Refugee

 

World Policy for Migrants and Refugees

October 4, 2016

WORLD POLICY FOR MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES
By René Wadlow

«There is no doubt that Mankind
is once more on the move. The very foundations have been shaken and
loosened, and things are again fluid. The tents have been struck, and
the great caravan of Humanity is once more on the march.»

Jan Christian Smuts at the end of the 1914-1918 World War.

On September 19, 2016, the United Nations
(UN) General Assembly held a one-day Summit on "Addressing Large
Movements of Refugees and Migrants", a complex of issues which have
become important and emotional issues in many countries. The UN
Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) published a report on
international migration indicating that there are some 244 million
migrants, some 76 million live in Europe, 75 million in Asia, 54 million
in North America and others in the Middle East, Latin America and the
Pacific, especially Australia and New Zealand. In addition, there are
some 24 million refugees - people who have crossed State frontiers
fleeing armed conflict and repression as well as some 40 million
internally-displaced persons within their own country. Acute poverty,
armed conflicts, population growth and high unemployment levels provide
the incentives for people to move, while easier communications and
transport are the means.

However, as we have seen with the many who
have died in the Mediterranean Sea, people will take great risks to
migrate. Thus, there is an urgent need to take away the monopoly of the
life and death of refugees from the hands of mafias and traffickers and
to create an effective world policy for migrants and refugees.

UNGA

This is the third time that the major
governments of the world have tried to deal in an organized way with
migration and refugees. The first was within the League of Nations in
the 1920s. The 1914-1918 World War and the 1917 Russian Revolution had
created a large number of refugees and "stateless" persons - citizens of
the former Russian, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian Empires. These people
had no passports or valid identity documents. The League of Nations
created a League identity document - the Nansen Passport - which gave
some relief to the "stateless" and brought international attention to
their conditions. The Nansen Passport, however, became overshadowed in
the mid-1930 when people - in particular Jews - fled from
Germany-Austria and were refused resettlement.

nansenpassport

The second international effort was as a
result of the experiences of the 1939-1945 Second World War and the
large number of refugees and displaced. Under UN leadership was created
the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees. In addition, the
UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, originally created as a
temporary body, was made a permanent UN agency in recognition of the
continuing nature of refugee issues.

The current third international effort is
largely a result of the flow of refugees and migrants toward Europe
during 2015-2016. The disorganized and very uneven response of European
governments and the European Union to this flow has indicated that
governments are unprepared to deal with such massive movements of
people. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have not been able to deal
adequately with this large number of persons despite many good-will
efforts. Moreover, certain European political movements and political
parties have used the refugee issue to promote narrow nationalist and
sometimes racist policies. Even a much smaller flow of refugees to the
USA has provoked very mixed reactions - few of them welcoming.

Distressed persons wave after being transferred to a Maltese patrol vessel.

The September 19 Summit is a first step
toward creating a functioning world policy for migrants and refugees.
The Summit is not an end in itself but follows a pattern of UN
awareness-building conferences on the environment, population, food,
urbanization and other world issues. The impact of UN conferences has
been greatest when there are preexisting popular movements led by NGOs
which have in part sensitized people to the issue. The two UN
conferences which have had the most lasting consequences were the 1972
Stockholm conference on the environment and the 1975 International Year
of Women and its Mexico conference. The environment conference was held
at a time of growing popular concern with the harm to the environment
symbolized by the widely-read book of Rachel Carson Silent Spring. The
1975 women's conference came at a time when in Western Europe and the
USA there was a strong "women's lib" movement and active discussion on
questions of equality and gender.

Migration and refugee issues do not have a
well-organized NGO structure highlighting these issues. However human
rights NGOs have stressed the fate of refugees and migrants as well as
human rights violations in the countries from which they fled. There is
also some cooperation among relief NGOs which provide direct help to
refugees and migrants such as those from Syria and Iraq living in
Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and those going to Greece and Italy.

The Summit's Declaration is very general, and
some observers have been disappointed with the lack of specific
measures. However, we can welcome the spirit of the Summit 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. What is needed now are strong NGO efforts
to remind constantly government authorities of the seriousness of the
issues and the need for collective action. Refugees and migrants are not
a temporary "emergency" but part of a continuing aspect of the emerging
world society. Thus there is a need to develop a world policy and
strong institutions for migrants and refugees.

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

International Migrants Day: 18 December

Immigration, Detention, Control

Rene Wadlow*

If I were another on the road, I wouldn't have

looked back. I'd have said what one traveler says

to another: Hello stranger, wake up your guitar!

Let's postpone our tomorrow to lengthen our road

and widen our space, so that we may be rescued

from our story together.

Mahmoud Darwish, Palestinian poet

By creating special observance days, the
United Nations tries to promote international awareness and action on
specific issues. Thus 6 February is International Day of Zero Tolerance
to Female Genital Mutilation and 20 March is International Day of
Happiness. 2 May highlights an issue we do not think about often: World
Tuna Day. 18 December has been designated as the International Migrants
Day, but even without a special day, migrants and refugees have become
world-wide issues leading to political debate, especially in Europe and
the USA.

Asylum seekers and immigrants with low
level of education are often seen as a "burden", not only for "Fortress
Europe" but also for first reception countries. Thus, today's borders
function as a filter, separating the "wanted" - that is, migrants who
can be used - from the "unwanted". The filter serves to separate those
that get in from those who are pushed back.

The filter serves to distort refugee
flows. Because unaccompanied minors are more protected by law or policy
and are often not deported, there are an increasing number of
unaccompanied minors separated from the rest of the family and facing
very uncertain futures, especially as concerns education.

There have been some efforts to provide
for educational facilities, but most often for students already at the
university level. In September 2014, the German Foreign Minister,
Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced the establishment of a special
scholarship program for refugees from Syria saying "We cannot allow the
Syrian conflict to engerder a lost generation. It is particularly young
Syrians who will play a crucial role in rebuilding their country and
deciding the future as soon as this terrible conflict is over. We want
to help give this young generation a future perspective." Since then
there are many signs of a lost Syrian generation, especially for those
in the neighboring countries of Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.

A filter also increases the trafficking
of people by organized bands who quickly learn the ways of going around a
filter. The trafficking of women and children for the sexual industries
occurs in all parts of the world, but increases in areas with armed
conflicts. Women in war zones are forced into sex slavery by combatant
forces or sold to international gangs. Even without commercial
trafficking, there has been a sharp increase in early marriage among
Syrian refugee girls in Jordan, marriage being one of the few ways to
cope economically and socially.

The systemic failures and bureaucratic
delays that characterize government reception systems have left many
migrants and refugees in a legal "limbo" in which migrants remain
trapped, contributing to processes of alienation. There is obviously a
need for co-operation and some co-ordination among States of origin,
transit and destination - more easily said than done.

Fortunately, non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) have tried to meet the challenges of migrant and
refugee flows, often being able to draw upon the spontaneous good will
of people. However, there are real limits to what NGOs can do,
especially on longer-term issues. There is an obvious need to resolve
the different armed conflicts through negotiations in good faith. There
is also an obvious need to increase development efforts in those
countries from which economic migration is a strong motivation. There is
also a need to reverse environmental damage with ecologically-sound
development programs.

18 December should serve as a time when
we look with compassion at the fate of migrants, refugees and the
internally displaced. It is especially a time when we must plan and
increase resources for creative action.

*Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

20 June: World Refugee Day
by Rene Wadlow

    

20 June is
the UN-designated World Refugee Day marking the signing in 1951 of the
Convention on Refugees. The condition of refugees and migrants has
become a "hot" political issue in many countries, and the policies of
many governments have been very inadequate to meet the challenges.  The
UN-led World Humanitarian Summit held in Istanbul, Turkey 23-24 May,
2016 called for efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts by "courageous
leadership, acting early, investing in stability, and ensuring broad
participation by affected people and other stakeholders."


If
there were more courageous political leadership, we might not have the
scope and intensity of the problems that we now face.  Care for refugees
is the area in which there is the closest cooperation between
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the UN system. As one
historian of the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR) has written " No element has been more vital to the
successful conduct of the programmes of the UNHCR than the close
partnership between UNHCR and the non-governmental organizations."


