Jemmeh: Here's Your Hat. The Plane is Waiting
by Rene Wadlow
An update to the article “Gambia: The Cry of the Imburi
” by Rene Wadlow
published on the 21st January 2017.
Yanya Jemmeh, the former President of Gambia chose the wiser course of action and left Gambia on Saturday, 20 January 2017 at 9.15 PM local time with his wife Zineb and the President of Guinea, Alpha Conde who had been negotiating the departure on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). He was wearing his trademark white cap and said that only God would judge him.
Senegal troops, mandated by ECOWAS, had already crossed the frontier of Gambia, although they said that their aim was to protect the people and not to bring about political change. There was, nevertheless, a potential for violence either in opposition to the Senegalese troops or among supporters and opponents to Jammeh.
It is likely that the situation will remain relatively calm as people await the return to Gambia of Adama Barrow, who had taken the oath of office of President in the Gambian Embassy in Dakar on Friday 19n January 2017. Barrow had left Gambia fearing for his life as Jemmeh has a reputation of “disappearing” his opponents during his 22 years of rule. With Barrow's return, the real work of socio-economic development can start.
As noted in my earlier Ovi article, Gambia is a creation of colonial history
. The English came up the Gambia River first for the slave trade. After 1807 when the slave trade was banned north of the equator, there was a shift to other forms of trade. In the late 1860s the English started to set up an administration while the French were doing the same thing in what is now Senegal. Thus Gambia is bounded on both sides by Senegal and the Gambian population of about one and a half million have ethnic links with groups in Senegal.
Gambia is heavily dependent on the Senegal, and a good number of Gambians work in Senegal. As Gambia has few resources beyond a subsistence agriculture and some export of peanuts, the country has become a transit area for drugs coming from Latin America destined for Europe. Gangs involved in the drug trade have also been involved in the arms trade. Since nothing in the small country escaped the eyes of Jammeh, it is most likely that he took his cut of the drug profits and placed his money outside of Gambia.
Press reports indicate that Jammeh and his wife quickly left Guinea for Equatorial Guinea, set between Cameroon and Gabon, also ruled by long-time and brutal dictator Obiang Nguema. Jemmeh is in no danger of a trial.
In looking at the statistical tables of the UN Conference on Trade and Development's Least Developed Countries Reports, the Gambian economy has been flat since Jammeh took power – the drug and arms trade are not part of the figures. In addition the education and health sectors have been “weak” at best.
There have been since the independence of Senegal in 1960 proposals for the integration perhaps in the form of a con-federation. For lack of a political will, such a con-federation has never been created. Rather we have a week integration of the Gambian economy into that of Senegal with no corresponding government structures.
It is too early to know what the future will hold. Armed violence is most probably avoided. But we must still keep an eye open to see if the new government is able to meet the new economic challenges.
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens
On behalf of the Association of World
Citizens, I wish to send you our warm wishes to advance in our common
cause of abolishing nuclear weapons. Together, we work for the
dismantling of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.
Together we urge the creation of the necessary legal and political
commitments to assure compliance with prohibitions on the threat and use
of force. Together we work for the development of acceptable
approaches to settling international disputes by peaceful means
providing for justice and redress of grievances.
We agree together that progress along
these lines requires the development of effective norms, procedures and
institutions that can provide the needed foundation for a just world
society. We agree that such progress requires the relinquishment of
attitudes and behavior that in the past have been stumbling blocks to
Thus, now we need to examine our priorities for this critical period as
we move into the emerging world society with adequate means of settling
conflicts among States. We are on the threshold of a new era. The wave
of the future is with us as we walk under a banner of common purpose
and speak with a common voice. With a strong sense of common
responsibility for the well being of humanity, we advance together in a
spirit of Oneness.
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens
Yemen: Basic Needs Planning is Necessary for Post-War Region
Written by Rene Wadlow Published: 16 August 2016
As a result of Saudi-led bombing raids, Yemen's underdeveloped
socio-economic infrastructure has been largely destroyed. The
UN-mediated peace negotiations led by Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed of
Mauritania, who had been earlier the UN humanitarian coordinator for
Yemen, have been broken off and most probably will not meet again in the
The most probable next steps will be a division of the country
into two with several, largely autonomous areas within both. The
country's present form dates from 1990 when south Yemen (Aden) was more
or less integrated into the north, but the country remains highly
fractured along tribal, sectarian and ideological lines with the tribal
structures being the most important. In the best of worlds, one could
envisage a federal Yemen with the rule of law. More realistically, we
could hope that these largely autonomous tribal areas do not fight
against each other actively. On a short-term basis, we can hope that
there will be minimum cooperation among the factions to allow necessary
food imports and medical supplies linked to a cease-fire on Saudi air
There is a serious need first for post-war planning to be
followed by international aid for development. "Reconstruction" would be
the wrong term since there was little that had been "constructed."
Rather, we need to look to a post-war socio-economic construction
developed on a basic needs approach.
The Basic Needs Approach to Development with its emphasis on
people as central to the development process is embodied in the June
1976 World Employment Conference Declaration of Principles and Program
of action. (1) The Declaration underlines the importance of the
individual and the central role of the family and household as the basic
unit around which to work for development.
Although the Basic Needs Approach builds on the development
thinking of the United Nations and national governments of the 1950s and
1960s such as rural development, urban poverty alleviation, employment
creation through small-scale industries, the Declaration of Principles
is a major shift in development strategies with its focus on the family
with the objective of providing the opportunities for the full physical,
mental, and social development of the human personality. The Program of
Action defines a two-part approach: "First, Basic Needs includes
certain minimum requirements of a family for private consumption:
adequate food, shelter and clothing, as well as certain household
equipment and furniture. Second, Basic Needs includes essential services
provided by and for the community at large, such as safe drinking
water, sanitation, public transport, health, education and cultural
The Program added a basic element to the actions: "A Basic
Needs-oriented policy implies the participation of the people in making
the decisions which affect them through organizations of their own
The Basic Needs Approach concentrates on the nature of what is
provided rather than on income − income having often been used as the
criteria for drawing a 'poverty line.' The Basic Needs Approach is
concerned not only with the underemployed but also with the
unemployable: the aged, the sick, the disabled, orphaned children and
others. Such groups have often been neglected by the incomes and
productivity approach to poverty alleviation and employment creation.
For Yemen, which is largely structured on the basis of clan-
extended family institutions, the Basic Needs Approach is most
appropriate. In practice, there are few institutions or associations
beyond the clan level, although tribal and religious identities are
often mentioned. Tribes and religious identity are "shorthand" terms as
it is impossible to mention the multitude of clans. However, a family
welfare - meeting basic needs is the most appropriate strategy on which
to base post-war planning. Although the fighting continues sporadically
and agreement on a possible "unity government" seems far away, Basic
Needs Planning must start now.
Rene Wadlow, President and a Representative to the UN, Geneva, Association of World Citizens
1) See the Director General's Report and the Declaration in the
International Labour Office. Employment, Growth and Basic Needs: A One
World Problem (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1977, 224pp.)
Lanza Del Vasto, Nonviolence and Enduring Suspicion
by Rene Wadlow
There is today in France but also in other European countries a
persistent fear of terrorist attacks, especially attacks carried out by
Muslims or people from the wider Middle East. There have been
spectacular terrorist attacks which have led to the French government
proclaiming a « state of emergency » and increasing the visibility of
armed military and police in public places - railway stations, airports,
in front of schools etc. In some ways, the atmosphere resemblles
1957-1958 during the war in Algeria (though it was never officially
called a war). The armed struggle for the independence of Algeria began
with a series of bomb blasts in Algeria in November 1954 and went on
until there was a peace agreement and independence in 1962. During 1955
and 1956, the French government and much of the population thought that
the revolt would be relatively easily put down, but by 1957-1958, there
was a wide-spread impression that the war would drag on and that there
would be violence in France itself either between rival Algerian groups
or by Algerians against the French. General De Gaulle came to power in
late 1958, and there was a general feeling that he would « take care of
things » though there was little agreement on what he should or would
1957-1958 was a « low point » in attitudes toward the war. Suspicion was
wide-spread, and the government expanded a program of administrative
detention. Persons designated by the police or the army could be
arrested and put in detention camps without a trial and with no time
limit set. In France there were some 9000 persons, nearly all considered
« Algerians » in five camps usually located in a remote area far from
major cities, except for one relatively close to Paris. It was against
this administrative detention and the conditions in what were quickly
called « concentration camps » that Lanza Del Vasto, whose birth
anniversary we mark on 29 September, led his nonviolent actions.
Lanza Del Vasto was born in 1901 into an intellectual and
aristocratic Italian family. Much of his early education was in a
cosmopolitan milieu in France, and Lanza spoke Italian, French and
English. Later he did university studies in Florence, attracted by its
art and literary history. There, in 1927, he published his first book of
poetry, but quickly returned to France and developed a strong artistic
friendship with Luc Dietrich, at the time considered as the raising star
of French poetry, though today, largely forgotten. (1). Del Vasto
continued to publish his poems, but he tired of life in the artistic
milieu of Paris.
Del Vasto considered himself as a Roman Catholic and was drawn to the
idea of a pilgrimage - a journey of foot during which one discovers new
parts o the world but which also has a spiritual meaning. Thus in 1936
he set out for India where he traveled largely on foot. He joined
Mahatma Gandhi at Gandhi's ashram. There Del Vasto was convinced of the
spiritual and political validity of Gandhi's nonviolence. Gandhi was
also struck by the spiritual dimension of Del Vasto and hoped that Del
Vasto could play a mediation role between Jews and Arabs in Palestine as
Del Vasto was planning to return to Europe by going first to the Holy
Del Vasto returned to France in late 1938, but the clouds of war were
already gathering. In Paris, he renewed his friendship with Luc Dietrih
but spent most of his time writing his Indian experiences and the
efforts of Mahatma Gandhi which became Del Vasto's best known book Le
Pèlerinage aux sources. (2)
It is not fully clear to me why the German censorship in Paris
allowed the book to be published. They may have thought that telling
about Gandhi's struggle against British imperialism might help their
cause and did not understand the power that ideas of nonviolence would
have. In any case, the book was so much a « breath of fresh air » in a
France worn down by the war and occupation that some 200,000 copies of
the book were sold in a few weeks.
With the end of the war and the difficulties of reconstruction and
the creation of a new political order, Del Vasto was able to put into
practice the creation of an ashram, a vision that he had since his
return from India. In 1948 he married a woman he renamed « Chanterelle »
who was a musician. (Chanter in French means to sing). She put music to
some of Lanza's devotional poems. They started their ashram, a mixture
of Gandhian influence with some of the practices of a Catholic religious
order - though people in the order can marry if they so wish. The
ashram/order is called the Community of the Ark. Del Vasto had a
pessimistic view and saw violence as the underlying structure of
European society, violence that might again lead to war. Thus he saw the
future as arising from the practice of small nonviolent groups,
somewhat in the image of society being rebuilt by a few who survived the
« flood » in the Ark.
The ashram was based on the principle that everyone should share the
physical work needed to produce life's basic needs. The members of the
Ark, called « Companions » grew all their vegetables and much of their
grain, using horses and hand methods - an early example of organic
agriculture. No animals were raised for meat because the companions
rejected killing animals for food.
