Tag: <span>NGOs</span>

Uprooted Appeals

The Uprooted.

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

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

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

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

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

A need to provide protection and assistance to the uprooted.

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

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

However, each situation requires new negotiations and results differ.

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

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

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

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

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

Featured Image: Picture by Rosy / Bad Homburg / Germany en Pixabay
Peace Planners Appeals

 Peace Planners: Awake!.

Featured Image: Photo by  Eddie Kopp,  Unsplash.

The recent NATO Summit in Vilnius is an indication that the war planning community is busy at work in the spirit of Von Clausewitz that war is a continuation of politics by other means.  Thus there is a need for the peace planning community to be awake and be equally busy.  The challenges which humanity faces today: armed violence, persistent poverty, mass migration, and the consequences of climate change, require strong collective action at the local, the national, and the world level.

Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831). By Karl Wilhelm Wach, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.   

For peace planners, we need to analyse current armed conflicts and the strong tensions which may lead to violence.  Sometimes these tensions start as small localized events, such as tensions between military forces on the India-China frontier, but such tensions contain the seeds for later armed violence.  The recent trip of the 100 year old Henry Kissinger across the Pacific to discuss with the Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu is an indication that tensions in the Indo-Pacific area are being taken seriously.

Chinese Minister of National Defence, General Li Shangfu in Singapore at the Shangri La Dialogue on Sunday, 4th June 2023. By Photographer: Danial Hakim, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons.

NGOs bring their early warning capacities and problem-solving.

    For peace planners, there is a need to stregthen measures for early intervention.  Too often intervention by the United Nations or other intergovernmental agencies such as the African Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe occurs only once the conflict has become a serious dispute involving violence.

    For those of us who are outside of governmental institutions, there is a need to strengthen the capacity of non-governmental organizations (NGO) for peace planning.  NGOs on bring their early warning capacities and problem-solving knowleadge to the United Nations and regional intergovernmental organizations.  Among NGOs, exchanges of information, the creation of regional or thematic working groups, and co-ordinated information campaigns are vital needs. 

Henry Kissinger at the 2009 premiere of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Photographer’s blog post about event and photograph. By David Shankbone, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Adlai Stevenson.

As soon as well-researched material is available, the issue is to get the information to the right people, at the right time, and in the right wording.  Timeliness and clarity of message are crucial.  Many governmental decision-makers receive thick reports, jargon-laden faxes, and briefing notes.

    The challenge for us who plan for a more peaceful world is to help develop processes for dialogue.  As Adlai Stevenson said at the U.N.

“We do not hold the vision of a world without conflict.  We do hold the vision of a world without war – and this inevitably requires an alternative system for dealing with conflict.”

Adlai Stevenson, Democratic candidate for president. Note: Contrast slightly increased from original image (see below) (1956). [1], Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.   

René Wadlow, President, The Association of World Citizens.

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

The Uprooted.

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

1 2 12
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.

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

The Uprooted.

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

1 2 12

world refugee day Appeals

World Refugee Day.

June 20 is the United Nations (UN)-designated World Refugee Day;  marking the signing in 1951 of the Convention on Refugees. The condition of refugees and migrants has become a “hot” political issue in many countries; and the policies of many governments have been very inadequate to meet the challenges. The UN-led World Humanitarian Summit held in Istanbul, Turkey on May, 23-24, 2016 called for efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts by:

“courageous leadership, acting early, investing in stability, and ensuring broad participation by affected people and other stakeholders.”

If there were more courageous political leadership; we might not have the scope and intensity of the problems that we now face. Care for refugees is the area in which there is the closest cooperation between nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the UN system. As one historian of the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has written:

“No element has been more vital to the successful conduct of the programs of the UNHCR than the close partnership between UNHCR and the non-governmental organizations.”

The 1956 flow of refugees from Hungary was the first emergency operation of the UNHCR. The UNHCR turned to the International Committee of the Red Cross;  and the League of Red Cross Societies;  which had experience and the finances to deal with such a large and unexpected refugee departures and re-settlements. Since 1956;  the UNHCR has increased the number of NGOs; both international and national, with which it works given the growing needs of refugees and the increasing work with internally displaced persons; who were not originally part of the UNHCR mandate.

World Refugee Day
Immigration – Refugee arrivals in Australia – Athol Townley, Minister For Immigration of Australia, with the first Hungarian refugees to arrive after Hungarian uprising. By Department of Immigration, Central Office, Australia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Investing in Stability.