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

    

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

    

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

    

The
difficulties encountered in the reception of refugees do not lie
primarily in the number of refugees but in the speed with which they
have arrived in Western Europe. These difficulties are the result of the
lack of serious reception planning and weak migration policies. The war
in Syria has gone on for five years.  Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, not
countries known for their planning skills, have given shelter to nearly
four million persons, mostly from the Syrian armed conflicts. That
refugees would want to move further is hardly a surprise. That the
refugees from war would be joined by "economic" and "climate" refugees
is also not a surprise.  The lack of adequate planning has led to
short-term "conflict management" approaches.  Fortunately NGOs and often
spontaneous help have facilitated integration, but the number of
refugees and the lack of planning also impacts NGOs.

    

Thus,
there is a need on the part of both governments and NGOs to look at
short-term emergency humanitarian measures and at longer-range migration
patterns, especially at potential climate modification impact.  World
Refugee Day can be a time to consider how best to create a humanist,
cosmopolitan society.

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

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

Refugees and migrants: UN Summit and role of NGOs

    Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

The UN has called for a high level Summit on “Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants”. The forum is scheduled for 19 September 2016 at the United Nations in New York, one day before the opening of the UN General Assembly. A report of the Secretary-General will be published in May to structure the discussions and to facilitate research and the collection of up-to-date information at the national and regional levels. There is agreement among the representatives of governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that it is time to take a more comprehensive look at the various dimensions of the migration and refugee issue which affects countries of origin, transit and destination. We need to understand better the causes of international flows of people and their complex inter-relations with development, armed conflict and environmental changes.

Ms Karen Abu Zayd of the USA has been appointed as the Special Adviser for the Summit, in effect its organizer.  From 2005 to 2010, she was Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Previously she held high posts in the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. She is an academic specialist on the Middle East.

Recently, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) published a report on international migration indicating that there are some 244 million migrants, some 76 million live in Europe, 75 million in Asia, 54 million in North America, others in the Middle East, Latin America, and the Pacific, especially Australia and New Zealand.  In addition, there are some 20 million refugees − people who have crossed State frontiers fleeing armed conflict and repression as well as some 40 million internally displaced persons.Acute poverty, population growth, high unemployment levels and armed conflicts provide the incentives for people to move, while easier communications and transport are the means. People flee their countries for a variety of reasons and usually as a result of a combination of factors rather than a single one: wars and insurrections, the breakdown of law and order, oppression, persecution and the denial of socio-economic opportunities.  Some persons may not have been singled out for repression (the narrow definition of the right to ask for refugee status), however, they feel that their country cannot provide an adequate future and wish to try their chance elsewhere.  Others, especially those who represent ethnic or religious minorities may be deliberately forced out.

The flow of refugees and migrants toward Europe during 2015 has made the issue of migration and refugee flows “front page news”. The disorganized and very uneven response of European governments to this flow has indicated that governments are unprepared to deal with such massive movements of people. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have not been able to deal adequately with this large number of persons despite many good-will efforts. Certain political movements and political parties have used the refugee issue to promote narrow nationalist and sometimes racist policies. A much small flow of refugees to the USA has also provoked very mixed reactions − few of them welcoming.

The COP 21 conference in Paris in December was an opportunity to highlight what  is increasingly called “ecological refugees” − people who move due to changes in the climate and the environment. The persistent drought in the Sahel States of Sub-Saharan Africa has led to large scale movements and the creation of very difficult socio-economic conditions.

The September 2016 UN Summit provides an opportunity for coordinated NGO action. UN conferences or Summit forums serve as a magnet, pulling Governments to agree to higher ideals and standards collectively than they would proclaim individually.  This is not only hypocrisy − though there is certainly an element of hypocrisy as Governments have no plans to put these aims into practice. Rather it is a sort of “collective unconscious” of Government representatives who have a vision of an emerging world society based on justice and peace.

The role of non-governmental organizations is to remind constantly Government representatives of the seriousness of the issues and for the need for collective action. Migration does not have a well-organized NGO network to highlight issues in the way that there are well-organized networks of human rights or equality of womenorganizations.  National NGOs can highlight local conditions and thus provide information to the international NGOs in consultative status with the UN who will be at the Summit in New York.  NGOs, close to the people can provide a realistic view of needs of individual families and the type of community responses required. NGOs will also stress poverty reduction, conflict resolution support, and respect for human rights.  Between now and the end of August gives us as NGO representatives time to assemble the research, to analyze both short and longer-term consequences and to make policy proposals to governments. However, there is no time to loose and efforts must be made now.

 

 

18 December: International Day of Migrants: Need for a UN-led World Conference on Migration and Refugee Flows

Rene Wadlow*

 

18 December was set by the UN General Assembly to call attention to the role of migrants in the world society. The date was chosen mark the creation of the UN-negotiated International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families . The aim of the Convention was to insure that migrants and their families would continue to be covered by the human rights standards set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Covenants, and other human rights treaties. In practice, migrants are often “between two chairs” − no longer of concern to the State they have left and not yet covered by the human rights laws of the State to which they have gone.

 

Ratifications of the Convention have been slow with a good number of governments making reservations that generally weaken the impact of the Convention. In 2004, a commission of independent experts was set up to study the reports to the UN of governments on the application of the Convention − a commission that is part of the Human Rights Treaty Body System. Reports from each government party to the Convention are to be filed once every four years. However, the discussions within the Migration Treaty Body and its subsequent report attract the attention of only a small number of people. However, the discussion deals with the report of only one government at a time while migration is always a multi-State issue and can have worldwide implications.

 

Moreover, many States consider that earlier International Labour Organization conventions deal adequately with migrant rights and see no need to sign a new convention.

 

Citizens of the world have stressed that the global aspects of migration flows have an impact on all countries. The changing nature of the world's economies modify migration patterns, and there is a need to plan for migration as the result of possible environmental-climate changes.

 

The current flow of migrants and refugees to Europe has become a high profile political issue. Many migrants come from areas caught up in armed conflict: Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia. The leaders of the European Union (EU) have been divided and unsure in their responses. Local solidarity networks that offer food, shelter, and medical care are overwhelmed. Political debates over how to deal with the refugees have become heated, usually with more heat than light. The immediacy of the refugee exodus requires our attention, our compassion, and our sense of organization.

 

EU officials have met frequently to discuss how to deal with the migrant-refugee flow, but a common policy has so far been impossible to establish. At a popular level, there have been expressions of fear of migrants, of possible terrorists among them, and a rejection of their cultures. These popular currents, often increased by right-wing political parties make decisions all the more difficult to take. An exaggerated sense of threat fuels anti-immigration sentiments and creases a climate of intolerance and xenophobia.

 

Therefore, the Association of World Citizens, which is in consultative status with the UN, is calling for a UN-led world conference on migration and refugee issues, following earlier UN world conferences on the environment, food, housing, women, population, youth, human rights and other world issues. The pattern of such UN-led world conferences usually follows a common pattern: encouragement of research and data collection by UN agencies, national governments, NGOs, and academic institutions. Then regional meetings are held to study the regional dimensions of the issue. The regional conferences are followed by the world conference of government representatives with the participation of NGO delegates of organizations which hold consultative status. Usually there is also a parallel NGO conference with a wider range of NGOs present, especially those active at the local or national level. From such a world conference a plan of action is set to influence action by UN agencies, national governments, and NGOs.

 

Only a UN-led conference with adequate research and prior discussions can meet the challenges of worldwide migration and continuing refugee flows. There is a need to look at both short-term emergency humanitarian measures and at longer-range migration patterns, especially at potential climate modification impact. A UN-led world conference on migration can highlight possible trends and especially start to build networks of cooperation to meet this world challenge.

 

*Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

 

 

 

    Call for Regional Cooperation on Refugee Flows from Myanmar and for a Transition within Myanmar to a New Constitution Based on a Just Integration of National Minorities.

    Global Citizenship Union (GCU) and the Association of World Citizens (AWC) have jointly called upon the authorities of Myanmar, China, and Bangladesh to deal in a just and cooperative way with the recent flow of refugees to China and Bangladesh from Myanmar frontier areas.  Only regional cooperation will allow the refugees to be cared for in a humanitarian way and to facilitate their safe return to Myanmar.

    GCU and AWC have also called upon the authorities of Myanmar, in their transition process to a rule of law, to re-consider constitutional provisions for better integration of national minorities with due respect for local autonomy and popular participation.

    The first constitution of Burma was written just prior to independence in 1947, largely influenced by English law and practice. It was a quasi-federal constitution with a good deal of authority given to the states where the national minority population live.  About half of the total population are considered as "national minorities". This 1947 constitution  was made largely non-operative by the insurgencies that broke out soon after independence.

    The next constitution was written in 1974, under the influence of General Ne Win and his Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP). The 1974 constitution provided for a more centralized form of government, but there were seven states to represent seven major ethnic groups: Karen, Kachin, Kayah, Shan, Chin, Min, and Arakanese. In addition, there was a "heartland" of seven districts in which the Burman were in the majority and where real power lay.

