Tag: <span>Syria</span>

World Humanitarian Day Appeals

World Humanitarian Day: A Need for Common Actions.

Featured Image: Photo by Wylly Suhendra on Unsplash.

The United Nations General Assembly has designated 19 August as “World Humanitarian Day” to pay tribute to aid workers in humanitarian service in difficult and often dangerous conditions.  19 August was designated in memory of the 19 August 2003 bombing of the UN office building in Baghdad, Iraq in which Sergio Vieira de Mello,  UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and at the time Special Representative of the UN Secretary General was killed along with 21 UN staff members. Over 200 UN employees were injured. The exact circumstances of the attack are not known, and why USA and UN security around the building was not tighter is still not clear. A truck with explosives was able to dive next to the building and then blew itself up.

Sergio de Mellow had spent his UN career in humanitarian efforts, often with the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees and at other  times as Special Representative of the UN Secretary General. As an NGO representative to the UN in Geneva and active on human rights issues, I knew him during his short 2002-2003 tenure as High Commissioner for Human Rights. Many of us had high hopes that his dynamism, relative youth (he was 54) and wide experience in conflict resolution efforts would provide new possibilities for human rights efforts. His death along with the death of others who had been Geneva-based was a stark reminder of the risks that exist for all engaged in humanitarian and conflict resolution work.

Sergio de Mello
Brazilian diplomat Sérgio Vieira de Melo. By Wilson Dias/ABr, CC BY 3.0 BR <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/br/deed.en>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Collateral Damage.

This year the risks and dangers are not just memories but are daily news. On 3 May 2016, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2286 calling for greater protection for health care institutions and personnel in light of recent attacks against hospitals and clinics in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Afghanistan.  These attacks on medical facilities are too frequent to be considered “collateral damage.” The attacks indicate a dangerous trend of non-compliance with world law by both State and non- State agents.  The protection of medical personnel and the  treatment of all the wounded − both allies and enemies − goes back to the start of humanitarian law.

The Association of World Citizens has stressed the need for accountability, including by investigation of alleged violations of the laws of war.  The grave violations by the Islamic State (ISIS) must be protested by as wide a coalition of concerned voices as possible. There is a real danger that as ISIS disintegrates and no longer controls as much territory, it will increase terrorist actions.

(Red Cross) Conventions.

The laws of war, now more often called humanitarian law, have two wings, one dealing with the treatment of medical personnel in armed conflict situations, the military wounded, prisoners of war, and the protection of civilians. This wing is represented by the Geneva (Red Cross) Conventions. The second wing, often called The Hague Conventions limit or ban outright the use of certain categories of weapons. These  efforts began at The Hague with the 1900 peace conferences and have continued even if the more recent limitations on land mines, cluster weapons and chemical weapons have been negotiated elsewhere.

The ban on the use of weapons are binding only on States which have ratified the convention. Thus the current use of USA-made cluster weapons in Yemen by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition is, in a narrow sense, legal as the USA, Saudi Arabia and Yemen have not signed the cluster weapon ban. The Association of World Citizens was one of the NGOs leading the campaign against cluster weapons. My position is that when a large number of States ratify a convention (which is the case for the cluster-weapons ban) then the convention becomes world law and so must be followed by all States and non-State actors even if they have not signed or ratified the convention. The same holds true for the use of land mines currently being widely used by ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

The current situation concerning refugees and internally-displaced persons can also be considered as part of humanitarian law.  Thus those working with refugees and the displaced within their country are also to be honored by the World Humanitarian Day.  To prevent and alleviate human suffering, to protect life and health and to ensure respect for the human person − these are the core values of humanitarian law.

There needs to be a wide public outcry in the defense of humanitarian law so that violations can be reduced. The time for action is now.

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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Syria Appeals

Syria: The Start of a Long Night of Sorrow.

Featured Image: Photo by Ahmed akacha: https://www.pexels.com/es-es/foto/gente-demostracion-rally-protesta-7183546/

By Rene Wadlow.

