Tag: <span>Yemen</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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Yemen Appeals

Yemen: Positive Action Still Needed.

Featured Image: The UK hosted the Friends of Yemen meeting on 27 September 2012 in New York alongside co-hosts the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Yemen. The meeting was attended by 38 States and International Organisations. Foreign Secretary William Hague with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, President Hadi and Vice Foreign Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Dr. Torki Bin Mohammed Bin Saud Al-Kabir. By English: Foreign and Commonwealth Office, OGL v1.0OGL v1.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Picture by Carl G. Friedrich

25 March is the anniversary date of the start of 28 days on continued bombing of Yemen in 2015 by the Saudi-Arabia-led coalition (Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Sudan, United Arab Emirates helped by arms and “intelligence” by the U.S.A. and the U.K.). The aggression by the Saudi coalition turned what had been an internal struggle for power going on from the “Arab Spring” of 2011 into a war with regional dimensions which brought Iran into the picture. The role of Iran has been exaggerated both by the Iranian government itself and by those hostile to Iran. Nevertheless, the Iranian role is real.

Arab Spring

Arab spring participants (2020). By Paulinabial, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Since the Association of World Citizens (AWC) had been following possible constitutional developments in Yemen after the 2011 change of government, a couple of days after the 25 March 2015 bombing, the Association of World Citizens sent to government Missions to the United Nations an AWC Appeal for:

Four steps of conflict resolution and negotiations in good faith:

  1.  An immediate ceasefire ending all foreign military attacks.
  2. Humanitarian assistance, especially important for hard-to-reach zones.
  3. A broad national dialogue.
  4. Through this dialogue, the establishment of an inclusive unity government open to constitutional changes to facilitate better the wide geographic- tribal structure of the State.

Six-Region Federation as the Political Structure for Yemen.

While the constitutional form of the State structures depends on the will of the people of Yemen ( if they were able to express themselves freely) the Association of World Citizens proposes consideration of con-federal forms of government which maintain cooperation within a decentralized framework. In 2014, a committee appointed by the then President, Abdu Rabbu Mansur Hadi, had proposed a six-region federation as the political structure for Yemen.

Until 1990, Yemen was two separate States: the People’s Democratic of Yemen in the south with Aden as the capital, and the Yemen Arab Republic in the north with Sana’a as capital. In 1990, the two united to become the Republic of Yemen. The people in the south hoped that the union would bring the economic development which had been promised.

Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi

Sitting down for a meeting, Yemen President Abd Rabuh Mansur Hadi listens as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel welcomes him to the Pentagon July 30, 2013. By U.S Defense Department, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

South Arabia.

Since, even before the Saudi-led war began, there had been very little economic and social development in the south, there started to grow strong “separatist” attitudes in the south. People of all political persuasions hoped to develop prosperity by ending unification and creating what some have started calling “South Arabia” Today, these separatist attitudes are very strong, but there is no agreement on what areas are to be included in a new southern state, and the is no unified separatist political leadership.

Very quickly after 25 March 2015, many governments saw the dangers of the conflict and the possible regional destabilization. Thus there were U.N.-sponsored negotiations held in Geneva in June 2015. The Association of World Citizens worked with other NGOs so that women should be directly involved in such negotiations.

However women have not been added to any of the negotiations and are largely absent from any leadership role in the many political factions of the country. There have been U.N. mediators active in trying to get ceasefires and then negotiations. There have been some temporary ceasefires, but no progress on real negotiations.

Saudi Arabia and Iran under the sponsorship of the People’s Republic of China.

Today, the war continues with the country’s fragmentation, continued internal fighting and impoverishment leading to a disastrous humanitarian crisis. There is a glimmer of possible conflict resolution efforts due to the recent mutual recognition of Saudi Arabia and Iran under the sponsorship of the People’s Republic of China. However, creating a national society of individuals willing to cooperate will not be easy. Regional divisions will not be easy to bridge. There have already been divisions within the Saudi-led Coalition. Thus, positive action is still needed. Non-governmental organizations should seek to have their voices heard.

 

René 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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Track Two Efforts Appeals

Ongoing Armed Conflicts and the Need for Stronger Track…

Featured Image: Photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash.
 