    In 1988, with a new government in power, the 1974 constitution associated with Ne Win was abolished, and there began some talk of writing a new constitution.  The new constitution was ratified in 2008. However, the representatives of the national minorities did not participate in a meaningful way in the "national convention" which wrote the constitution.  This 2008 constitution still calls for a centralized state which is basically unacceptable to the ethnic minorities. The constitution gives a leading role and a form of veto to the military. There was no public discussion of the structure and provisions of the constitution prior to its ratification.

    Thus, there is a need within Myanmar for an open discussion of the ways in which a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society can be governed justly. Without such discussion, there will continue to be tensions in the frontier areas, refugee flows, lives disrupted and lost.  There is an immediate need for regional cooperation among Asian countries to deal with the refugees. Within Myanmar, there needs to be a start to writing a new constitution that will be inclusive of all the population."
Mr. Ying-chi Ngan / Rene Wadlow
http://gcu7.webnode.com

 


 
A Time of Departure: Forces that Create Refugees and Migrants
by Rene Wadlow
 

    Current refugee-migrant flows (from Burma and Bangladesh toward Thailand and Malaysia and across the Mediterranean from Africa and the Middle East toward Europe) have highlighted the need to attack the root causes of such migration and refugee flows.  There is a need to move beyond the overly narrow definition of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees − " a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion or nationality in his home country."

Migration and refugee flows are intrinsically of the same nature, only differing in the degree and intensity of the problems that drive them from their homes.  These root causes can be summed up as being poverty with little hope of change, social tensions − some created for political reasons − and environmental degradation.  These root causes created "the uprooted" with resulting alienation and suffering.  Some are uprooted and stay within their own country − now called "the internally displaced".  When they cross State frontiers, they become migrants or refugees and thus a concern to neighboring States and the United Nations − in particular the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

    Ideally, there needs to be successful conflict resolution efforts in armed conflict zones such as Syria-Iraq and land reforms, greater emphasis on rural growth, improved access to credit for the poor, environmental protection and a pluralistic political order in Burma (Myanmar) and Bangladesh.  The same measures for ecologically-sound development and overcoming vulnerability should be taken in the African countries whose citizens join with those from the Middle East in trying to cross the Mediterranean.  Ideally also, there should be greater efforts and resources directed towards meeting the basic needs of people in their home countries.

    Yet conflict resolution takes time.  There are few signs of an end to the armed conflicts in Syria-Iraq or to the establishment of a stable and just political order in Libya.  Transition to a democratic and pluralistic government in Myanmar, granting dignity and respect to all the "national minorities" is likely to be a long process.  It is not clear that the military who have been in control since 1960 will be very helpful.  Ecologically-sound development is also slow even when governments are relatively competent.

    Faced with the problem of the arrival of refugees and migrants, neighboring countries have often hardened their responses and created growing restrictive measures. There has been a growing emphasis on the punishment of traffickers who profit from the migration flows and to an extent encourage it. In Europe, we have seen the growth of anti-migration proposals by political parties, usually parties in opposition but at times as part of governing coalition governments.  Nationalist discourses are reinvented and reasserted. We have seen the tightening of immigration controls and the deportation of "illegal entrants". Australia and Israel have followed the same practices.

    The consequences of these methods lead many refugees and migrants to live extremely grim, inhumane and uncertain lives, unable to find regular work and the children unable to go to State-run schools.

    Fortunately, there has been a response from non-governmental organizations (NGO) to the challenge of the increased number of refugees and migrants.  Often it has been a spontaneous effort of good will by persons who have met a refugee or migrant.  But such efforts by NGOs need greater support and coordination.  Action groups need to be able to act at the same time in more than one country.  Transnational action by NGOs is needed, especially as governments within the European Union meet among themselves, often to adopt common restrictive policies.  The same is true of the Southasian States in ASEAN, some of whom have met these days in Thailand to discuss how to cope with the refugee flows.  Thus we face a double task: peace, reform, development in countries from which refugees and migrants leave and a coordinated policy of help, support, and integration in the countries receiving the refugees and migrants.  These are urgent tasks − vigorous and coordinated actions by NGOs are needed.

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

Rene Wadlow, President and a representative to the United Nations, Geneva, Association of World Citizens.

 

 

 

Refugee Mass Exodus: Need for a UN-led World Conference

Rene Wadlow

September 15, 2015

 

The current flow of migrants and refugees to Europe has become front-page news. Many come from areas caught up in armed conflict: Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia. The leaders of the European Union have been divided and unsure in their responses. Local solidarity networks that offer food, shelter, and medical care are overwhelmed. Political debates over how to deal with the refugees have become heated, usually with more heat than light. The immediacy of the refugee exodus requires our attention, our compassion, and our sense of organization.

It is estimated that nearly half of the refugees come from Syria. If one adds those coming from Iraq, the percentage would be well over half. Accurate figures are difficult to establish, and it seems that criminal gangs are now selling false Syrian passports with refugees thinking that Syrians will be accepted before others. Most Syrian refugees who fled to Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan starting in 2012 believed that the war in Syria would soon be over and that they could return home. Today, the length of the war, the destruction of much of Syria's economy, and the difficulties of a negotiated settlement have led many to estimate that their exile will be long and, for some, permanent.

EU officials have been meeting to discuss how to deal with the refugees, but a common policy has so far been impossible to establish. In Europe, debate on the refugee flow has also been colored by the discussion on climate change migration-what some call "ecological refugees." This is an aspect of the climate conference COP 21, to be held in Paris in December 2015 and around which there is a good deal of preparatory activity on the part of both governments and non-governmental organizations.

Given the scale of the refugee flow and the resulting logistic aspects, most of the discussions among government officials have had a short-term focus. The European Union members of the UN Human Rights Council requested an "Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the human rights of migrants" which was held a month ago. However, the dialogue had not been "enhanced" by research or a longer-range perspective. Moreover, the scale of the crisis in Europe largely overshadowed other refugee flows such as those from Myanmar (Burma), which are also critical and may have long-range consequences

Thus, the Association of World Citizens

 

, which is in consultative status with the UN (and which the author represents at the UN), is calling for a UN-led world conference on migration and refugee issues, following earlier UN world conferences on the environment, food, housing, women, population, youth, human rights, and other world issues. The pattern of such UN-led world conferences usually follows a common pattern: encouragement of research and data collection by UN agencies, national governments, NGOs, and academic institutions; regional meetings to study the regional dimensions of the issue; a world conference of government representatives with the participation of NGO delegates in consultative status; and a parallel NGO conference with a wider range of NGOs present, especially those active at the local or national level.

The most successful UN-led world conferences have been the two that built on widespread popular activities on the issue: the 1972 Stockholm conference on the environment, which benefited from the growing ecological concerns, and the 1975 Mexico City conference on women, which came at a time of a good deal of "women's lib" activity.

There is not the same NGO network on migration issues as there was on the environment and on women, but there is strong media attention and a realization that migration issues are here to stay.

So far, discussions on migration and refugees within the UN system have not attracted the "high profile" needed to provoke real government action. The UN sponsored World Refugee Year, June 1959-June 1960, but the Year was mostly devoted to clearing up the refugees left over from World War II who had not been adequately resettled. During the Year, some governments printed postal stamps to build awareness and to raise some money for refugee resettlement. But World Refugee Year left little lasting impact.

Within the human rights bodies of the UN, an International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families was drawn up, but ratifications have been slow, with a good number of governments making reservations that generally weaken the impact of the Convention. In 2004, a commission of independent experts was set up to study the reports of governments on the application of the Convention-a commission that is known as the Human Rights Treaty Body System. Reports from each government are to be filed once every four years. However, the discussions within the Treaty Body and its subsequent report attract the attention of only a small number of people. Moreover, the discussion deals with the report of only one government at a time while migration is always a multi-state regional issue and can have worldwide implications.

Thus, only a UN-led world conference with adequate research and prior broad discussion can meet the challenges of worldwide migration and continuing refugee flows. This year's UN General Assembly and its special summit to set the 2015-2030 Sustainable Development Goals and marking the 70th anniversary of the UN Charter would be a most appropriate time to pass a resolution to organize such a UN-led world conference.

