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FREE EXPRESSION

René Wadlow

Representative to the UN, Geneva, Association of World Citizens
Editor of "Transnational Perspectives"
Elected Delegate at the People's Congress

The Iraqi Kurdistan Vote: A Look Back on the Long Struggle for Kurdish Independence

Syrian Kurds in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli wave the Kurdish flag in celebration on September 26, 2017 in support of the independence referendum in Iraq's autonomous northern Kurdish region. (Credit: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)

An independence referendum was held on September 25th in Iraqi Kurdistan in which 93 percent of voters supported independence. The recent vote points toward the long struggle for Kurdish independence.

There is always a feeling of déjà vu when considering efforts for an independent Kurdistan. In 1880-1881, there was a revolt led by Shaikh Ubaidullah al-Nahir who claimed that the Kurds were a nation separate from the Ottoman and Persian empires in which they found themselves. From 1908 until the start of the First World War, there was Kurdish cultural and political agitation. The term Kurdistan started to be used widely during this period.

The breakup of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War was a defining moment for many Kurds who thought that they had been promised a separate state. In practice, they were shut out of the post-war structures – an agreement between the English and the French, the key "outside" powers at the time.

During the Second World War, Iran was occupied by English and Soviet troops. In part of the area under Soviet control, a Kurdish-led Republic of Mahabad was created, only to be destroyed when the Soviets withdrew in 1946-1947, considering it too early to confront the Western military strength which desired a unified Iran.

More recent Kurdish history in Turkey with Abdullah Ocalan and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has been violent and complicated. Repression and fear of any form of Kurdish political and cultural activity remains the order of the day for the Turkish government. This is increasingly so due to the growth of authoritarian political leadership in Turkey.

The situation of the Kurds in Iraq under Saddam Hussein was as violent and complicated as in Turkey. However, two Gulf Wars and U.S. intervention led to the creation of an autonomous Kurdish area under President Masoud Barzani. (1)

The civil war conditions in Syria have also led to efforts to create Kurdish autonomy, if not a separate start, called Rojava. (2)

The September 25, 2017 vote in the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq is considered a prelude to negotiations with the Iraqi government and not as a "Declaration of Independence." The vote was carried out despite warnings from the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that it was unconstitutional. Additional warnings came from Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that if the vote were held he would shut the oil pipeline going to Turkey which provides the bulk of the Iraqi Kurdish zone's revenues. Iran agreed with the USA that "now is certainly not the moment given the armed conflict in Syria and Iraq."

Turkey, Iran and Syria all fear that moves for an independent Kurdish state in Iraq will lead to demands within their state for greater Kurdish autonomy, or demands for a unified Kurdistan. Washington certainly does not want to deal with such demands especially at a time when Iraqi Kurdish fighters, the Peshmerga, are useful allies in the battles against the Islamic State (ISIS).

Creative thinking on confederal forms of government are in short supply in the current fog of war and repression in the wider Middle East. There should be ways in which there could be autonomy for the majority Kurdish areas while protecting the rights of the ethnic/national minorities which also live in the Kurdish areas. There have always been other ethnic or religious groups living in areas which Kurdish leaders consider as Kurdistan. More recently, Saddam Hussein had carried out an "Arabization policy" by moving Arabs into Kurdish-majority areas.

There should also be ways of cooperation and active interaction among Kurds living in Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia. There are also Kurds living in Lebanon, and a good number of Turkish Kurds have moved to Germany and other western European countries. Cooperation within the wider Kurdish community could have a positive political impact on the region.

An unlikely source of creative political thinking among some of the Kurdish leadership comes from a US radical writer and teacher, Murray Bookchin (1921-2006). (3) Bookchin, who in the 1940s-1950s was active in trade union organizing and Trotskyite factions, later developed what he termed "Social Ecology" with an emphasis on bottom-up development largely based on villages, towns, and cities as the core units for decision-making. He called this "confederal participatory democracy."

Bookchin's ideas have been taken up by the Turkish Kurd leader Abdullah Ocalan on his prison island and by some of the leadership in the Syrian Kurdish movement. Bookchin's approach may be of use in finding ways of developing autonomy, participation in decision-making, and trans-frontier cooperation without creating new "Nation-States." There are times when such creative thinking can be carried out in the midst of armed conflict, as was the case of some resistance movements in Europe during the Second World War.

06/10/2017

Notes
  1. See Keri Yildiz. The Kurds in Iraq: The Past, Present, and Future (London: Pluto Press, 2004)
  2. See Michael Gunter. Our of Nowhere. The Kurds of Syria in Peace and War (London: Hurst and Co. 2014)
  3. See Janet Biehl. Ecology or Catastrophe. The Life of Murry Bookchin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)


Increased Korean Tensions: Time for Concerted Non-governmental Efforts

2017-09-28

An escalation of verbal exchanges between the Presidents of the USA and North Korea, missile flights over Japan, US war planes close to the sea frontier of North Korea - one can hardly think of additional ways that governments can increase tensions short of an armed attack which probably all governments want to avoid. But there are always dangers of events slipping out of control. The Security Council of the U.N. has voted to tighten economic sanctions on North Korea. However, to date, sanctions have diminished the socio-economic conditions of the majority without modifying government policy.

For the moment, we look in vain for enlightened governmental leadership. The appeals for calm by the Chinese authorities have not been followed by specific proposals for actions to decrease tensions.

The one positive sign which may help to change the political atmosphere both for governmental negotiations and also for Track II (non-governmental) discussions is the large number of States which have signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on 20 September, the first day that the Treaty was open for signature. Signature is the first step in the process of ratification. As a light in the darkness, the Holy Sea (the Vatican) both signed and ratified the Treaty at the same time. Guyana and Thailand also signed and ratified the Treaty, the three first ratifications of the 50 needed for the Treaty to come into force.

The Vatican leads by moral example; its Swiss Guard army is only lightly armed. The Holy Sea, although a State, is a bridge to the world of non-governmental organizations. The torch of action must now be taken up by a wider range of organizations than those, which had been in the lead for the abolition of nuclear weapons. The strength of "one-issue" NGOs is that its message is clear. This was seen in the earlier efforts to ban a single category of weapons: land mines, chemical weapons, cluster munitions and the long-running efforts on nuclear weapons.

Some of us have long worked on the abolition of nuclear weapons. I recall as a university student in the early 1950s, I would cross Albert Einstein who liked to walk from his office to his home. I would say "Good evening, Professor Einstein", and he would reply "Good evening, young man". I knew that he had developed some theories, which I did not understand but that were somehow related to atomic energy. I was happy that we were both against atomic bombs under the slogan "One World or None!"

The current Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons did not grow from the usual arms control negotiations, such as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons or the chemical weapons ban, both of which were negotiated in Geneva, both over a 10 year period. The Nuclear Weapon ban was largely negotiated elsewhere, Vienna and New York, in the humanitarian law tradition of banning weapons that cause unnecessary suffering, such as the ban on napalm after its wide use in the Vietnam War. The contribution of both "ban-the-bomb" groups and the humanitarian organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross was great in reaching the successful outcome.

Thus, today, there is a need for a coming together of non-governmental organizations who are primarily focused on the resolution of armed conflicts such as the International Crisis Group, International Alert, and the Association of World Citizens with those groups concerned with the abolition of nuclear weapons. The current Korean tensions are based on the development of nuclear weapons and missile systems and the pressures and threats to prevent their development.

One proposal which seems to me to be a common ground on which many could cooperate has been called a "double-freeze" - a freeze on North Korea's nuclear-weapon and missile programs with a reciprocal freeze on the yearly US-South Korea war exercises and a progressive reduction of US troops stationed in South Korea and elsewhere in Asia, especially Japan.

There are also proposals for economic cooperation, greater meetings among separated family members, and cultural exchanges. However, given the heat of the current saber rattling, the "double-freeze" proposal seems to be the one that addresses most directly the security situation. We need to build on this common ground.

28/09/2017


John Boyd Orr: Action for a Comprehensive World Food Policy
2017-09-23

Since the hungry billion in the world community believe that we can all eat if we set our common house in order,
they believe also that it is unjust that some men die because it is too much trouble to arrange for them to live.
Stringfellow Barr Citizens of the World (1954)

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (2015-2030) aims by 2030 to "Double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets , and non-farm resources."

John Boyd Orr, whose birth anniversary we mark on 23 September, was a medical doctor and biologist from Scotland concerned with the impact of poverty and malnutrition on health. He worked on food issues with the League of Nations and during the Second World War was deeply involved in food issues in Britain, especially focused on the needs of children and youth. From his experience with the League of Nations he saw the need for as large a group as possible to think of themselves as Citizens of the World. He wrote "Our civilization is now in the transition stage between the age of warring empires and a new age of world unity and peace...When the fabric of society is so rigid that it cannot change quickly enough, adjustments are achieved by social unrest and revolutions."

Lord John Boyd Orr was the first Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization and Josué de Castro, served as the Independent Chairman of the FAO Council. Both were active in the world citizenship movement and were leaders in calling attention to world hunger and the need for strong governmental action to provide food security. In 1946, Boyd Orr presented a proposal for a World Food Board which would be endowed with sufficient authority and funds to stabilize the world market in food and deal with food emergencies. He pointed out that several countries were already doing this for the domestic market but that the world market was subject to violent fluctuations. The plan for a world food board was rejected following the lead of the US delegate who said "Governments are unlikely to place large funds needed for financing such a plan in the hands of an international agency over whose operations and price policy they would have little direct control." When the proposal was turned down by governments, Boyd Orr resigned from the FAO to devote himself to the world citizens' movement and to work against the start of the East-West arms race that was literally "taking food from the mouths of the poor." (1) He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1949 for his work on the role of food security as a crucial aspect of peace. In 1948 he had written the book Food: The Foundation of World Unity.

A central theme which citizens of the world have long stressed is that there needs to be a world food policy and that a world food policy is more than the sum of national food security programs. Food security has too often been treated as a collection of national food security initiatives. While the adoption of a national strategy to ensure food and nutrition security for all is essential, a focus on the formulation of national plans is clearly inadequate. There is a need for a world plan of action with focused attention to the role which the United Nations system must play if hunger is to be sharply reduced.

The FAO did encourage governments to develop national food security policies, but the lack of policies at the world level has led to the increasing control of agricultural processes by a small number of private firms driven by the desire to make money. Thus today, three firms —Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta — control about half of the commercial seed market worldwide. Power over soil, seeds and food sales is ever more tightly held.

There needs to be detailed analysis of the role of speculation in the rise of commodity prices. There has been a merger of the former Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade to become the CME Group Market which deals in some 25 agricultural commodities. Banks and hedge funds, having lost money in the real estate mortgage packages of 2008 are now looking for ways to get money back. For the moment, there is no international regulation of this speculation. There needs to be an analysis of these financial flows and their impact on the price of grains. The word needs a market shaped by shared human values structured to ensure fairness and co-responsibility.

There is likewise a need for a serious analysis of the growing practice of buying or renting potential farm land, especially in Africa and South America, by foreign countries, especially China and the Arab Gulf states. While putting new land under cultivation is not a bad policy in itself, we need to look at the impact of this policy on local farmers as well as on world food prices.

There is a need to keep in mind local issues of food production, distribution, and food security. Attention needs to be given to cultural factors, the division of labour between women and men in agriculture and rural development, in marketing local food products, to the role of small farmers, to the role of landless agricultural labour and to land-holding patterns.

Fortunately, there is a growing awareness that an integrated, holistic approach is needed. World Citizens stress that solutions to poverty, hunger and climate change crisis requirean agriculture that promotes producers' livelihoods, knowledge, resiliency, health and equitable gender relations, while enriching the natural environment and helping balance the carbon cycle. . Such an integrated approach is a fundamental aspect of the world citizen philosophy.