As in Gandhi's ashram, there was great emphasis on the spiritual life
with an aim of inner peace and the ability to carry out nonviolent
actions without developing a spirit of anger, fear or a desire of
In 1953, Lnza Del Vasto returned to India to see the workings of the
land-gift movement (Bhu-Dan or Bhoodan) led by a long-time co-worker of
Gandhi, Vinoba who wanted to end the landlessness of many Indian farm
workers by convincing land owners to give a portion of their land to the
landless - a form of nonviolent persuasion rather than nonviolent
Thus by 1957, Lnza Del Vasto had a team of 30 well-trained companions
whom he trusted to carry out nonviolent protests without fear or anger.
He also had a wide group of « Friends of the Ark » who could supply
logistic support : food, contacts with the press, with churches etc. Del
Vasto also had from his writings and earlier life in the arts and
intellectual milieu in Paris a wide circle of people he had known.
Although he was not in regular contact, he knew that he could call upon
them for support. The agreed-upon technique was for the 30 Campanions to
present themselves at the gates of the interrnment camps asking to be
arrested with the slogan « We are also suspects ». These efforts began
in June 1959 in aruralarea not far from the ashram where there was both a
military camp used for training soldiers and an administrative
detention camp. It was also near a Protestant area of France where the
population had risen in revolt in 1700-1702 in defense of religious
liberty. It is an area that usually voted to the Left and is very
sensitive to anything that looks like repression. However the
administrators of the camp refused to accept the 30 as prisoners,
arguing correctly that as administrators they ran the camp, but it was
up to authorities elsewhere to decide who would be put into it.
The next camp to which the 30 went was also in a rural area but
closer to a large city, Lyon, and so there was more media to contact.
Moreover, the demonstration was over the Easter weekend so that Friends
of the Ark were free to accompany the 30. In addition, Good Friday and Easter lend themselves to the symbolism of suffering and a new life.
This demonstration was followed by moving to Paris, the seat of
political power as well as home to a good number of Lanza's friends who
were known to the Media. Other friends were also involved in other
nonviolent movements or were opposed to the war in Algeria. The 30 stood
by a large monument in front of the Ministry of Justice which also
housed the office of the head of the Paris police. The 30 set out a
large banner saying « Put us under administrative detention ; we are
also suspects. » This time there was a good deal of media attention, so
much so that it was decided to call off future demonstration as all the
media attention became focused on the nonviolent 30 and not on the
Algerians who were interned in the camps.
The follow up strategy was for the Companions to go live in tents in
the large shanty town near Paris where many of the Algerians in the
detention camps had lived before being interned. In the shanty town,
when there were police raids, the Companions would ask the police to
arrest them as well as « We are all suspects » (4)
The demonstrations in Paris took place in 1960 when the war in
Algeria was winding down. Difficult peace negotiations linked to
referendums to vote on the future status of Algeria were taking place.
Terrorism shifted to the OAS - Organization of the Secret Army -
Right-wing Frenchmen who wanted to keep Algeria French . The internment
camps were largely empty by the time the war came to a formal end in
However, today, the idea of some form of internment or « house arrest
» is again being discussed. Several thousand people are listed by the
police and security forces with the letter « s » for suspect. It is not
clear who would lead nonviolent protests today, but perhaps respect for
the rule of law has grown stronger since 1960 and administrative
internment would no longer be possible.
1) For a lively account of the collaboration of Luc Dietrich, Lanza
Del Vasto and others, some of whom were in the circle of the
Russian-exile philosopher Gurdjieff see Michel Randon Les puissances du
dedans (Paris, Denoel, 1968)
2) Lanza Del Vasto ; Le Pèlerinage aux sources (Paris, Denoel, 1944)
3) Lanza Del Vasto. Vinoba ou le nouveau pèlerinage (Paris, Denoel, 1954)
4) For an account of these efforts, see Lanza Del Vasto. Techniques e la Non-Violence (Paris, Denoel, 1971)
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens
Gandhi and the Middle East
(London: I. B. Tauris, 2008, 193pp.)
The difficulties of establishing
non-governmental mediation in a conflict is well illustrated in this
study of the effort to have Mahatma Gandhi play a bridge-building role
in the Jewish-Arab conflict of 1937 in Palestine. Mahatma Gandhi was a
man of dialogue and compromise. A British-trained lawyer, he always knew
the limits of the law and knew when not to push too far even in his satyagraha - non-violent campaigns.
On Gandhi's return to India in 1915 from his
years as a lawyer and civil rights advocate in South Africa (1906-1914)
he tried to improve Hindu-Muslim relations as a necessary first step
toward a united policy vis à vis the
British. His first effort was to become involved in an effort to
preserve the Caliph after the break up of the Ottoman Empire. The new,
largely secular, Turkish government was glad to get rid of the
institution of the Caliph (spelt Khilafat
in India), but the movement for the preservation of the institution had
taken hold among Muslims in India who had never been under the
functioning of the Caliph. The agitation in India, however, was a time
to show Hindu support of the Indian Muslims. As Gandhi wrote "We, both
Hindus and Muslims, have now an opportunity of a lifetime. The Khilafat
question will not recur for another 100 years."
However, the Khilafat movement embraced a cause
which was already lost, but the Khilafat movement reached out for the
first time to the Muslim clergy in India - a group of people who had
been largely absent from the political scene. The mullahs brought into
the movement a large number of people that saw issues in the crudest
religious terms. Once in politics, it was impossible to get them out.
Thus Gandhi began meetings with Muslim leaders, in particular Mohammed Ali Jinnah, later considered the father of Pakistan.
Gandhi believed that the major political movement of India - the Indian
National Congress - should be a movement for all Indians, especially
Hindus and Muslims. He feared that a separate Muslim organization would
increase communal tensions and weaken the Indian position in its
struggle with England. Thus he worked to have Muslims in highly visible
positions in the Congress leadership and avoided taking positions that
would offend Muslims. This policy of sensitivity to Muslim demands did
not prevent the creation of the Muslim League under the leadership of
Jinnah, but it presented difficulties of trying to be seen as
even-handed between Jews and Arabs when a possibility of mediation
The Zionist movement which had been working for the
creation of a Jewish state in Palestine encouraged the migration of
Jews from Europe, especially after the First World War when Palestine,
which had been a part of the Ottoman Empire, was placed under a League
of Nations mandate with British rule. Immigration was low during the
1920s when most European Jews were re-establishing their lives after the
First World War. However with the start of the 1929 Depression,
immigration started to increase, some 9,500 people in 1931, to 30,000 in
1933, and 62,000 in 1935.
The Jewish Agency with the Jewish National
Fund helped the new settlers to start farms and businesses. By 1936, the
Palestinian Arabs became aware of the trend. They put aside their
clanic disputes and created the Higher Arab Committee which demanded a
stop to Jewish immigration, the prohibition of land purchase by Jews and
speedy political independence before the Jews had a chance to become a
majority. When none of these demands were put into practice, in October
of 1936, the Higher Arab Committee called for a strike which turned
violent. The loss of life was high for the period: 80 Jews, 140 Arabs,
and 33 British. Armed groups were forming, the Irgun among
the Jews and different militias among the Arabs. British control was
slipping away, and attention in England focused on the economic
depression and the growing power of dictators in Germany and Italy.
Colonial territories were of ever less interest.
Some people that that perhaps Gandhi who
symbolized a spiritual conscience might be able to be a bridge- builder
in Palestine. The efforts to get him as a mediator and his inability to
create a mediation framework is the theme of this useful book by Simone
Panter-Brick who has already written a broad study of Gandhi's thought Gandhi Against Machiavellism: Non-violence in Politics.
The approach to Gandhi was made by the
Zionist movement without consultation with the Arabs to see if Gandhi
were a valid mediator for them. Probably, the Zionist leaders were
looking for a sign of support, a public endorsement of the Jewish case,
rather than a mediator or bridge-builder. However, the Zionist leaders,
with separate headquarters in London and Palestine, underestimated
Gandhi's need to keep Muslim support for his efforts in India.
The Jewish link to Gandhi was through Hermann
Kallenbach, a German architect, who had emigrated to South Africa and
became a close supporter of Gandhi's work in South Africa. It was
Kallenbach who bought Tolstoy Farm which was Gandhi's ashram in South
Africa. It was also Kallenbach, a man with organizational talent, who
played a large role in organizing Gandhi's satyagraha campaigns,
especially the 1913 illegal crossing from Natal to the Transval by over
two thousand Indian 'coolies' as they were then known in South Africa.
Both Gandhi and Kallenbach were sentenced to several months'
imprisonment and jailed.
Later during the First World War, as a German
alien, Kallenbach was jailed for three years and grew closer to the
Zionist movement though continued living in South Africa and prospered
as a leading architect and builder. Kallenbach presented Gandhi with
information on the situation in Palestine and on the need for
bridge-builders. In 1937, Kallenbach spent a month in the ashram of
Gandhi, joined there by Nehru. As Panter-Brick points out "Not only was
Gandhi by now fully briefed on the Zionist cause, he also saw himself as
a mediator. It was a role he had already assumed in the politics of his
own country: he had so informed The Times on the 14th
of April 1937: 'My function is that of a mediator between Congress and
the Government.' He was ready to act likewise in Palestine."
However, Gandhi had no organization to which to
turn, and mediation cannot be carried out alone. In 1937, the Indian
leadership of Congress was busy preparing to exercise power at the
provincial level having won the February 1937 elections for provincial
assemblies under the Government of India Act of 1935. The Act was short
of total independence desired by Congress, but it gave full
responsibility for government at the provincial level to elected
provincial assemblies. Thus Gandhi had to turn to his non-Indian
supporters. He asked Lanza del Vasto who had been staying at the ashram
and who planned to go to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage "You will give me a
first hand account of the conflict between Jews and Muslims. That
conflict is breaking my heart. You will tell me what you think."
Unfortunately, Lanza del Vasto only arrived in Palestine at the end of
1938, by which time a Gandhian mediation effort was no longer possible.
Drawing on a biography of Kallenbach, Panter-Brick
writes that Gandhi was to start a mediation process from India with
Kallenbach as mediator. Kallenbach was supposed to be assisted by the
Anglican priest Charles Freer Andrews whose intended visit to Palestine
was financially supported by Kallenbach. Andrews and Kallenbach, who
knew each other from having met in South Africa, were thus chosen to act
as mediators. Andrews was an ideal choice, neither Muslim nor Jew,
extremely well connected and in possession of all the necessary
diplomatic skills. The only other person to whom Gandhi could turn for
help was Mirabehn - Madeleine Slade - with her devotion to non-violence.
Finally, none was able to act.
However, in all the planning efforts, there was no
input from the Arab side. As Panter-Brick points out "The Jewish Agency
would speak for the Jews. The Arab spokesmen had still to be named. The
participation of the extremists from the Higher Arab Committee, who had
led the 1936 strike and who had the wind in their sails, was being left
in abeyance. It was left to non-violence to find a way around all the
obstacles, the necessary preliminary to any final settlement."
