Tag: <span>Palestine</span>

Rafah Appeals

Rafah, Gaza Strip: A Human Catastrophe in the Making.

“I am disturbed and distressed by the renewed military activity in Rafah by the Israeli Defense Forces. Make no mistake – a full-scale assault on Rafah would be a human catastrophe,”

(UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters on May 7, 2024. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that more than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip, some 78,000 have suffered injuries, and nearly 2 million have been internally displaced. The number is rising as the ground invasion of Rafah begins.

The UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteurs have painted a grim picture of the disproportionate level of suffering experienced by girls and especially pregnant women in Gaza.

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. By Quirinale.it, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons.
United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. By Quirinale.it, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons.

“The treatment of pregnant and lactating women continues to be appalling with the direct bombardment of hospitals and the deliberate denial of access to health care facilities by Israeli snipers, combined with the lack of beds and medical resources placing an estimated 50,000 pregnant Palestinian women and 20,000 newborn babies at unimaginable risk.”

Many of these military actions are in direct violation of International Humanitarian Law as set out in the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949 and the Protocol Additional adopted in 1977. In order to meet new situations, International Humanitarian Law (IHL) has evolved to cover not only international armed conflicts but also internal armed conflicts. IHL prohibits the indiscriminate killing of civilians, the holding of hostages, and the destruction of medical and educational infrastructure.

The Association of World Citizens stresses the importance of IHL as a vital part of world law that will replace unilateral actions by States based on narrow domestic political considerations. The standards of IHL require political will if they are to function effectively. Thus, nongovernmental action on the Gaza Strip armed conflict is urgently needed.

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

A Palestinian refugee Camp near Tyre, Lebanon. Photo shows: IDF aroured troops inside Lebanon stationering near by a camp for Palestinians refugees. By Dan Hadani / Dan Hadani collection / National Library of Israel / The Pritzker Family National Photography Collection, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Credit:

Featured Image: Image by Amrulqays Maarof on Pixabay.
UN Security Council Appeals

UN Security Council Reforms: Necessary But Difficult.

    Ambassador Pedro Comissario of Mozambique who is chairing the UN Security Council for this month of May said:

“The veto should never have been allowed in cases of flagrant violations of international humanitarian law as we are witnessing in Gaza at the moment.” 

Some 35,000 persons have been killed in the Gaza Strip since 8 October 2023.

Many bodies are still under the ruined buildings and are not yet counted.  The United States has vetoed four resolutions concerning Gaza, despite the fact that many governments are calling for a lasting ceasefire, for the freeing of hostages held by the Palestinians, for the release of political prisoners held by the Israelis and for increased humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip.

HE Mr Pedro Comissário Afonso, the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Mozambique, presents his credentials to Dr Lassina Zerbo, Director of the International Data Centre and Executive Secretary-elect of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, on 1 July 2013. By The Official CTBTO Photostream, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

UN membership for Palestine.

    Under a new UN procedure voted late in 2023, when there is a veto in the Security Council, the subject is moved to the General Assembly for consideration.  The State having cast the veto must explain its position and its justification for the veto.  Thus on 10 May 2024, the General Assembly will discuss the US veto of 18 April concerning UN membership for Palestine, a debate worth following closely as it is closely related to current events in the Gaza Strip.

    Since the start of the United Nations in 1945, a total of 312 vetos have been cast in the Security Council: 152 by the Soviet Union and its reincarnation as the Russian Federation.  91 vetos have been cast by the USA.

Two Major issues in the on-again, off-again discussions concerning reform of the UN Security Council.

 One issue has been the veto power of the five permanent members. The other issue has been the make up of the Security Council: should there be additional permanent members, if so should they have the veto?  In addition to the discussion of new permanent members, should there be more than the current 15 States?  There has been no agreement of these issues. In practice, more issues are moved to the General Assembly, but finding adequate solutions to crucial issues is difficult also in the General Assembly.

    The review and reform of UN structures has often been advocated.

However, a Charter Review Conference on the UN agenda for 1955 was pushed under the rug by an agreement of the USA and the USSR both of which did not want their policies in the UN discussed.  Such a review would be helpful but difficult to create.