Notes

For an analysis of Boyd Orr's proposal see Ross Tabot The Four World Food Agencies in Rome (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1990, 188pp.) and the memoirs of a later FAO Director General B.R. Sen Towards a Newer World (Dublin: Tycooly Publishing, 1982, 342pp.)


UN human rights protection: What will the General Assembly do for the refugee flow of Rohingyas from Myanmar?

21/09/2017
The United Nations General Assembly now in session may try to deal with the issue of the refugee flow from Rakhine stare in Myanmar (Burma) bordering Bangladesh. An independent commission chaired by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged "concerted action" by governments and all sectors of the society or as he said "We risk the return of another cycle of violence and radicalization which will further deepen the chronic poverty of Rakhine state."

The current U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guteres who has much experience with refugee issues from his 10-years of service as U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said that the current Myanmar government's policy toward the Rohingya was a classic case of "ethnic cleansing".

I had become concerned with the situation of the Rohingya in 1991 when there had been a flow of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh. In December 1991, as a result of the refugee flow, there were clashes between Burmese and Bangladeshi forces on the frontier followed by an incursion of Burmese troops into Bangladesh. Some 75,000 Burmese troops dug into the border zone, and the Burmese started refurbishing World War II airfields.

I had already been working in Geneva with representatives of other Burmese minorities – those on the frontier with Thailand and China – Shan, Chin, Kachen etc – on a possible federal government structure for Burma which would be acceptable to all ethnic groups. The balance between central authority and the autonomy of the regions is a crucial aspect of federalist theory.

Currently Bangladesh has been less than welcoming to the Rohingya refugees, but India and Pakistan have not been much better. There are always sad ironies of history. Hungary today refuses refugees from Syria and Iraq while many countries had made a special effort to house Hungarian refugees in 1956-1957. So too I recall my efforts in the U.N. human rights bodies in 1971 to deal with the massive flow of refugees from what was still East Pakistan.

The effectiveness of United Nations action to promote human rights and prevent massive violations grows by small steps. However, the steps, once taken, serve as precedents and can be cited in future cases. Once the steps taken, it is difficult to refuse such action later. I had followed as closely as possible from Geneva, the events in East Pakistan, having at one stage helped a representative of the Bangladesh opposition to speak to relevant diplomats in Geneva. Later, he became the Ambassador of Bangladesh to the UN in Geneva, and for a year was president of the Commission on Human Rights.

In December, 1970, the Awami League led by Sheik Mujib Rahman won a majority of seats in the national assembly. The government of Pakistan refused to convene the national assembly, since it would result in shifting political power from West to East Pakistan. For three months, the government and the Awami League tried to negotiate a political settlement. On 25 March 1971, the government discontinued negotiations and unleashed the Pakistan army against the civilian population of East Pakistan. Hindus, members and sympathizers of the Awami League, students and faculty of the universities and women were especially singled out.

These atrocities continued until the Indian army which had been drawn into the conflict, in part by the large number of refugees that had fled to India, took control of Dacca on 1 December 1971.

The UN Security Council was unwilling or unable to deal with the human rights situations in East Pakistan. The US government strongly supported the Pakistan army while the Soviet Union supported India. For NGO representatives our hopes rested on the Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities which was to meet in Geneva from 2 to 20 August 1971. At the time, the Commission on Human Rights and the bulk of the human rights secretariat was still in New York. However, the Sub-Commission would meet in Geneva once a year, usually in July or August. The Sub-Commission members were not diplomatic representatives of governments as was the Commission on Human Rights. Rather they were "independent experts". The saying among NGOs was that some were more independent than others, and some were more expert than others. Most were professors of law in their countries - thus the August dates when universities were on vacation. It was easier to have informal relations with Sub-Commission members than with diplomats, and NGO representatives could get advice on the best avenues of action.

NGOs had two formal avenues of action. We could present written statements that were distributed as official documents, and we could make oral statements, usually 10 minutes in which to develop ideas and to call attention to additional elements in the written statement. Written statements could be that of a single NGO or, often to give more weight, there could be a "joint statement". On the East Pakistan situation, with the violence being covered by the world media, it was decided to have a joint statement. The statement called upon the Sub-Commission "to examine all available information regarding allegations of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in East Pakistan and to recommend measures which might be taken to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of East Pakistan". Twenty-two NGOs with representatives in Geneva signed the joint statement, and John Salzberg, a representative of the International Commission of Jurists, made an oral statement presenting the written joint statement.

Government representatives were always present in the room and had the right to make statements (and also to try to influence the independent experts behind the scene). Najmul Saguib Khan, the independent expert from Pakistan contended that the Sub-Commission could not consider East Pakistan since the UN role in human rights "did not extend to questions arising out of situations affecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States and that attention to such situations would encourage those seeking the dismemberment of Member States." The Indian diplomat, N.P. Jain, replied highlighting the influx of eight million refugees into India.

The Sub-Commission members took the "diplomatic way out" and said nothing. In drafting the report of the session, one member, Adamu Mohammed from Nigeria proposed deleting any reference to the discussion on East Pakistan. He held that the Sub-Commission had listened to, but had not considered the statements made by the representative of the International Commission of Jurists. The Sub-Commission members from Pakistan and the government observer of India agreed with the Nigerian expert.

We NGO representatives were saddened by the lack of action but not totally surprised. No other UN human rights body took action, and the massacres stopped only after the 'lightning war' of India defeated the Pakistan army and occupied the country until a Bagladeshi government could be set up.

Slowly, after "ethnic cleansing" has become a widely understood term, silence is no longer an acceptable procedure. It is still too early to know what actions will be taken. The fate of the Rohingya is used by some as a political weapon. We must hope that a sense of our common humanity will help to find common ground. A situation which merits watching closely.

21/09/2017


World Law to Protect Refugees and Migrants

14 Sep 2017 – On 19 September 2016, the UN General Assembly held a one-day Summit on «Addressing Large Movements o Refugees and Migrants» and set a new agenda for responding to large movements of people crossing frontiers. The UN resolution is called The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. It has as an annex a plan of action “Towards a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration” setting out a framework for positive responses. The New York Declaration builds on a 2013 UN conference and on the efforts of both the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Migration and the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on the Human Rights of Migrants.

Just one year later, the world society continues to face the issues of refugees from areas of armed conflict and serious tensions as well as with the ways to deal in an adequate fashion with migration.

The Association of World Citizens has been actively concerned with the issues of migrants, refugees, the «stateless», and those displaced by armed conflicts within their own country. Thus we welcome the spirit of The New York Declaration with its emphasis on cooperative action, a humane sense of sharing the responsibilities for refugees and migrants and on seeking root causes of migration and refugee flows. There are three issues mentioned in The New York Declaration which merit follow up action among the UN Secretariat, world citizens and other non-governmental organizations:

  • The migration of youth;
  • The strong link between migration, refugee flows, and improving the structures for the resolution of armed conflicts;
  • Developing further cooperation among non-governmental organizations for the protection and integration of refugees and migrants.

The Migration of Youth

Youth leave their country of birth to seek a better life and also to escape war, poverty, and misfortune. We should add to an analysis of trans-frontier youth migration a very large number of youth who leave their home villages to migrate toward cities within their own country. Without accurate information and analysis of both internal and trans-frontier migration of youth, it is difficult to develop appropriate policies for employment, housing, education and health care of young migrants and refugees. It is estimated that there are some 10 million refugee children, and most are not in school.

Studies have noted an increasing feminization of trans-frontier migration in which the female migrant moves abroad as a wage earner, especially as a domestic worker rather than as an accompanying family member. Migrant domestic workers are often exposed to abuse, exploitation and discrimination based on gender, ethnicity and occupation. Domestic workers are often underpaid, their working conditions poor and sometimes dangerous. Their bargaining power is very limited. Thus, there is a need to develop legally enforceable contracts of employment, setting out minimum wages, maximum hours of work and responsibilities.

The Association of World Citizens recommends that there be in the follow ups on The Declaration a special focus on youth, their needs as well as possibilities for positive actions by youth.

The Strong Link between Migration, Refugee Flows, and Improving the Structures for the Resolution of Armed Conflicts

The United Nations General Assembly currently in session is facing the need for action on a large number of armed conflicts in which Member States are involved. In some of these conflicts the United Nations has provided mediators; in others, UN peace-keepers are present. In nearly all these armed conflicts, there have been internally-displaced persons as well as trans-frontier refugees. Therefore there is an urgent need to review the linkages between armed conflict and refugee flows. There needs to be a realistic examination as to why some of these armed conflicts have lasted as long as they have and why negotiations in good faith have not been undertaken or have not led to the resolution of these armed conflicts. Such reflections must aim at improvements of structures and procedures.

Developing Further Cooperation among Non-Governmental Organizations for the Protection and Integration of Refugees and Migrants

We welcome the emphasis in The New York Declaration on the important role that non-governmental organizations play in providing direct services to refugees and migrants. NGOs also lobby government authorities on migration legislation and develop public awareness campaigns. The Declaration has stressed the need to focus on future policies taking into account climate change and the growing globalization of trade, finance, and economic activities. Thus, there needs to be strong cooperation among the UN and its Agencies, national governments, and NGOs to deal more adequately with current challenges and to plan for the future. Inclusive structures for such cooperation are needed.

14/09/2017


Millions of Refugees Flee South Sudan as Conflict Rages On

Displaced South Sudanese women walk towards the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) base in Malakal on January 12, 2014. About 60,000 refugees have fled to Sudan, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says. Photo credit: Simon Maina, AFPDisplaced South Sudanese women walk towards the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) base in Malakal on January 12, 2014. About 60,000 refugees have fled to Sudan, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says.

In an August 17, 2017 call for urgent support, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stated "Over the past 12 months, an average of 1,800 South Sudanese have been arriving in Uganda every day. In addition to the million in Uganda, a million or more South Sudanese are being hosted by Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic. More than 85 per cent of the refugees who have arrived in Uganda are women and children, below age 18 years... Recent arrivals continue to speak of barbaric violence with armed groups reportedly burning down houses with civilians inside, people being killed in front of family members, sexual assaults of women and girls, and kidnapping of boys for forced conscription... Since December 2013, when South Sudan's crisis erupted in Juba, more than two million South Sudanese have fled to neighboring countries while another two million people are estimated to be internally displaced."

With the disappearance of any form of government administration in South Sudan, the country finds itself in a disastrous situation. There are some school buildings without teachers or students, some medical buildings without personnel or medicine; there are some soldiers but who are not paid and so 'live off the land'. There are armed bands more or less organized on a tribal basis, but tribal organization has long been weakened beyond repair. All that is left is hatred of other tribal groups. Different United Nations bodies are active in the country, including a large and costly 'peacekeeping mission' (MINUSS), but the UN has so far refused to create a 'trusteeship' to try to administer the country. Therefore, there are basically only services of the High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Food Program distributing food, but very inadequate to meet the food needs, and UNICEF providing some services to women and children. There is no UN administration of the country as a whole as there is a fiction that a government continues to exist. The same holds true for any form of 'trusteeship' by the African Union.

South Sudan has always been more chaos than administration. During the British colonial period, the areas of South Sudan were administered from Uganda rather than from Khartoum as transportation from the North was always difficult. (1) The independence of Sudan and the start of the civil war came at the same time in 1956. There was a ten-year break in the civil, North-South, war of 1972-1983 at which time the war took up again from 1983 to 2005. After 2005, a southern regional government was set up with, in theory, an administration which remained very thin or non-existent outside of the capital Juba and a few larger towns. The churches, mostly Protestant but also some Catholic, provided education and medical services.

The bitterness of the civil war period was so great that it was felt by many that a unified Sudan was not possible. In 2011, a referendum was held in South Sudan on its future, and there was a massive vote for independence. The Association of World Citizens was one of the non-governmental organizations invited by the Government of Sudan to monitor the referendum, and we had sent a five-person team. I thought that full independence rather than a form of confederation was a mistake and that the future would be difficult. However, I did not foresee how difficult it would be.