Gandhi had hoped that he would be able to draw on
Muslim India to have influence with the Palestinian Arabs. "Andrews and
Gandhi shared the same vision of the settlement talks: the problem was
to be solved from India - and could best be solved from India, on
account of its pro-Arab stance, its many million Muslims and its
impeccable record in the defence of the Caliphate when Palestinian
Muslims laid low."
However, by 1937, the rift between Congress and the
Muslim League was too great for any common Indian influence on
Palestine. It is also not clear to what extent Palestinian Arabs
identified themselves with Indian Muslims. While Pan-Arab influences
have been strong in the Middle East, there has been much less
There are three lessons for mediators which can be drawn from this useful study:
There needs to be a team of people ready to
undertake an effort. Although Gandhi was an outstanding personality, he
always had a wide range of Indian social and political issues on which
he was working. He had few back up people for this work. Only the
Europeans among his co-workers could work in a non-Indian setting.
People like Jawaharlal Nehru who played mediation roles
post-Independence were taken with Indian issues in the late 1930s.
There is a need to be able to act when a situation
is ripe - months later can be too late, and opportunity rarely knocks
twice as Panter-Brick describes well in a chapter named after a poem by
Lamartine "O Time, suspend your flight, and you, propitious hours,
suspend your course."
All parties must be involved early, their views
taken into consideration. The possible Middle East mediation effort
neglected two key parties: the Arabs and the British. Gandhi thought
that the British had no legitimate claim to be a party to Jewish-Arab
negotiations and that they should leave Palestine as they should leave
India. However, Britain was legally in Palestine as part of a League of
Nations mandate - even if the division of the Ottoman holdings in the
Middle East between France and England had been decided by the
Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, prior to the creation of the League. The
British had no intent of leaving in 1937 and in fact, the Royal, Peel
Commission proposed in July 1937 a partition plan dividing Palestine
into a Jewish and an Arab state with a neutral corridor from the port of
Jaffa to Jerusalem. The British proposal, accepted by Zionist
authorities and rejected by the Arabs, would have been the start of any
real negotiations. After 1937, the Second World War, its aftermath, the
Independence of India and the creation of the state of Israel made
mediation by Indians an impossibility. Thus Simone Panter-Brick's book
is basically a "what if" story of unrealized efforts and a lesson for
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens
POISON SMOKE OVER MOSUL
By Rene Wadlow
It is not clear that the retreating Islamic State (ISIS) troops
from Qayyarah, a town just a few miles south of Mosul had time to read
the fine print of the 1977 Environmental Modification Convention (ENMOD)
or the Protocol of the 1977 Geneva Convention which prohibits the use
of methods intended "to cause widespread, long-term, and severe damage
to the natural environment." It would seem that ISIS officials did not
read other humanitarian law or arms control treaties very closely
either. This may come from the fact that ISIS never took their title
of the Islamic State seriously and never felt bound by the world law
which applies to a recognized State.
I do not know what consideration of international norms
concerning the environment, such as the Earth Charter, might have come
up in discussions among ISIS officials prior to setting fire to oil
wells and more dangerously to the Meshraq sulfur plant. What seems
evident from first-hand reports is that oil wells are burning, producing
black smoke in the Mosul area. The oil smoke is mixed with the sulfur
smoke from the burning plant which has led to over a 1000 people being
hospitalized after inhaling gas. The dangerous forces released by
chemical facilities have predominately short-term effects, although
delayed or long-term efforts are also possible.
The wide use of poison gas during World War I and its lasting
impact on soldiers had led to the 1925 Geneva Protocol on Chemical and
Bacteriological Warfare. In 1975, for its 50th anniversary I had led
an effort to have States which had not signed or ratified the 1925
Protocol to do so. France, which was the depository State for the 1925
Geneva Protocol had stated that its former colonies, now become
independent States, were not covered by the French signature of the 1925
Protocol, although African States were covered in many other cases by
the French ratification of other treaties. Our efforts led to the
ratification by a number of African States of the Protocol.
The treaty most directly applicable to the setting on fire of
the Meshraq sulfur plant is the ENMOD treaty. The treaty was negotiated
largely as an agreement between the USA and the USSR but within the
framework of the United Nations Conference of the Committee on
Disarmament (CCD) as a result of efforts to modify the natural
environment during the US-led segment of the wars in Vietnam. The US
military had largely used defoliants, such as Agent Orange to destroy
forests. (1) In addition, there had been discussions among the US
military of other environment-modification techniques, some of which
seem to have come from a science-fiction imagination. Already in 1972,
there were hearings in the US Senate under the leadership of Senator
Claiborne Pell, a well-respected Senator, on environment modification
techniques and their use in Vietnam.
By 1975, the US aspect of the Vietnam conflict was over, and as
a reaction, there could be a discussion within the UN of the dangers of
environmental modification as a technique of war. The ENMOD treaty is
weak in many respects and has never been invoked. However ENMOD has two
merits. The first is that it exists and thus can be brought up as an
element in the protection of the population of Mosul. The second
positive element is the possibility to invoke "appropriate international
The formula "appropriate international procedures" made its
first appearance in the diplomacy of disarmament during the negotiations
of the Sea-bed Treaty which came into force in May 1972. During the
ENMOD negotiations in the CCD, the Representative of the Netherlands,
Ambassador van der Klaauiv put forward the possibility of the creation
of a treaty-observation committee which could be called upon to deal
with complaints. This proposal was largely integrated into Article V of
the ENMOD though the complaint procedures have never been invoked. No
permanent machinery has been created to deal with the ENMOD issues
though there have been discussions if the UN Environment Programme
(UNEP) should have a mandate to work on the ecological dimension of
armed conflicts. Both Iraq and Syria have signed but not ratified the
ENMOD Convention. The position of the Association of World Citizens is
that all legal norms and principles such as those of the ENMOD are part
of world law binding not only upon States but also upon armed militias
Thus, we call for action from the UN Secretary-General to
invoke the ENMOD Convention and its violation by ISIS. It is certain
that the battle around Mosul is complicated and raises many humanitarian
as well as geopolitical concerns. However the destruction of the
environment as a tool of war needs strong opposition. The United Nations
as depository power has a duty to act.
Rene Wadlow is the President of the Association of World
Citizens, an international peace organization with consultative status
with ECOSOC, the United Nations organ facilitating international
cooperation on and problem-solving in economic and social issues.
Continuing Genocidal Dangers of the Darfur Conflicts
9 December is the anniversary of the 1948
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
The Genocide Convention is a landmark in the effort to develop a system
of universally accepted standards which promote an equitable world order
for all members of the human family to live together in dignity.
Genocide is among the charges brought against Omar
Hassan al-Bashir, the current Sudanese President by the International
Criminal Court. There are 210 charges of war crimes, crimes against
humanity and genocide - charges that include acts of murder,
extermination, forcible transfer, torture, rape, attacks on civilians
and pillaging of towns and villages. However, al-Bashir continues to
serve as President, and his accord will be necessary if there are ever
negotiations in good faith to end the armed conflict in Darfur.
Although the Darfur conflict has faded from
the headlines, it continues, producing many refugees,
internally-displaced persons, unused farmland, and political unrest. The
joint African Union-United Nations force has not been able to produce
peace. Peacekeeping forces need a peace to keep, and during the past 12
years there have been lulls in fighting, but no peace to keep. The
criteria for mass killing to become genocide does not depend on the
number of persons killed or the percentage of a group destroyed but on
the possibility of the destruction of the identity of a group. Many
African tribes, such as some in Darfur, are in real danger of
destruction. In societies without writing, the identity of a people -
their history, culture, and legal traditions are transmitted by the
elders and by members of groups entered into by initiation rituals. As
these people are often elderly, they are among the first victims of a
conflict. Thus, the identity of a group can be destroyed even if few of
the gneral population were killed.
The Darfur conflict of western Sudan is a textbook
example of how programmed escalation of violence can go out of control.
Neither the insurgencies nor the government-backed forces have been able
to carry out good faith negotiations or deal with the fundamental issue
of how to get cattle farmers and settled agriculturalists to live
together in a relatively cooperative way.
Darfur (the home of the Fur) was always marginal to
the politics of modern Sudan and to the two phases of the North-South
civil war which took place from 1954-1972 and from 1982-2005, ultimately
leading to the creation of a separate State, South Sudan. Darfur, about
the size of France, had been 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,
the 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, and so 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 paled in front of the
common German enemy that the English annexed Darfur to the Sudan without
asking anyone in Darfur or Sudan if such a 'marriage' was desirable.
Thus Darfur continued its existence as an
environmentally fragile area of Sudan. It was marginal in economics but
was 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 healthcare, less
development assistance, and fewer government posts than any other
region. Southerners were given government and administrative posts in
the hope of diminishing the violent North-South divide. There was no
such incentive to 'share the wealth' with Darfur. Its political weight
was even lessened when Darfur in a 1995 'administrative reform' was
divided into three provinces: Northern Darfur, Western Darfur, and
Southern Darfur. Some areas that were historically part of Darfur were
added to Nothern and Western Bahr El-Ghazal. The division of Darfur did
not lead to better local government or to additional services from the
central government. It must be added that Darfur's political leadership
had a special skill in supporting national political leaders just as the
national leaders were about to lose power - first Al Sadig al Mahdi and
then Hassan al-Turabi.
In 2000, Darfur's political leadership had met to draw up a Black Book which detailed the region's systematic under-representation in national government since independence. The Black Book marked
the start of a rapprochement between the Islamist and the more secular
radicals of Darfur which took form three years later with the rise of
the more secular Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Islamist-leaning
Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). 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 North-South civil war had
The two Darfur groups, SLA and JEM, started to
structure themselves, gather weapons and men. The idea was to strike in a
spectacular way which would lead the government to take notice and to
start power and wealth-sharing negotiations. Not having read the "Little
Red Book" of Mao, they did not envisage a long drawn out conflict of
the countryside against the towns of Darfur.
By February 2003, the two groups were prepared to
act, and in one night attacked and destroyed many of Sudan's military
planes based at El Fasher. The Sudan military lost in one night more
planes than it had in 20 years of war against the South.
However, the central government's 'security elite' -
battle hardened from its fight against the South starting in 1982, and
knowing that the regular army was over-extended and tired of fighting-
decided to use against the Darfur insurgents techniques which had been
used with some success against the South: to arm and to give free reign
to militias and other irregular forces. Thus the government armed and
directed existing armed groups in Darfur - popular defense forces and
existing tribal militias. The government also started putting together a
fluid and shadowy group, now called the Janjaweed ("the evildoers on
horseback"). To the extent that the make up of the Janjaweed is known,
it seems to be a collection of bandits, of Chadians who had used Darfur
as a safe haven for the long-lasting insurgencies in Chad, some from
Libya's Islamic Forces which had once been under the control of the
Libyan government but left wandering when Libyan policy changed.