   Professor René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Israel y Hamás Appeals

World Citizens Call for an Inmediate End to Hostilities…

Featured image: The impact of the Israeli bombing on a civilian building in Gaza (2021). By Osama Eid, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The AWC, a Nongovernmental Organization in Consultative Status with the United Nations (UN) and accredited with the UN Human Rights Council, is deeply alarmed at the latest flare of violence between the armed militias of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Most importantly, we are appalled at the consequences of the deliberate attacks from both sides on the rights of civilians in Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Since the attacks launched by its forces in the early morning of October 7, Hamas has been targeting civilians in Israel, even capturing Israeli citizens, both civilians and IDF soldiers, to keep them as hostages. The legitimate cause of a people long deprived of their own land, a cause that even the UN recognizes as internationally legitimate, cannot be served in dignity by such methods that run counter to international law.

A map of the Gaza Strip showing key towns and neighbouring countries. By Gringer (talk) 14:01, 8 January 2009 (UTC), CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).

The current government of Israel has been constantly pushing the limits of disregard for the same international law, through repeated and insistent statements and practices aiming at systematic discrimination against the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Within the internationally recognized borders of the State of Israel, the current Israeli Government has also sowed the seeds of discord and political strife by trying to lessen the powers of the executive branch and, in so doing, to end Israel’s tradition of democracy with checks and balances.

Palestinian solidarity protester with Palestinian flag and a “Free Palestine” sign outside Downing Street, London, 5 June 2018, by Alisdare Hickson, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons.

The Middle East conflict right from its root causes.

This misguided conduct has proved harmful to both the Palestinian people and the citizenry of Israel. It is now creating new chaos in the region amounting to, in the very words of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, a threat to international peace and security. The situation could get even worse as Hezbollah, notoriously backed by Iran, has now unwisely joined the fight from South Lebanon.

Once more, the rights of civilians in Israel and the Gaza Strip are falling victim to the hatred and violence unleashed by both sides in the absence of a badly needed but constantly denied international effort to tackle the Middle East conflict right from its root causes, including the Palestinian people’s demand for justice and the State of Israel’s need for security.

Consequently, the AWC reiterates its call for an immediate end to hostilities in Israel and the Gaza Strip. We also call for the release of every person, civilian or military, taken hostage by Hamas.

We further urge the international community to finally undertake a genuine peacebuilding effort in Israel and the OPT by addressing the root causes of the conflict and duly acting on the legitimate claim of the Palestinian people for justice and the equally legitimate claim of the Israeli people for security.

There is truly no other option now.

Separation wall between Israel and the West Bank in Palestine. By Ilya Varlamov, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, 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…

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Arnold Toynbee Rapprochement of Cultures.

Arnold Toynbee: A World Citizens view of challenge and…

Featured Image: Arnold Toynbee. By Atyyahesir, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975)  was a historian, a philosopher of history, and an advisor on the wider Middle East to the British Government.  Already a specialist in Greece and the Middle East from his university studies; and in the intelligence services during the First World War; he was an expert delegate on the English delegation to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919.

Our modern Western nationalism has an ecclesiastical tinge, for, while in one aspect it is a reversion to the idolatrous self-worship of the tribe which was the only religion known to Man before the first of the ‘higher religions’ were discovered by an oppressed internal proletariat…it is a tribalism with a difference.  The primitive religion has been deformed into an enormity through being power-driven with a misapplied Christian driving force. 

Arnold Toynbee A Study of History.

Classical Greece and Decadence of a Civilization.

The breakup of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of new states in the Middle East followed.  Also there was the start of Zionist activities in Palestine and frontier and population transfers between Greece and Turkey – all issues on which Arnold Toynbee gave advice.  He became director of studies of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) an early “think tank” created to advise the British Government (1).

At the same time that he was an advisor on the Middle East (Chatham House producing a respected Yearbook on world affairs); Toynbee continued writing on the classical antiquity of Greece and Rome; much influenced by the spirit of Thucydides.  Toynbee was struck by the alternative between union and division as the defining characteristic of classical Greece.  These were the centuries of the flowering and then final decadence of a civilization; which bears remarkable parallels with the history and perspectives of modern Europe.

 

Thucydides. This is the plaster cast bust currently in exposition of Zurab Tsereteli’s gallery in Moscow (part of Russian Academy of Arts), formerly from the collection of castings of Pushkin museum made in early 1900-1910s.
Original bust is a Roman copy (c. 100 CE) of an early 4th Century BCE Greek original, and is located in Holkham Hall in Norfolk, UK. By user:shakko, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Vision of World Citizens.