Now it is difficult to see what can be done. There is only the fiction of a government and no over-all leadership of the armed bands. There are no recognized leaders to carry out negotiations. The churches are the only trans-tribal institutions, though the membership of local churches are usually drawn from a single tribal/ethnic group. There may be times, if one follows Aristotle's cycle of types of government, when the chaos will give rise to demands for strong leadership, but there are no signs of it yet. For the moment, moving to another country seems like the best hope.

Note:
  • (1) See the two-volume history of the administration of Sudan: M.W. Daly. Empire on the Nile: The Anglo-Egyptian Sudan 1898-1934, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986)
  • M.W. Daly. Imperial Sudan: The Anglo-Egyptian Condominium 1934-1956, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991)

05/09/2017


Afghanistan: From the April revolution to the August challenges

President Trump's presentation at Fort Myer of "an update on the path forward for America's engagement in Afghanistan and South Asia" proposing an increase in the number of US and NATO troops and giving greater possibilities for decision-making to local military commanders has again placed the Afghan situation at the center stage of US foreign and military policy.

If more troops with local army commanders able to set policy were enough to provide stability and progress in Afghanistan, the Soviet troops would still be there. However, the decade-long intervention of the Soviet Union showed that a military approach is both costly and ineffective.

Today the USA and its NATO allies face the same challenges that faced the Soviet leaders: the regional geopolitical situation, a weak and distorted economy, an inadequate political structure. (1)

Afghanistan has always been difficult to govern and make prosperous, caught as it was in "the Great Game" between Russia and England which continued to some degree after Russia became the Soviet Union. (2) After the Second World War, the Soviets were more concerned by events and influence in Europe during most of the Cold War period (1945-1990) than with Asia, except for its relations with China. Afghanistan was largely a "side show" until it thrust itself into the consciousness of the Soviet leadership with the "April Revolution" of 1978.

The Saur-April Revolution in which the Afghan Communists took power was less a revolution than a palace coup in which the President Mohammad Daud was killed. Daud had come to power in the same way in 1973 exiling the King Zahir Shaw, who was his cousin and brother-in-law to Rome. Daud ended the monarchy and proclaimed a republic with himself as president.

One thing that the Soviet government hated in general was a national Communist Party that it did not fully control. The experience of Tito and the Yugoslav Party was an ever-present memory. The Afghan Communist Party had at least two major factions named after the newspaper each edited: Khalq and Parcham. The new Communist government that was formed in May 1978 was a combination of the two factions. The President Nur Mohammed Taraki and his then Foreign Minister Hafzullah Amin were both Khalq but bitter rivals. The Parcham faction was represented by Babrak Karmal that the Soviets later put into power.

The government tried to put an economic policy into place, especially land reform and irrigation projects but was met by resistance from local land lords and clan chiefs who have always had a good deal of control over local villages and their surrounding areas. The wide-spread but localized opposition increased the disagreements between Taraki and Amin who had been named Prime Minister. (3)

In September 1979, Amin killed Taraki in another palace coup and took power. The Soviets started seriously to worry that the situation was getting out of control, that Amin might become "another Tito" and that Pakistan, considered a US ally, might take advantage of the situation to expand its influence. The Pakistan InterServices Intelligence Directorate (ISI) has always had a heavy influence in Pakistan policy-making and had a close interest in what went on in Afghanistan.

In the last days of December 1979 Soviet troops entered Afghanistan, in theory to reply to an appeal for assistance from President Amin. However, one of the first moves of the Soviets was to kill Amin (or to have him killed – the exact events in the new palace coup are not clear.) The Soviets put Babrak Karmal into power as a more trustworthy follower of the Soviet line. Karmal was president to 1986 when the political-military situation was so troubled that the Soviets started to consider to pull out. By the Spring of 1987, Gorbachev was ready to negotiate a withdrawal, even without a secure pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. The Soviets entered into negotiations in Geneva which ultimately led to the 14 April 1988 Geneva Accord. I had known some of the Afghans in Geneva involved in the negotiations. (4)

Najibullah (only one name) replaced Karmal and was the last of the "Socialist leaders" as the Soviets started to leave in 1988. Najibullah was killed in 1996 as the Taliban captured Kabul after what can be considered a "civil war" among war lords from 1989 to 2001.

In December 2001, the Northern Alliance backed by the US drove out the Taliban-led government, and since then the US is faced with the same issues which had confronted the Soviet Union.

The regional geopolitical context

Afghanistan is located at an Asian crossroads with the Central Asian States of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan on the north, but with Tajiks, Uzbeks and Turkmen who live in and are citizens of Afghanistan. The Chinese province of Xinjiang with its large Turkish-speaking population is to the east, and the Chinese government has increasing economic interests in Afghanistan. Iran is to the west with both old cultural links and more modern political interests in Afghanistan. Pakistan on the south shares a Pashtun population and has strong political, military and economic interests. India is not far away and is increasingly active, in part because anything that Pakistan does interests India. Turkey also has historic cultural links and the current Turkish government has an active foreign policy on many fronts. Russia has strong interests in the Central Asian countries and part of the Afghan elite was educated or trained in the Soviet Union.

It is not clear that a regional security conference with the Afghan government, the US and each of the interested countries would be the best way forward. At a minimum, there needs to be serious bilateral discussions so that each State feels that its interests are being taken into consideration and that none are being unfairly favored. There are other than Afghanistan issues with each of these countries, and subtle diplomatic discussions among these States are needed, though subtle diplomacy is in short supply these days.

Socio-economic Development

The ongoing armed conflicts and refugee flows from Afghanistan, especially of younger and more educated persons, have weakened an already weak socio-economic infrastructure. The monetary economy is focused on a small number of cities often on historic trade routes. The rural areas remain under the control of clan chiefs and larger land holders and increasingly under the control of war lords and armed factions. The one flourishing economic sector is the opium drug trade but which is destructive of the lives of people. Russia, Iran and Pakistan are seriously hit. However drug trade substitution is never easy. There are entrenched interests, and substitute crops often require more work for less income. It is difficult to develop a prosperous economy without political stability.

Appropriate Government Structures

Afghanistan is a country of great cultural diversity and a wide range of local conditions. Therefore, political and social decision-making must be made at the most local level possible. There should be policies of local self-reliance based on existing regional and ethnic structures. Such local self-government will mitigate against the "winner-take-all" mentality of centralized political systems. All governments directed from Kabul, no matter what the ideological tendency, have met resistance from some provinces or areas. Decentralized structures of government will be a recognition of local diversities.

Nevertheless, there must be an active central government with an overall view of socio-economic planning and initiatives. There needs to be a central diplomatic service to deal with neighboring States. Finding the right balance between local initiatives and decision-making and a central government that can provide a vision and motivation for concerted action has not been found in the past and will require a good deal of discussion, compromise and a willingness to work for the common good. There is a need for creativity on the part of Afghans but also from those of us on the outside who want a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.

03/09/17

Notes

  1. Rodric Braithwaite. Afgantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan 1979-89 (London: Profile Books, 2011) Braithwaite was the British ambassador to Moscow from 1988 to 1992 and was able to interview a large number of Soviets involved in the Afghan operations. See also: Henry S. Bradsher. Afghanistan and the Soviet Union (Duke University Press, 1983); Edward Girardet. Afghanistan: The Soviet War (London: Croom Helm, 1985)
  2. Leon B. Poullada. Reform and Rebellion in Afghanistan 1919-1929 (Cornell University Press, 1973)
  3. For a good analysis of the factions in the Afghan Communist Party and the rivalries see: Beverly Male. Revolutionary Afghanistan: A Reappraisal (London: Croom Helm, 1982)
  4. For an account by the U.N. mediator of the negotiations see: Diego Cordovez and Selig S. Harrison. Out of Afghanistan: The Inside Story of the Soviet Withdrawal (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995)


New Violence Highlights Need For Concerned Action in Myanmar's Rakhine State

An independent commission chaired by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan made its recommendations to the government of Myanmar (Burma) on Thursday, 24 August 2017. The report Towards a Peaceful, Fair, and Prosperous Future for the People of Rakhine has as its aim to reduce ethnic/religious tensions in Myanmar's Rakhine state bordering Bangladesh. The Commission urges "concerned action" by the government and all sectors of society or "We risk the return of another cycle of violence and radicalization which will further deepen the chronic poverty that afflicts Rakhine state" warned Kofi Annan in presenting the 63-page report written after a year of interviews and on-site visits.

No doubt planned to coincide with the presentation of the Advisory Commission Report, there was a series of attacks by a Rohingya faction on Myanmar police and army posts setting off a new cycle of violence as was easily predicted. At least 77 Rohingya and 12 members of the Myanmar security forces were killed in a pre-dawn strike on police posts. The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) claimed responsibility for the attacks. The ARSA was formed by Rohingya living in Saudi Arabia. It is unlikely that a foreign group in Saudi Arabia can organize to carry out armed violence without the knowledge (if not the encouragement) of factions in the Saudi government. It is not clear what would be the Saudi advantage to increase religious tensions in Myanmar. Kofi Annan responed with good sense saying "The alleged scale and gravity of these attacks mark a worrying escalation of violence. No cause can justify such brutality and senseless killing. I strongly urge all communities and groups to reject violence. After years of insecurity and instability, it should be clear that violence is not the solution to the challenges facing Rakhine State."

The "concerned action" of the Report sets out basic development goals such as infrastructure investment for roads, electricity, drinking water, schools and medical services. The same concerned action goals would hold true for nearly all areas of Myanmar, especially those with large national minorities such as the Kachen, Chin, Mon, Shan and others. The government breaks the population into 135 national ethnic groups, but it is not clear on what ethnographic criteria the divisions are made.

However, it was the increasingly sharp outcries concerning violence against the Rohingya by U.N. human rights bodies and non-governmental organizations which led to the creation of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine state. Some 80,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since October 2016 with reports of murders, gang rapes and burning of villages. The Advisory Commission is a national commission created in cooperation with the Geneva-based Kofi Annan Foundation and partly funded by the Foundation. Six members were citizens of Myanmar: two medical doctors, one Labour Ministry official who had experience dealing with the U.N. International Labour Organization, one Muslim leader, member of a Sufi order, one non-Rohingya from Rakhine state concerned with cultural policy, and a retired diplomat U Win Mra that I knew from when he was part of the Burma Mission in Geneva. The three foreign members were Kofi Annan, Chassan Salamé, a Lebanese professor at Science Po in Paris who held high posts in the U.N. and is now also part of the International Crisis Group. The third member was Laetitia van den Assen, a retired Ambassador of the Netherlands' Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Rakhine state is largely populated by two separate ethnic groups: the Rakhaines, largely Buddhist. They are part of what was a Magh kingdom, strong in the 15th century. The other major group are the Rohingya, mostly Muslim. Some have been living in the area for a long time, converts from Sufi Muslim missionaries in the 12th century. Many came into the area in 1666 when the Mughal governor of eastern Bengal defeated the Magh king. The governor settled Muslim, Bengali-speaking farmers in the area as a means of control. In 1826, the area come under the control of the British who governed from Calcutta. Bengali merchants and others followed the British administration which existed in practice until the start of the Second World War when the area was occupied by Japanese troops. Officially, in 1937 Burma was separated from British India and Arakan (as it was written then) became one of the states of the Union of Burma.

In the 1945-1947 period when England retook control of Burma, Burma was filled with weapons left behind by the retreating Japanese forces and weapons "lost" from the Allies on the Burma Road bringing arms and supplies to the Nationalist forces in China. In the lead up to independence in 1947, the Buddhist Maghs created an armed political group, the Thakin Party, and started attacking the Rohingya largely over land disputes. The Rohingya then created a number of armed groups, more or less coordinated by the Jihad Council.