The Sudanese central government gave these groups
guns, uniforms, equipment and indications where to attack but no regular
pay. Thus these militias had to pay themselves by looting homes, crops,
livestock, by taking slaves and raping women and girls. Village after
village was destroyed on the pretext that some in the village supported
either the SLA or the JEM; crops were burned, water wells filled with
sand. As many people as possible fled to Chad or to areas thought safer
Darfur represents a classic case of how violence
gets out of control and goes beyond the aims for which it was first
used. For the moment, it is difficult to see how violence can be
reduced. There have been some negotiations held outside Sudan, but
possible approaches have not been put into practice. There have been
splits within both the SLA and the JEM, mostly on tribal lines, making
negotiations all the more difficult. Elections were held in Sudan in
April 2010, but the new Parliament has provided no new leadership in
general and done nothing of value on Darfur issues.
The conflict and fighting grind on. On behalf of
the Association of World Citizens, I have proposed within the United
Nations that post-conflict planning be started now. However, the "post"
aspect seems so unlikely that little specific planning has been done.
The creation of a separate South Sudan state, continuing tensions
between North and South Sudan, and ethnic conflicts within South Sudan
have captured most international energy. There needs to be renewed
efforts for negotiations in good faith in Darfur and planning to create
ecologically-sound agricultural development of the area.
*Rene Wadlow, President and a Representative to the United Nations Geneva, Association of World Citizens
Palmyra: Renewed Dangers
By one o the ironies of military strategy, the Syrian government
forces and their Russian allies concentrated on the current battle for
Aleppo, leaving the historic city of Palmyra largely unguarded. The
Islamic State (ISIS or Daesh in Arabic) had held Palmyra, called "the
Venice of the Sands" for some10 months, starting in May 2015 until they
were forced to leave by Syrian government forces and allies in April
2016. In May 2016, Russia had celebrated the flight of ISIS with a short
concert of Prokofiev's music played by musicians from the Marinskiy
Theatre in the Roman-era outdoor theater and a video talk by President
Now ISIS forces are back in control and both the people and the
monuments of Palmyra are in real danger. When in control of Palmyra, on
23 August 2015, the temples of Baalshamien - Lord of the Heavens - and
Bel - a goddess often associated with the moon, had been largely
destroyed by ISIS. This iconoclastic approach to pre-Islamic faiths and
their material culture is the same which had led to the destruction of
the large Buddha statues in Afghanistan - monuments that attested to the
rich culture along the Silk Road. The destruction of the Palmyra
temples was also to show the impotence of the international community to
stop ISIS. Smaller artifacts were destroyed or sold off in what has
become a massive trade of looted art works.
ISIS had again taken control of Palmyra with a combination of
"sleeper cells" - persons loyal to ISIS who stayed on waiting for orders
to attack and from ISIS fighters who have been dislodged from other
cities. There is a real danger that ISIS leaders will push for revenge
killings of people and will destroy more art works with a "burned earth"
mentality. It is difficult to know who or what can serve as moderating
influences on ISIS to respect humanitarian law concerning people and
respect for the common heritage of humanity concerning works of art.
Syria and Iraq are home to some of the world's first cities, a
complex and unique meeting of states, empires and faiths. The protection
of works of art and cultural heritage is an aspect of world law in
which UNESCO is playing a leading role. There is also a need to build an
awareness and then action on the part of non-governmental
organizations, especially those in consultative status with the United
Nations. One of the difficulties with appeals to the "international
community" is that the international community has no street address and
so appeals are rarely delivered. Too often, governments and people
react after events rather than affirming positions from a deeper level
of awareness and a legal basis in world law. Today, there is a need for a
world-wide demand for the protection of the cultural heritage of
The protection of cultural heritage owes much
to the vision and energy of the Russian artist Nicholas Roerich
(1874-1947). Roerich's desire to make known the artistic achievements of
the past through archeology, coupled with the need to preserve the
landmarks of the past from destruction, led to his work for the Banner
of Peace to preserve art and architecture in time of war. Roerich had
seen the destruction brought by the First World War and the civil war
which followed the 1917 Russian Revolution. He worked with French
international lawyers to draft a treaty by which museums, churches and
buildings of value would be preserved in time of war through the use of a
symbol − three red circles representing past, present and future - a
practice inspired by the red cross to protect medical personnel in times
Roerich mobilized artists and intellectuals
in the 1920s for the establishment of this Banner of Peace. Henry A.
Wallace, the US secretary of Agriculture and later Vice-President of the
United States, was an admirer of Roerich and helped to have an official
treaty introducing the Banner of Peace − the Roerich Peace Pact −
signed at the White House on 15 April 1935 by 21 States in a
Pan-American Union ceremony. At the signing, Henry Wallace on behalf of
the USA said "at
no time has such an ideal been more needed. It is high time for the
idealists who make the reality of tomorrow, to rally around such a
symbol of international cultural unity. It is time that we appeal to
that appreciation of beauty, science, education which runs across all
national boundaries to strengthen all that we hold dear in our
particular governments and customs. Its acceptance signifies the
approach of a time when those who truly love their own nation will
appreciate in addition the unique contribution of other nations and also
do reverence to that common spiritual enterprise which draws together
in one fellowship all artists, scientists, educators and the truly
religious of whatever faith."
As Nicholas Roerich said in a presentation of his Pact "The
world is striving toward peace in many ways and everyone realizes in
his heart that this constructive work is a true prophesy of the New
Era. We deplore the loss of the libraries of Louvain and Oviedo and the
irreplaceable beauty of the Cathedral of Rheims. We remember the
beautiful treasures of private collections which were lost during world
calamities. But we do not want to inscribe on these deeds any words of
hatred. Let us simply say: Destroyed by human ignorance - re built by
The Roerich Peace Pact is the world-law basis
for an expression of concern from the governments of what was the
Pan-American Union (In 1948 it was reestablished as the Organization of
American States). There is also the Hague Convention of May 1954 which
was signed by a wider geographic range of States. The Roerich Peace
Pact and the Hague Convention are rarely cited by
governments. Therefore, leadership must come from non-governmental
organizations and the cultural sector to work unitedly and creatively to
prevent the wanton destruction of humanity's cultural heritage.
Rene Wadlow, President, and a representative to the United Nations, Geneva, Association of World Citizens
A Federal Syria: Kurdish Initiatives on the Rise
Written by Rene Wadlow
Published: 31 March 2016
On March 17, 2016, the "federal democratic system of Rojava" (a Kurdish term for northern Syria) was proclaimed officially. Some 150 representatives of Kurdish, Arab, and Assyrian (largely Christian) groups met in the city of Rmellane in north-east Syria and voted in favor of the union of three 'cantons' largely populated by Kurds − the cantons of Afrin, Kobani, and Jezireh.
The government as well as a major opposition coalition present in the Syria negotiations which have been going on in Geneva since the middle of March, the Syrian National Coalition, both stated their refusal of a federalist system which they saw as a first step to the breakup of Syria. The Syrian Foreign Ministry said that "Any such announcement has no legal value and will not have any legal, political, social or economic impact as long as it does not reflect the will of the entire Syrian people." There was no indication of how the "will of the entire Syrian people" was to be determined in the war-torn land.
While the Kurdish issues in Turkey have attracted international attention, and the largely autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq is a major player in Iraqi politics, the Kurds in Syria have been less discussed.
The Kurds of Syria have not been as visible a factor until now as other ethnic or sectarian groups. As Michael Gunter, a specialist on the Kurdish world, writes
"On July 19, 2012, the previously almost unheard Syrian Kurds suddenly emerged as a potential game changer in the Syrian civil war and what its aftermath might hold for the future in the Middle East when in an attempt to consolidate their increasingly desperate position, government troops were abruptly pulled out of the major Kurdish areas. The Kurds in Syria had suddenly become autonomous, a situation that also gravely affected neighboring Turkey and the virtually independent Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq. Indeed, the precipitous rise of the Kurds in Syria bid to become a tipping point that might help change the artificial borders of the Middle East established after the First World War following the notorious Sykes-Picot Agreement." (1)
In a hope of keeping the Kurds out of the growing armed conflict, shortly after the March 15, 2011 start of the Syrian armed conflict, in April 2011, Bashaar al-Assad had granted Syrian citizenship to some 220,000 Kurds that had been long waiting to be considered as citizens or who had been stripped of their citizenship in a 1962 census.
However, armed conflict spread, and the Islamic State started to control territory near Kurdish majority areas. Some observers see the Kurds as "objective allies" of Bashaar as they have many of the same enemies.
Working with the regime has largely saved the Kurdish areas from government bombardment and allowed Kurdish leadership to build alternative forms of government. Gunter discusses in some detail the influence among some Kurdish leaders in Turkey and Syria of the writings of Murray Bookchin (1921-2006) and his views of ecologically-sound autonomous governance − "democratic autonomy". (2)
During the current "fog of war" it is difficult to see what forms of cooperation will be developed among the Kurdish areas of Syria, Iraq, Turkey and possibly Iran. There have been recent talks in Switzerland among Kurdish leaders of the four countries. There are those who see all proposals for federal-confederal forms of government in a previously highly centralized state as a step toward the breakup of the state.
However, in the first years of the French mandate of Syria after the First World War, the French had created a form of 'federal' administration, although the French had facilitated the creation of Lebanon which until then had been part of "Greater Syria". It is difficult to envisage a centralized-one party state such as that under the leadership of the al-Assad - father and son - being recreated when the armed conflict stops. Although the Kurds are not present in the UN-Geneva negotiations (at the insistence of Turkey), the federal proposal is now "on the table," and merits being watched closely.
Rene Wadlow, President and a representative to the United Nations, Geneva, of the Association of World Citizens.
(1) Michael M. Gunter. Out of Nowhere: The Kurds of Syria in Peace and War. (London: Hurst and Co, 2014, p.1)
(2) Damian White. Bookchin: A Critical Appraisal (London: Pluto Press, 2008)
The Yemen Conflict: Solutions to an
- Written by Rene Wadlow
During the Second World War, in
the United States there was a government-sponsored
publicity campaign to save automobile gas with the slogan
"Is this trip necessary?" The aim was to show that if one
really asked the question, many trips were not really
necessary. We can ask the same question about wars today.
In Yemen, is the Saudi-led war really necessary?
A new round of
conflict-resolution meetings has started on April 20th in
Kuwait facilitated by the United Nations and led by Ould
Cheikh Ahmed of Mauritania who had earlier been the UN
humanitarian coordinator for Yemen and so knows the
country and its many factions well. There was an exchange
of prisoners at the start as a good-will measure.
A four-step conflict resolution
outline has been proposed by a number of governments and
non-governmental organizations, including the Association
of World Citizens:
1) an immediate ceasefire ending
all foreign military attacks;
2) humanitarian assistance,
especially important for hard-to-reach zones;
3) a broad national dialogue;
4) through this dialogue, the
establishment of an inclusive unity government.
The title of the aggression of
Saudi Arabia against Yemen changed its name from
"Operation Decisive Storm" to "Operation Restoring Hope"
probably on the advice of the public relations firm which
advises the US Pentagon on the names of its operations.
Saudi bombing from the air of cities, hospitals and
refugee camps, created a storm, but the results were in no
way "decisive." It is not likely that Saudi bombing will
There is wide agreement in UN
circles and among conflict-resolution NGOs that Yemen is a
quagmire, with a free-fall of its economic and social
infrastructure and with constant violations of the laws of
war. The country is on the eve of a new division between
the north and the south. Yemen's present form dates from
1990 when south Yemen (Aden) was more or less integrated
into the north, but the country remains highly fractured
on tribal, sectarian, and ideological lines, with the
tribal structures being the most important.