The continuing armed conflict in Ukraine and the likelihood that the conflict will drag on through the winter, the 11th year of the armed conflict and repression in Syria, the renewal of armed conflict in the frontier area between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo forces us to ask if more can be done on the part of non-governmental organizations such as the Association of World Citizens to encourage negotiations in good faith among the parties in conflict. 
 
 
 Image: Ukrainian diaspora in Brussels protests the Russian invasion, Processed with VSCO with acg preset. By Bartosz Brzezinski from Chicago, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Upholding International Humanitarian Law in Times of Armed Conflict: A World Citizen Appeal.

Track One. Official governmental negotiations.

 
Lengthy armed conflicts severely weakens the social structure of a society.  A culture of violence is developed.  A sense of mistrust makes collaboration within that society more difficult to achieve.
     There have been efforts by the United Nations Secretariat and by individual governments to encourage ceasefires and negotiations in these conflicts, but in each case negotiations seem deadlocked.  It must be hoped that the U.N. and government efforts will continue.
     These governmental efforts can be called Track One. 
 
Track One diplomacy is official governmental negotiations.  Governments have their backup resources of intelligence agencies.   Governments can also use “back channels” of informal and unofficial contacts.
 
United Nations
 
Image: Photo by Mathias P.R. Reding on Unsplash.

The United Nations: The Shift in Perspectives and Action.

Track Two. Non-official effort.

 
     Track Two is a non-official effort, usually carried out by a non-governmental organization often in cooperation with an academic institution or at least with individuals working on conflict resolution and peacebuilding.
     No non-governmental organization has the resources of a government with people trained and funds available. 
Therefore, Track Two efforts must often be the work of a cooperative alliance among a number of non-governmental organizations, often using people of different nationalities or cultures but motivated by the same desire of finding ways to the resolution of the armed conflict.
     Preparing for Track Two efforts is an important task.  Leadership rarely arises spontaneously.  There is a need for preparation and training.  However, there is also a need for continuity.  There are rarely sudden victories in Track Two efforts.  One must be ready to try again the next day.
     Often Track Two efforts are undertaken in tension areas that have a possibility to become violent but that are not yet in open armed conflict such as tensions between Israelis and Palestinians or between North and South Koreans.  (1)
 
Israelis and Palestinians
 
Picture: Al Jazeera English, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Jerusalem-Gaza Cease-fire: Broad Negociations Are Now Needed.

 

Track Two efforts are becoming increasingly important in world politics.

 
More and more armed conflicts exist between a government and one or more armed movements as we see in Yemen, with the ethnic minorities in Myanmar, with the Kurds in Syria and Iraq, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Governments are often reluctant to negotiate with armed groups fearing to give them legitimacy or fearing to encourage action by other such armed movements.  Yet peace negotiations require discussion with such armed groups.  We must not underestimate the difficulties of establishing contact with armed groups and bringing them to a willingness to negotiate.  Thus, the need for a deep understanding of how Track Two proceses can be carried out.  (2)
     It is likely that non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the United Nations are the best placed to undertake Track Two efforts.  (3)
     Track Two efforts must also keep doors open to government representatives, and government representatives must have confidence in those working on a Track Two program. 
 
As the Quaker economist and peace worker Kenneth Boulding wrote:
   

 “When Track One will not do,

      We have to travel on Track Two.

      But for results to be abiding,

      The Tracks must meet upon some siding.”

                             
Democratic Republic of Congo
Image: Movement militiamen M23 and Type 85 heavy machine gun. By Al Jazeera English, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Increasing Tensions and Danger of Violence.

Notes.

 
1) See Hussein Agha, Shai Feldman, Ahmad Khalidi, Zeev Schiff.  Track II Diplomacy: Lessons from the Middle East (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003).
2) See John Davies and Eddy Kaufman. Second Track/Citizen’s Diplomacy: Concepts and Techniques in Conflict  (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002).
     W.E. De Mars.  NGOs and Transnational Networks (London: Pluto Press, 2005).
3) See P. Willets (Ed). The Conscience of the World. The Influence of NGOs in the UN System  (London: Hurst, 1996)
   Rene Wadlow

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The Uprooted.