Rene Wadlow, President and a Representative to the United Nations, Geneva, of the Association of World Citizens

 

 

One of the important functions of an NGO is to call attention to groups of refugees who belong to a community that is little known. When a group of refugees is part of a wider community which can speak for them, such as the Christians of the Middle East or the Muslims from Burma, attention can be relatively easily focused. When refugees are part of communities which are relatively unknown and do not exist outside the conflict zone, it is much more difficult to interest the wider public. Thus this account of the efforts of the Association of World Citizens to draw UN attention to the Yazidis and the Mandaeans.

 

 

Iraq: Yazidis Genocide?

 

Rene Wadlow*

 

A mix of US humanitarian air drops of food and water to the stranded displaced people on Mount Sinjar as well as US military air strikes against some of the positions of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has focused international attention on the area.

 

I will not deal here with the broader issues of the impact of the ISIS on the possible geographic fragmentation and re-structuring of Iraq and Syria.

 

As an NGO representative to the United Nations, Geneva, and active on human rights issues, I had already raised the issues of two major religious minorities in Iraq at the UN Commissioin on Human Rights: the Yazidis and the Mandaeans. Here I ask if their fate can be identified as genocide under the 1948 Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. My concern with the Yazidi (also written as Yezidi) dates from the early 1990s and the creation of the Kurdish Autonomous Region. Many of the Yazidis are ethnic Kurds, and the government of Saddam Hussein was opposed to them not so much for their religious beliefs but rather that some Yazidis played important roles in the Kurdish community seen as largely opposed to the government. The Yazidis also had some old ownership claims on land on which oil reserves are found in northern Iraq.

 

My concern with the Mandaeans (also written as Sabean-Mandeans) came in the early 2000s after the US invasion when the Mandaeans were persecuted as being supporters of Saddam Hussein and most fled to Syria. A word about the faiths of the two groups which helps to explain their special status. Although both are called “sects” and are closed religious communities which one can only enter by birth, they are faiths even if the number of the faithful is small.

 

The Mandaeans are a religious group formed in the first centuries of the Common Era in what is now Israel-Palestine-Jordan. Over time, they migrated to southern Iraq in the area of Basra as well as to what is now the Islamic Republic of Iran. One of their distinctive signs is the frequent purification by running water −baptism. They honor John the Baptist, described in the Christian Gospel of Luke, but are probably not direct descendents of his followers. At the time of John and Jesus, there were a good number of movements which had purification by water as one of their rituals. The Mandaean scripture The Book of John is probably a third-century collection. The Book of John was used in Mandaean rituals and services but was never published to be read by others. Given intellectual and historic interest in the Mandaeans, the Mandaean leadership authorized the publication of their scriptures. As a sign of respect, the first printed copy was given to Saddam Hussein as President of the country. In the confused situation after the US occupation of Iraq, the book presentation was enough to have some accuse the Mandaeans of being Saddam Hussein supporters. Under increasing pressure, the vast majority of Mandaeans left Iraq for Syria (the frying pan into the fire image). Now they are caught in the Syrian civil war, unable or unwilling to return to Iraq. A small number of Mandaeans have been granted refugee status in the US and Western Europe.

 

There has been some intellectual mutual interplay among the Mandaeans and the Yazidis, but they are separate faiths and located in different parts of Iraq. The structure of the Yazidi worldview is Zoroastrian, a faith born in Persia proclaiming that two great cosmic forces, that of light and good, and that of darkeness and evil are in constant battle. Man is called upon to help light overcome evil.

 

However, the strict dualistic thinking of Zoroastrianism was modified by another Persian prophet, Mani of Ctesiphon in the third century CE who had to deal with a situation very close of that of ours today. Mani tried to create a synthesis of religious teachings that were increasingly coming into contact through travcl and trade: Buddhism and Hinduism from India, Jewish and Christian thought, Helenistic Gnostic philosophy from Egypt and Greece as well as many smaller, traditional and “animist” beliefs. He kept the Zoroastrian dualism as the most easily understood intellectual framework, though giving it a somewhat more Taoist (yin-yang) supleness, Mani having traveled in China. He developed the idea of the progression of the soul by individual effort through reincarnation − a main feature of Indian thought combined with the ethical insights of Gnostic and Christian thought. Unfortunately, only the dualistic Zoroastrian framework is still attached to Mani's name − Manichaeism. This is somewhat ironic as it was the Zoroastrian Magi who had him put to death as a dangerous rival.

 

Within the Mani-Zoroastrian framework, the Yazidi added the presence of angels who are to help man in his constant battle for light and good, in particular Melek Tawis, the peacock angel. Although there are angels in Islam, angels that one does not know could well be deamons, and so the Yazidis are regularly accused of being “deamon worshipers” (2).

 

With the smaller Mandaean faith, originally some 60,000 people, now virtually destroyed in Iraq and unable to function effectively in Syria, the idea of ridding a country of the near totality of a faith is not for the ISIS an “impossible dream”. There are probably some 500,000 Yazidis in Iraq. Iraq demographic statistics are not fully reliable, and Yazidi leaders may give larger estimates by counting Kurds who had been Yazidis but had been converted to Islam. There had been some 200,000 Yazidis among the Kurds of Turkey but now nearly all have migrated to Western Europe, Australia and Canada.

 

Already in these last days, some 150,000 Yazidis have been uprooted and have fled to Iraqi Kurdistan. Thus most Yazidis could be pushed into an ever-smaller Kurdish-controlled zone of Iraq and Syria. The rest could be converted to Islam or killed. The government of the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq has done little (if anything) to help the socio-economic development of the Yazidis, probably fearing competition for the Kurdish families now in control ot the autonomous Kurdish government and society. Now the Kurdistan government and civil society groups are stretched well beyond capacity with displaced persons from Iraq and Syria.

 

If one is to take seriously the statements of the ISIS leadership, genocide − the destruction in whole or in part of a group− is a stated aim. The killing of the Yazidis is a policy and not “collateral damage” from fighting. The 1948 Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide allows any State party to the Convention to “call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide.” Thus far no State has done so by making a formal proposal to invoque the Convention.

 

With the incomplete evidence at hand, I would maintain that the ISIS policy is genocide and not just a control of territory. Although the UN “track record” of dealing with genocide is very mixed, the first immediate step is for a State to raise the issue within the UN in order to set a legal approach in motion. (3)

 

Notes

  1. A Yazidi website has been set up by Iraqis living in Lincoln, Nebraska. The website is uneven but of interest as a self presentation: www.yeziditruth.org

     
  2. See the very complete study: William A. Schabas Genocide in International Law

(Cambridge University Press, 2000)

 

*Rene Wadlow, President and a representative to the UN, Geneva, of the Association of World Citizens

 

 

Political analysis on the eve of the creation of the State of South Sudan. The Association of World Citizens had been asked by the Government of Sudan to send observers to the referendum which led to the creation of South Sudan. Thus we were well informed of the weaknesses of the South Sudan State, but the disintegration of the State, the intensity of the tribe-based conflicts took place more quickly than I expected. Currently in South Sudan, there are large numbers of displaced persons and a relatively large refugee flow to neighboring countries.

 

 

 

Will the UN be a Fairy Godmother for the Birth of South Sudan ?

Rene Wadlow*

 

On 9 July 2011, South Sudan became an independent State, six months after the 8 January referendum in which the south Sudan population voted overwhelmingly for independence. However, Sudan is not really structured to be divided in two. There are no natural dividing lines, neither physical nor social. During much of the English colonial period, southern Sudan was administered from Uganda as road communications were easier than from Khartoum, the capital in the north of the country. In fact, ‘administered’ is too strong a term. South Sudan had no real crops for export or minerals to mine, and so there was very little administration. In place of any government development activities, the Colonial Office encouraged Christian missionaries, mostly Church of England and Roman Catholic to set up schools and clinics. Thus south Sudan was ‘Christianized’ in that the educated had gone to church schools and been treated in Christian clinics. However, most people continued also to practice traditional rituals as these were considered as part of tribal life and not as the rituals of a particular religion. Thus when considering Sudan, the often-used terms of ‘Muslim’, ‘Christian’, and ‘Animist’ cover a more complex reality.

 

Complexity is a term which is true for all Sudanese life — political, economic, and geographic. The failure to deal creatively with complexity has led to fighting for nearly all of its history as an independent State since 1956. On the eve of Independence, with the makeup of a new national army being the spark which set the fire, civil war broke out, basically on a North-South basis. There have been two phases to the Sudan Civil War. The first phase (1954-1972) had ended with negotiations facilitated by the All-African Conference of Churches with back up help from the World Council of Churches in Geneva.