Negotiations among the
multitude of factions in Yemen will be difficult. The most
likely pattern will be for the country to split into two
again with each half having a number of relatively
autonomous regions. In the best of worlds, one could
envisage a federal Yemen with the rule of law. More
realistically, we can hope that these autonomous tribal
areas do not fight each other actively. On a short term
basis, we can hope that there will be minimum cooperation
among the factions to allow necessary food imports and
Poverty and the lack of a
peaceful political horizon seem to be the continuing fate
of Yemen, but violent internal conflict and Saudi
aggression may not be permanent. With the start of
negotiations, there is a role for NGOs to encourage the
efforts in contacting organizations and individuals that
might have a positive impact on events. There are many
geopolitical and economic interests who want "peace" on
their terms. Thus, our role as world citizens seeking a
relatively just compromise solution is ever more
Rene Wadlow is President and a
representative to the United Nations, Geneva,
Association of World Citizens.
Syria: Beyond the laws of war
By Rene Wadlow
The protection of medical facilities and
medical personnel is at the heart of the laws of
war dating from the first Red Cross-Geneva
Conventions of 1864. On 3 May 2016, the United
Nations Security Council unanimously adopted
Resolution 2286 calling for greater protection of
health care institutions and personnel in light of
recent attacks against hospitals and clinics in
Syria, Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan, Democratic
Republic of Congo and Afghanistan. These attacks
are too frequent to be considered "accidents" and
may indicate a dangerous erosion of the laws of
The most recent systematic bombings of
medical facilities have been in and around Aleppo,
Syria. A country-wide ceasefire had been brokered
by the United States and Russia in order to
facilitate negotiations in Geneva. The ceasefire
helped to decrease levels of violence. However,
the Geneva negotiations carried out separately by
UN facilitators with representatives of the Syrian
government and members of opposition movements did
not advance and have now been suspended. In
addition, there was a 5 May 2016 air strike on a
large camp of internally-displaced persons in
Sarmada, near the frontier with Turkey. The
persons in the camp were unarmed and should have
been protected by the Geneva Conventions. After
the first Geneva Conventions of 1864, the scope of
the Conventions have been broadened, especially in
light of the Second World War and the Vietnam War.
The laws of war, now most often called
Humanitarian Law, are based on reciprocal
restraint. "You do not harm our prisoners-of-war,
and we will not harm your prisoners-of-war." The
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
has a treaty obligation to see to the respect of
the Geneva Conventions. The Red Cross staff is
usually well aware of what is happening "on the
ground." However, they are very reserved in making
this information public as publicity could harm
other Red Cross functions, such as running or
helping to run hospitals or providing food and
medicine. Thus, it is increasingly the role
onon-governmental organizations such as Amnesty
International and Human Rights Watch to
investigate and report on violations of the laws
Governments also have a role to play, and
Resolution 2286 is an important resolution to
uphold the rule of law. Thus we must support
Resolution 2286 as a reaffirmation of the
importance of world law. We must also promote
good faith negotiations to end armed conflicts
such as those in Yemen, Syria-Iraq, and Libya.
Such negotiations are difficult; good faith is in
short supply. However, as representatives of
non-governmental organizations, we have certain
avenues for action, and Resolution 2286 gives us a
Rene Wadlow is the President of the Association
of World Citizens, an international peace
organization with consultative status with ECOSOC,
the United Nations organ facilitating
international cooperation on and problem-solving
in economic and social issues.
World Citizen Diplomacy
Citizens of the World, such as those united in the Association of World Citizens work at the United Nations for the resolution of armed conflicts in a non-violent way so that common interests may be found and developed.
One of the most difficult yet necessary tasks is to keep channels of communication open between the different protagonists in a conflict. Often, when a conflict begins to escalate, avenues of communication are cut off. One side or the other will break diplomatic contact as we see in the growing tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Thus, a key role of non-governmental organizations through their networks and contacts, is to pass information and ideas from one side to the other in as clear and calm way as possible
Rene Wadlow, President and a representative to the United Nations, Geneva, Association of World Citizens
Saudi Arabia: New Year beheading pour oil on the flames
By Rene Wadlow
As a major oil producer, the government of Saudi Arabia might know the dangers of pouring oil on a fire. Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran related to the armed conflict in Yemen and the ever-more-complicated armed conflict in Syria-Iraq-and Kurdistan are already high. John Kirby, US State Department spokesman stressed the obvious when he said that Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr’s execution “risks exacerbating sectarian tensions at a time when they urgently need to be reduced”. The Iranian Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for “divine vengeance” upon the Saudis. A mob, rarely formed spontaneously in Tehran, did not wait for the Divine to punish but rather attacked the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and set fire to an annex. Saudi Arabia has broken off diplomatic relations as a result. Crowds also demonstrated in Bahrain.
The Saudi government began the year by beheading 46 other people as well accused of undermining the State. Most were Sunnis and said to be related to a branch of Al-Qaeda and to have used or advocated using violence to further their aims. Sheikh had been highly critical of the Saudi government but had not called for violence. There are some of us, such as members of the Association of World Citizens, who are against the death penalty even when there are fair trials, competent defense lawyers, and appeals. There were none of these practices in the case of al-Nimr nor of the others. He was killed to be a graphic example that “encouraging, leading, and participating in demonstrations” will not be tolerated.
The Shia Sheikh al-Nimr was known to the Saudi authorities as a domestic dissident. He had studied Islamic doctrine abroad and so was critical of the lifeless authoritarian orthodoxy of Islam in Saudi Arabia. He came from the eastern province of Saudi Arabia where live the majority of the Shia, some 2 million of the 18 million population of Saudi Arabia. The Shia feel themselves to be marginalized, and objectively in terms of education, health services, and employment they are marginalized. With the spirit of the Arab Spring, the young Shia in the eastern provinces hoped for change, and al-Nimr became their spokesman.
When a marginalized population begins to protest and ask for more inclusive policies and practices, a government has basically two choices. The more intelligent one is to listen to the demands to see what the issues are, which issues can be negotiated and to try to reach some compromise which will not change radically the socio-economic-political structures but will meet enough of the demands to make for a more inclusive society and thus limit the impact of the protests. The other choice is to strike so brutally and with enough publicity that no other demands will be made and the dissidents will go away. Since governments have armed security forces at their command and usually control over the court system, it is often the second approach which is used. A recent example is that of Syria and the al-Assad government. The first non-violent protests in March 2011 largely limited to Dara in south Syria were for a more inclusive society and demands for relatively moderate reforms. These demands were not met by negotiations in good faith but by repression, arrests, torture with enough publicity thought to serve as a warning to others. After a few months of non-violent protests, it became obvious to many that the government would not negotiate changes. So armed violence seemed to be the only alternative. Thus we find ourselves in the Syrian case in an ever-wider area of armed conflicts, and no negotiations on a more inclusive society in view. Syria, alas, is not the only case of highly visible repression of political demands rather than discussion and negotiations. Although Saudi Arabia is critical of the Syrian government, they are following the same repressive policy. The regional situation getting worse is a real possibility.
It is not clear what we on the outside can do to foster more intelligent policies in Saudi Arabia – a country largely closed in on itself with a small decision-making elite, a large amount of money from oil (even if oil prices are declining) and a large supply of arms largely from the USA and Western Europe. Those of us active in the human rights field have often expressed our concern to the Saudi government about human rights violations, most recently concerning the fate of the nephew of Sheikh al-Nimr, Ali al-Nimr arrested as a minor for participating in demonstrations and now condemned to death. As the saying goes “The relatives of my enemy are my enemies as well.” The Saudi diplomats do not even go through the pretext of listening to NGO representatives. The Saudi government is trying to create an enlarged Islamic community of States to support its policies, especially by going beyond the League of Arab States to include African States with significant Muslim populations. Thus I would not expect many international voices to be raised beyond those of Iran and Iraq, though I would like to be proved wrong.
While I do not believe in “divine vengeance”, the beheadings on the first day of the year mark an important step down the wrong path. There are likely to be negative consequences, and we must watch the situation closely.
Rene Wadlow is the President of the Association of World Citizens, an international peace organization with consultative status with ECOSOC, the United Nations organ facilitating international cooperation and problem-solving.
Steps toward the resolution of armed conflicts in Syria-Iraq
In keeping with the Holy Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis on 8 December 2015, the Association of World Citizens sets out a three-point approach to conflict resolution of the armed conflict in Iraq-Syria which is involving an ever-greater number of groups and States.
The first step is a generalized cease-fire. The Holy Year of Mercy recalls the 11th century Truce of God in France when fighting would stop to help create a space in which communal gatherings could take place to re-establish community relations.
The second step must be negotiations in good faith among all the parties and factions in Syria and Iraq. While the Association of World Citizens welcomes the talks in Vienna among the representatives of concerned States, it is only the organized groups and government forces in Syria and Iraq who can negotiate in good faith new, more inclusive State structures.
The third step is the orderly and planned return of the refugees who so wish to Syria and Iraq. The degree of destruction and the violent divisions of communities makes the return of refugees now living in neighboring countries or in Europe difficult. The return must be planned and carried out in an orderly way. The United Nations can be an important agent for resettlement and healing of the traumas caused by the years of violence.
The spirit of the Year of Mercy is that of harmony which includes tolerance, acceptance, and forgiveness of past pains and conflicts. This spirit leads to gentleness, patience, kindness, to inner peace and outward relations based on respect.
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens
Kuan Yin : She who harkens to the cries of the world
In every corner of the world
Wise in using skilful means
She manifests her countless forms
Steps toward the resolution of armed conflicts in Syria-Iraq
In keeping with the Holy Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis on 8 December 2015, and in the spirit of Kuan Yin, the goddess of Mercy, the Association of World Citizens sets out a three-point approach to conflict resolution of the armed conflict in Iraq-Syria which is involving an ever-greater number of groups and States.
- The first step is a generalized cease-fire. The Holy Year of Mercy recalls the 11th century Truce of God in France when fighting would stop to help create a space in which communal gatherings could take place to re-establish community relations. Kuan Yin as the feminine aspect of the Spirit recalls a cease-fire time of year among the Germanic tribes in honor of Nerthus, the goddess of the earth.
- The second step must be negotiations in good faith among all the parties and factions in Syria and Iraq. While the Association of World Citizens welcomes the talks in Vienna among the representatives of concerned States, it is only the organized groups and government forces in Syria and Iraq who can negotiate in good faith new, more inclusive State structures.
- The third step is the orderly and planned return of refugees to Syria and Iraq. The degree of destruction and the violent divisions of communities makes the return of refugees now living in neighboring countries or in Europe difficult. The return must be planned and carried out in an orderly way. The United Nations can be an important agent for resettlement and healing of the traumas caused by the years of violence.
The spirit of Kuan Yin is that of harmony which includes tolerance, acceptance, and forgiveness of past pains and conflicts. This spirit leads to gentleness, patience, kindness, to inner peace and outward relations based on respect.
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens
Local Engagement with Armed Groups in the Midst of Violence
7 December 2015
Sophie Haspeslaugh and Zahbia Yousuf (Eds.),
Local Engagement with Armed Groups in the Midst of Violence
(London: Conciliation Resources, 2015, 40 pp.)