Along with emergency responses − tents, water, medical facilities − there are longer-range refugee needs, especially facilitating integration into host societies. It is the integration of refugees and migrants; which has become a contentious political issue. Less attention has been given to the concept of “investing in stability”. One example:

The European Union (EU); despite having pursued in words the design of a Euro-Mediterranean Community; in fact did not create the conditions to approach its achievement. The Euro-Mediterranean partnership; launched in 1995 in order to create a free trade zone and promote cooperation in various fields; has failed in its purpose. The EU did not promote a plan for the development of the countries of North Africa and the Middle East and did nothing to support the democratic currents of the Arab Spring.

Conflict Management.

However;  today  the immigration crisis from the Middle East and North Africa has been dealt with almost exclusively as a security problem.

The difficulties encountered in the reception of refugees do not lie primarily in the number of refugees;  but in the speed with which they have arrived in Western Europe. These difficulties are the result of the lack of serious reception planning; and weak migration policies.

The war in Syria has gone on for five years. Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, not countries known for their planning skills; have given shelter to nearly four million persons; mostly from the Syrian armed conflicts. That refugees would want to move further is hardly a surprise. That the refugees from war would be joined by “economic” and “climate” refugees is also not a surprise. The lack of adequate planning has led to short-term “conflict management” approaches.

Fortunately; NGOs and often spontaneous help have facilitated integration; but the number of refugees and the lack of planning also impacts NGOs.

World Refugee DaySyrian refugee camp on theTurkish border for displaced people of the Syrian civil war. By Voice of America News: Henry Ridgwell on the Turkish border, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Thus;  there is a need on the part of both governments and NGOs to look at short-term emergency humanitarian measures and at longer-range migration patterns; especially at potential climate modification impact.

World Refugee Day can be a time to consider how best to create a humanist, cosmopolitan society.

 

By Prof. René Wadlow,  President of the Association of World Citizens.

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

Protecting Cultural Heritage. Appeals

Protecting Cultural Heritage in Time of War.

Featured Image: World Heritage flag, Stortorget, Karlskrona. By Henrik Sendelbach, CC BY-SA 2.5 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5, via Wikimedia Commons.

War and armed violence are highly destructive of the lives of persons, but also of works of art and elements of cultural heritage. The war in Ukraine has highlighted the destructive power of war in a dramatic way. Thus, this May 18, “International Museum Day”, we outline some of the ways in which UNESCO is working to protect the cultural heritage in Ukraine in time of war.

International Museum Day.

May 18 has been designated by UNESCO as the International Day of Museums to highlight the role that museums play in preserving beauty, culture, and history. Museums come in all sizes and are often related to institutions of learning and libraries. Increasingly, churches and centers of worship have taken on the character of museums as people visit them for their artistic value, even they do not share the faith of those who built them.

Knowledge and understanding of a people’s past can help current inhabitants to develop and sustain identity and to appreciate the value of their own culture and heritage. This knowledge and understanding enriches their lives. It enables them to manage contemporary problems more successfully.

Graphic identity for International Museum Day 2020. By Justine Navarro, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.

It is widely believed in Ukraine that one of the chief aims of the Russian armed intervention is to eliminate all traces of a separate Ukrainian culture, to highlight a common Russian motherland. In order to do this, there is a deliberate destruction of cultural heritage and a looting of museums, churches, and libraries in areas when under Russian military control. Museums, libraries, and churches elsewhere in Ukraine have been targeted by Russian artillery attacks.

After the Second World War, UNESCO had developed international conventions on the protection of cultural and educational bodies in times of conflict. The most important of these is the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. The Hague Convention has been signed by a large number of States including the USSR to which both the Russian Federation and Ukraine are bound.

UNESCO has designed a Blue Shield as a symbol of a protected site. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, has brought a number of these Blue Shields herself to Ukraine to highlight UNESCO’s vital efforts.

Audrey Azoulay, Director General, UNESCO at the Global Conference for Media Freedom in London (2019).Foreign and Commonwealth Office, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Roerich Peace Pact.