Toynbee argued that Greece’s economic development; based on colonization and commerce; together with the maintenance of the political sovereignty of the very small territorial units of the city-state; created an imbalance that could not last.  The city-states; if they did not want to return to autocracy and economic backwardness; should have created a pan-Hellenic political organization to manage problems.  In the same way that Greece failed to mitigate the anarchic character of relations between city-states; Western civilization may flounder and fail.

As Toynbee wrote in Mankind and Mother Earth:

“Evidently few people are ready to recognize that the institution of local sovereign states has failed repeatedly, during the last 5,000 years, to meet mankind’s political needs, and that, in a global society, this institution is bound to prove to be transitory once again and this time more surely than ever before.”

Toynbee placed his hope in creative leaders; those with the vision of world citizens; who, seeing the challenges of the times; would respond with the creation of new more just and peaceful institutions. He placed high hopes in those working for a united Europe which would put an end to the Germany-France-England tensions which had led to two World Wars (2). Toynbee believed that civilizations declined when their leaders stopped responding creatively.

However, unlike Oswald Spengler in his Decline of the West (1918), Toynbee believed that decline was not inevitable, but that there could be regenerative forces in response to challenges. Those with a world vision and strong energy must come to the fore. Toynbee’s call to enlightened leadership remains a call to us for action.

Oswald Spengler. By Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R06610 / 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.

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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NGOs Book Reviews

Oliver P. Richmond and Henry F. Carey (Eds); Subcontracting…

Featured Image: Prof. Oliver Richmond By Arianit, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Challenges of the NGO Peacebuilding (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2005, 267pp.)

As Kim Reimann writes in this useful overview of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the peacebuilding field; “In the past two decades, the number and influence of NGOs have grown dramatically; leading many scholars and observers in recent years to argue that a paradigm shift has taken place in politics and international relations theory”.

While the tone of much of the literature on NGOs has been positive; and has presented them in a progressive and idealistic light; the rise of NGOs has not been without controversy or critics.

As NGOs have grown in size and influence; their actions have come under much greater scrutiny… “During the course of the 1990s and early 2000s, a clearly defined set of critiques of NGOs have appeared focusing on:

  1. Their performance and actual effectiveness.
  2. Accountability issues.
  3. Issues of autonomy.
  4. Commercialization.
  5. Ideological and/or political interpretations of their rising influence.”

The rise of NGOs

These critiques are worth looking at and will serve as a framework for this review. However; it is worth looking at the roles that NGOs try to play in the peace-building field; and why there has been increased growth in activity.

The rise of NGOs; such as the Association of World Citizens as important agents in conflict resolution; and post-conflict development efforts comes from the changing nature of conflicts.

Cold War years (1945-1990)

During the Cold War years(1945-1990); governments were the chief actors. NGOs could give advice on disarmament measures for the resolution of certain conflicts, and could provide the setting for some TrackTwo informal meetings. On some special issues that were not directly security-related such as the Law of the Sea negotiations; or the first UN environmental meetings; NGOs already had significant input.

However, even during the Cold War years; in certain areas, especially Africa; we saw the rise of non-state armed forces such as the first civil war in Sudan(1956-1972); the different rebellions in the former Belgium Congo, the Viet Cong in South Vietnam.

The World Council of Churches.

Governments were unable or unwilling to deal with such non-state actors. Much of the negotiations which brought an end to the first Sudanese civil war in 1972; were carried out by the African Conference of Churches and the World Council of Churches.

There are also cases; in which the government controlling the territory is suspect and some governments are unwilling to work with it. I was involved in the early 1990s; in helping to set up child welfare and educational programs through an NGO as the Vietnamese-backed.

Cambodian Government

The Cambodian government was not recognized by some governments and was suspect to others. It was only later that a massive UN-led effort was made in Cambodia. Under UN leadership, NGOs, the Cambodian government, and national government programs; cooperated to restore the country after war, genocide, and the failure of Vietnam to undertake development efforts for the government it helped to put into place.

The US Government and the European Union

Today; we see the same debates in the US government and the European Union; concerning a Hamas-led government in Palestine. There is the current talk of funding through NGOs so as not to deal with Hamas; considered by some a terrorist organization.