 

The 1972-1982 decade was one of relative peace, but it was not used to heal the divisions or to work out forms of government, administration, and legal systems that would be acceptable to all segments of Sudanese society. International attention on Sudan had diminished once the 1972 peace agreement was signed. The warning signals that all was not well were ignored internationally. Thus in 1982, southern soldiers who had been integrated into the national army revolted, and the second phase of the civil war continued from 1983 until the end of 2004.

 

As a North-South peace agreement was nearly set, groups in Darfur, western Sudan, who had not been part of the North-South conflict decided that violence was the only way to get attention and to get a ‘piece of the pie’ of the natural resources, especially the oil revenue. They hoped for a short war after which they would be invited to participate in the North-South negotiations. In practice, the Darfur conflict has not been short — starting in 2003 and continuing still today, and the Darfur factions have not been invited to the North-South negotiations.

 

Darfur (the home of the Fur) was always marginal to the politics of modern Sudan. In the 19th century, Darfur, about the size of France, was an independent Sultanate loosely related to the Ottoman Empire. It was on a major trade route from West Africa to Egypt and so populations from what is now northern Nigeria, Niger, Mali and Chad joined the older ethnic groups of the area: the Fur, Masalit, Zaghawa and the Birgit. Nomads from Libya also moved south into Darfur. As the population density was low, a style of life with mutual interaction between pastoral herdsmen and settled agriculturalists with some livestock developed. Increasingly, however, there was ever-greater competition for water and forage made scarce by environmental degradation and the spread of the desert.

 

France and England left Darfur as a buffer zone between the French colonial holdings — what is now Chad — and the Anglo-Egyptian controlled Sudan. French-English rivalry in West Africa had nearly led earlier to a war — the Fashoda crisis of 1898. Thus a desert buffer was of more use than its low agricultural and livestock production would provide to either European colonial power. It was only in 1916 during the First World War when French-English colonial rivalry in Africa paled in front of the common German enemy that the English annexed Darfur to the Sudan without asking anyone in Darfur or the Sudan if such a ‘marriage’ was desirable.

 

Darfur continued its existence as an environmentally fragile area of Sudan. It was marginal in economics but largely self-sufficient. Once Sudan was granted its independence in 1956, Darfur became politically as well as economically marginal. Darfur’s people have received less education, less health care, less development assistance and fewer government posts than any other region.

 

In 2000, Darfur’s political leadership had met and wrote the Black Book which detailed the region’s systematic under-representation in national government since independence. However, at the level of the central government, the Black Book led to no steps to increase the political and economic position of Darfur. This lack of reaction convinced some in Darfur that only violent action would bring recognition and compromise as the war with the South had done.

 

An armed insurgency began in 2003 led by the more secular but tribal Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Islamist-leaning Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). Since then, there have been splits in the JEM and the SLA largely along tribal lines. These splits make negotiations with the government of Sudan all the more difficult. The interests of many people in Darfur are not represented by either the government or the insurgencies, but it is nearly impossible for other voices to be heard.

 

In Darfur, there is a joint African Union-UN peacekeeping mission (UNAMID), but there is no peace to keep. Although the peacekeeping force has a mission to protect populations, it is unable to do so. As Mohammed Otham noted in his UN report (A/HRC/14/41) “In Darfur, notwithstanding the general improvement in the security situation, banditry, criminal activities and intermittent military activities by the parties to the conflict have continued. In some areas, aerial bombardment and troop mobilization by the Sudanese Armed Forces have been reported. In the context of this ongoing violence, United Nations and humanitarian personnel face significant risks to their lives. A significant number of UNAMID and humanitarian staff were deliberately attacked; some were abducted and held in captivity for long periods.” The level of suffering in Darfur — people killed and displaced, the agricultural infrastructure destroyed — has been very high. The reconciliation and reconstruction of Darfur will be difficult. We must be on the lookout for possibilities to help.

 

The UN has had Special Representatives in Darfur responsible for facilitating negotiations, but they have made little progress. Darfur will continue as part of North Sudan and should be a priority of concern.

 

As there are no sharp natural or cultural dividing lines between North and South Sudan, there will be non-Muslim populations left in the North and Muslim populations in the South. We must hope that there will not be the massive transfer of populations as at the independence of India and Pakistan. There are possibilities of continued conflict in the northern non-Muslim areas such as the Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan provinces. There is also a mixed population on the frontier between North and South in Abyei. It is less the fact that the population is mixed than that the area is oil-rich that has attracted international attention. The UN Security Council in resolution 1990 of 29 June 2011 decided to establish the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA).

 

Thus, the United Nations is present as the Fairy Godmother at the birth of South Sudan. As in the folk tales, the Fairy Godmother has some presents for the newly born as well as certain conditions and demands. The UN brings few material goods, and peacekeeping forces have been largely unable to bring peace. However, the UN has brought the present of world attention, a willingness to help and high international standards to meet. We will have to watch closely as the new born grows.

 

* Rene Wadlow, President and a representative to the United Nations Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

 

 

Refugees are often victims of trafficking and so in looking at refugee flows, it is important also to look at patterns in trafficking of persons

 

World Citizens call for urgent action to end human trafficking — a modern-day slave trade.

 

 

The Association of World Citizens in a message to the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Mr Sha Zuhang, underlines the recent increase in the scope, intensity and sophistication of trafficking of human beings around the world that threatens the safety of citizens everywhere and hinders countries in their social, economic, and cultural development.

 

The smuggling of migrants and the trafficking of human beings for prostitution and slave labor have become two of the fastest growing worldwide problems of recent years. From Himalayan villages to Eastern European cities — especially women and girls — are attracted by the prospects of a well-paid job as a domestic servant, waitress or factory worker. Traffickers recruit victims through fake advertisements, mail-order bride catalogues, casual acquaintances, and even family members.

 

However, trafficking in human beings is not confined to the “sex industry”. Children are trafficked to work in sweatshops and men to work in the “three Ds jobs” — dirty, difficult, and dangerous. The lack of economic, political and social structures providing women with equal job opportunities has also contributed to the feminization of poverty, which in turn has given rise to the feminization of migration, as women leave their homes to look for viable economic solutions. In addition, political instability, militarism, civil unrest, internal armed conflicts and natural catastrophes increase women’s vulnerability and can contribute to the development of trafficking.

 

Trafficking impacts the lives of millions of people — those trafficked and their family members — especially from poorer countries or the poor sections of countries. Trafficking of persons has become a multi-billion dollar business and ranks right after the trade in drugs and guns. Trafficking is often an activity of organized crime. In some cases, it is the same organization which deals in drugs, guns and people. In other cases, there is a “division of labor”, but the groups are usually in contact.

 

Thus drugs, guns, illegal immigration — these form a nightmare vision of the dark side of globalization with untold human costs. Human trafficking affects women, men and children in their deepest being. It strikes at what is most precious in them: their dignity and their value as individuals. Trafficked persons experience painful and traumatizing situations which can be with them for the rest of their lives. From recruitment to exploitation, they lose their identity and desperately struggle against a situation that reduces them to objects. Thus the root causes of trafficking in human beings are multiple and interlinked and include issues as gender inequalities, poverty, low economic conditions and employment opportunities. Therefore, a multi-sector approach to tracking such root causes is crucial.

 

The Association of World Citizens stresses that the fight against human trafficking must be waged in a global and multidimensional way by the United Nations, regional intergovernmental organizations, by national governments and by non-governmental organizations so that countries of origin, transit and destination develop cooperative strategies and practical action against trade in human beings. One of the foundations of cooperation is mutual trust. When mutual trust is established, cooperation becomes a natural way to act.

 

As trafficking in people is more often tolerated by the law enforcement agencies than drugs or guns, there has been a shift of criminal organizations toward trafficking in people. 116 governments have signed a UN-promoted 2000 Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking, Especially Women and Children which entered into force in December 2003. However, trafficking in persons is often not a priority for national governments. Some countries which are important links in the trade of persons such as India, Pakistan, and Japan have not yet signed.

 

.For many governments, trafficking is considered a question of illegal migration, and there is relatively little (in some cases no) consideration of the problems of the individual being trafficked. Human concern for those caught in the web is a prime contribution of non-governmental organizations. Concern for physical and mental health is crucial. There is also an obvious need to deal with the issues which have created these pools of people from which traffickers can draw. The large number of refugees from Iraq — over two million in Jordan and Syria — await better political and economic conditions in Iraq so they can return home.

 

Thus, Rene Wadlow, President of the Association of World Citizens stressed in the message that one of the aspects of trafficking in which non-governmental organizations can play a crucial role is the psychological healing of the victims. Unfortunately, the victim’s psychological health is often ignored by governments. Victims often suffer a strong psychological shock that disrupts their psychological integrity. The result is a lack of self-esteem after having experienced such traumatizing events.