The 1954 Hague Convention builds on the efforts of the Roerich Peace Pact signed on April 15, 1935 by 21 States in a Pan-American Union ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C. In addition to the Latin American States of the Pan American Union, the following States also signed: Kingdom of Albania, Kingdom of Belgium, Republic of China, Republic of Czechoslovakia, Republic of Greece, Irish Free State, Empire of Japan, Republic of Lithuania, Kingdom of Persia, Republic of Poland, Republic of Portugal, Republic of Spain, Confederation of Switzerland, Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

At the signing, Henry A. Wallace, then U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and later Vice-President, said:

“At no time has such an ideal been more needed. It is high time for the idealists who make the reality of tomorrow, to rally around such a symbol of international cultural unity. It is time that we appeal to that appreciation of beauty, science, education which runs across all national boundaries to strengthen all that we hold dear in our particular governments and customs. Its acceptance signifies the approach of a time when those who truly love their own nation will appreciate in addition the unique contributions of other nations and also do reverence to that common spiritual enterprise which draws together in one fellowship all artists, scientists, educators and truly religious of whatever faith. Thus we build a world civilization which places that which is fine in humanity above that which is low, sordid and mean, that which is hateful and grabbing.”

We still have efforts to make so that what is fine in humanity is above what is hateful and grabbing. However, the road signs set out the direction clearly.

Globally-used UNESCO World Heritage logo. By UNESCO; Designer: Michel Olyff.Uploaded by Siyuwj, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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

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

The Uprooted.

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

1 2 12

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) UN: Growth of World Law.

Non-governmental Organizations in the United Nation: The Voices of…

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The Constitution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) written just after the end of the destructive Second World War states that:

“since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.” 

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in consultative status with the United Nations, such as the Association of World Citizens, have played an important role in changing attitudes both among the representatives of governments and among the wider public.  NGOs have stressed the need for real cooperation in meeting the many challenges facing humanity, challenges which require new and innovative strategies.

         It is abundantly clear that many challenges facing humanity require new and innovative strategies.  The United Nations has a unique role to play in responding to these challenges. The United Nations is the only truly universal organizations with a mandate that covers virtually all areas of human endeavour.  In an interdependent world, problems cannot be solved without a sense of commitment to the good of the whole.

The UN System

         There is a need for further empowerment of the UN system for
conflict prevention as well as promoting the values of a culture of peace.  Yet it is also clear that the UN cannot
fulfil alone its weighty responsibility set out in the Charter.  The United Nations needs to reach out to a
wider circle of talents for 
insights,  and compassion to make
this world a place of dignity and joy.

         Thus, increasingly the energy and talent of members of non-governmental organizations are linked directly to UN efforts both as a source of ideas and as a powerful multiplier of actions to develop policies and structures of peace and non-violence.

Image Photo by Shinobu in Pexels.

The United Nations: The Reflection of the World Society.

The Association of World Citizens

         The representatives of the Association of World Citizens are turned toward the future.  As Frederico Mayor, former Director General of UNESCO has said:

One great task is to be the look-outs for the future, since in this way we shall be able to anticipate and prevent.  Prevention is the greatest victory since it is what avoids suffering and avoids confrontation.

         The future belongs to those who give the next generation reasons to hope.  A vision of the future precedes the creation of a new reality.  If we cannot envision the world we would like to live in, we cannot work towards its creation.  We need a vision of the future as a time of great healing and social transformation.  With a vision of the future, we can see better how each of us can contribute to this wider transformation. The real future is the future which is built by the inspiration of a vision.  A vision creates hope, enthusiasm and conscious actions to actualize the vision.  Thus we need to keep an open mind, to seek truth and to inform ourselves of the points of view of others.

         The actions of the Association of World Citizens are directed toward a future of freedom, dignity, and world unity. Your cooperation in these great challenges are most welcome.

Federico Mayor Zaragoza as speaker in the summer course of the International University of Andalusia 2007 “Interculturality, interreligious dialogue and communication”. By Universidad Internacional de Andalucía, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, 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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Convention on the Rights of the Child Appeals

Convention on the Rights of the Child: The Vital…

Featured Image: Photo by Yannis H on Unsplash.

When the Convention on the Rights of the Child was unanimously adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 20 November 1989; governments took a major step forward in establishing a framework of world law to protect the basic dignity and rights of children in all parts of the world. 

Therefore on 20 November; we remember with gratitude those who worked to develop the concepts and reality of the Rights of the Child; but also to measure the tasks that are before us; especially as members of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  This universal framework is based on the principle that each child should have the possibility to develop into an active and responsible member of society. The way in which a society treats its children reflects not only its qualities of compassion and protective caring, but also its sense of justice, its commitment to the future and its urge to better the human condition for continuing generations.

General Asembly

 Image by Basil D Soufi, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

U.N. General Assembly: Can It Provide the Needed Global Leadership?.

“Save the Children International Union”. 