While armed efforts by minorities along the frontiers with Thailand and China continued from 1947 until today, the 1960s was relatively calm in the Rakhine state. However, the 1970s saw a host of operations of the Burmese Army against Rohingya independence movements, with a large number of Rohingya fleeing into East Pakistan, now become Bangladesh. While the Rohingya political movements were basically concerned with greater autonomy within Burma (or the creation of a totally separate country) by the late 1970s an Islamic current started to grow. Contacts were made with Islamic movements in Bangladesh, India and the wider Middle East.

In 1982, for reasons unknown to me, the military government of Burma created a new "Citizenship Law" under which the Rohingya were stripped of their Burmese citizenship to become "illegal Bangladesh migrants". No other national minority (Shan, Chin, Kachen etc) was treated in this way. Thus the Rohingya one million became the largest "stateless group" in the world. Bangladesh had no reason or interest in naming them citizens of Bangladesh. The Advisory Commission has called for a review and possible revision of the nationality law.

In 1991-1992, there was again a flow of Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh which led in December 1991 to clashes between Burmese and Bangladeshi forces followed by an incursion of Burmese troops into Bangladesh. Some 75,000 Burmese troops dug into the border, and the Burmese started refurbishing World War II airfields.

It was as a result of the 1991 military buildup that on behalf of the Association of World Citizens, I became concerned with the fate of the Rohingya. I had already been working with representatives of other Burmese minorities on a possible federal structure for Burma which would be acceptable to all ethnic groups. The balance between central authority and the autonomy of the regions is a crucial aspect of federalist theory.

Many of us hoped that the 2015 elections and the transition to a government less led by the military would lead to more enlightened policies and an end to armed violence. We are still waiting. The decision to implement - or not - the recommendations of the Advisory Commission rests with the government of Myanmar. The recommendations are those of good sense and would do little to modify the current balance-of-power within the country. The recommendations do give a legitimacy to efforts which can be carried out by non-governmental organizations and so should be widely discussed.

03/09/2017


As South Sudan Disintegrates, People Move

In a 17 August 2017 call for urgent support, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stated "Over the past 12 months, an average of 1,800 South Sudanese have been arriving in Uganda every day. In addition to the million in Uganda, a million or more South Sudanese are being hosted by Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic. More than 85 per cent of the refugees who have arrived in Uganda are women and children, below age 18 years... Recent arrivals continue to speak of barbaric violence with armed groups reportedly burning down houses with civilians inside, people being killed in front of family members, sexual assaults of women and girls, and kidnapping of boys for forced conscription...Since December 2013, when South Sudan's crisis erupted in Juba, more than two million South Sudanese have fled to neighbouring countries while another two million people are estimated to be internally displaced."

With the disappearance of any form of government administration in South Sudan, the country finds itself in what can be called 'anarchy without anarchists'. There are some school buildings without teachers or students, some medical buildings without personnel or medicine; there are some soldiers but who are not paid and so 'live off the land'. There are armed bands more or less organized on a tribal basis, but tribal organization has long been weakened beyond repair. All that is left is hatred of other tribal groups. Different United Nations bodies are active in the country, including a large and costly 'peacekeeping mission' (MINUSS), but the UN has so far refused to create a 'trusteeship' to try to administer the country. Thus there are basically only services of the High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Food Program distributing food but very inadequate to meet the food needs, and UNICEF providing some services to woman and children. There is no UN administration of the country as a whole as there is a fiction that a government continues to exist. The same holds true for any form of 'trusteeship' by the African Union.

South Sudan has always been more anarchy than administration. During the British colonial period, the areas of South Sudan were administered from Uganda rather than from Khartoum as transportation from the North was always difficult. (1) The independence of Sudan and the start of the civil war came at the same time in 1956. There was a ten-year break in the civil, North-South, war 1972-1983, at which time the war took up again from 1983 to 2005. After 2005, a southern regional government was set up with, in theory, an administration which remained very thin or non-existent outside of the capital Juba and a few larger towns. The churches, mostly Protestant but also some Catholic, provided education and medical services.

The bitterness of the civil war period was so great that it was felt by many that a unified Sudan was not possible. In 2011, a referendum was held in South Sudan on its future, and there was a massive vote for independence. The Association of World Citizens was one of the non-governmental organizations invited by the Government of Sudan to monitor the referendum, and we had sent a five-person team. I thought that full independence rather than a form of con-federation was a mistake and that the future would be difficult. However, I did not foresee how difficult it would be.

Now it is difficult to see what can be done. There is only the fiction of a government and no over-all leadership of the armed bands. There are no recognized leaders to carry out negotiations. The churches are the only trans-tribal institutions, though the membership of local churches are usually drawn from a single tribal/ethnic group. There may be times, if one follows Aristotle's cycle of types of government, when anarchy will give rise to demands for strong leadership, but there are no signs of it yet. For the moment, moving to another country seems like the best hope.

Note:

(1) See the two volume history of the administration of Sudan: M.W. Daly. Empire on the Nile: The Anglo-Egyptian Sudan 1898-1934(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986)

M.W. Daly. Imperial Sudan: The Anglo-Egyptian Condominium 1934-1956 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991)

27/08/2017


Concerned action needed for Myanmar's Rakhine state

An independent commission chaired by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan made its recommendations to the government of Myanmar (Burma) on Thursday, 24 August 2017. The report Towards a Peaceful, Fair, and Prosperous Future for the People of Rakhine has as its aim to reduce ethnic/religious tensions in Myanmar's Rakhine state bordering Bangladesh. The Commission urges "concerned action" by the government and all sectors of society or "We risk the return of another cycle of violence and radicalization which will further deepen the chronic poverty that afflicts Rakhine state" warned Kofi Annan in presenting the 63-page report written after a year of interviews and on-site visits.

The "concerned action" sets out basic development goals such as infrastructure investment for roads, electricity, drinking water, schools and medical services. The same concerned action goals would hold true for nearly all areas of Myanmar, especially those with large national minorities such as the Kachen, Chin, Mon, Shan and others. The government breaks the population into 135 national ethnic groups, but it is not clear on what ethnographic criteria the divisions are made.

However, it was the increasingly sharp outcries concerning violence against the Rohingya by U.N. human rights bodies and non-governmental organizations which led to the creation of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine state. Some 80,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since October 2016 with reports of murders, gang rapes and burning of villages. The Advisory Commission is a national commission created in cooperation with the Geneva-based Kofi Annan Foundation and partly funded by the Foundation. Six members were citizens of Myanmar: two medical doctors, one Labour Ministry official who had experience dealing with the U.N. International Labour Organization, one Muslim leader, member of a Sufi order, one non-Rohingya from Rakhine state concerned with cultural policy, and a retired diplomat U Win Mra that I knew from when he was part of the Burma Mission in Geneva. The three foreign members were Kofi Annan, Chassan Salamé, a Lebanese professor at Science Po in Paris who held high posts in the U.N. and is now also part of the International Crisis Group. The third member was Laetitia van den Assen, a retired Ambassador of the Netherlands' Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Rakhine state is largely populated by two separate ethnic groups: the Rakhaines, largely Buddhist. They are part of what was a Magh kingdom, strong in the 15th century. The other major group are the Rohingya, mostly Muslim. Some have been living in the area for a long time, converts from Sufi Muslim missionaries in the 12th century. Many came into the area in 1666 when the Mughal governor of eastern Bengal defeated the Magh king. The governor settled Muslim, Bengali-speaking farmers in the area as a means of control. In 1826, the area come under the control of the British who governed from Calcutta. Bengali merchants and others followed the British administration which existed in practice until the start of the Second World War when the area was occupied by Japanese troops. Officially, in 1937 Burma was separated from British India and Arakan (as it was written then) became one of the states of the Union of Burma.

In the 1945-1947 period when England retook control of Burma, Burma was filled with weapons left behind by the retreating Japanese forces and weapons "lost" from the Allies on the Burma Road bringing arms and supplies to the Nationalist forces in China. In the lead up to independence in 1947, the Buddhist Maghs created an armed political group, the Thakin Party, and started attacking the Rohingya largely over land disputes. The Rohingya then created a number of armed groups, more or less coordinated by the Jihad Council.

While armed efforts by minorities along the frontiers with Thailand and China continued from 1947 until today, the 1960s was relatively calm in the Rakhine state. However, the 1970s saw a host of operations of the Burmese Army against Rohingya independence movements, with a large number of Rohingya fleeing into East Pakistan, now become Bangladesh. While the Rohingya political movements were basically concerned with greater autonomy within Burma (or the creation of a totally separate country) by the late 1970s an Islamic current started to grow. Contacts were made with Islamic movements in Bangladesh, India and the wider Middle East.

In 1982, for reasons unknown to me, the military government of Burma created a new "Citizenship Law" under which the Rohingya were stripped of their Burmese citizenship to become "illegal Bangladesh migrants". No other national minority (Shan, Chin, Kachen etc) was treated in this way. Thus the Rohingya one million became the largest "stateless group" in the world. Bangladesh had no reason or interest in naming them citizens of Bangladesh. The Advisory Commission has called for a review and possible revision of the nationality law.

In 1991-1992, there was again a flow of Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh which led in December 1991 to clashes between Burmese and Bangladeshi forces followed by an incursion of Burmese troops into Bangladesh. Some 75,000 Burmese troops dug into the border, and the Burmese started refurbishing World War II airfields.

It was as a result of the 1991 military buildup that on behalf of the Association of World Citizens, I became concerned with the fate of the Rohingya. I had already been working with representatives of other Burmese minorities on a possible federal structure for Burma which would be acceptable to all ethnic groups. The balance between central authority and the autonomy of the regions is a crucial aspect of federalist theory.

Many of us hoped that the 2015 elections and the transition to a government less led by the military would lead to more enlightened policies and an end to armed violence. We are still waiting. The decision to implement – or not – the recommendations of the Advisory Commission rests with the government of Myanmar. The recommendations are those of good sense and would do little to modify the current balance-of-power within the country. The recommendations do give a legitimacy to efforts which can be carried out by non-governmental organizations and so should be widely discussed.

27/08/2017


In memory of Sergio Vieira de Mello (1948-2003)

The United Nations General Assembly has designated 19 August as "World Humanitarian Day" but celebrated this Monday 21 August 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.

Currently, 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 and the first Red Cross Conventions.

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 protest 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. However, ISIS is not the only group which has violated humanitarian international law. Government forces such as those of Saudi Arabia fighting in Yemen have attacked medical facilities and civilian targets.

The laws of war, now more often called humanitarian, international 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 international law.

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

21/08/2017


Korean Tensions: Confidence-building Measures Needed

a 12 May 2017 article "Korea: Back from the Brink, Small Steps Forward" I hoped that the 9 May election of Moon Jae-in as President of the Republic of Korea may have applied the brakes to a dangerous increase in tensions between the two Korean States, the USA, China, Japan and Russia. I thought that "there may be a possibility of small steps that build confidence between the two Koreas and that do not overly worry the USA and China who watch events closely and who may do more than watch...It is unlikely that any progress will be made in the foreseeable future concerning denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula or unification. Small steps are probably the 'order of the day'. However, Track II - informal discussions which are not negotiations but a clarification of possible common interests and areas of joint action - can be helpful."

Track II efforts have not been on a scale to quell tensions over North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile advances, and the saber rattling of governments has done nothing to reduce tensions. "Fire and fury like the world has never seen" is probably not the vocabulary that leads to negotiations. Nor is an editorial in the Chinese government English-language newspaper Global Times which quotes a spokesperson saying "If the US and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korea Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so".