On 13 March 2011 in Derra, in the south of Syria, 15 teenage boys were arrested by Syrian security police for having written hostile graffiti against President Bashar Al-Assad on a school wall. The arrests led to non-violent protests in Derra and by 15 March the protests had spread to other Syrian cities.

Bashar_al-Assad

Picture of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad with the Syrian flag next to him. By Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Arab Spring.

There were social, economic and ecological conditions in the country  which set the stage for such protests. Corruption, unemployment, high population growth, limited resources and a hugh budget for oversized security and military forces; were main obstacles for economic reforms. There was also the spirit of the “Arab Spring”; which had started earlier with the January 2011 end of the government of Ben Ali in Tunisia.

Unlike earlier protest movements in Syria; which were based on religious or ethnic; especially Kurdish identity, the early 2011 movement stressed the unity of all the people and their demand to have recognized their dignity. Women participated actively. Social media via the INTERNET was widely used.

Ben Ali

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, President of Tunisia. By Presidencia de la Nación Argentina, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Police and Military Violence.

Fairly quickly the protesters stated to structure themselves in cities and larger towns. Protesters started to form local councils and to take up local administrative tasks. In 2011; Syria was a police state but under administrated concerning services of education, health and other public services. Rural areas were even less administrated. There was a strong rural to urban migration, especially to larger towns. Social service needs were not met.

The government responded to these demonstrations with police and military violence. By mid-April; a peaceful demonstration in Homs was repressed with a good number of demonstrators killed or wounded. Arrests, often followed by torture, became widespread.

Silence Any Opposition.

There were 12 different branches of the security forces and prisons were overcrowded. While there were local leaders of protests, there were no nation-wide leaders. With no identifiable leaders to arrest, the security forces arrested anyone who looked like a potential troublemaker. Due to the regime’s determination to silence any opposition, Syria’s political culture regressed into fear with an end to independent periodicals and intellectual forums.

By the end of 2011, the government increasingly called upon the regular military to replace the specialized security forces which were too few to deal with the spreading protests. Protesters started to carry weapons. Some of the regular military  who were of the same background as the protesters started to desert and to take their weapons with them.

A Non-Violent Civil Protest to a Violent Civil War.

Thus; the Syrian conflict was transformed from a non-violent civil protest to a violent civil war, leading to a large number of persons displaced within the country and a large number of refugees, especially to neighboring countries – Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon but also to Western Europe.

However, as the conflict grew several regional and international actors involved themselves: Russia and the USA, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, Lebanon with Hezbollah as well as the Jihadist Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

However, efforts at mediation have been carried out nearly from the start by the Arab League, U.N.-appointed mediators, and broader U.N.-sponsored meetings in Geneva. While the mediators have made detailed proposals none have been acted upon.

Therefore; there have also been a few non-governmental efforts at mediation or at least efforts to keep avenues of communication open or to widen the persons involved, especially by increasing the role of women. On behalf of the Association of World Citizens, I have been involved in some of these non-governmental efforts but I have seen few advances. The long night of sorrow continues but we must watch closely for a possible dawn.

Arab League

Euler Diagram for the Arab League, and also any regional organizations with members all belonging the Arab League. By OIC-Diagram.svg:Nuvola_Bahraini_flag.svg: AntigoniNuvola_Iraqi_flag.svg: AntigoniNuvola_Jordan_flag.svg: *Nuvola_Palestinian_flag.svg: User:OrzettoNuvola_Kuwaiti_flag.svg: AntigoniNuvola_Lebanese_flag.svg: OrzettoNuvola_Oman_flag.svg: *Flag_of_Oman.svg: Open Clip Art websiteNuvola_Palestinian_flag.svg: OrzettoNuvola_Qatari_flag.svg: AntigoniNuvola_Saudi_flag.svg: OrzettoNuvola_Sudanese_flag.svg: AntigoniNuvola_Syria_flag.svg: ZarikNuvola_Tunisian_flag.svg: AntigoniNuvola_UAE_flag.svg: AntigoniNuvola_Yemeni_flag.svg: OrzettoNuvola_Algerian_flag.svg: AntigoniNuvola_Djiboutian_flag.svg: AntigoniNuvola_Egyptian_flag.svg: AntigoniNuvola_Libya_flag.svg: OrzettoNuvola_Mauritanian_flag.svg: AntigoniNuvola_Moroccan_flag.svg: AntigoniNuvola_Somalian_flag.svg: Antigoniderivative work: Aris Katsarisderivative work: Aris Katsaris, LGPL <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/lgpl.html>, 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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Russia-Ukraine War Appeals