 

Within the Association of World Citizens we must not underestimate the difficulties and dangers which exist in the struggle against trafficking in persons nor the hard efforts which are needed for the psychological healing of victims. However, as World Citizens, we have the opportunity of dealing with a crucial world issue.

 

 

A realistic look at UN work on refugees

A book which gives a realistic look at the workings of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees

 

 

Alexander Casella

Breaking the Rules: Working for the UN can be fun. And it can also do some good provided one is ready to lie, fib, obfuscate and break all the rules.

(Geneva: Editions du Tricorne, 2011, 368pp.)

 

Alexander Casella has written a lively account of his years first as a journalist for the Journal de Genève covering events in Vietnam and China and then as a staff member of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees dealing largely with Indochina with short stays in other trouble spots − Beirut and Albania after the Serbia-Kossovo conflict. He has kept his journalist ability to paint word portraits of colleagues and Vietnamese and Chinese officials.

 

Thus he writes “During the twenty years that I spent in the cut-throat world of humanitarian action, from Hanoi to Beirut to Bangkok to Hong Kong, the humanitarians I encountered included more than their share of the self-righteous, the unimaginative and the careerist. And as for the philanthropic organizations they served in, while these were certainly doing some good they were also spending an inordinate amount of time stabbing each other in the back as they vied for visibility and a larger slice of the publics money. To my mind, the worst of the lot were to be found among the so-called 'advocates', those who had made it their mission to preach rather than to act. Vain, arrogant, self obsessed and with human rights violations as their daily bread they would on occasion not hesitate to fabricate fodder in the race to appear more proactive than their competitors.”

 

Casella jumps over his yeas as a student at the University of Geneva and his PhD studies at the Geneva Graduate Institute for International Studies where he might have seen some back stabbing and also his years as a journalist where all his colleagues were not necessarily imaginative and selfless. However his emphasis is on his years with the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees. (UNHCR)

 

He began with UNHCR early in 1973 at a particularly critical moment in the history of the US war in Vietnam. The High Commissioner was the atypical Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan who had a particular interest in Vietnam. He was the son of the Aga Khan, who as a delegate of India had been for a year the President of the Council of the League of Nations as well as the head of the Ismaeli branch of Shia Moslems. Thus Sadruddin grew up in a diplomatic milieu, studied at Harvard where he made US friends and contacts and had personal money which let him do things without checking with UNHCR accountants. Sadruddin also had a large château on the edge of the Lake of Geneva where he could invite people to whom he wished to speak informally. For Casella, all the following High Commissioners who came from national politics or the International Committee of the Red Cross had less 'style', fewer doors that opened at the sound of the name, and followed more closely bureaucratic rules.

 

'Breaking the Rules' gives the book its title and somewhat its theme. But, there is a difference between 'the rules' and the 'spirit of the rules'. The rules are set for an organization whose headquarters are in Geneva and where following rules in the narrow sense is part of the city's culture. Thus to give an example Casella uses, if you want to buy a ton of cement to build something in Geneva, you need to summit three estimates from three different companies to get an O.K. In Geneva, you can get three estimates in a hurry. But Casella wanted a ton of cement in Hanoi, which had to be shipped from China. There were not three companies in competition. So he bought cement from the one company available. Casella had a good local Vietnamese assistant so he did not pay too much.

 

As with much national diplomacy, UN organizations have to obfuscate while knowing the real situation. Thus in the early days when North Vietnam was not a member of the UN, the UNHCR had to deal with what was called 'the North Vietnamese Red Cross' though in practice the people were from the Foreign Ministry. So also with the 'boat people' issue of Vietnamese landing in other Asian countries. Some 'boat people' could not be granted refugee status and agreements had to be reached on their return to Vietnam with a government agreement not to prosecute for 'illegal exit'. The negotiations were difficult. Some things had to be made very clear; other things left vague. People known earlier reappear in different categories. You need a good memory.

 

A main difference between being part of a national diplomatic service and a UN agency, is that in a national service, although people have different temperaments, they share a common culture while in the UN, people come from different cultural backgrounds. Thus when Madame Ogata became High Commissioner “ however well she spoke English, she still had the mind set of a Japanese and there was no getting away from it...The stern-looking woman who received me that evening at six did not move from her desk as I was ushered into her office and did not seem particularly pleased to see me either.”

 

Another difference is the need to raise funds to carry out activities. While most of the bureaucratic functions of UNHCR are covered by a regular budget, activities on behalf of refugees in the field must be covered by special donations, usually from rich countries. Thus there is a need to 'sell' programs and not to offend the leaders of states who donate funds. There have to be as few 'waves' as possible and no reports of financial mismanagement.

 

Thus the need at times to 'whitewash' events, to make complicated situations look simpler, to have 'regional representation' of staff and yet somehow to weave the mosaic into one operational entity. Casella has written a realistic picture of UNHCR both in Geneva and Asia − a welcome addition to the small body of writings of firsthand experiences.

 

Rene Wadlow, President and a representative to the United Nations, Geneva, of the Association of World Citizens

 

 

Impact of the past on refugee flows

 

When doing political analysis of situations leading to refugee flows, it is important to take a longer view of events, to see how the current socio-economic structures were created and to look at earlier social movements. In the current armed conflict in northeast Nigeria which has led to a good number of internally displaced people within Nigeria and to refugee flows to neighbouring countries, the leaders of Boko Haram have repeatedly cited the Jihad of Usman dan Fodio in the early 1800s. Although the Jihad of dan Fodio was rather different in its causes and consequences, it is important to look at dan Fodio as he is used to give ideological justification to Boko Haram.

 

The Long Shadow of Usman dan Fodio

 

*Rene Wadlow

 

There has been growing concern with the activities of Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria and its spillover into northern Cameroon, Niger, and in the Lake Chad area. There has been a recent conference of the African Union on the issue, and military units from Chad, Cameroon and Niger are linking up with the Nigerian army to counter the growing power of the organization, and its possible links with the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq-Syria. The practices of forced marriage, the slavery of women and girls, and arbitrary killing including beheading has led many to flee the area. There is a large number of displaced people, often living in difficult situations.

 

Boko Haram is not the first militant, anti-establishment Islamic movement in northern Nigeria and northern Cameroon. In the early 1980s, an Islamic sect, the 'Yan Tatsine” unleashed an armed insurrection against the Nigerian security forces, especially in the Kano area. The revolts were led (of at least influenced by) a wandering preacher, Mohammed Marwa Maitatsine. Maitatsine was a nickname added to the family name of Marwa. The nickname originated from the Hausa word “tsini” meaning “to damn”. While preaching, he would name his enemies and their lifestyle and end with the phrase 'Allah ta tsini” (May God damn you). Thus the name “the one who damns”. Maitatsine, like Boko Haram, damned all those who enjoyed Western consumer goods: automobiles, radio, watches, and especially Western education which was the avenue to these goods. As with Boko Haram, there were ideological, economic and social aspects to the movement as well as reactions to the brutality of the Nigerian army's efforts to weaken or destroy the movement. In the case of Mohammed Marwa, his control of territory was largely limited to the city of Kano, and he was killed by Nigerian security forces relatively quickly after the start of the armed attacks of his movement. However, the socio-economic conditions which led to the rise of his movement have continued and have produced smaller and less violent currents until the creation around 2002 of Boko Haram, first as a sect closed in on itself in an isolated area of Borno State in northeast Nigeria and then for the last four years, as an armed insurgency holding an ever-larger territory − or at least creating insecurity in ever larger areas.

 

For the current leader of Boko Haram, Abubaka Shekau, as well as for others in the movement, Usman dan Fodio (also written as Usuman) and his 1804-1808 jihad is the model to be followed. Although radically different in many ways, Boko Haram is part of the long shadow of Usman dan Fodio and the creation of the Sokoto Caliphate, the largest state in West Africa in the nineteenth century.Toyin Falola describes the background to the jihad. “The background to the jihad was a crisis in the Hausa states and Islamic leaders' resort to Islam to reform society. During the eighteenth century, Hausa society witnessed conflicts between one state and another, between Muslims and non-Muslims, between rich and poor. The states were heterogeneous and highly developed with established kingships, talented Islamic scholars and jurists. Succession disputes were endemic while ambition for political domination was common. Gofir state in the northwest emerged as a dominant power, but not without costly and ruthless wars. Merchants and kings grew wealthy, and their ostentatious living displeased the poor and devout Muslims. Methods of wealth accumulation involved corruption and unjust treatment of the poor. Taxes and levies could be excessive, demand for free labor ruinous, enslavement was common and conscription for military service was indiscriminate. The practice of Islam was not always strict: many were Muslims only in name, traditional religion was synthesized with Islam in a way that displeased devout preachers and only a small minority committed itself to spreading the religion”. (1)

 

Dan Fodio (1754-1817) was a Peul (plu. Fulani) and thus a member of a minority within the largely Hausa area. However, the Fulani are found throughout West Africa. Prior to 1800, there had been a gradual influx of Fulani into northern Nigeria, a migration which had spread over several centuries and which involved people who were ethnically and linguistically distinct from the Hausa. During the earlier migratory phases, they were largely pastoral herdsmen but increasingly they settled in Hausa towns.