It is hard to know how seriously to take the saber rattling, but the sound is loud enough and the sabers are sharp enough that calmer spirits need to propose confidence-building measures. The Association of World Citizens had proposed to the then Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon to have a U.N.-led conference to transform the Korean War Armistice of 1953 into a Korean Peace Treaty. Such a Peace Treaty would confirm the international legitimacy of the two Korean States while not preventing at a later date a con-federation or other form of re-unification. Such a conference and Peace Treaty could play an important role in reducing regional tensions. However, such a conference would require a good deal of negotiations as all conditions would have to be agreed upon in advance. Diplomatic conferences "bless" efforts made before in private. A successful diplomatic conference rarely starts from zero.

Another avenue of confidence-building measures is what the University of Illinois psychology professor Charles Osgood called GRIT - Graduated Reciprocation in Tension Reduction. He recommended an incremental series of conciliatory unilateral initiatives. They should be varied in nature, announced ahead of time without bargaining and continued only in response to comparable actions from the other party - a sort of "arms race in reverse". Unilateral initiatives should, whenever possible, take advantage of mutual self-interest, mutual self-restraints and opportunities for cooperative enterprise.

As Osgood wrote "the real problem is not the unavailability of actions that meet the criterion of mutual self-interest, but rather the psychological block against seeing them that way. The operation of psycho-logic on both sides makes it difficult for us to see anything that is good for them as being anything other than bad for ourselves. This is the familiar 'if they are for it, we must be against it' mechanism" (1)

good directed his proposals for dealing with tension reduction so as to ease fear, foster more circumspect decisions in which many alternatives are considered, and modify the perceptual biases that fan the flames of distrust and suspicion. The most favorable feature of the GRIT approaches that it offers a means whereby one party can take the initiative in international relations rather than constantly reacting to the acts of others.

Such GRIT efforts were carried out concerning Korea in the early 1990s between Presidents George H.W. Bush and Kil Il Sing but rarely since. Currently, the governments of Russia and China have proposed a GRIT-type proposal of a "double freeze" - a temporary freeze on North Korea's nuclear and missile tests in return for a sharp reduction of US military presence in South Korea.

A "double freeze" may be too large a shift at this stage. In my article, I had proposed such steps as increased family contacts, cultural exchanges, increased food aid to the Democratic People's Republic, a lessening of economic sanctions and an increase in trade.

There is a need to halt the automatic reaction to every provocation, and to "test the waters" for a reduction of tensions. Real negotiations may take some time to put into place, but GRIT-type unilateral measures are a possibility worth trying.

Note : (1) Charles E. Osgood. An Alternative to War or Surrender (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1962)

14/08/2017


Liu Xiaobo and Charter 08: Fire under the Ashes

4 Aug 2017 – The media reports on the recent death of Liu Xiaobo, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, of cancer after years of imprisonment, have focused on his life, especially the prison years and the continued surveillance of his wife, the poet Liu Xia. There has been less emphasis on the Charter 08 positions which still exist as “fire under the ashes.” Liu Xiaobo was the principle writer of Charter 08, but it was a collectively written policy paper and was then co-signed by a good number of academic intellectuals.

Charter 08 is consciously modeled on Charter 77 of Czechoslovakia, largely written by Vaclav Havel but also a collective effort of people to promote plurality, diversity and the capacity of self-organization outside the narrow boxes into which the state wanted to place people. This starting point of an autonomous culture was not a polemic against officialdom which could have been easily put down. Rather it was poets and novelists, painters and filmmakers, dramatists and political theorists attempting to go beyond or around censorship – what Havel called “The Power of the Powerless”.

Cultural challenges in the arts and sciences are more fundamental and enduring than a political manifesto. Thus governments watch cultural currents closely for danger signs of post-totalitarian currents.

Charter 08 is a combination of political propositions, basically of a liberal order and a broader call for the promotion of cultural and intellectual diversity. The political proposition of Charter 08 were continued in the November 1993 “Beijing Peace Charter” whose spokesperson was Qin Yongmen and the 1998 short-lived China Democratic Party led by Wang Youcai.

There were three elements in Charter 08 that were particularly frightening to Chinese government authorities and which led to the imprisonment of Liu Xiaobo for “inciting subversion of state power and the overthrow of the socialist system.” Only one element was directly political: the call for a federal constitution for China. The Charter 08 proposals were consciously timed to recall the 1908 first constitutional proposals as the Qinq dynasty was falling apart. This first constitutional proposal was to facilitate the transition from an empire with an emperor to a republican form of government largely practiced in Western Europe.

The constitutional forms which followed with the creation of the Republic of China as well as the later People’s Republic have been highly centralized. Proposals for regional autonomy such as those put forth by the Tibetans have always been considered as “splitist” – leading to dissolving China into its ethnic areas, again, leading as in the 1920s-1930s to the rise of “War Lords”. There is some discussion of federalism permitted when discussing the administration of Hong Kong and possible relations with Taiwan. However, federal structures for the “Mainland” are outside of tolerated issues. The mention, without much elaboration of a “federal republic” in Charter 08 raised red flags that were not missed by the authorities. As Liu Xiaobo wrote “Of the four pillars of totalitarian rule, only political centralization and its blunt repression remain… The two fold tyranny of the Maoist era – persecution of the flesh and trampling of the spirit – is no more, and there has been a significant decline in the effectiveness of political terrorism”.

The other two subjects that cause sleepless nights to government officials and that Charter 08 and Liu Xiaobo stressed were the growth of a pluralistic civil society and the possibility of nonviolent action — Mahatma Gandhi’s name being mentioned.

The role of civil society, especially in the break up of the Soviet Union and the end of its direct influence in Eastern Europe is a theme which has not escaped the attention of the Chinese government. Liu Xiaobo’s views were directed to civil society action in China. Liu Xiaobo wrote “China’s course of transformation into a modern, free society is bound to be gradual and full of twists and turns. The length of time it will take may surpass even the most conservative estimates… Civil society remains weak, civic courage inadequate and civic wisdom immature: civil society is still in the earliest stages of development, and consequently there is no way to cultivate in a short time a political force adequate to the task of replacing the Communist regime… Yet, in the post-Mao era, the society entirely based on official authority no longer exists. An enormous transformation toward pluralism in society has already taken place, and official authority is no longer able to fully control the whole society. The continuous growth of private capital is nibbling away at the regime’s economic foundation, the increasingly disintegrated value system is challenging its ideology, the persistently expanding civil rights protections are increasing the challenges to the strength of the arbitrary authority of government officials and the steadily increasing civic courage is making the effectiveness of political terror wither by the day.”

Even more dangerous was Liu Xiaobo’s evocation of Mahatma Gandhi and nonviolent action. As Liu Xiaobo wrote “The greatness of nonviolent resistance is that even as man is faced with forceful tyranny and the resulting suffering, the victim responds to hate with love, to prejudice with tolerance, to arrogance with humility, to humiliation with dignity, and to violence with reason. The victim, with love that is humble and dignified, takes the initiative to invite the victimizer to return to the rule of reason, peace and compassion, thereby transcending the vicious cycle of replacing one tyranny with another.”

“Nonviolence is committed to putting freedom into practice in everyday life through initiation of ideas, expression of opinions and rights defense actions and particularly through the continuous accumulation of each and every rights defense case, to accrue moral and justice resources, organizational resources and maneuvering experience in the civil sector. When the civic forces are not yet strong enough to change the macro-political environment at large, they can at least rely on personal conscience and small group cooperation to change the small micro-political environment within their reach…Bottom-up reform requires self-consciousness among the people, and self-initiated, persistent and continuously expanding civil disobedience movement among the people.”

At a time when there are more and more what the government calls “incidents” – strikes and demonstration concerning working and housing conditions, resident permits, and confiscation of rural lands for building projects, the government can easily fear that all these “incidents” combine into a country-wide protest movement with some overall leadership and a creative use of nonviolent techniques.

The body of Liu Xiaobo was burned quickly after his death, in part so that his friends could not attend the ceremony. However, there is fire under the ashes, and we can expect new nonviolent actions led in the spirit of Liu Xiaobo but with new leadership.

4/08/2017


U.N. Human Rights Procedures and the Role of Citizens of Non-Member States

The Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states clearly:

“Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.

Article 2 states:

“Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.”

However, in practice, it is difficult for a person who is considered as “stateless” or a citizen of a Non-Member State to be able to use the human rights procedures put into place by the United Nations, especially what are considered complaint procedures. Information concerning the implementation of a human rights treaty can be supplied to the members of what are called “Treaty Bodies” – a committee of experts who study national reports on the implementation of a specific treaty and who make recommendations for improvements. There are eight such treaty bodies such as the Human Rights Committee, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the Committee Against Torture, and the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Another avenue is the “Special Procedures” established by the Commission on Human Rights and continued by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations such as Myanmar or thematic mandates such as discrimination based on religion or belief. There are also Working Groups, usually composed of five members who collect information, in part through interviews, concerning a country situation such as the Working Group on Sudan or another on Syria. The Working Group is disbanded once its report is made public while the thematic reporters such as those on torture continue because there is always new information coming in on the issue.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in consultative status with the U.N. and active in the meetings of the Human Rights Council play an important role in these complaint procedures both in giving advice on the procedures to victims or in presenting the information themselves. There is close cooperation between members of the U.N. secretariat working on human rights and the representatives of NGOs.

However, there are specific difficulties of access to U.N. complaint procedures if one is not a citizen of a Member State. Today in the world, there are a good number of people considered as “Stateless”. There are a number of reasons that one may be considered stateless, such as children born to foreign residents of a country – a common cause in Africa – or people who are refused citizenship such as many Kurds in Syria until citizenship was granted in 2012 for political reasons due to the armed conflict, or people whose citizenship has been revoked for political reasons.

The possibility for action of citizens of Non-Member States is complex. In 2014, a referendum of people in Eastern Ukraine voted to create the Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. For the central government of Ukraine, these two are nor republics but “occupied territories”. There are also the Republics of Abkazia and South Ossetia, once part of Georgia, Transnistria once part of Moldova. Some would add Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh torn between Azerbaijan and Armenia. All these Republics are the result of the breakup of the Soviet Union and the failure of the governments of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine to develop adequate constitutional structures of con-federalism which take into consideration cultural, ethnic and economic realities.

The breakup of the Yugoslav Federation has led to the creation of the Republic of Kosovo, proclaimed in 2008. Kosovo is not a member of the U.N. Currently, there are a number of other entities which have claimed independence within the context of an ongoing armed conflict such as Somaliland within the unstable context of Somalia or the Kurdish Autonomous Area in Iraq where a referendum on its status is proposed for September.

There is the special case of Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC). The break with the Mainland came in 1948 with both the People’s Republic and the ROC claiming to be the legitimate representative of the Chinese people. In 1972, the U.N. General Assembly recognized the People’s Republic as the representative of China, and thus, the ROC, although a stable State, is not a U.N. Member. Most of the governments in the U.N. have a “one China” policy and only recognize the People’s Republic.

As a result, there is a double issue: the implementation of human rights standards within Taiwan, and the protection of the human rights of Taiwanese living and working abroad, increasingly on the Mainland itself.

To deal with the development of human rights within Taiwan, the ROC parliament ratified the two major human rights covenants: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and made their provisions into domestic law. In keeping with the pattern of the treaty bodies which examine the national practice concerning the Covenants, an ad hoc committee of experts drawn from people who had experience within the U.N. human rights structures, met in Taipei in 2013 and made a full study of implementation including extensive discussions with the representatives of NGOs. The ad hoc committee made detailed recommendations. This pattern was again carried out in 2017 including a discussion on how the earlier recommendations have been implemented.

The possible use of U.N. human rights procedures for the defense of Taiwanese living abroad is still an open question. When there are diplomatic relations between States, the consular services of each State can provide assistance to its nationals in case of arrest, mistreatment or other difficulties. When there is no diplomatic recognition, as is the case for most of the Non-Member States in the U.N., such protection does not exist.