Alternatives to War: Renewal and Impact.

Featured Image: Ukrainian T-72AV with a white cross during the 2022 Ukrainian Kharkiv counteroffensive. By Mil.gov.ua, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

One year into the Russia-Ukraine War, one has a “been there, done that” feeling.  To settle arguments by war is not a new idea.  There can be modifications in time.  The armed conflicts in Syria have been going on for 12 years.  There can be modifications in the number of players. It is said that there are 120 armed groups in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  However, the nature of war remains the same: to kill as many as possible so that one side wins the argument.

The Russia-Ukraine War has led to increasing the methods of war-making in many countries such as the U.S.A., Germany and France.  There have been increases in military spending, in the possibility of making munitions, and in military strategy.  It is most likely that other countries will follow suit.

Syria: The Start of a Long Night of Sorrow.

Able to establish a ceasefire.

Along with the practice of war, there has been a long tradition of seeking alternatives to war as a way of settling disagreements.  Thus, today, related to the Russia-Ukraine War, we have the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  However these two governmental organizations have not been able to establish a ceasefire, much less to open negotiations.  As in other armed conflicts, there have been proposals to organize negotiations made by one country, most recently by China.

There had been earlier France-Germany efforts as well as proposals by individual leaders of countries such as Turkey, Israel, and Mexico.  Such proposals are useful in creating an atmosphere that might lead to negotiations, but none have been acted on for the moment.

United Nations

Picture: MONUSCO Photos, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The United Nations Peacekeeping Forces, Weak but Necessary.

Red Cross Conventions.

There is also a tradition from the early 1900s of non-governmental proposals of alternatives to war.  The first put into practice were the Red Cross Conventions.  If war cannot be avoided, its consequences can be made less deadly by protecting civilians, by helping wounded soldiers, by improving the conditions of prisoners of war.  There have been many violations of international humanitarian law in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, but no state has questioned the validity of the Red Cross Conventions.

There have also been calls for peace on the part of religious organizations such as the pleas of Pope Francis, echoing Christian ethics and efforts of Vatican diplomacy in the settlement of other armed conflicts.  Other religious leaders have made similar pleas, but no other religious movement has the diplomatic infrastructure of the Vatican.

Pope Francis

Picture: 2014 Pastoral Visit of Pope Francis to Korea Closing Mass for Asian Youth Day. By Korea.net / Korean Culture and Information Service (Photographer name), CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The peace movement.

In many countries, there are non-governmental organizations devoted to peace and working for alternatives to war – generally called “the peace movement.”  There have been in the past some impressive mobilizations, such as those in many countries on the eve of the U.S. attack on Iraq in 2003 or in New York at the time of the U.N. General Assembly devoted to disarmament.

While peace groups have been concerned with the Russia-Ukraine war, there has not been a unified policy as to the conditions necessary for ending the war.  Some have proposed a new European-wide security system with an end to NATO and a strengthened OSCE.  However, the influence of peace organizations on governmental policy-making is negligible.

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.

“The Global South” and “Future Studies”.

There is alongside the peace movement but separate in function, the peace research institutions, often linked to universities. Transcend Media Service-TMS is a reflection of this peace research.  There are a number of academic peace research institutions, often with their own publications.   There have been in the past efforts to link together institutions and individuals working on peace research, development research on what is now called “the Global South” and “Future Studies”.  I have not seen these associations’ policy proposals on the Russia-Ukraine War, but I have probably missed many things.