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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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nuclear weapon Appeals

Steps Toward Security in the Middle East.

Featured Image: Photo by Ilja Nedilko on Unsplash.

“The struggle against the nuclear weapon cult and threats it poses to international peace, security and development, like all struggles against belief systems which have outlived their times, is going to be long and arduous”   

K. Subrahmanyal. Nuclear Proliferation and Internationsal Securtiy.

 
    The U.N. Conference on the Establishlent of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and other Weapons of Mass Destruction took place at the U.N. in New York, 29 November to 3 December 2021.
The Conference is open-ended – that is open to those States that wish to attend – with a mandate provided by General Assembly Resolution A/73/546 to continue meeting annually:
 

“until the confernce concludes the elaboration of a legally binding treaty establishing a Middle East Zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.”

The first session was held 18-22 November 2019.

K. Subrahmanyam
 K. Subrahmanyam (2010). By MarcEduard, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.
 
The process will not be easy in an area where armed conflicts exist and are undermining stablity. There are very real concerns concerning nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Regional conflicts could unleash a nuclear war through escalation of a conventional war, miscalculation or delibeate pre-emptive attack. This is the second time that the conference is held.  The 22 countries of the Arab League and Iran participated as did the U.K. and Russia.  Israel and the U.S.A. did not.  While the difficulties are real, the Conference provides opportunities for governments of the region to share perspectives, consider proposals and look at the institutional requirements to establish such a zone.
 
    While non-governmental organization representatives cannot participate as such in the Conference, a nuclear-weapon free zone is of vital interest to those organizations working on arms control, disarmament, and regional conflict resolution.
 
The Arab League
Emblem of the League of Arab States (2008). By Jeff Dahl, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.
   
The idea of a Middle East nuclear-free zone was first put forth by a non-governmental organization, the Israeli Committee of the Denuclearization of the Middle East in April 1962.  Non-governmental organizations, often working closely with the United Nations disarmament secretariat, have played a role in the creation of regional nuclear-weapon free zones starting with the Treaty of the Tlatelolco for Latin America, after the dangers highlighted by the Cuban Missile Crisis.
 
As the “father” of the 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco the Mexican Ambassador Alfonso Garcia Robles explained the concept of nuclear-weapon free zones as a step toward global disarmament:
 

“We should attempt to achieve a gradual broadening of the zones of the world from which  nuclear weapons are prohibited to a point where the territories of Powers which possess these terrible tools of mass destruction will become something like contaminated islets subjected to quarantine.”

Alfonso Garcia Robles
Alfonso Garcia Robles (1981). By Marcel Antonisse, CC BY-SA 3.0 NL <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/deed.en>, via Wikimedia Commons.
 
    Non-governmental organizations have proposed that the following States be included in the Middle East process: Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, the Palistinian Authority, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen.  In looking at the list of potential members, we see that a nuclear-weapon free zone is not the only issue on the political agenda.  We also see that the possibilities of action for non-governmental organizations to work on security issues is not the same in each country.  There is deep mistrust and rivalries among many of these States.
 
    Thus, it is probably necessary for non-governmental organizations outside of the area to organize what are called Track II initiatives – a non-official way to discuss regional security issues and to provide policy advice to governments.  A first step is to identify opportunities,  areas of mutual interest, and then to make recommendations where progress can be made and where governmental diplomatic efforts could be made.  Civil society organizations can also reach out to youth in the Middle East who are interested in creating positive changes with in the region.
 
    A first opportunity to present proposals to government representatives will be the Review Conference on the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT Review) to be held at the U.N. in New York during this January 2022. Nuclear-weapon free zones as well as the needed confidence-building measures have provided an important focus of earlier NPT Reviews. 
 
The Association of World Citizens has stressed the importance of Nuclear-weapon Free Zones at earlier NPT Reviews and will do so again for the January 2022 Review.
 
 
  Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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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.

Diplomacy Appeals

Track Two Diplomacy and Beauty as a Bridge.

Photo by  Anfaenger in Pixabay 

By Rene Wadlow.

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

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

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

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

Track Two efforts are becoming increasingly important in world politics.

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

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

Concept of Beauty.

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

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

 

Note.

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

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

 

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