The armed conflict in Iraq-Syria-ISIS-Kurds becomes more complex each day, and good faith negotiations seem ever further away. Those of us on the outside who would like to see compromises so that the killing may stop find it difficult, if not impossible to find those who represent the armed groups. No doubt, there are people from different intelligence services who have contacts, but good faith negotiations may not be their central aim.
As Wisam Elhamoui and Sinan al-Hawat point out in their chapter “Civilian interaction with armed groups in the Syrian conflict” As the Syrian conflict enters its fifth year, it is important not to lose sight of the significant roles played by unarmed, non-state actors to develop structures for promoting local security and peace and to adapt to the constantly changing demands of the conflict. Hugh efforts have been invested in maintaining a civilian voice by activists and locals. They have shown courage and resilience and an incredible capacity to sustain their efforts and aspirations despite hugh challenges and lack of support.”
At the local level, conflict-reduction efforts depend on channels of kinship and earlier social relations. “Personal links, such as those deriving from kinship, tribal affiliation, and solidarity between friends and neighbors, play a key role in how communities reach out to armed groups. Whether armed groups and civilians are from the same locality is of particular − often paramount-importance in relation to their interaction, building on existing social capital and encouraging the development of networks for civilians and armed groups to trust each other and work together.”
However with the intensification of the armed conflict, many civilian structures have been dismantled. There have been large scale population displacement and refugee flows. Persons in local leadership positions have been deliberately put in jail, killed and targeted by government or opposition factions. New fighters from different countries have joined government or opposition factions. They have no local or kinship ties and have little or no individual decision-making ability. While at the start of the conflict there were locally negotiated ceasefires, such local initiatives based on local needs and conditions have largely disappeared. “Personal and competitive agendas can also emerge in conflict contexts, which can undermine social and cultural structures that support community cohesion…The strategic conflict priorities of armed groups can also reduce the influence of personal relations. Where militants possess the upper hand militarily, personal links are superseded in favor of military necessity…Inevitably, armed groups that have adopted an Islamist ideology are less accountable to the community. An activist from Yarmouk quoted a response he was offered from a local armed group; ‘Our role is to raise the word of God. This is more important than human life.’ Activists that do not conform to the views of Islamist armed groups, such as those who are openly secularist, pro-freedom or pro-democracy, have also been forced to flee.”
It is certain that insider mediators can play a key role in informal peace processes if they have “space” for action. Local populations are not just passive actors, simply coerced by armed actors. Yet the violent tactics of armed groups can overwhelm and silence voices for peace. The capacity of conflict to disrupt the social fabric can also allow for new or previously muted social, cultural and political voices to come to the fore. It is up to us on the outside to be sensitive to new voices and innovations. For the moment, military options seem to be “the order of the day”. Therefore we must work for formal negotiations among governments with interests in the conflict and with the major armed factions. However, we must also be sensitive to new voices, some of which call for non-violence and reason. These new voices may yet be soft, but they will be potentially important currents for the future.
René Wadlow, is president and a U.N. representative (Geneva) of the Association of World Citizens and editor of Transnational Perspectives.
TURKEY & RUSSIA: FIRST NEGOTIATE IN GOOD FAITH
By René Wadlow
"Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad" was an insight of the classic Greek period.
There is obviously a form of madness in the Turks destroying a Russian fighter-bomber which may have entered Turkish air space along the frontier with Syria. The Turkish authorities knew that the Russians were going to bomb in Syria and not attack Turkey. "Air space" is a relative concept in a frontier area. When the Russian plane crashed, it crashed in Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) said the downing of a Russian plane by the Turkish military felt like "a stab in the back" to him, while his Turkish counterpart Reçep Tayyip Erdogan (right) claimed the plane ignored a formal warning from Turkey. Who's right or wrong doesn't really matter; the real question is whether the leaders of the two countries concerned really think that kind of conduct can possibly help resolve the dispute and not fuel it instead.
During the First World War, the French Prime Minister, George Clemenceau, said "War is too important to be left only to Generals". Today, for the moment, the generals at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are meeting and the Russian generals are meeting on their own side. The political leaders are in contact. However, peacemaking is too important to be left only to political leaders who created the violence in the first place.
Under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, an attack on one Ally (NATO Member State) shall be considered an attack on all Allies. But in this very case, can Turkey prove beyond reasonable doubt that it was actually attacked by Russia?
There needs to be movements and efforts beyond and outside the governments in conflict to help bring about negotiations and a climate in which peace measures are possible.
As citizens of the world, we are particularly called to help create such a climate for negotiations in good faith. We know that violence can spread, and that mutual escalation can slip out of control. We need to use our worldwide links in a creative way to reduce tensions in the wider Middle East so that peace measures are possible.
Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.
Paris Attacks: Symbols and Choices
The Islamic State (ISIS, or Daesh in Arabic) either is using a good public relations firm or has its own agents to choose telling symbols and timing for its actions. Within a short time period, the terrorist teams have destroyed a Russian plane with tourists returning from Egypt, badly damaged a Hezbollah center in Lebanon, and attacked symbolic sites in Paris on a Friday the 13th.
Three symbolic sites in Paris were chosen by a well-coordinated team of some 12 active agents and an unknown number of “helpers.” Eight of the ISIS men had explosive belts and were prepared to die to make their motives clear.
The first attack was at the Stade de France, the main sports stadium on the edge of Paris. French President Francois Hollande and his guests joined some 80,000 spectators to watch a football (soccer) match between the national French and German teams. A half hour after the match started, three ISIS agents blew themselves up just outside the stadium. They killed themselves and one person who was passing by.
Had they wanted to kill more people, they could have used their explosives an hour earlier when the street was full of spectators lined up to enter the stadium. But the symbolic strength of the action is that no one noticed the explosions and the football match went on normally. The French President had security agents with him who were informed of events, and he left at half-time. The symbol, however, is clear and goes back to the decline of the Roman Empire. As the Empire declines and will soon be replaced, the Emperors provide the people with bread and circuses to keep them happy. Thus, while the war is on, the French emperor watches a football match.
The second symbolic attack was in a heavily populated part of Paris. The French equivalent of a “Thank God It's Friday” drink is a whole meal with friends or co-workers at a restaurant. This past Friday was particularly warm for the season, and a good number of people were eating outside at sidewalk tables. At least four ISIS agents in two rented black cars drove down a restaurant-heavy street shooting from the car. People at an Asian and an Italian restaurant in particular were killed or wounded, but shots were fired at other restaurants and cafés along the street.
Again, the message is clear. “A war is on, people are hungry, and you are sitting around eating and drinking –a sign of your decadence.” Since the French government began its air attacks on ISIS in Iraq, ISIS websites have been calling Paris “the capital of prostitution and obscenity.”
The third attack, carried out at about the same time as the others, was on a popular music concert hall, the Bataclan. Though there is music in the Islamic world, for reasons I do not understand the Taliban and ISIS consider music forbidden. The concert at the Bataclan on Friday was sold out; some 1,500 persons had come to hear a California Rock group appropriately named Eagles of Death Metal.
Halfway through the concert, three ISIS agents moved into the music pit below the stage and started shooting, saying that the audience were hostages. The section of the French police trained to deal with hostage taking quickly got into phone contact with the ISIS argents. The police became convinced that negotiations were not possible and started to move in. Two of the ISIS group used their explosive belts, killing themselves and others. The third ISIS member was shot by the police.
The French government's reaction was swift. President Hollande had gone directly from the sports stadium to the Ministry of the Interior, which is responsible for police and security forces. Hollande quickly made a televised statement saying that the attacks were “an act of war that was committed by a terrorist army, a jihadist army, Daesh.” A State of Emergency has been proclaimed, and police and the military have been placed on alert.
Since the possibility of terrorism has been on the political agenda for some time, there was already an alert status. The State of Emergency is unlikely to change much, but it gives the police some additional powers to close off sensitive areas, to re-establish controls at the frontiers and to move the military from their home base toward Paris.
There are three longer-term challenges where choices must be made, choices made more complex by the attacks:
The French government host decided to hold the Paris climate summit popularly called COP 21 as planned. Most of the foreign government leaders planning to attend will probably still do so, but security considerations are likely to play a large role in practice. In addition to government leaders, many NGO representatives were planning to be in Paris for parallel conferences. There is also a “Climate Pilgrimage” underway with a large number of people on foot or on bikes planning to come to Paris during COP21. Security considerations would have been important in any case, but now they are likely to be more visible.
2) Regional elections December 6 and 13
The government said France’s elections for regional parliaments would be maintained while hoping that campaigns will not lessen the spirit of national unity manifested after the attacks.
In France, most elections are in two segments: a first segment in which several political parties are present and a final round with only two or three parties who have obtained a set percentage of the vote. These December elections are particularly complex as the number of regions has been reduced and re-designed. People will be voting for the first time in these new regions, and many of the political figures running are new. Additionally, the far-right National Front Party is gaining strength, stressing unemployment and the increased danger from “foreigners,” especially Muslims. The Paris attacks may increase the National Front vote.
3) Syria and Iraq
The Paris attacks have increased public awareness of the conflicts in the wider Middle East and their possible impact on the domestic scene. The attacks build on awareness due to massive refugee flowsto Europe since July. The responses of the European governments have been very divided. At the popular level, all sorts of fears have been expressed. NGOs dealing with refugees have not been able to cope with the large number of persons coming in a short time period. Obviously there needs to be a reduction in armed violence, hopefully a cease-fire and good faith negotiations in the Syria-Iraq conflict, in Yemen, in Libya, in Lebanon, and Israel-Palestine. The Paris attacks have the merit of highlighting in a cruel light the challenges faced by governments and those of us who are in non-governmental conflict resolution efforts.
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens
Sana'a, capital of Yemen (Photo: Courtesy of WikiCommons)
Yemen: Where humanity is flaunted
By Rene Wadlow
In an exceptional presentation on 31 October 2015, at the
United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon and the President of the International Committee of
the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer presented an
unprecedented joint warning. It is very rare that the ICRC
makes public criticisms of governments, in part because of
the fear that a criticized government would cut off
relations and thus end the ICRC efforts to help the wounded,
prisoners of war, and others covered by the Red Cross
mandate. Thus the public and high-profile statement along
side Ban Ki-moon is an indication of wide-spread fears that
the recent attacks against hospitals in Afghanistan and
Yemen could weaken, and perhaps destroy, the prohibitions
and restraints in war which are now called "humanitarian
law." These restraints used to be called "the laws of war",
but since formal "Declarations of War" have gone out of
diplomatic style and many conflicts are within the
still-existing boundaries of a State, the term "humanitarian
law" has become widely used.
Peter Maurer, standing next to Ban Ki-moon, said "If
States, other actors in conflict, and the international
community as a whole do not act responsibly now, there will
be millions more victims. Acting responsibly means
redoubling efforts to achieve political solutions and,
pending such achievements, ensuring that humanitarian
principles and law are respected. Hospitals are being
attacked, patients, doctors, nurses and humanitarian workers
killed. When humanitarian law and principles are
disregarded, when humanitarian needs are trumped by
political agendas, when access to the wounded and sick is
denied, and when security concerns lead to a suspension of
operations, people are abandoned, the notion of protection
loses its meaning, and humanity is flouted."