Many have pointed to the Russia-Ukraine War as a turning point–the first war in Europe since the Second World War (if one sets aside the conflicts in ex-Yugoslavia).  Such a turning point requires an examination of our activities, their strengths and weaknesses.  For those of us working on alternatives to war, it is imperative that we renew our efforts and find ways to increase our impact. Present governments cannot be trusted to deal with conflicts nonviolently or build peace by peaceful means. These became Civil Society’s tasks. Like war, peace is too important to be left to the generals.

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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Syria Appeals

United Nations Appeal to Facilitate Aid to Syria by…

Featured Image Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.

On 10 February 2023, Special Rapporteurs of the Human Rights Council made an urgent Appeal to facilitate aid to Syria by removing the current sactions imposed by a certain number of countries on Syria due to the massive and long-lasting human rights violations linked to the armed conflict which began in March 2011. 

The Appeal was led by Professor Alena Douhan, Special Rapporteur on the Negative Impact of Unilateral Coercive Measures on the Enjoyment of Human Rights. Professor Douhan is professor of international law at the Belarusian State University in Minsk.

Special Rapporteurs of the U.N. Human Rights Council are independent experts.

They are not members of the U.N. Secretariat although Secretariat staff participate in research and editing.  The Special Rapporteurs are not paid but their expenses are covered when in Geneva or on missions in the field.  The idea for the creation of the Special Rapporteurs was to free them, to the extent possible, of pressures from governments or from the U.N. Secretariat.  They report to the Human Rights Council, usuallly at every session.

Syria

Photo by TheAndrasBarta in Pixabay

Building Stronger Conflict Prevention Networks.

Turkiya and Syria.

The earthquake which hit parts of Turkiya and Syria was particularly catastrophic.  It is estimated that some 50,000 persons have been killed and many more uprooted.  In the case of Syria, the quake hit parts of the country that were already devastated by the civil war.  Some of the effected areas were under the control of the government; other areas were held by opposition groups or other forces.  Immediate aid and longer term recovery is a priority.

Sanctions have limited the number of frontier crossings from Turkiya.  Blocks on financial transfers limit the possibility of the Syrian diaspora to send funds to family and relatives.

Promote negotiations in good faith in Syria.

The Association of World Citizens, which has been seeking to promote negotiations in good faith in Syria, nearly from the start of the armed uprising, joins in the spirit of the Appeal of the U.N. Special Rapporteurs. Steps must be taken quickly. Many lives depend on positive action.

Syria

Syria: The Start of a Long Night of Sorrow.

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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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

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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World Day for Cultural Diversity Portraits of World Citizens.

World Day for Cultural Diversity, for Dialogue and Development.

Featured Image: These students together in a public school in the capital city of Nigeria celebrates World Day for cultural Diversity for dialogue and development on May 21st of each year; which is a significant event anchored by United Nations. By Joemadaki, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

In December 2002; the United Nations General Assembly; in Resolution 57/249, declared that 21 May each year should be the World Day for Cultural Diversity, for Dialogue and Development. The Day was created as a response to the destruction of the Buddha statues of Bamiyam in Afghanistan in 2001.

Thus the day has a double theme.  The broader aim is to create an enabling environment for dialogue and understanding among cultures. Achieving a true rapprochement of cultures must be nourished by a culture of peace and non-violence and sustained by respect for human rights.

The second theme, closely linked to the destruction of the Buddha statues is the protection of the cultural heritage of humanity at the time of armed conflict. In light of the subsequent destruction of UNESCO selected heritage of humanity sites in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Mali, I will stress the protection aspect by looking at the post-World War I efforts of Nicholas Roerich as an example of non-governmental mobilization.

“Only the bridge of Beauty will be strong enough for crossing from the banks of darkness
to the side of light”.