The effort to create a legal framework for the welfare of the child began early in the League of Nations efforts with the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child of 1924 which was largely based on a text written by the then newly-established NGO “Save the Children International Union”.  Child welfare has always been a prime example of cooperative efforts among governments, scholars highlighting the conditions of children, and NGOs working actively in the field.

However, the Geneva Declaration served as the basis for the UN General Assembly resolution on the Declaration of the Rights of the Child adopted also on 20 November 1959.  The 1959 Declaration was followed with more specific provisions of the Declaration on Social and Legal Principles; relating to the Protection and Welfare of Children, the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice; and the  Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict.

League of Nations

Featured 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.

Special Working Group on the Rights of the Child.

In 1978, some representatives of both governments and NGOs in the UN human rights circles in Geneva felt that it was time to bring together these different declarations and provisions into a single text that would have the  legal force of a UN convention.  The Polish delegation to the UN Commission on Human Rights took the lead in this effort; but some governments felt that the different declarations needed to be closely reviewed and measured against changing realities.

Thus a Special Working Group on the Rights of the Child was created in 1979  under the chairmanship of the Polish representative; the legal specialist Adam Lopatka. Government and NGO representatives worked together from 1979 to 1988 for a week each year.  There was a core group; including the Association of World Citizens; which worked steadily and which represented a wide range of different beliefs, values and traditions, as well as a wide range of socio-economic realities.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child.

As a result of serious discussions, the  Convention covers a wide range of human rights which can be summarized as the three “Ps”: provision, protection and participation.  Each child has the right to be provided with certain things and services, such as a name and a nationality, to health care and education.  Each child has a right to be protected from certain acts such as torture, exploitation, arbitrary detention and unwarranted removal from parental care.  Each child has a right to participate in decisions affecting their lives as well as in community life.

The Working Group managed to come to a consensus on the final version in time for the General Assembly to adopt it on 20 November 1989, the anniversary date of the Declaration.  The Convention on the Rights of the Child is meant to provide guidance for governments to review national legislation and policies in their child-related initiatives.  It is by examining national law and policy and the effectiveness of government structures and mechanisms that progress can be measured. The Convention also provides a framework of goals for the vital activities of NGOs.  NGOs work on two lines simultaneously: to remind governments of their obligations through approaches to ministries, elected officials and the media and to undertake their own operational efforts.

Article 43 of the Convention.

To help governments to fulfill their obligations and to review national practices, a Committee on the Rights of the Child was created as called for in article 43 of the Convention. The Committee is composed of 10 independent experts elected for a four-year term by the States which have ratified the Convention. The Committee usually meets three times a year for a month each time in Geneva to review and discuss reports submitted by governments, once every four years. The sessions of the Committee are largely carried out in a non-confrontational dialogue with an emphasis on “unmet needs”. The discussion usually lasts six to nine hours for each country. The Committee members have received information and suggestions from NGOs in advance.  The Committee members ask many questions and based on the government’s responses, make suggestions for improving the promotion and protection of children’s rights in the country.

By creating a common legal framework of world law, the Convention on the Rights of the Child has increased levels of governmental accountability, bringing about  legislative and institutional reforms, and increasing international cooperation.  As James P. Grant, then UNICEF Executive Director said:

Transcending its detailed provisions, the Convention on the Rights of the Child embodies the fundamental principle that the lives and the normal development of children should have first call on society’s concerns and capacities and that children should be able to depend upon the commitment in good times and in bad, in normal times and in times of emergency, in times of peace and in times of war, in times of prosperity and in times of recession.”

Unicef

Flag of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), an organization of the United Nations. By Delehaye, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

 

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

The Uprooted.

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

1 2 12

Vaclav Havel Book Reviews

Vaclav Havel: Resistance and Vision.

Vaclav Havel on Wenceslas Square on November 17, 2009. By Ben Skála, CC BY-SA 2.5 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5>, via Wikimedia Commons.

He rejects the ritual and breaks the rules of the game.  He discovers once more his suppressed identity and dignity.  He gives his freedom a concrete significance.  His revolt is an attempt tolive within the truth”

Vaclav Havel.

The Czechoslovak Government.

Vaclav Havel, whose birth anniversary we note on 5 October, he was first noted for his resistance to  a repressive government; as one of the writers; and first signers of Charter 77; demanding that the Czechoslovak Government; implement the human rights; it claimed to uphold in signing; the 1975 Helsinki Accord

The Charter 77 was openly signed; eventually by hundreds.  The regime’s response to the publication of what it called an “anti-State” document was harsh.  Most of the early signatories were arrested and spent years in prison.  Jan Patoeka; a philosophy professor  and chief inspiration of the Charter; died as a result of the police interrogation.