International humanitarian law (the laws of war) prohibits
deliberate attacks on civilians not taking a direct part in
hostilities and in attacks which do not distinguish between
civilians and combatants. The essential core of
humanitarian law is the prohibition on attacking hospitals,
medical personnel and the wounded unable to continue
fighting. These prohibitions go back to the early Geneva
Conventions of July 1906 and were then updated in July 1929
in light of the experiences of the First World War. The
Geneva Conventions were renegotiated in the light of the
experience of the Second World War leading to the Four
Geneva Conventions of August 1949. In light of the
experiences of the wars in Nigeria-Biafra and Vietnam, new
negotiations were held in Geneva leading to the Two
Additional Protocols of 1977. As I had been a member of a
working group of the ICRC during the Nigeria-Biafa war, I
followed closely the efforts to adapt humanitarian law to
internal "non-international" armed conflicts.
In addition to the Geneva Conventions (sometimes called the
Red Cross conventions as the ICRC is the guardian of their
respect), there is a second avenue of humanitarian law,
usually called The Hague Laws arising for The Hague
Conventions of 1899 and 1907 where the emphasis is on
banning the use of certain weapons that cause irreversible
damage. "Dum Dum" exploding bullets were the first banned
weapons. The most important was the ban in 1925 against
poison gas as a result of its very destructive use during
World War I. The ban against cluster munitions is the most
recent ban within this "Hague Law" avenue. Unfortunately,
none of the weapons bans has an inspection-dispute
settlement mechanism except for the much more recent ban on
The Association of World Citizens (AWC) was active in
efforts which led to the treaty on the ban of cluster
munitions. In a narrow sense, treaties are only binding on
the States which have ratified the treaty. The USA, Saudi
Arabia, Yemen, and Russia have not yet ratifies the cluster
munitions ban. Thus, Saudi use of USA-made cluster
munitions in Yemen is "legal" as is Russian use in Syria.
However, the world citizen position is that when a large
number of States ratify a treaty and that the treaty is
constantly used as a standard in the UN - as is the case of
the cluster munitions ban − then the treaty becomes world
law. Thus the cluster munitions use in Yemen and Syria is a
violation of world law.
The essential character of world law is that it is the
broadly-agreed upon rule of moral conduct. Although no
significant revision of international humanitarian law is
envisaged at the present, there is a constant need to
reflect upon what actions are needed to adapt, promote and
implement humanitarian law in the face of the changing
realities of armed conflict. Above all we need to look at
what we can do when there are violations of humanitarian law
by State military or by non-State agents such as ISIS in
Syria and Iraq.
For the moment, the most direct and open violation of the
core elements of humanitarian law − the protection of
hospitals, medical personnel and the wounded − has been by
State actors − the USA in Afghanistan and the Saudi-led
coalition (Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar,
Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates) in Yemen. There is an
obvious lack of political will to deal with violations of
humanitarian law. The USA is powerful, and most of the
Saudi-led coalition is rich and active buyers of weapons.
For the moment, strong protests can come only from
non-governmental organizations, though there is little
coordinated effort to protest against violence.
The hospitals attacked in both Afghanistan and Yemen were
organized by the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the
original "French Doctors" created in 1971 out of the
experience during the Nigeria-Biafra war when the
International Committee of the Red Cross did not speak out
against the Nigerian policy of starvation as a war weapon
for fear of no longer being able to carry out its relief
work. The "roving ambassador" of Biafra to Europe was one of
my former students who, when he was in Geneva, would stop by
to see me and update me on events. Thus I knew the
difficulties in getting the media to focus on starvation as
a deliberate policy of war and not as unfortunate
"collateral damage." Thus, we must agree with the remarks of
the then President of MSF, Dr James Orbinski, when the
organization received the Nobel Peace Prize "Silence has
long been confused with neutrality, and has been presented
as a necessary condition of humanitarian action. From its
beginning, MSF was created in opposition to this
assumption. We are not sure that words can always save
lives, but we know that silence can certainly kill."
Rene Wadlow is the President of the Association of World
Citizens, an international peace organization with consultative
status with ECOSOC, the United Nations organ facilitating
international cooperation on and problem-solving in economic and
Anti A-Bomb effort
|Albert Einstein: Remember Your Humanity and Forget the Rest
by Rene Wadlow
There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest.
14 March is the birth anniversary of Albert Einstein, born in Ulm, south Germany, in 1879 and died in Princeton, New Jersey in 1955. I was a student at Princeton University from 1953 to 1956, and as I liked to walk in the late afternoon, I would cross Albert Einstein, who also liked to walk, coming from his office at the Institute for Advance Study. I would say "Good Evening, Professor Einstein" and he would reply "Good Evening, Young Man".Einstein's home was on Mercer Street, close to the University campus and seeing him was a sort of link to the history of science − though I had no idea of what his scientific ideas were all about. In the popular mind, Einstein was somehow related to nuclear science and thus the Atomic Bomb, but the relation was not clear. The link with the A Bomb was much clearer with J. Robert Oppenheimer who was the director of the Institute for Advanced Study from 1947 to 1966 and that I would also cross occasionally on my walks. Oppenheimer had been the scientific head of the Manhattan Project which developed the atomic bomb during World War II. Oppenheimer later disagreed with US government policy concerning control of nuclear weapon. In the "guilt by association" atmosphere of the early post-war, Oppenheimer, having been friends with and married to people who were communists, had his government security clearance taken from him in 1954. He returned to "pure" theoretical physics, and symbolized for many of us at the time, the mindless anti-Communism associated with Senator Joseph McCarthy.
Einstein was never really involved with nuclear physics though some of his ideas had been used by those working directly on nuclear physics. In his years at the Institute for Advanced Study, which he joined in 1933, he was trying to develop a unified field theory which would unify four fundamental forces of nature: gravity, electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force − all to provide a unified understanding of the basic laws of the physical universe. He was never able to work it out, but the Institute for Advanced Study was created in 1930 to allow a small number of important thinkers to go on thinking without having to do any university lecturing or to publish in order not to perish. Einstein had the look of someone who was thinking, and probably few asked him for a reprint of his last paper.
My admiration for Einstein was unrelated to his scientific ideas which I did not understand but to his work for peace and for stronger world organizations that could promote peace. As he wrote "Just as we use reason to build a dam to hold a river in check, we must now build institutions to restrain the fears and suspicions and greeds which move people and their rulers."
The 1950-1953 Korean War was just winding down with no "victor"; the French war in Vietnam was still on. Europe was divided. By 1955, ten years after the first use of nuclear weapons on Japan, both the USA and the USSR had a range of thermonuclear weapons more potentially destructive that the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. "One World or None" had been the cry of those, like myself, who joined the United World Federalists in 1951 as a secondary-school student. We were looking for leaders to articulate the effort for a nuclear-weapon free world. Albert Einstein was such a voice, and he had joined the Advisory Board of the World Federalists. He was by conviction and also by life experience a world citizen: German born, educated in Switzerland, he had become a Swiss citizen. He saw the narrow, aggressive nationalism of Hitler destroy much of German scientific life and then turn to the wholesale persecution of Jews and political opponents. Einstein was fearful of the narrow anti-communism in the USA in the late 1940s- early 1950s. There were even voices which said that his anti-atom bomb efforts were disloyal and paving the way for a communist takeover of the US.
Einstein, while working in Switzerland, in the 1920s had been active in the League of Nations Committee on Intellectual Cooperation − an early effort to develop cooperation among intellectuals in the natural sciences, the social sciences and the arts to work for cross-cultural understanding and peace. Bertrand Russell − the multifaceted English intellectual − had also participated in the League efforts and saw the need for a new wave of action directed to the dangers of US-USSR war where nuclear weapons might be used if ever a situation became desperate. Bertrand Russell wrote the Manifesto and asked a small number of nuclear scientists from different countries to co-sign the statement. Albert Einstein signed the statement − one of the last things he did. Russell received the signed letter a couple of days after the announcement of Einstein's death. The Manifesto became the Russell-Einstein Manifesto and was publicly issued in July 1955.
For a nuclear-weapon free world, we still need vision, leadership, responsiveness, empowerment, and persistence. An ongoing challenge is to stay focused and specific and yet have a broad, integrated and unified vision. We need to be flexible and receptive to new ideas and new openings but also have stability in our identity as world citizens.
René Wadlow, president and a U.N. representative (Geneva) of the Association of World Citizens and editor of Transnational Perspectives.
Cluster Bombs: Saudi Use, USA Sales, and the Review Conference on their Prohibition
Monday, May 4, 2015
René Wadlow, President and a Representative to the United Nations (Geneva) Association of World Citizens
The Saudi-led aggression on Yemen has on at least two separate occasions used cluster bombs to attack villages in Yemen's northern Saada Province according to a report of the nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch. Cluster munitions are imprecise weapons which often fail to detonate on impact, leaving the unexploded bomb lets on the ground, ready to kill or maim when disturbed or handled.
The failure rate of cluster munitions is high, ranging from 30 to 80 percent. But "failure" may be the wrong word. They may, in fact, designed to kill later. Reports from humanitarian organizations and mine-clearing groups have shown that civilians make up the vast majority of the victims of cluster bombs, especially children attracted by their small size and often bright colors.
Cluster weapons had been largely used by USA forces during the Vietnam War, especially along the No Chi Minh Trail in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The impact is still being felt, and much land is unfit for cultivation. (1)
The revulsion at the consequences and long-lasting impact led to the start of negotiations in Geneva leading to the Convention on Prohibition on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons
which may be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to have Indiscriminate Effects − called by its friends "the 1980 Inhumane Weapons Convention."
My NGO text presented during the negotiations in August 1979 for the Citizens of the World on "Anti-Personnel Fragmentation Weapons" called for a ban based on the 1868 St Petersburg Declaration − at the time the only law of war standard which seemed to apply. As I have been concerned with investigation and judgment on violations of the laws of war, I recommended that "permanent verification and dispute-settlement procedures be established which may investigate all charges of the use of prohibited weapons whether in inter-State or internal conflicts and that such a permanent body include a consultative committee of experts who could begin their work without a prior resolution of the UN Security Council." The procedures I proposed were drawn from the 1976 negotiations on the convention to ban the use of environmental modification techniques for military or other hostile purposes.
The 1980 Inhumane Weapons Convention was to be a "framework" convention, and prohibitions on specific inhumane and indiscriminate weapons were to be negotiated separately, with investigation procedures, if any, to be negotiated for each weapon. Thus the cluster bomb issue was set aside as memories of the Vietnam War faded from the disarmament agenda.
Unfortunately, governments like world public opinion react only when faced by a crisis. Thus cluster bombs returned to the world agenda as a justified reaction to the wide use by Israel in south Lebanon during July-August 2006. It is estimated by the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre (UNMACC)
that one million cluster bombs were fired on south Lebanon during the 34 days of war, many during the last two days of war when a ceasefire was a real possibility. The Hezbollah militia also shot off rockets with cluster bombs into northern Israel. It was this indiscriminate use of cluster bombs against Lebanon in a particularly senseless and inconclusive war that finally led to a sustained effort for a ban on cluster weapons.