                                                                                                                      Nicholas Roerich.

Buddha of Bamiyan (reconstitution)

Buddha of Bamiyan (reconstitution). By MOs810, Saiko, Adam Jones Adam63, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Nicholas Roerich.

One of the spiritual visionaries of the 1920s-1930s was Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947) a Russian and world citizen; a painter and researcher into cultures. Nicholas Roerich had lived through the First World War and the Russian Revolution; and saw how armed conflict can destroy works of art and cultural institutions.  For Roerich; such institutions were irreplaceable, and their destruction was a permanent loss for all humanity.

Thus; he worked for the protection of works of art and institutions of culture in times of armed conflict.  He envisaged a “Banner of Peace” that could be placed upon institutions and sites of culture which would protect them; as the symbol of the Red Cross is supposed to protect medical workers and medical institutions in times of conflict.

Nicholas Roerich

Nicholas Roerich (between 1940 and 1947). By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Banner of Peace.

Roerich mobilized artists and intellectuals in the 1920s and early 1930s for the establishment of this Banner of Peace.  Henry A. Wallace; the US Secretary of Agriculture and later Vice-President was an admirer of Roerich; and helped to have a formal treaty introducing the Banner of Peace — the Roerich Peace Pact — signed at the White House on 15 April 1935; by the 21 States of North and South America in a Pan American Union ceremony.  At the ceremony; Henry Wallace on behalf of the USA 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.”

Henry A. Wallace

Henry Agard Wallace, 1888–1965, bust portrait, facing left. (1940). By Photo copyrighted by D.N. Townsend; no renewal in the U.S. Copyright Office, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Hague Convention.

After the Second World War; UNESCO has continued the effort; and there have been additional conventions on the protection of cultural bodies in times of conflict — such as the Hague Convention of May 1954; though no universal symbol such as the three red circles proposed by Nicholas Roerich has been developed.

Conserving a cultural heritage even in times of peace is always difficult.  Weak institutional capabilities; lack of appropriate resources and isolation of many culturally essential sites are compounded by a lack of awareness of the value of cultural heritage conservation.  On the other hand; the dynamism of local initiatives and community solidarity systems are impressive assets.  These forces should be enlisted, enlarged, and empowered to preserve and protect a heritage.  Involving people in cultural heritage conservation both increases the efficiency of cultural heritage conservation; and raises awareness of the importance of the past for people facing rapid changes in their environment and values.

The Hague Convention.

The First International Peace Conference, the Hague, May – June 1899. By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Systems of knowledge that ultimately become critically important.

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 and enables them to manage contemporary problems more successfully. It is important to retain the best of traditional self-reliance; and skills of rural life and economies as people adapt to change.

Traditional systems of knowledge are rarely written down: they are implicit, learnt by practice and example, rarely codified or even articulated by the spoken word.  They continue to exist as long as they are useful; as long as they are not supplanted by new techniques.  They are far too easily lost.  It is the objects that come into being through these systems of knowledge that ultimately become critically important. The objects that bear witness to systems of knowledge must be accessible to those who would visit and learn from them.

As Nicholas Roerich said in a presentation of a draft of the Pact; largely written by the French jurist Dr George Chklaver:

“The world is striving toward peace in many ways, and everyone realizes in his heart that this constructive work is a true prophesy of the New Era…We deplore the loss of the libraries of Louvain and Oviedo and the irreplaceable beauty of the Cathedral of Rheims.  We remember the beautiful treasures of private collections which were lost during world calamities.  But we do not want to inscribe on these deeds any words of hatred.  Let us simply say: Destroyed by human ignorance — rebuilt by human hope.”

Thus for the World Day;  let us work together to preserve the beauty of the past and create beauty for future generations.

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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

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Afghanistan Appeals

Afghanistan: A Month of Questions and No Clear Replies.

Featured Image: A street in Kabul, Afghanistan. By Christopher Killalea, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

By Rene Wadlow.