 

As an educated Peul, dan Fodio felt excluded from political power as did other Fulani. The jihad and the distribution of power that followed led to the Sokoto Caliphate − a sort of unified theocracy. Old Hausa dynasties were replaced by new local leaders, mainly Fulani emirs. The caliphate was headed by a sultan, based in Sokoto, while local emirates were governed by an emir. The appointment of each emir had to be ratified by the sultan. Thus was created a Fulani-Hausa political area with elements still in place today.

 

Dan Fodio, often referred to as Shehu, was an educated preacher who gathered around him students who became the core of his jihad army. Dan Fodio knew the history of Islam and wanted to recreate the Muslim community of the time of the first four Caliphs, thought of as the 'Golden Age of Islam'. He thus broke down the existing Hausa state system of some 15 separate states into a loosely organized Fulani-Hausa confederation of some 30 emirates with loyalty beyond the clan and the traditional ruler within the embrace of a common religion.

 

Two features tended to characterize the emirate system. First, there was virtually no distinction between religious and political authority. The emir possessed both. Second, politics was conducted in an essentially despotic fashion. The common man was subservient to the emir and was dependent on his benevolence. The Fulani jihad fell short of establishing the just Islamic theocracy it had purported to create. Many saw the jihad as a road to power rather than to the purity of religious practice.

 

Boko Harma has kept the use of flags and flag bearers from dan Fodio's jihad as well as the arbitrary killing and indiscriminate marauding. In Boko Harma, there seem to be few Islamic scholars in their ranks, but there do seem to be some who have been to Islamic schools. The future from today is very uncertain. It is unlikely that there is a “military answer”. Changes in socio-economic conditions are likely to take a long time. From a distance, it is difficult to see how good faith negotiations can be carried out between governments and Boko Haram. Long shadows can last for centuries, but we must keep trying to see how negotiations can be carried out and if non-governmental organizations can play an intermediary role.

 

Note

1)Toyin Falola. The History of Nigeria (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999, p.35)

 

*Rene Wadlow, President and a representative to the United Nations, Geneva, of the Association of World Citizens.

 

 

As an example of NGOs posting a “storm warning” flag at the start of a conflict is this essay on recent events in the Central African Republic. The political analysis of the weakness of the State and the real possibility of the situation getting worse was correct. The sending of UN, African Union and French troops did not prevent a refugee flow. Over one million people from the Central African Republic have fled to neighbouring countries. This is nearly the whole Muslim population of the country;

 

Troops, international or national, can sometimes restore “calm”, but they rarely deal with the fundamental causes of tensions. Other agents are needed to develop the economic and social capacity of the State and to build bridges among communities. The case of the Central African Republic highlights the failure to act early enough.

 

The UN, French Troops and a Disappearing State in Central Africa

Rene Wadlow*

 

 

 

 

On 5 December 2013, the UN Security Council unanimously authorized France to send additional troops to the Central African Republic to reinforce an African Union peacekeeping force and some 600 French troops already there in an effort to stop violence in the capital Bangui. It must be noted that the Security Council resolution was largely drafted by French diplomats at the UN who had worked steadily the days before for its adoption. However many countries were pleased that the French took the initiative as they were planning to do nothing. France had troops and air force logistics in nearby Gabon and Cameroon. Less than 24 hours after the adopting of the resolution, there were French troops on the ground in Bangui.

 

The issue of establishing security had been on the agenda of the Security Council for some weeks. In a 19 November 2013 statement to the UN Security Council, the Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, warned that communal violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) was spiralling out of control and backed the possibility of an armed UN peacekeeping force to complement the civilian UN staff, the Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA).

 

By an irony of historical timing, the Central African deployment came just as a long-planned Franco-African Summit was meeting in Paris with some 40 African Heads of State or Government present and the announcement of the death of Nelson Mandela.

 

The UN faces a double task in the CAR. There is the immediate problem of violence among tribal-based militias in the absence of a national army or central government security forces. The militias basically pit the north of the country against the south. Since the geographic division also covers a Muslim north and a Christian south, the conflict has taken on a religious coloring, but the conflict is not theological. In addition, there are other militias from the Democratic Republic of the Congo which use the CAR as a “safe haven” and live off the land by looting villages. There are also segments of the Lord’s Resistance Army, largely from the Acholi tribes of northern Uganda who also use the CAR as a safe area looting as they move about.

 

In the absence of a standing UN peacekeeping force, had France not provided additional troops, UN peacekeepers would have had to be redeployed from the eastern areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo, an area also torn apart by fighting among different militias and an incompetent Congolese national army. Although the UN forces have been in the Congo for a number of years, it is only in the last couple of months that they have had a mandate to be active in a military way and have started to make an impact on the security situation. By deploying UN troops away from the Congo, there would have been a danger that the security progress made will fade away.

 

The longer-range task of the UN, the peacebuilding effort, is to create a national administration which provides services beyond the capital city, Bangui. This is the aim of the BINUCA, but its work is largely impossible in the light of the ongoing violence. Moreover, it takes time to train a civil service and establish an education and medical system over a large but lightly-populated area of some four million people. The challenge is “State-building” which was not done during the colonial period by France.

 

 

The area covered by the current State had no pre-colonial common history, but was incorporated into French Equatorial Africa when it could have been as easily part of the Belgium Congo or added to Uganda as part of British East Africa.

 

Oubangui-Chari as it was then known was the poor cousin of French Equatorial Africa (AEF) whose administrative center was Brazzaville, Congo, with Gabon as the natural resource base. The Cameroon, although legally a League of Nations Mandate, was basically part of AEF. Oubangui-Chari was used as an “exile post” for African civil servants considered “trouble makers”. The first President of Gabon, Léon M’ba member of a French Communist Party cell in Libreville and already active in Fang political movements was sent there in exile to work as a low-ranking civil servant. French colonial administrators also considered Oubangui-Chari as a posting in exile, a place to get away from as soon as possible. Schools were few, and secondary school students were sent away to Brazzaville.

 

There was only one political figure of standing who emerged from Oubangui-Chari, Barthelemy Boganda (1910-1959). He was the first Roman Catholic priest ordained in 1938. After the Second World War, he was elected to serve in the French Parliament as a member of the Catholic-influenced MRP Party, although he was stripped of his priesthood for going into politics and also for marrying his legislative assistant.

 

Boganda advocated keeping the AEF together as a federation of independent States knowing that Oubangui-Chari was the poorest of the AEF States and most in need of help from its neighbours. Unfortunately, he was killed in a plane crash on the eve of independence, and with him disappeared all enlightened leadership.

 

However, his stature in the political life of Oubangui-Chari was such that political power passed on to two cousins, David Dacko, first President of the independent Central African Republic and then Jean-Bedel Bokasa in 1965 who changed the name of the country to Central African Empire and ruled (or misruled) as Bokasa 1er. His dreams of being a new Napoleon was ended in 1979 by a French military intervention after Bokasa had too visibly killed young school children who were protesting.

 

Since Bokasa, all pretext of a unified administration has disappeared. General Kolingba, Ange-Felix Patassé, followed by Francois Bozizé were considered “Head of State”, but the State had no visible administration. Bozizé was overthrown in March 2013 by Michel Djotodia, a former civil servant and diplomat and his Seleka (alliance in the Sango language) militia. The Alliance has now been dissolved by Djotodia but replaced by nothing. Michel Djotodia is the first Muslim to be Head of State. A floating population of jihadists came from the outside to join the Sango. In reaction a Christian self-defense militia called the “anti-balaka” was created. A balaka is a machete, considered as the symbolic arm carried by the Muslim fighters.

 

A fact-finding mission sent by the UN Human Rights Council concluded that “both the forces of the former government of President Bozizé and the non-State armed group Seleke committed serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law during the conflict”.