Although NGO representatives have been able to draw attention to the rights of citizens of Non-Member States or of stateless individuals, the impact of NGO appeals is limited since there are no government delegates to reply or to set out the government position.

Human rights are the rights of individuals, all part of the human family. There needs to be ways of increasing protection for the stateless and citizens of Non-Member States.

27/07/17


Rapid Ratification Needed of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

On 7 July 2017, at the United Nations in New York, a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was voted by 122 Member States, one Member State, the Netherlands, voted against, and one Member State, Singapore, abstained. The People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) was the only nuclear-weapon State to take part in the Treaty Conference and to vote in favor of its adoption. The other nuclear-weapon States did not participate in the drafting of the Treaty.

Immediately after the positive vote, the delegations of the USA, the United Kingdom, and France issued a joint press statement saying that "This initiative clearly disregards the realities of the international security environment... This treaty offers no solution to the grave threat posed by North Korea's nuclear program, nor does it address other security challenges that made nuclear deterrence necessary."

Article I of the Treaty sets out its basic intention: to prohibit all activities involving nuclear weapons including to develop, test, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons and to use, threaten to use, transfer, station, install or deploy these weapons.

The Treaty will be open for signature and thus the start of the process of ratification at the start of the U.N. General Assembly on 20 September 2017. 50 ratifications are necessary for the Treaty to come into force. 21 September is the World Day for Peace, set by the U.N. General Assembly in 1981. The theme this year is "Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All".

The Association of World Citizens believes that signing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons would be a most appropriate way to mark the Day of Peace and its theme "Together for Peace". The Association of World Citizens warmly welcomes the Treaty and expresses its deep appreciation to the U.N. secretariat, the delegates of the Member States, and fellow non-governmental organization representatives who have worked to achieve this common goal, an important step toward a world free of the threats posed by nuclear weapons.

World Citizens were among those who called for the abolition of nuclear weapons shortly after their first use on Japan, and many Japanese world citizens have constantly participated in efforts toward their abolition.

World Citizens have also stressed that the abolition of nuclear weapons is part of a larger effort of disarmament and the peaceful settlement of disputes. At each 5-year review of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), World Citizens have stressed that Article VI of the NPT has not been fulfilled by the nuclear-weapon States. Article VI says that "Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control." Unfortunately, the issue of general and complete disarmament and forms of verification and control are no longer topics on the world agenda.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons follows what has been called The Hague Law tradition of the banning of weapons because of their humanitarian consequences, a tradition first stressed in Saint Petersburg in 1868 and which was at the heart of the two peace conferences of The Hague in 1899 and 1907. This tradition has led to the ban on poison gas by the 1925 Geneva Protocol as well as the more recent bans on chemical weapons, biological weapons, anti-personnel land mines, and cluster munitions. A conference of U.N. Member States was held in Vienna, Austria on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons which brought up-to-date the many reports and studies on the impact of the use of nuclear weapons on humans and Nature. Thus the emphasis of the negotiations on the Treaty concerned more humanitarian consequences rather than arms control issues.

World Citizens have always stressed that the abolition of nuclear weapons and other disarmament measures must be accompanied by efforts to strengthen world institutions that can skillfully address conflicts as early as possible. Acting together, all States and peoples can help to define a dynamic vision and program for achieving global security that is realistic and achievable. Progress toward a cosmopolitan, humanist world society requires the development of effective norms, procedures and institutions.

Thus, the start of a speedy ratification procedure of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on 21 September, Day of Peace, would be a sign to the peoples of the world that there is at the world level a vision of this crucial step toward a world of peace and justice.

by Rene Wadlow
2017-07-19


The Empty Chair, but Democratic Vistas Radiate

Ever the undiscouraged, resolute, struggling soul of man;
Have former armies fail’d, then we send fresh armies – and fresh again

Walt Whitman ‘Life

Liu Xiaobo, Nobel Peace Prize lauiate died on 13 July 2017 at age 61 after having been jailed for 11 years for being a chief writer of an appeal for democratic and human rights reforms in China. Concern has been expressed for his wife Liu Xia, who has been under heavy survallance since the arrest of her husband. To honor his memory, we reprint an essay written at the time of the Nobel ceremony.

The chair for Liu Xiaobo was empty at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony on 10 December 2010 , and there were a few other empty chairs of ambassadors from countries that had been constantly warned by Chinese emissaries that attendance at the ceremony would be considered an unfriendly act. However the spirits of the armies holding to Democratic Vistas were there. Walt Whitman in Democratic Vistas had denounced the depravity of the business classes and the widespread corruption, bribery, falsehood, and mal-administration in municipal, state, and national government. He was worried about the mal-distributation of wealth and the treatment of the working people by employers. Yet Whitman kept alive his ideal of social and political progress and the possibility of higher consciousness. Likewise Liu Xiaobo and the other authors of Charter 08 are critical of the current trends of Chinese society but are firm in the hope that “all Chinese citizens who share this sense of crisis, responsibility and mission will put aside our differences to seek common ground to promote the great transformation of Chinese society.

Christmas Day 2009 a court convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” and sentenced him to 11 years in prison and two additional years of deprivation of political rights. The verdict cited as evidence passages from six essays Liu published online between 2005 and 2007 and his role in drafting Charter 08, an online petition for democratic reform issued on December 9; 2008 which has since been co-signed by some 10,000 persons, mostly Chinese in China. This December 2010, Liu Xiaobo received the Nobel Prize for Peace, though his presence at the ceremony in Oslo was represented by an empty chair.

Liu Xiabo’s case highlights one of the most crucial challenges facing the emerging Chinese civil society: the limits of freedom of expression. Liu Xiaobo not only offers his criticism of the regime but puts forth proposals to deal with crucial questions facing both the government and society, such as his essays on the future of Tibet

Liu Xiaobo also reflects on the history of the relationship between the ruler and the ruled and urges the Chinese people to awaken from a supplicant mentality shaped by a historical system continued to the present that has infantilized them. As he wrote “After the collapse of the Qing dynasty and especially after the CPC came to power, even though our countrymen no longer kowtow physically like the people of old, they kneel in their souls even more than the ancients…Can it be that Chinese people will never really grow up, that their character is forever deformed and week, and that they are only fit to, as if predestined by the stars, pray for and accept imperial mercy on themselves?”

His essays, since he returned to China from a visiting professorship at Columbia University in New York City in May 1989 to participate in the 1989 Democracy Movement, have infuriated the Chinese authorities with his hard, polemical style — “ Driven by profit-making above all else, almost no officials are uncorrupted, not a single penny is clean, not a single word is honest…Degenerate imperial autocratic tradition, decadent money-worship, and the moribund communist dictatorship have combined to evolve into the worst sort of predatory capitalism.”

Liu Xiaobo stresses that China’s course toward a new, free society depends on bottom up reform based on self-consciousness among the people, and self-initiated, persistent and continuously expanding non-violent resistance based on moral values. He underlines the importance of New Age values that “Humans exist not only physically, but also spiritually, possessing a moral sense, the core of which is the dignity of being human. Our high regard for dignity is the natural source of our sense of justice.”

He sets out clearly the spirit and methods of non-violent resistance in the current Chinese context. “The greatness of non-violent resistance is that even as man is faced with forceful tyranny and the resulting suffering, the victim responds to hate with love, to prejudice with tolerance, to arrogance with humility, to humiliation with dignity, and to violence with reason. The victim, with a love that is humble and dignified takes the initiative to invite the victimizer to return to the rules of reason, peace, and compassion, thereby transcending the vicious cycle of ‘replacing one tyranny with another’. Regardless of how great the freedom-denying power of a regime and its institutions is, every individual should still fight to the best of his/her ability to live as a free person and make every effort to live an honest life with dignity…

“The non-violent rights-defense movement does not aim to seize political power, but is committed to building a humane society where one can live with dignity…The non-violent rights-defense movement need not pursue a grand goal of complete transformation. Instead it is committed to putting freedom into practice in everyday life through initiation of ideas, expression of opinions and rights-defense actions, and particularly through the continuous accumulation of each and every rights-defense case, to accrue moral and justice resources, organizational resources, and maneuvering experience in the civic sector. When the civic forces are not yet strong enough to change the macro-political environment at large, they can at least rely on personal conscience and small-group cooperation to change the small micro-political environment within their reach.”

Liu Xiaobo thus joins those champions of non-violent action such as Martin Luther King and the Dalai Lama who have been recognized by the Nobel Peace Prize. The spirit of the New Age is rising in the East and is manifesting itself in non-violent action to accelerate human dignity— a trend to watch closely and to encourage.

*************************************

Notes

The text of the six essays cited in the trial for “inciting subversion of state power” and a translation into English is in the N°1, 2010 issue of China Rights Forum published by Human Rights in China: www.hrichina.org.

by Rene Wadlow
2017-07-16


Stabilizing trans-frontier migration

Following each other closely, beginning with the 2 July 2017 meeting in Bamako, Mali of the G-5 Sahel (Mauritania, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Niger) with the additional presence of Emmanuel Macron, President of France, followed by a meeting of the Ministers of the Interior of the 28-member European Union, followed by the G20 Heads of State in Hamburg, Germany, the challenge of the stabilization of socio-economic conditions in Africa to help halt the migration to Europe has been an important, if divisive, issue. In addition to refugees fleeing armed conflicts such as those in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, Mali, there is an increasing number of persons trying to reach Europe, now often through Libya. The breakdown of an organized government in Libya has facilitated groups of smugglers of humans offering their services, for money, to move people toward Italy. With the start of summer, the number of people trying to reach Europe has increased, as has the number of people who have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea.

People are fleeing war and armed conflicts as well as persistent poverty linked to high unemployment levels, sectarian-religious tensions, as well as a lack of opportunity for advancement. The motivation of each person trying to get to Europe can be different at the individual level, but the overall pattern of armed conflict, ethnic tensions and government failure to hold out hope for advancement create the basic framework. In addition, short-term drought in the Sahel as well as parts of East Africa add to the motivations to move. It is not clear if the current droughts are part of a regular cycle of "good and bad agricultural years" or if they are part of a larger pattern of climate change.

There is wide agreement among European governments that the best thing would be if current migrants stayed home with some efforts from Europe and North America to provide money for development projects. Few are asking why development aid from the early 1960s when the African States became independent has not done more in convincing people to stay at home to develop their lives there. Even fewer people are asking why the development programs of the 1950s, the last decade of colonial rule when some development programs on a large scale were undertaken did not accomplish more. Money and the transfer of skills was the heart of European and US projects for Africa in the 1960s and little has changed in the thinking today.

It is obvious that funds and skills are necessary for development, but if all that was necessary were money and skills, we would not be where we are today. At the core of a new development approach there needs to be "State-building" with institutions and policies which meet the basic needs of people. However, there is a wide-spread reluctance for European governments to engage in "State-building" after the relative failures of State-building by the USA in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Haiti as well as the more multilateral failure in Somalia.

The relevant political scale for dealing with and regulating migratory patterns has moved to a world level while implementation remains largely at the national or at best, regional level. Migratory flows have become more diverse, creating more complex and more varied routes. Likewise, meeting the basic needs of humanity is a world-level issue that needs to be undertaken by world-level institutions such as the United Nations.

Can the UN System be made more responsive to meeting the basic needs of all? Membership in the UN is regarded as advantageous for the legitimacy it confers on States and the right to participate in the full range of UN activities. The stabilization of migration will require that a policy of meeting basic needs be at the core of each government's actions. Migration will continue, but it can be done in an orderly way that benefits both sending and receiving countries.

One of the most important and complex questions facing the world today is that of how development can be carried out in a way which can satisfy the most basic needs of all people in the shortest possible time. The June 1976 World Employment Conference Declaration of Principles and Programme of Action makes a major intellectual contribution to the resolution of this question with the world-wide acceptance of the Basic Needs Approach to Development with its emphasis on people as central to the development process [i].