It is a month that the Taliban forces have taken control of Kabul, a symbol that they now control the state.  In addition to the Taliban, there are an estimated 10,000 foreign fighters in some 20 Islamist groups. Among these are fighters from the Islamic State (ISIS) who had been active in Iraq and Syria.  Until now, these foreign fighters had operated independently from the Taliban.

An interim government of largely hard-line Taliban members has been created.  However public services of education, health, transportation are poorly served if at all.  The economy is at a standstill.  Many persons who had worked for the U.S. or NATO troops as well as employees of Western non-governmental organizations have been given refuge abroad, but many had to be left behind.  There is a flow of refugees to Pakistan, Iran, and the Central Asian Republics of the former USSR.  Many other persons are also looking at the possibilities of leaving, and few consider returning from abroad.

Authorities in the regional states – Pakistan, Iran, China, India and the Central Asian Republics – are all asking questions as to what policies will the Taliban government put into place.  General Faiz Hameed, the head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has already gone to Kabul to find answers, and, no doubt, to try to influence the policies.  The ISI has been deeply involved in Afghan politics, especially since 1980 and the start of the Soviet intervention. At the start of August, one of the leading Taliban, Mullah Baradar met with the Foreign Minister of China, Wang Yi in China.

Wang Yi

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China Wang Yi during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. By Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

When the Taliban last ruled (1996-2001), they enforced a harsh interpretation of Islamic law, banning girls and women from schools and public life.  The media was closely under control, and minorities marginalized.  While it is still too early to know what the policies and practices of the Taliban toward minorities will be now, during the past Taliban rule, there was systematic discrimination against the Hazara.  Thus on September first, the Association of World Citizens issued a Hazara Appeal.

The Hazara

Hazara people in the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan 2020. By Shaah-Sultaan, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

 Read the Post. We Must Protect the Rights of the Hazara Population in Afghanistan.

The are some three  million Hazara whose home area is in the central mountainous core of Afghanistan, but a good number have migrated to Kabul, most holding unskilled labor positions in the city.  The Hazara are largely Shi’a in religion but are considered as non-Muslim heretics or infidels by the Taliban.  In the past, there was a genocidal period under the rule of Abdur Rahman Khan.  During the 1891 – 1893 period, it is estimated that 60 percent of the Hazara were killed and many others put into slavery-like conditions.

To understand fully the concern of the Association of World Citizens for the Hazara, it is important to note that for the 1948 Convention against Genocide, the criteria for mass killings to be considered genocide does not depend on the number of persons killed or the percentage of the group destroyed but on the possibility of the destruction of the identity of a group. It is the identity of the Hazara and their religious base which is the key issue.

There have been repeated appeals to make the 1948 Genocide Convention operative as world law.  The 1948 Convention has an action article, Article VIII which states: 

“Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide.” 

Despite factual evidence of mass killings in Cambodia, former Yugoslavia, and Rwanda, no Contracting Party to the Genocide Convention has ever called for any action under Article VIII. (1)

Thus the World Citizen Appeal that events need to be watched closely and non-governmental organizations be prepared to take appropriate action to alert government.

 

Note.

1. For a detailed study of the 1948 Convention and subsequent normative development see William A. Schabas. Genocide in International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2000, 624 pp.)

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

 

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The Uprooted.

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

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Afghanistan Appeals

Start of a New Round in Afghanistan?.

 Featured Image: Afghan pro-government forces (including militia and army troops) assemble in Jowzjan Province during 2021 Taliban offensive. By File:Afghan government forces in Jowzjan Province during 2021 Taliban offensive.png: Abdulbasir Ilgor (VOA)derivative work: Berrely, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

There are real dangers of increasing armed conflict and regression of civil society in Afghanistan as the Taliban advance and opposing forces organize. On 5 August 2021, the United Nations Security Council met under the presidency of the Ambassador of India, T.S. Tirumrti. The Council heard a report from the the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan who said that the country was at a dangerous turning point.