NGOs are thought to have speed, flexibility, relative cheapness, high implementation capacity; and lack of bureaucracy. They are also relatively independent from governments; often made up of multinational teams. There is also disillusionment with the role of states in constructing peace in conflict zones — governments are always suspected of acting for narrow self-interest.

NGO strengths can also be weaknesses

However; NGO strengths can also be weaknesses, and as Kim Reimann suggests; it is important to look at performance and effectiveness. It is also necessary to look at government-organized activities in the same places and in the same fields.

I would suggest that each situation presents difficulties linked to history, culture, and the current distribution of local power, and thus governments and NGOs face the same difficulties. NGOs cannot use the police or the military so they must depend on discussion and material rewards.

Performance and effectiveness depend; in large measure on the quality of the persons working for peacebuilding NGOs; thus is an issue of experience and training; background knowledge of the area in which one is working; and the organization’s ability to get information and supplies to workers in the field. Much also depends on relations with national and local authorities; local NGOs and others having local influence.

The national military is always on hand

Moreover; NGOs cannot have staffs who only wait for a crisis to arrive. The national military is always on hand. To meet a new crisis; NGOs have to find people who have worked for them before; or for like-minded NGOs. Many such people have jobs and families, and cannot ‘drop everything to respond to a call. Thus; there is a need for wide and up-to-date NGO networks of people with the needed skills.

There is a need to train people both in the culture of an area and in skills. One has to be able to draw upon a wide range of people; who know the culture of an area. We have seen the difficulties of the US government; depending on too narrow a range of Iraqi exiles for their background information on Iraq.

Democratic Republic of Congo

The number of people who know the history and culture of the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo; (probably the most difficult current conflict situation) is limited and rarely in one place.

Fortunately; there is a growing number of university-based peace studies programs; that can be helpful in training. Kim Reimann has also raised the issue of autonomy — that is the way in which NGOs can prevent being manipulated by their governments, and yet cooperate when governments undertake useful initiatives. There is a useful chapter on NGOs and the peace efforts of Norway by Ann Kelleher and James Taulbee.

Norway

Norway is known for having played a leading role in brokering the Oslo accord in the Israel/Palestine conflict as well as being active in Latin America —Guatemala and Colombia — and especially Sri Lanka. As Kelleher and Taulbee write “ As a peacemaker, Norway sprang suddenly from amid the confusion associated with the reshuffling of international roles after the Cold War. A relatively small, homogeneous population that enjoys a high standard of living has produced a highly educated, closely connected governing circle whose members move easily between public, private, and semi-official roles.

The Norwegian domestic political

The Norwegian domestic political process emphasizes consensus creation rather than confrontation. Norwegians are accustomed to the time-consuming process of sorting out strongly held convictions and dealing with shifting coalitions of interests.

They consider their consensus-building political style as aptly suited to the ambiguities and uncertainties of peacemaking.” Because there are exchanges of people between NGOs; especially church-related, academic life, and government in Norway, and because Norway has no Great Power interests; it is easy for NGOs in Norway to cooperate with the government in peace efforts as full partners; not as manipulated agents of government policy. We have similar conditions in Sweden and Switzerland — thus the important role that NGOs from these countries play in NGO peacemaking efforts.

NGOs are a crucial question

Resources for NGOs is a crucial question. Fundraising from individual givers helps strengthen NGO independence, but it is time-consuming and expensive. In an analysis of NGO activities in rebuilding Rwanda, Joanna Fisher writes:

“NGOs may be benefiting their own image rather than that of the populace that they serve; they plan strategically ar time so as to worry more about proving their worth to get funding instead of worrying about if those helped can survive in the long-term after NGOs leave.”

Accepting money from governments poses problems of independence from government policy but can also be useful.

Getting projects off the ground requires funds that NGOs do not usually have in reserve. We can agree with the editor Henry Carey in his conclusions “NGOs have a vital role in supporting societies emerging from conflicts, half of whom are relapsed old conflicts where earlier efforts at peacebuilding and prevention have failed. Greater assessments of best practices and lessons learned about the vast growth of NGO activity, both acting independently and in partnership with the UN, are needed… Finally, more investigation of how to empower local NGOs which still depend on external resources in most cases needs to be undertaken.”

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