Vaclav Havel started his long career by writing plays.  His political essays followed later.  Both his plays and essays; contained detailed analyses of the working of the totalitarian system; and the way it could be resisted. This type of regime creates a situation; that forces all its citizens to live a lie.  He wrote:

Because the regime is captive to its own lies; it must falsify everything.  It falsifies the past, it falsifies the present, and it falsifies the future.  It falsifies statistics.  It pretends not to possess an omnipotent; and unprincipled police.  It pretends to respect human rights.  It pretends to persecute no one. It pretends to prevent nothing.”

Jan Patočka By Jindřich Přibík, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Living in Truth.

In such a situation; a revolt is first of all an effort to live within the truth.

When I speak of living within the truth; I naturally do not have in mind only products of conceptual thought such as a protest; or a letter written by a group of intellectuals.  It can be any means; by which a person or group revolts against manipulation; anything from a letter by intellectuals to a workers’ strike; from a rock concert to a student demonstration; from refusing to vote in a farcical election to making an open speech at some official congress or even a hunger strike.”  (1)

His aim was to create immediate changes; in the daily lives of people.  As soon as people set out to discover their own truth; and to live in accordance with it; they provide others with an option to discover; their own individuality in return.  Living in truth can be an act of obstruction; disrupting the workings of a monolithic  system; but it can also be an act of construction; part of the creation of new structures.  Constructive action requires active ways to create new institutions “building the new society in the shell of the old.”

Havel’s writings had an influence on the emergence of a civil society in public life.  However; the embryonic spirit of a civil society “living in truth” was not fully developed. Vaclav Havel as President of Czechoslovakia; was not able to prevent the rise of narrow nationalism; which led in 1993 to the split creating the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Helsinki, KSZE-Konferenz, DDR-Delegation. By Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-P0730-019 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Post-Havel Generation.

I had first heard Vaclav Havel speak in Prague in October 1990. However; when he addressed the founding meeting of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly.  The Assembly had brought together; some 800 people from peace, human rights, ecology, feminist, and world citizen movements; many of whom had been active in efforts to bridge the East-West Europe divide of the Cold War. 

This was the first chance for such; a large group of activists to meet after the radical changes in Eastern Europe.  Havel was both a key actor and a symbol of these changes.  Yet his remarks were not turned toward the past; but toward the challenges that faced us.  He echoed what the Polish writer; and activist Adam Michnik, also there; had said:

The greatest threat to democracy today is no longer communism.  The threat grows instead from a combination of chauvinism, xenophobia, populism and authoritarianism; all of them connected with the sense of frustration typical of great social upheavals.”

Seven months later; war broke out in what had been Yugoslavia.  The new civic structures that Havel hoped would be forces for peace and creativity; were not able to break the hold of aggressive; narrow nationalism.  In fact, since 1990; after a first fire of hope; civil society throughout Central and Eastern Europe has grown progressively weaker.  There are few of the post-Havel generation with as broad a vision or a willingness to act.

I met with Havel again; when he came to the United Nations in Geneva to speak at the celebration of the 50th anniversary; of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  He was open to representatives of NGOs. 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

His role as President; had not changed his basic nature – a creative intellectual open to the ideas of others.  In his talk to the Commission on Human Rights; he stressed that there are many treaties; and declarations that use the term international;   but the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the only one that uses the term universal – a sign that the writers of the Declaration; wanted to include all countries and all individuals.  It is its universal character; which makes it a base for relations among peoples across national and cultural frontiers; a basis for the healing of nations.

I had been active in unsuccessful efforts of mediation in the Yugoslav conflicts; and I was worried; at the growing national-ethnic tensions in Europe.  In our discussion; I think that he shared my concerns; but knew that mobilizing trans-frontier civil society was difficult. 

Civil society groups were not up to the challenges; that history presented.  Yet; he stressed that even in dark periods; which he had experienced much more than I had; we must also see the growth of new institutions; preparing for the future – institutions which are open; which break down social divisions; which are sensitive to all voices.  Today; it is our task to be aware of the growth of these new entities; to participate in them; to add our energy to theirs; and thus to speed the manifestation of the new age.

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.

Notes.

1) The fullest presentation of Havel’s views on the ways to resist oppression are in his long essay, The Power of the Powerless: Citizens Against the State in Central-eastern Europe. John Keane Editor (London: Routledge, 2009)

See also Delia Popescu. Political Action in Vaclav Havel’s Thought: The Responsibility of Resistance (Latham, MD: Lexington Books, 2012)

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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

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Nuclear Weapons Appeals

Dark Clouds and Little Light at the Nuclear-Weapon Non-Proliferation…

Featured Image Photo by  Egor MyznikUnsplash.