Regional States – Pakistan, Iran, China, India and the Central Asian republics – are all involved in different ways. The withdrawal of the U.S.A. and NATO forces is not complete, and private contractors will stay on. There is a flow of refugees. Persons who had worked for the U.S. or NATO troops are being given refuge abroad. Many other persons are also looking at the possibility of leaving, and few are considering returning from abroad.

Since its overthrow in 2001, the Taliban has regrouped, launched an insurgency and has assumed control of a significant portion of the country. In addition to the Taliban, there are an estimated 10,000 foreign fighters in some 20 Islamist groups who are also anti-governmental. Among these are fighters from the Islamic State (ISIS) who had been active in Iraq and Syria. Many of these foreign fighters operate independently from the Taliban.

There have been different efforts to facilitate meaningful negotiations among government representatives, the Taliban, representatives of civil society and other groups from within Afghanistan. These negotiations seem to be at a standstill and have produced no clear guidelines for a lasting settlement. It is impossible to know what discussions among more limited groups may be going on. There may be discussions with a low profile or under the cover of religious authorities. There may be locl initiatives for a local ceasefire. However, the results of earlier talks does not make one optimistic on an overall agreement.

Since the start of the Soviet intervention in January 1980, Afghanistan has become increasingly divided, and the population war weary. After 2001, a good number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) became active, often in cooperation with foreign NGOs. Education and health services were developed. At this stage, it is difficult to know what lasting impact these NGO efforts will have. To some extent foreign NGO workers depended on U.S. and NATO troops for protection. It is likely that the protection of foreign NGOs will not be a high priority for governmental troops and may be prime targets of the Taliban.

The current complexity of international relations, with only weak efforts of cooperation for peace processes with the United Nations system and shrinking space for civil society efforts are the dark background of the current Afghan situation. The growing dangers of violence and repression may creat a new energy for peacemaking or on the opposite, discouragement and fear. The situation merits close analysis to see if there are any opportunities for positive action.

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

 

 

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The Uprooted.

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

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David Cortright Book Reviews

David Cortright Peace: A History of Movements and Ideas

Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash.

(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008, 376pp.)

David Cortright;  Director of Policy Studies at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies;  and an activist especially on nuclear arms issues;  has set out a clear and up-to-date history of the ideas and movements that make up the colors on the peace pallet.

Sometimes Alone and Sometimes in Combinations.

Peacemaking has always been an art rather than a science.  As with painting;  there is a pallet with a range of colors;  and it is up to the artist to know how to combine these colors;  sometimes in pure form;  and at other times mixed together to paint a picture;  sometimes of a peaceful field;  and at other times a scene of revolt. 

As with colors in art;  there are a limited number of ideas which can be used;  sometimes alone and sometimes in combinations.  Likewise;  there are a limited number of people in the peace brigades;  and they are usually found in different campaigns;  often the same people in different uniforms. Open conflicts provide us with test cases of how ideas concerning peace;  and conflict resolution can be put together;  and we see how the peace brigades will form themselves to meet the challenge.

The Hague Legal Spirit.

David Cortright gives us a good overview of the development of the 19th century peace societies.  They were born in the USA and England from the success of collective action against slavery;  and the slave trade.  If the age-old institution of slavery could be abolished by a combination of law, religious concern;  and changing public opinion; could not war be abolished in the same way?  Religious-motivated action;  work to influence public opinion; and legal restraints on war have continued to be the chief colors of the peace pallet.

The Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907 were milestones in the development of world law;  of faith in the power of mandatory arbitration;  and for the need of world courts.  The Hague legal spirit was most prominently displayed slightly later by President Woodrow Wilson;  who had long espoused arbitration;  the strengthening of international law and multilateral cooperation.

The League of Nations and the United Nations are the embodiment of the Wilsonian vision. As H.G. Wells wrote in The Shape of Things to Come  “For a brief interval Wilson stood alone for humankind…in that brief interval there was a very extraordinary and significant wave of response to him throughout the earth.”