There have been two fundamental texts proclaimed by the United Nations and its member Agencies. The first is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1948 - "A common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations." The Universal Declaration stresses the rights of each person in the world, no matter what his State citizenship and no matter where he finds himself. The Universal Declaration set the stage for the development of Human Rights Law which develops the application of each Article of the Declaration.

The second fundamental text is the Declaration of the World Employment Conference called under the auspices of the International Labour Office in Geneva in 1976 which placed the family and the household at the core of the development process. Thus, the United Nations has underlined the importance of the individual and their rights and then the central role of the family and household as the basic unit around which to work for development.

Ideas have power in three ways:

  • By changing the ways issues are perceived;
  • By defining lines of action and agendas for policy;
  • By becoming set in institutions in ways which ensure implementation over the longer run.

Although the Basic Needs Approach builds on the development thinking in the United Nations and national governments of the 1950s and 1960s such as rural development, urban poverty alleviation, employment creation through small-scale industries, the Declaration of Principles begins by its awareness that "past development strategies in most developing countries have not led to the eradication of poverty and unemployment; that the historical features of the development processes in these countries have produced an employment structure characterized by a large proportion of the labour force in rural areas with high levels of underemployment and unemployment; that underemployment and poverty in rural and urban informal sectors and open unemployment, especially in urban areas, has reached such critical dimensions that major shifts in development strategies at both national and international levels are urgently needed in order to ensure full employment and an adequate income to every inhabitant of this One World in the shortest possible time."

Thus the major shift in development strategies seen in the Basic Needs Approach is to focus on the family with the objective of providing the opportunities for the full physical, mental, and social development of the human personality. The Programme of Action defines a two-part approach. "First, Basic Needs includes certain minimum requirements of a family for private consumption: adequate food, shelter and clothing, as well as certain household equipment and furniture. Second, Basic Needs includes essential services provided by and for the community at large, such as safe drinking water, sanitation, public transport, health, education and cultural facilities."The Programme adds a basic element to the actions: "A basic-needs-oriented policy implies the participation of the people in making the decisions which affect them through organizations of their own choice."

The Basic Needs Approach concentrates on the nature of what is provided rather than on income - income having often been used as the criteria for drawing a "poverty line". The Basic Needs Approach is concerned not only with the underemployed but also with the unemployable: the aged, the sick, the disabled, orphaned children and others. Such groups have often been neglected by the income and productivity approach to poverty alleviation and employment.

Much of the Basic Needs Approach has been incorporated into the UN's yearly Human Development Report. But as is normal for an organization such as the United Nations where the representatives of States play the major role, the focus on the family has often given way to the focus on the State and its "Basic Needs".

[i] See the Director General's Report and the Declaration in International Labour Office.Employment, Growth and Basic Needs: A One World Problem (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1977, 224 PP.)

Rene Wadlow
08/07/2017


SOS: Save our seas

On 5 to 9 June 2017, the United Nations will bring together in New York the representatives of governments, of governmental regional associations such as the Alliance of Small Island States, non-governmental organizations, private corporations, and academic institutions to study the challenges which face humanity to conserve and use our oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. The status quo is inadequate. The aim of the conference is to strengthen cooperation and coordination among institutions and groups at all levels.

Compelling arguments have been presented before in U.N. conferences in favor of a more responsive use of the seas without much action following. Thus the Association of World Citizens is stressing that the June Ocean Conference should be an opportunity for the development of world law concerning the oceans and for setting standards that enable peaceful political and economic relations and cooperation. Oceans, seas, rivers and lakes are all part of the global commons. They should be intelligently maintained and managed for the present and future good of all people and with full concern for the wild life inhabiting them.

Many of these issues have been raised by James Alix Michel, President of the Republic of Seychelles in his book Rethinking the Oceans (1). As he writes "The oceans are the world's last frontier with vast areas still to be explored and an enormous supply of resources yet to be harnessed. In terms of development, barely a start has been made, for example, to tap into the huge potential of renewable energy, while to take another example, the prospects for seabed mining are undoubtedly immense yet still little known."

Challenges and issues can be placed in four categories:

  1. Sea and Ocean delimitation issues, such as those in the South China Sea or between the two Korean governments. These issues arise from the U.N. Law of the Sea Convention which sets out the territorial sea of 12 nautical miles followed by the Exclusive Economic Zone. These issues will probably be avoided at the June conference as "too political".
  2. Save our Seas: The protection and to the extent possible to undue the harm of pollution already done by bad human practices. The hope is that the Ocean Conference will issue a firm pledge for collective action to accelerate actions to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, including marine debris, nutrient pollution, untreated waste water, solid waste discharge, and pollution from ships.
  3. The sustainable management of existing resources and practices: fishing, ocean transportation, tourism. There is a need to enhance sustainable fisheries management and to counter destructive overfishing and unregulated fishing. Many fish stocks have been driven to exhaustion or are overstressed. Nevertheless, sea food is the fastest growing food commodity that is traded globally.
    The recent Belt and Road Initiative Forum in China has highlighted the projected growth in ocean transportation with the modernization of existing ports and the creation of new port cities.
    Much mass tourism is related to ocean and sea locations. The negative, pollution-related impact of mass tourism must be reduced. New forms of tourism such as eco-tourism or educational tourism can be developed.
  4. The development of new resources: Seabed mining issues had already been raised during the 1970s UN Law of the Sea Conference. Seabed mining has not developed as quickly as was thought possible at the time as land-based mining continues to meet current needs. However, seabed mining remains a real possibility, and issues of who gets what and how from mining the seabed remains. In addition, as global warming reduces the Arctic ice cover, possibilities of oil and mining increases. There are issues both of territorial boundaries and of the impact on the fragile ecology of the Arctic.

To create a better life on earth, we need to find better ways to grow food, to generate energy and to protect the ecology on which our future depends. As citizens of the world, we have confidence in negotiations in good faith, in mutual respect, understanding, and world cooperation. The June Ocean Conference is the next opportunity to move toward a harmonious world society.

24/05/2017

Note

1) James A. Michel Rethinking the Oceans (St.Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2016, 227pp.)


Syria: Armed Conflict Resolution and the Reconstruction of an Inclusive and Just Society

On 5 April 2017, the European Union and the United Nations will hold a joint conference on the future of Syria and its region. "Civil Society" is invited to participate, but it is not clear in advance if the Brussels meeting will be a "fund raising" one, in which case most non-governmental organizations (NGO) in consultative status with the UN will have little to contribute or if there will be wider aims.

The EU-UN meeting is the third in a short space of time concerning Syria, a reflection of concern with the refugee flow and the continued violence and suffering in Syria and Iraq. The following is a text written on behalf of the Association of World Citizens (AWC) that is being sent to governments in advance of the 5 April conference. The text notes earlier appeals and efforts of the AWC in the Syria-Iraq-Turkey conflicts.

Following the 23-25 January 2017 talks in Astana, Kazakhstan sponsored by the Russian Federation, Turkey, and the Islamic Republic of Iran, a new round of UN-sponsored talks, 23-31 March was held in Geneva (informally called Geneva 4). The UN Special Envoy for Syria, Mr Staffan de Mistura has led the UN, Geneva and Lausanne-based talks. Not all the parties involved in the Syria-Iraq conflicts are participants in the talks. ISIS and the Kurds were not present nor all segments of the opposition to the Government of President Bashar al-Assad have been formally present. What informal talks are held in Geneva hotels and restaurants during the negotiations are not officially reported. There is a large and active Kurdish community in the Geneva area and some may be spokespersons for the effort to create Rojava, a Kurdish autonomous zone in Northern Syria that might form some sort of association with the Kurdish autonomous area of Iraq.

The Geneva-based talks have concerned short-term issues such as a ceasefire, safety of Syrian civilians and humanitarian access. There have also been longer-range issues concerning political processes such as a transition administration, constitutional changes, and elections for a new, more broadly based government.

Parallel to the intra-Syrian talks mediated by Mr de Mistura, the United Nations has been concerned with the human rights issues having created an Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic as well as a joint UN-Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons investigative mechanism.

The Association of World Citizens,(AWC), a non-governmental organization in consultative status with the UN, active on issues of the resolution of armed conflicts and the promotion of human rights, had welcome a 20 July 2011 call of then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for an inclusive dialogue to respond to pressing grievances and longer-term concerns of the Syrian people. The AWC, in a message to the Secretary-General encouraged broad participation of Syrian civil society in such a dialogue and indicated that AWC,knowing the possible usefulness of international NGOs in conflict resolution, would help facilitate such discussions in any way considered appropriate.

In December 2011, there was the start of a short-lived Observer Mission of the League of Arab States. In a 9 February 2012 message to the Secretary General of the League of Arab States, Ambassador Nabil el-Araby, the Association of World Citizens proposed a renewal of the Arab League Observer Mission with the inclusion of a greater number of non-governmental organization observers and a broadened mandate to go beyond fact-finding and thus to play an active conflict resolution role at the local level in the hope to halt the downward spiral of violence and killing.

On many occasions since, the AWC has indicated to the United Nations, the Government of Syria and opposition movement the potentially important role of non-governmental organizations, both Syrian and international, in facilitating armed conflict resolution measures.

The fighting in Syria, Iraq and parts of Turkey has led to a large number of displaced persons and refugees. The response of governments to the refugee flow has been very uneven, welcoming in a few cases, outright rejection in other cases. The AWC early on called for a UN-led conference on refugees and internally displaced persons. The AWC welcomed and participated in the UN conferences on refugees and humanitarian aid.

The armed conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan have led to serious violations of humanitarian international law: attacks of medical facilities and personnel, the execution of prisoners of war, the use of torture, the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage, the deliberate attacks on civilian populations, the use of weapons banned by international treaties. Therefore, the Association of World Citizens has stressed the need for a UN-led conference to reaffirm humanitarian international law. If strong support for international law is not manifested now, there is a danger that violations will become considered as "normal", and thus will increase. Strong measures of support for humanitarian international law are needed to be undertaken now.

The structures of government, the authority, and the geographic limits of administrative regions, the rights and participation in national life of minorities have been issues in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon since the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War. Appropriate forms of government which allow both for local autonomy and regional cooperation need to be developed. The search for an appropriate structure for those considering themselves to be Kurds has been a particularly difficult issue often leading to violence. The Association of World Citizens which has decentralization, federalist tradition in the spirit of Alexandre Marc and Denis de Rougemont, has highlighted that federalism and decentralization are not steps toward the disintegration of a State but rather are efforts to find a more just structure of State organization and regional cooperation.

The Association of World Citizens welcomes the 5 April 2017 EU-UN conference on Syria and the region. The Association of World Citizens re-confirms its willingness to cooperate fully in the vast and critical effort for an end to the armed conflict and a development of an inclusive and just society.

01/04/2017


A Time of Renewal : The Day of World Citizens

A moment to celebrate our sense of being a world citizen is the midnight passage between 20 March, now designated by the United Nations as the International Day of Happiness and 21 March which is now a UN holiday marking the start of Novrov, the New Year in Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia. 21 March is also the start of the New Year for the world-wide faith of the Baha'i

As the scholar of religion Mircea Eliade has pointed out, there are moments "out of time" when all is considered possible. The laws of the previous time are suspended and the new time has not yet started. This is a widely-shared belief, even if largely separated from any religious significance, as we see in the moment just before the start of one January when people chant the number of seconds prior to midnight: ten, nine, eight... Happy New Year!