 

 

 

Creating order from disorder is a difficult task, especially as the pre-colonial tribal structures no longer function. There were very few inter-tribal mechanisms to settle disputes in any case. The State-building process merits close attention. Somalia remains a good example of the difficulties. The UN faces real challenges in the Central African Republic and requires help from national governments and NGOs.

 

*Rene Wadlow, President and a representative to the United Nations, Geneva, of the Association of World Citizens

 

 

Non-Governmental Organizations and Refugee Flows
                                Rene Wadlow*

    There are three crucial aspects to the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with the flows of refugees. The first is the short-term action needed to take in refugees upon arrival in a foreign country: meeting the basic needs of food, water, health, tracing lost family members.  There are humanitarian NGOs such as the Red Cross which work closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees and which  have specialized in these tasks.

    The second aspect is dealing with the longer-term conditions of refugees. Some refugees continue living, sometimes for years in camps. Here one needs social services such as regular health care, education at different levels, possible employment within the camps etc.  There are also refugees who are given the right to settle in the host country.  In such cases, there are issues of longer-term integration: learning language skills, employment, housing etc.

    The third aspect in which a different set of NGOs are usually involved is conflict resolution of the armed conflicts which had caused the refugee flow in the first place. This is a political task and requires both skills of political analysis and then the skills of mediation to be able to contact the different factions involved in the armed conflict.  It is this third aspect where the Association of World Citizens has been most active.

    One of the most dangerous current conflicts with broad geopolitical impact is the Ukraine-Russia-NATO tensions.  There are a large number of persons displaced within Ukraine and a smaller number of people who have become refugees within Russia.  There has been a military buildup of both Russian and NATO forces.
   
    Thus, there is a need for efforts to help lower tensions in this area.  One approach is for the decentralization of the political structure within Ukraine. Thus, this proposal of the Association of World Citizens for new political structures within Ukraine based of the principles of federalism:
 

 

Ukraine: A Federalist Future?

  

Can tensions in Ukraine be lowered without a federalist-constitutional restructuring of the state?

On Thursday April 17, 2014, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Ukraine's acting Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia, and the European Union Foreign Policy representative Catherine Ashton met in Geneva for a one-day exchange to lower growing international tensions over the situation in Ukraine and to take steps to limit the increasing violence within Ukraine.

The meeting came shortly after the office of the UN high commissioner for human rights warned in an April 15 report that "Misinformation, propaganda and incitement to hatred need be urgently countered in Ukraine to avoid the further escalation of tensions in the country...It is critical for the Government to prioritize respect for diversity, inclusivity and equal participation of all—including minorities—in Ukraine."

Also on the eve of the Geneva talks, in a question-and-answer session on Russian television, President Vladimir Putin

said that he had been authorized by the Parliament to use military force in eastern Ukraine if necessary but hoped that it could be avoided. The statement highlighted the possible use of Russian forces, some 40,000 of which are stationed on the Russian-Ukraine frontier. Tensions, including the shooting of some pro-Russian demonstrators around occupied government buildings in eastern Ukraine are growing. In response NATO forces have been strengthened in Eastern Europe and the Baltic States.

The diplomatic negotiations in Geneva were basically an appeal to lower tensions and to avoid a growing escalation. The Russian government has denied that the pro-Russian armed militias around government building in eastern Ukraine are under their control. This leaves open the question of under whose control are these men in military uniforms but without markings.

The negotiations stressed the "leading role" that the 100 civilian monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) should play in monitoring the human rights situation including the rights of national minorities and in reporting on the security situation and possible violent incidents.

The concluding statement of the Geneva meeting called for the disarming of "all illegal armed groups" and vacating "all illegally occupied streets, squares and other public places in Ukrainian cities and towns." Since the pro-Russian faction has said that they consider the provisional Ukraine Government as "illegal," one must not expect a fast disarmament or an end to occupation of buildings unless there are radical changes in the near future.

One possibility of lowering tensions on a longer-term basis is the start of discussions on a federal-decentralized government structure for Ukraine that would not divide the country but would foster local and regional autonomy. Both the current president of Ukraine, in an April 13 statement, and authorities of the Russian Federation have raised the possibility of new federal structures to be approved by referendum. At a press conference following the Geneva meeting, Sergey Lavrov said that the Ukrainian crisis must be resolved by the Ukrainians themselves and that they should "start a nationwide national dialogue within the framework of the constitutional process, which must be inclusive and accountable."

Efforts of both governments and non-governmental organizations must be undertaken to lessen tensions and to create opportunities for such a creative constitutional dialogue. World citizens who have a long history of reflection on federalist approaches in conflict resolution have warned against simplified concepts in the Ukraine discussion. Federalism is not a first step to the disintegration of the Ukraine. But it is not a "magic solution" either.

Government structures are closely related to the aims which people wish to achieve. The aims of the Ukrainians are multiple. The current situation in Ukraine does not lend itself to calm considerations of basic orientations or for compromises. Dialogue and open discussion is needed so that these aims are seen more clearly and then structures created to facilitate these aims. Those outside Ukraine, both governments and NGOs must facilitate discussions of aims and structures so that common interests may be found and current tensions reduced.

Rene Wadlow, President and a representatives to the United Nations, Geneva, of the Association of World Citizens

 

 

  A Time of Departure: Forces that Create Refugees and Migrants
by Rene Wadlow
 

    Current refugee-migrant flows (from Burma and Bangladesh toward Thailand and Malaysia and across the Mediterranean from Africa and the Middle East toward Europe) have highlighted the need to attack the root causes of such migration and refugee flows.  There is a need to move beyond the overly narrow definition of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees − “ a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion or nationality in his home country.”

 

Migration and refugee flows are intrinsically of the same nature, only differing in the degree and intensity of the problems that drive them from their homes.  These root causes can be summed up as being poverty with little hope of change, social tensions − some created for political reasons − and environmental degradation.  These root causes created “the uprooted” with resulting alienation and suffering.  Some are uprooted and stay within their own country − now called “the internally displaced”.  When they cross State frontiers, they become migrants or refugees and thus a concern to neighboring States and the United Nations − in particular the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

    Ideally, there needs to be successful conflict resolution efforts in armed conflict zones such as Syria-Iraq and land reforms, greater emphasis on rural growth, improved access to credit for the poor, environmental protection and a pluralistic political order in Burma (Myanmar) and Bangladesh.  The same measures for ecologically-sound development and overcoming vulnerability should be taken in the African countries whose citizens join with those from the Middle East in trying to cross the Mediterranean.  Ideally also, there should be greater efforts and resources directed towards meeting the basic needs of people in their home countries.

    Yet conflict resolution takes time.  There are few signs of an end to the armed conflicts in Syria-Iraq or to the establishment of a stable and just political order in Libya.  Transition to a democratic and pluralistic government in Myanmar, granting dignity and respect to all the “national minorities” is likely to be a long process.  It is not clear that the military who have been in control since 1960 will be very helpful.  Ecologically-sound development is also slow even when governments are relatively competent.

    Faced with the problem of the arrival of refugees and migrants, neighboring countries have often hardened their responses and created growing restrictive measures. There has been a growing emphasis on the punishment of traffickers who profit from the migration flows and to an extent encourage it. In Europe, we have seen the growth of anti-migration proposals by political parties, usually parties in opposition but at times as part of governing coalition governments.  Nationalist discourses are reinvented and reasserted. We have seen the tightening of immigration controls and the deportation of “illegal entrants”. Australia and Israel have followed the same practices.

    The consequences of these methods lead many refugees and migrants to live extremely grim, inhumane and uncertain lives, unable to find regular work and the children unable to go to State-run schools.

    Fortunately, there has been a response from non-governmental organizations (NGO) to the challenge of the increased number of refugees and migrants.  Often it has been a spontaneous effort of good will by persons who have met a refugee or migrant.  But such efforts by NGOs need greater support and coordination.  Action groups need to be able to act at the same time in more than one country.  Transnational action by NGOs is needed, especially as governments within the European Union meet among themselves, often to adopt common restrictive policies.  The same is true of the Southasian States in ASEAN, some of whom have met these days in Thailand to discuss how to cope with the refugee flows.  Thus we face a double task: peace, reform, development in countries from which refugees and migrants leave and a coordinated policy of help, support, and integration in the countries receiving the refugees and migrants.  These are urgent tasks − vigorous and coordinated actions by NGOs are needed.

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Rene Wadlow, President and a representative to the United Nations, Geneva, Association of World Citizens.