“Father Figure”

Wilson remains the ‘father figure’ of peace through law;  and multilateral governmental action just as Mahatma Gandhi does for non-violent action.  As Martin Luther King Jr. wrote “Gandhi was probably the first person in history to lift the love ethic of Jesus;  above mere interaction between individuals to a powerful and effective social force on a large scale.” Peace efforts require images for a complex set of ideas;  and Wilson and Gandhi provide that image of the heroes of peace.

Wilson and Gandhi represent the two steady sources of inspiration for peace workers — those working for the rule of law;  and human rights and those working to translate religious insights into political action.  

“Duty to Protect”.

Today;  as the conflicts in Yemen;  and Syria-Iraq-ISIS grow in intensity and spill over to influence Turkey;   we face many of the same issues that faced peace workers in the conflicts of former Yugoslavia: what are the sources of legitimate government;  and when does a government cease to be legitimate? Is there really a ‘duty to protect’;  and when does this duty become only a cover for power politics as usual?.  How do peace workers act in “far away places”  in which both legal and moral issues are not clear.

Peace remains a painting in process; the colors are often the same, the shapes painted change. David Cortright has given us a good history, but there are no ‘how to’ guides for action.

Rene Wadlow; President, Association of World Citizens.

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Conflict Prevention Networks Role of Non-Governemental-Organizations.

Building Stronger Conflict Prevention Networks.

Photo by TheAndrasBarta in Pixabay 

By Rene Wadlow.

As we reflect on current armed conflicts;  on which the Association of World Citizens has proposed measures for conflict resolution: – Nagorno-Karabakh, Yemen, Syria, Ukraine-Donetsk-Lougansk- Russia – we ask ourselves if we are to be overwhelmed by an endless chain of regional wars capable of devastating entire countries;  or will we help build the structures for the resolution of armed conflicts through negotiations in good faith.

Can we help build stronger conflict prevention networks?

 In each of these current conflicts;  there is a mix of underlying causes: ethnic tensions, social inequality, environmental degradation, and regional rivalries. In each conflict;  there were warning signs and a building of tensions prior to the outbreak of armed conflict. This was particularly true in Syria;  where there were four months of non-violent protests and local organizing for reforms before violence began.

Nevertheless; not enough was done by external non-governmental organizations;  to strengthen and protect these non-violent reform movements in Syria. Given the complexity of conflict situations and the often short time between the signs of tensions and the outbreak of violence;  external peace-building organizations  have to be able to move quickly to support local civil society efforts.

Therefore; in each of these four situations;  the degree of civil society organizations differ. We need to look carefully at the different currents within the society;  to see what groups we might be able to work with and to what degree of influence;  they may have on governmental action. Governments tend to react in the same ways. Governments cling to the belief that there can be simple security-related solutions to complex challenges;  as we see these days with the current use of police and military methods by the government of Belarus.

The United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)

There is often a pervading mistrust between the central government and outlying territories. Such mistrust;  can not be overcome by external non-governmental organizations. We can, however;  reflect with local groups;  on how lines of communication can be established or strengthened.

However; preventing the eruption of disputes into full-scale hostilities is not an easy task;  but its difficulties pale beside those of ending the fighting once it has started. Non-governmental organizations need to have active channels of communication with multinational governmental organizations;  such as the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) . Non-governmental organizations may have an easier time to be in contact with local non-governmental forces in the conflict States;  as both the U.N. and the OSCE are bound by the decisions of governments.

Growing resource scarcity and environmental degradation;  the depletion of fresh water;  and arable land played an important role in exacerbating conflicts in Yemen. The armed conflict has made things much worse. There is now a growing world-wide recognition of the environmental-conflict linkage. Thus;  groups concerned with the defense and restoration of the environment;  need to become part of the network of conflict resolution efforts. There is much to be done. Building stronger conflict prevention networks should be a vital priority.

 Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.