The midnight passage between 20 and 21 March is linked to the Spring Equinox, a time of equal balance between day and night. However, at midnight it is yet too early to see any signs of dawn. We know only by faith and hope that light will come. In the same way we know that we are at a crucial moment in world history when there is a passage of consciousness focused on the individual State to a consciousness focused on the unity of humanity. Not all persons are moving at the same speed to a universal consciousness. There are those who are still at a"America First" level, but there are an increasing number of people who realize that harmony and balance are the key to our ascent to the next higher level: harmony between intellect and heart, mind and body, female and male, being and doing. We are moving toward the full development of each person in a cosmopolitan, humanist world society.

Today, after decades of conflict when the emphasis of State leaders, both in policy and practice, was upon competition, conflict and individual enrichment, world citizens place an emphasis on harmony, cooperation, mutual respect and working for the welfare of the community with a love of Nature of which we are a part.

Earth is our Common Home. Let us protect it together.


UN report highlights violations of humanitarian international law

On 2 March 2017, the special committee on Syria created by the UN Human Rights Council presented its report in Geneva on the systematic violation of humanitarian international law during the battle of Aleppo. The committee led by Paulo Pinheiro, a respected figure of UN human rights efforts, underlined the deliberate targeting of civilians, attacks on hospitals, the summary execution of prisoners of war, the use of cluster munitions and of chlorine gas – both banned by international treaties. The scale of the violations are such that they can be considered as a deliberate policy and not as events of "collateral damage" in the fog of war. These violations of long-established humanitarian international law are evidence that the laws of war are increasingly being undermined with few governmental reactions

Current armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria-Iraq-ISIS-Turkey, Libya, Somalia and elsewhere have led to repeated and conscious violations of humanitarian international law such as attacks on medical facilities and personnel, killing of prisoners-of-war, the taking and killing of hostages, the use of civilians as "human shields" and the use of weapons which have been banned by treaties.

Thus, there is a pressing need for actions to be taken to implement humanitarian international law in response to increased challenges. Citizens of the World stress the need for a United Nations-led conference on the re-affirmation of humanitarian international law including its application by non-State parties. Non-State actors such as ISIS or the Afghan Taliban, are increasingly involved in armed conflicts but were largely not envisaged when humanitarian international law was being drawn up by governments Thus, the conference would highlight the need to apply humanitarian international law both to States and to non-State actors.[1]

Such a conference would bring together into a coherent synthesis the four avenues of humanitarian international law[2]:

1) The Geneva Conventions – Red Cross-mandated treaties;

2) The Hague Convention traditions dealing with prohibited weapons, highlighting recent treaties such as those on land mines and cluster munitions;

3) Human rights conventions and standards, valid at all times but especially violated in times of armed conflicts;

4) The protection of sites and monuments which have been designated by UNESCO as part of the cultural heritage of humanity, highlighting the August 2016 decision of the International Criminal Court on the destruction of Sufi shrines in northern Mali.[3]

Such a re-affirmation of humanitarian international law should be followed by efforts to influence public consciousness of the provisions and spirit of humanitarian international law. This can be done, in part, by the creation of teaching manuals for different audiences and action guides.[4]

I would cite a precedent for this re-affirmation of humanitarian international law from personal experience. During the Nigeria-Biafra civil war, I was part of a working group created by the International Committee of the Red Cross to respond adequately to the challenges of this conflict which was the first African armed conflict that did not involve a colonial power. The blocking of food flows to Biafra and thus starvation as a tool of war was stressed in our work.[5]

One conclusion of the working group was the need to re-affirm the Geneva Conventions and especially to have them more widely known in Africa by writing Africa-focused teaching manuals. Thus, as at the time I was professor and Director of Research of the Graduate Institute of Development Studies, Geneva, I collaborated with Professor Jiri Toman, Director of the Institut Henri Dunant on the creation of such a manual to be used in Africa. Today, such culturally-sensitive manuals could be developed to explain humanitarian international law.

Such a re-affirmation conference would be welcomed by civil society organizations related to relief, refugees, human rights and conflict resolution. A certain number of these organizations have already called attention to violations and the need for international action. There is a need for some governmental leadership for the re-affirmation of humanitarian international law as a basis of world law dealing with the protection and dignity of each person.

References

Andrew Clapham. Human Rights Obligations of Non-State Actors (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)

Sydney D. Bailey. Prohibitions and Restraints in War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972)

Rene Wadlow "Guilty Plea in Cultural Destruction Case" Peace Magazine (Canada) Oct-Dec 2016

Jacques Freymond. Guerres, Révolutions, Croix-Rouge (Geneva: Institut Universitaire de Hautes Etudes Internationales, 1976) and Thierry Hentsch.Face au blocus. La Croix Rouge internationale dans le Nigéria en guerre(Geneva: Institut Universitaire de Hautes Etudes Internationales, 1973)

Paul Bonard. Les Modes d'Action des Acteurs Humanitaires. Critères d'une Complémentarité Operationelle (Geneva, CICR, no date given)


The law of the South China seize

The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying replied on 24 January 2017 to statements of the new US President on US interests in the South China Sea delimitation issues saying "China is firm in safeguarding our rights and interest in the South China Sea... China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters. The United States is not a party to the South China Sea issue." Her heated statement came in response to a 23 January statement of White House spokesman Sean Spicer who had said "If those islands are, in fact, in international waters and not part of China proper, we'll make sure we defend international interests from being taken over by one country."

The South China Sea islands delimitations have been an issue for some time and can be the source of increasing tensions. Therefore, it is useful to look at the Law of the Sea Convention and the way that national claims have come to dominate what my friend John Logue, then Director of Villanova University Common Heritage Institute called "the Law of the Seize." What started out in November 1967 with a General Assembly presentation by Ambassador Arvid Pardo of Malta as a call to establish a new political and legal regime for the ocean space ended in December 1982 with a draft convention. It was a mixed bag of successes and disappointments, but the Convention on the Law of the Sea has now been ratified by 162 states but not by the United States and certain other industrialized states.

Ambassador Pardo's phrase 'the common heritage of mankind' meant more than a global commons, open to all to exploit. It implied the establishment of rules by which exploitation of a part of the earth's resources were to be governed, and of institutions capable of acting on behalf of mankind as a whole. For Pardo, the 'common heritage of mankind' was to lead to the transformation of world politics.[1]

For world citizens, the quality of the Law of the Sea Convention was of particular significance. The Convention tried to structure what had been largely customary international law and state practice into a legal comprehensive treaty. The Convention was an effort to formulate a written constitution for the world's oceans. It was perhaps the most comprehensive legislative attempt in the annals of international law. The Convention specified that the greater part of the oceans was considered res communitis, a global common beyond national ownership, although the diplomats accepted an extension of national sovereignty from three to 12 miles from the coast line and a new concept of a 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

However, the UN Law of the Sea Conference was first and foremost a political conference with over 160 states participating. From the outset of the conference, it was agreed that the convention had to be drafted by consensus in order to create a political and legal system for the oceans acceptable to all - to manage what Arvid Pardo had called 'the common heritage of mankind'. During the negotiations, there were groupings that cut across the Cold War divisions of the times, especially within a group called "the landlocked and geographically disadvantaged countries." There were also informal groups of persons who acted in a private capacity, a mixture of NGO representatives, legal scholars, and business corporation representatives who prepared suggestions on many of the issues of the conference.[2]

Although the negotiations were carried out by the representatives of governments, all considered to be equal, there were a number of key individuals who through their personality, vision, negotiating skills, and drive played roles well beyond the status in world politics of their States. Thus, the President of the conference, Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe of Sri Lanka was an outstanding leader, so much so, that when there was a change in government in Sri Lanka and Amerasingh was replaced as Ambassador to the UN, it was decided, after heated debates, that he should continue as President of the conference - the only case of a private citizen directing a UN conference. Unfortunately, he died in 1980 before the conference ended so he did not see the fulfillment of his efforts. He was replaced as President by a man who had already played a key role as chair of a working group, the very able Tommy Koh of Singapore. Paul Engo of Cameroon, chair of a different working group, was the dynamic voice of Africa, while Jens Evensen of Norway was the most active and constructive leader among European and North American diplomats.

The conference was, in many ways, a race against time as unilateral measures by individual states were breaking old conventional rules, making ocean practices a mixed pattern of national legislation, and customary international law. Unilateral legislation was being passed concerning the two key issues of the conference: national sovereignty beyond the shore line and deep sea mineral mining. South American states were claiming a 200-mile limit beyond the shore line, and the US Congress had passed legislation to allow US corporations to mine mineral resources on the sea bed, in particular manganese nodules.[3]

The forces of nationalism were too strong to be swayed by Pardo's appeals to international cooperation and technocratic rationality. Instead the coastal states, developed and developing alike, saw in the newly available ocean areas an unexpected windfall, offering the prospect of a previously unimagined extension of their natural resource base through the creation of a 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone. The economic goal of national autonomy had prevailed over the interests in global cooperation, setting in motion the processes of establishing vast national enclosures of offshore areas, especially those enclosures consonant with the new Exclusive Economic Zone regime. International cooperation had yielded to national autonomy.

During the conference, there were lengthy discussions concerning the exclusive economic zone of 200 miles around 'islands', 'rocks', and 'low-tide elevations'. The distinctions were loosely made, and no one saw that the mining of petroleum around islands would become today an important political issue and a source of international conflict. Conflicts over national sea boundaries are particularly strong in the Pacific Ocean among China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan, and Cambodia, with India and Indonesia watching closely. The disputes arise largely because of the claims of waters around small islands as national territory. Most of these island are not permanently inhabited but are claimed as the starting point of "territorial waters". Originally, the disputes concerned exclusive fishing rights within national territorial zones. Now the issues have become stronger, as it is believed that there are large oil and gas reserves in these areas.[4]

Concerning China's dispute with Japan (which is also largely true of China's policy with other Asian countries), Krista Wiegand writes "China's current strategy is to negotiate with Japan over joint development of natural gas and oil resources outside the disputed zone This seems to be the most rational strategy it can take in the disputes. Rather than dropping its territorial claim, China continues to maintain its claim for sovereignty, while at the same time benefiting from joint development of natural gas resources. By maintaining the territorial claim, China also sustains its ability to confront Japan through diplomatic and militarized conflict when other disputed issues arise".[5]

Territorial sea disputes can be heated up or cooled off at will or when other political issues require attention. We are currently in a "heating up" stage, though a 2002 Phnom Penh Declaration of Conduct of Parties in South China Sea calls for trust, restraint, and settlement by juridical means. Today, world citizens call for calm and a policy of mediation and arbitration before current tensions lead to ever-greater divisions.

René Wadlow
24/01/2017

Notes:

 

  1. See A. Pardo The Common Heritage: Selected Papers on Oceans and World Order, 1967-1974 (Malta University Press, 1975) When a new government came to power in Malta in 1971, Pardo was replaced as Ambassador to the UN. His views were presented during the Law of the Sea negotiations through NGO representatives, in particular Elizabeth Mann Borgese, daughter of the anti-Nazi German author Thomas Mann.
  2. For a good picture of the active role that well-informed non governmental representatives played during the eight years of negotiations see: Ralph and Miriam Levering Citizen Action for Global Change: The Neptune Group and the Law of the Sea (Syracuse University Press, 1999) For a lively and detailed analysis of the key issues and the techniques of negotiation by a fellow NGO representative see Roderick Ogley Internationalizing the Seabed (Gower Publishing, 1984)
  3. For the world citizen positions that John Logue and I were advocating at the time see: Finn Laursen (Ed.) Toward a New International Marine Order (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1982)Louis B. Sohn, Professor of International Law at Harvard Law School was an outstanding example of an individual scholar. His proposals for dispute settlement largely formed the basis of the dispute mechanisms of the Convention.
  4. Douglas M. Johnston and Mark J. Valencia Pacific Ocean Boundary Problems (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1991)
  5. Krista R. Wiegand Enduring Territorial Disputes (University of Georgia Press, 2011)

 

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