
 Falun Gong members exercise in Sydney, 2021. By Kgbo, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.
 
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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

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Diplomacy Appeals

Track Two Diplomacy and Beauty as a Bridge.

Photo by  Anfaenger in Pixabay 

By Rene Wadlow.

Only the bridge of Beauty will be strong enough for crossing 
from the bank of darkness to the side of light. 
Nicolas Roerich (1874 – 1947)

There is a growing interest in the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at the United Nations and the U.N.’s Specialized Agencies such as UNESCO. Through time and persistent effort, NGO representatives have developed a structured role for themselves in such fields as human rights, ecology, and humanitarian relief.

The role of the NGO representative is to influence policies through participation in the entire policy-making process from the initial raising of an issue or proposal through the final voted resolution and the start of the application. What distinguishes the NGO representative’s role at the U.N. from lobbying at the national level is that one may appeal to and discuss with the representatives of many different governments. While some government representatives may be unwilling to consider the ideas of anyone other than the mandate that they receive from the Foreign Ministry, others are more open. Out of the more than 100 States usually present at most U.N. meetings, the NGO representative will find some who share a common policy outlook or who are seeking additional information on which to take a decision. These non-governmental efforts are increasingly called “Track Two diplomacy.”

Track One diplomacy is official government negotiations with their backup resources of research and intelligence agencies’ resources. Many governments also have news or information services who present the government’s views and usually analyze the foreign press and media. Many governments also have cultural bodies to present national cultures and are often in touch with cultural workers in other countries.

Track Two efforts are becoming increasingly important in world politics.

Track Two diplomacy is citizen-based efforts through research, dialogue, mediation, and collaborative relations. No non-governmental organization has the resources of a government. Thus NGOs must often work together in trans-frontier alliances. However, Track Two efforts are becoming increasingly important in world politics for two reasons. First, increasingly armed conflicts exist between a government and one or more armed movements as we see in Yemen, the Kurds in Syria or with the ethnic minorities in Myanmar. Governments are often reluctant to negotiate openly with armed groups fearing to give them legitimacy or fearing to encourage other such armed movements. Yet a peace agreement requires discussions with such groups. Talks can be carried on in unofficial ways which governments can deny later if needs be. (1)

The second area is illustrated by the UNESCO-led International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022) in which the Association of World Citizens has been active. Culture is usually broader and more diverse than that promoted by national cultural agencies such as the Confucius Institutes closely related to the Chinese government’s views on which elements of Chinese culture should be stressed. We can also recall the 1950s-McCarthy period in the U.S.A. when “subversive books” were to be taken out of the libraries of the U.S. cultural centers abroad.

Concept of Beauty.

Thus the need for a broad concept of beauty. Beauty can bring out in the individual sentiments of awe, of compassion, of the spiritual in life. One such example was the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra led by Daniel Barenboim with musicians from Israel, Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Spain – Spain in honor of the creative co-existence of Christian, Islamic and Jewish culture at one stage of Spain’s history.

Music, dance and painting are wordless and thus can touch a part of human consciousness that can be blocked by words. While the bridge of beauty does not overcome political divisions in the short run, beauty can open dimensions of the person not reached by economic gain or political calculations.

 

Note.

1) see P. Willets (Ed). The Conscience of the World. The Influence of Non-Governmental Organizations in the UN System (London: Hurst, 1996)
W.E. De Mars. NGOs and Transnational Networks (London: Pluto Press, 2005).

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

 

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

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Burma Appeals

Burma’s Military in a Political Hole.

Photo by Michael Pfister on Unsplash

By Rene Wadlow.

“An error is not a mistake unless you refuse to correct it”
John F. Kennedy

On Wednesday 31 March 2021, the United Nations Security Council met in a closed door session to continue its consideration of the violence in Myanmar. The participants heard a video message from the U.N.’s envoy to Myanmar who called on the Tatmadaw (the Myanmar Military Forces) to navigate an orderly and peaceful way out of the situation in which some 520 people have been killed by the military and some 2,800 people detained. How many are still detained is not fully known. Reporting from the area is difficult and uneven.

The Security Council repeated its earlier 10 March resolution against violence and calling for support for a democratic transition within the country. China is playing the key role within the Security Council but also in contacts with the military-led government which calls itself the State Administrative Council (SAC). China has a 2,227 kilometer border with Burma, and people move across this border with relative ease. Moreover, there are a good number of Chinese factories in Burma, companies that are closely related to Chinese-government owned conglomerates. There are also a good number of ethnic Chinese living in Burmese cities and larger towns, owning hotels, restaurants and shops. There have already been fires set in some of these Chinese-owned factories, but no group has taken responsibility for setting the fires. The fires are, nevertheless, an indication of growing anti-Chinese sentiment.

Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM)

It has been said that the first rule when you find yourself in a political hole is to stop digging. Unfortunately, the military leadership since its 1 February coup has done all it could to make matters worse. As a result, there has grown among many different groups of the society a strong Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) which has shown tactical innovation and creativity. Women have been on the front lines of these non-violent protests to military rule. A raised three-finger salute, drawn from the Hunger Games has become the outward sign of opposition.

The ethnic minorities which have played a large, if often violent role in Burmese politics since independence in 1947 – the Kachin, Karen, Shan, Mon, Karenni, Ta’ang – are divided in their response to the new military-led government. Some, such as Karen and Kachin rebels have launched attacks against the military. Others are lying in wait to see what is going to happen. For a number of reasons, all the ethnic minorities are divided into factions, and there is rarely a collective response. A good number of the minority civilians have displaced themselves, seeking shelter along the borders.

The Situation in Myanmar.

An unintended consequence of the 1 February coup and the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi and other National League for Democracy leaders has been to open the door to a younger generation of leadership, less linked to military families. While this younger generation is not contesting the leadership of the older generation, it is inevitable that a generation of people now in their 50s will come to the fore such as the Myanmar Ambassador to the U.N. in New York Kyaw Moe Tun who broke with the military in a dramatic presentation at a first 26 February Security Council discussion of the situation in Myanmar.

There are many aspects to the fast-moving situation in Myanmar. They merit watching closely.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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