After late night negotiations; the every-five-year Review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons; (The NPT Review) failed to reach a consensus on a final statement this past Friday.  The terms of the Review require a consensus and not a majority-minority vote.  This is not the first time that a NPT Review has failed to reach a consensus on a final documen; but the failure is an indication of strong tensions among nuclear-weapon states – in particular over the Russian Federation armed conflict in Ukraine.

151 States participated in the Review held at the United Nations in New York; however the Review is not a U.N. conference, thus the consensus rules of procedure.  There were 160 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) accredited to participate in the Review.  I had chaired the NGO representatives at the first Review in 1975 held in Geneva, and also chaired the NGOs at the 1980 Review.  We were fewer then.  However getting consensus among NGOs is nearly as difficult as among States.  The impact of NGOs depends to a large part on preparation before the Review and follows up after.

The Treaty was negotiated in Geneva during a 10-year period with frequent consultations between the negotiators and the Foreign Ministries.  Many negotiators of non-nuclear-weapon States considered the treaty as uneven or unfair, giving a superior position to the five official nuclear-weapon States: China, France, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S.A. In “compensation” there is a crucial Article VI in which the nuclear-weapon States agree:

“to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.” 

NGOs have cited Article VI at each Review deploring the lack of progress toward nuclear disarmament or any other type of disarmament.

Dark clouds hung over this Review with the statements of the Russian authorities on 24 February and again on 27 April threatening that nuclear weapons might be used if its forces in Ukraine were menaced.  As a reply, the States party to the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons issued a 23 June consensus statement stating that:

“any use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is a violation of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations” and condemned “unequivocally any and all nuclear threats, whether they be explicit or implicit and irrespective of the circumstances.”

It is certain that the shadows of nuclear weapons exist in the thinking of some governments. The State of Palestine participated in the Review but not the State of Israel.  The Republic of Korea was there but not North Korea.  There is a need to deal both with regional tensions such as those of the Middle East or the two Koreas as well as the nuclear-weapon stockpile of the U.S.A. and the Russian Federation.  There are some possibilities of “Track II” – informal diplomacy – concerning the Middle East and the Koreas.  However there is less concerning U.S. and Russian nuclear policy where NGOs have made proposals for as long as I can remember but with little visible impact.  Yet the challenge is there.  The coming together of such a large number of NGO representatives may help build a platform for NGO consensus and action.

Korean Peace

Korean Peace Memorial By John Murphy, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons. 

Korean Peace Treaty Awaits: NGO Efforts Needed.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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

The Uprooted.

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

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Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann Appeals

Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann. Stewards of this world and its…

Featured Image: Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and President of the UN General Assembly Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann in New York (2009). Estonian Foreign Ministry, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

In October 2008; the then President of the United Nations General Assembly; Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann urged:

“Let us become stewards of the world and its precious life.  The United Nations is an ongoing experiment in partnership.  Let’s inspire these partnerships with solidarity and compassion.  The trigger for this solidarity does not lie with world leaders.  Nor government bureaucracies.  Nor the corporations.  It comes from people, from civil society, from ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things.”

This call for the development of political will for cooperation and solidarity remains valid today.  The question we must ask ourselves is why has there been so little progress toward compassion as a motive for action.  The United Nations has the structures for mediation, good offices, arbitration, and judicial settlement of disputes.  Thus; an important question is why States so seldom resort to these dispute settlement mechanisms.  There is a crucial role that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can play.  Although the term “world public opinion” has been overused; there is a certain reality to the term.  NGOs can provide some pressure to resolve international conflicts peacefully.

Currently we see the rise of strong, transnational currents of world public opinion around three related themes: the impact of climate change, the protection of biodiversity, and the dangers of world-wide hunger.  Youths are taking an increasing role in these efforts.  We will have to see if these efforts continue.  My analysis is that there are no quick solutions nor great short-term changes.  Thus these three issues will continue and grow in importance.  Compassion and respect for Nature are at the heart of these efforts.  Father d’Escoto Brockmann’s call may become the symbol of these efforts.

Miguel d´Escoto Brockmann

 

Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and President of the UN General Assembly Miguel d´Escoto Brockmann (2019). Estonian Foreign Ministry, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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

The Uprooted.

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

1 2 12