In a remarkable combination of civil society pressure and leadership from a small number of progressive States a strong 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions
was drafted. It prohibits production, transfer, stockpiling and use of cluster munitions. The Convention also reacquires the destruction of stockpiles, clearance of areas contaminated by remnants and victim assistance.
The inspection, investigation, dispute settlement aspects of the Convention are weak. It was hoped that the treaty's unequivocal language was so strong that even countries refusing to sign the Convention would be reluctant to use the weapon. Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the USA have all refused to sign the Convention. Thus the use by Saudi Arabia of cluster bombs in Yemen and the sale of cluster weapons to Saudi Arabia by the USA is legal. Some 90 States have ratified the Convention, and 26 have signed but not yet ratified.
I would argue that the large number of ratifications and the general framework of humanitarian law make the use and sale of cluster munitions a violation of world law. For world citizens, "world law" is the law and values of the world community which go beyond "international law" which is treaty law between two or more States.
Because the world situations which lead to disarmament agreements keep changing, and appreciations by governments of what is "world law" keep evolving, as with the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, a five-year-interval Review Conference was included in the cluster-weapon ban convention. The Review Conference will be held in September 2015 in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
The meeting of the Preparatory Commission for the Review Conference will start meeting on 24 June at the United Nations in Geneva. During the period between now and the 24 June start, governments will be preparing their positions. Thus I would recommend that representatives of non-governmental organizations and all persons of good will contact their government to see what forms of investigation and dispute settlement procedures they favor and what steps they plan to take concerning the allegations of Saudi Arabian use.
1) See: R.Cave, A Lawson and A Sherriff. Cluster Munitions in Albania and Lao PDR (Geneva: UN Institute for Disarmament Research).
For a view of the broader use of weapons in the Vietnam War see: Eric Prokosch. Technology of Killing: A Military and Political History of Anti-Personnel Weapons (London: Zed Books, 1995)
More By René Wadlow:
*Saudi Arabia: Lost in the Sands of War: https://www.iranreview.org/
*Photo Credit: Alalam.IR
*These views represent those of the author and are not necessarily Iran Review's viewpoints.
Saudi Arabia: Lost in the Sands of War
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
René Wadlow, President and a Representative to the United Nations (Geneva) Association of World Citizens
For the moment, the aggression of Saudi Arabia against Yemen has changed its name from "Operation Decisive Storm" to "Operation Restoring Hope", probably on the advice of the public relations firm which advises the US Pentagon on the name of its operations. The 28 days of bombing from the air of cities and camps, killing women and children, created a storm, but the results were in no way decisive. Since the start on 24 March, at least a 1000 people have been killed, many more wounded and some 150,000 displaced within the country. Nevertheless, the aggression had little impact on the power configuration within the country. However, the constant violation of the minimum standards of the laws of armed conflict has had some impact on the perception of the conflict with a few in the USA and Western Europe. As the weapons used by Saudi Arabia are largely of foreign production, supplier States have a responsibility − at least morally − in the way the warms are used.
There are international agreements which set humanitarian law and human rights standards in times of armed conflicts, mainly the Red Cross Geneva Conventions of 1949 written in the light of experience during the Second World War and the two Protocols to the Conventions written in 1972 in the light of experiences of the Vietnam War. Not all States have ratified Protocols I and II, and a number of States have made reservations, especially refusing to forgo reprisals against civilians. Protocol I requires that attacks against military objectives be planned and executed so that "incidental" civilian injuries are not "excessive in relation to the specific military advantages anticipated". The decision-making is subjective on the part of the military, and military officers rarely see any action as "excessive"(1)
Nevertheless, the public outcry of the few international non-governmental organizations at work in Yemen has been strong enough to produce a change of name of the operation and some statements on the part of Saudi officials that negotiations for a "political solution" are needed.
The members of the UN Security Council looked at the situation, and then decided to look away. The UN envoys to Yemen have had little influence on the promotion of a "political solution" or even any meaningful negotiations. The most recent UN envoy, Jamal Benomar, has resigned in frustration. There is wide agreement in UN circles that Yemen is in a quagmire, with a free-fall of its economy, a collapse of its health services, its food imports blocked, and the country on the eve of division between north and south. The country's present form dates from 1990 when south Yemen (Aden) was more or less integrated into the north, but the country remains highly fractured on tribal, sectarian, and ideological lines, with tribal structures being the most important.
Saudi Arabia, which should have known better, thought that it could expand its influence in Yemen. The new King Salman with his son Mohammed as Defence Minister hoped for a quick victory, having an endless supply of modern military equipment from the USA. The memories of the Egyptian intervention with its heavy use of chemical weapons in the Yemen civil war of the 1960s was overlooked, both by Saudi Arabia and its close partner Egypt, although Egypt had lost some 20,000 soldiers at the time.
One generation rarely learns from the experiences of earlier generations, and both Saudis and Egyptians had hoped to advance their interests in Yemen's political confusion. Instead, Saudi Arabian leaders have been lost, blinded by the sands of war. It is likely that the King and his son will never be trusted again. The aggression in Yemen was the first foreign policy effort of Saudi Arabia which had not been designed and directed by the USA − their first effort to walk alone. The King and his son fell and will never be heard of again on the international scene, but oil revenues will continue to assure the royal court of a comfortable life style.
With the exit of Saudi Arabia from the scene, the door was left open for Iran to play the role of peacemaker with good sense. In a 17 April letter to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif set out a four-step Yemen Peace Plan
1) an immediate ceasefire ending all foreign military attacks;
2) humanitarian assistance;
3) a broad national dialogue;
4) through the dialogue, the establishment of an inclusive national unity government.
In support of the plan, the Foreign Minister wrote "It is imperative for the international community to get more effectively involved in ending the senseless aerial attacks and establishing a ceasefire, ensuring delivery of humanitarian and medical assistance to the people of Yemen and restoring peace and stability to this country through dialogue and national reconciliation without pre-conditions. This critical situation is escalating and the humanitarian crisis in Yemen is approaching catastrophic dimensions."
Negotiations among the multitude of factions in Yemen will be difficult. The most likely pattern will be for the country to split into two again with each half having a number of relatively autonomous regions. Probably the best that we can hope for is that these autonomous tribal areas do not fight each other actively. We can also hope that there will be minimum cooperation to allow necessary food imports. Poverty and the lack of a political horizon seem to be the continuing fate of Yemen, but violent internal conflict and Saudi aggression may not be permanent.
1) cf. D. Schindler and J. Toman. The Laws of Armed Conflicts (Martinius Nihjoff Publishers, 1988)
*Photo Credit: Mint Press News
*These views represent those of the author and are not necessarily Iran Review's viewpoints.
Difficult but Necessary Road to Yemen Negotiations
Monday, June 1, 2015
President and a Representative to the United Nations (Geneva) Association of World Citizens
The continued aggression of Saudi Arabia against civilians in Yemen, and the use of cluster munitions in violation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions highlight the relations among human rights, arms control, and the resolution of conflicts through good faith negotiations. After a very short humanitarian ceasefire and proposed negotiations to have been held in Geneva and then aborted, the geopolitical situation in and around Yemen is largely unchanged.
With the armed conflict underway, the assault on human rights is evident. There is the direct targeting of civilians in violation of the fundamental right to life. As Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
states "Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life." International human rights standards derive from the concept of human dignity and worth. The range and depth of these standards has been a foundation of the emerging world society. War transforms the person with dignity into a faceless target.
Humanitarian Law (historically called the laws of war) are essential components for human rights and the rule of law. International human rights law is, in principle, applicable to all at all times, both in peacetime and in times of internal and external conflict. Although Saudi Arabia was one of the few States to vote against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the UN General Assembly in 1948, Saudi Arabia has since accepted the values of the Universal Declaration. In fact, Saudi Arabia is currently a member of the Human Rights Council which is mandated to protect and promote human rights.
However, the military action against Yemen has the potential for destroying the system of law governing the use of force. Saudi attacks are a violation of a central provision of the UN Charter, Article 2(4)
− all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state." This crucial provision was highlighted by the 1984 "Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace" which proclaims that the peoples of our planet have a sacred right to peace.
Humanitarian law is an important aspect of the world-wide rule of law as it limits both the arms that may be used and against whom they may be used. In 1968 for the 20th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a resolution entitled "Human Rights in Armed Conflicts" was adopted by the Tehran International Conference on Human Rights
. The resolution began by observing that "peace is the underlying condition for the full observation of human rights and war is their negation" but that "nevertheless armed conflicts continue to plague humanity." It went on to call for new or revised agreements to ensure the better protection of civilians, prisoners and combatants in all armed conflicts as well as the prohibition and limitation of the use of certain methods and means of warfare.
Since then, there has been a progressive codification of humanitarian law protecting civilians against the destructive and blind effects of warfare. The 2008 Convention on the Ban of Cluster Munitions
is the most recent addition to this body of world law. The Convention has been signed by 116 States but not by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and six other States involved in the Saudi-led coalition against Yemen. The Convention has also not been signed by Yemen and the USA.
In a 31 May 2015 report the NGO Human Rights Watch added additional information as to Saudi use of USA-made cluster munitions in Yemen. There had been a meeting of signatory States of the Convention in Vientiane, Laos in 2010. Laos had been the victim of massage cluster weapon use by the USA during the Vietnam War. In Vientiane, the governments pledged to "raise their voices and publicly condemn the use of these unacceptable weapons." So far, the voices have not been raised very loudly, but Norway and Costa Rica have spoken out. Now is the time for clear protests on the part of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and persons of good will.
Basically, it is our task as representatives of NGOs to call upon all the parties involved in the conflict within Yemen and in the Saudi-led coalition to good-faith negotiations, such as those which had been proposed to be held in Geneva. There is a mandate in the UN Charter for negotiations for the peaceful resolution of conflicts and methods are set out including mediation, arbitration and judicial settlement. As in the Yemen conflict, there are both non-State militias from within Yemen as well as States involved, negotiations with a UN-appointed mediator is the most appropriate form.
In order to achieve peaceful conflict resolution, peaceful means must be employed so that common interests can be found. The failure of the parties to agree to meet in Geneva is an indication of the difficulties and the degree of hostility existing in this embittered and injurious struggle. It is during a time of war in particular that good offices by neutrals and mediators are of great value as the belligerents are not inclined to open peace negotiations on their own. As NGO representatives, we can work to break down the psychological barriers among the parties and thus prepare the atmosphere to make negotiations acceptable to all so that compromises can be reached.
|NPT: Nuclear Weapons and Tension Areas
by Rene Wadlow
As Winston Churchill once quipped "God so loved the world that he did not send a committee". The Drafting Committee of the Review Conference on the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was unable to draft an "outcome document" or as it is sometimes called "a final statement". Even with the last-days efforts of the President, Ambassador Taous Feroukhi of Algeria and the UN Disarmament Secretariat to smooth over the rough edges of the document by weakening all the controversial wording, there was no possible meeting of minds. In the end, the USA, UK, and Canada refused to accept the final document citing the paragraph proposing a nuclear-weapon free zone in the Middle East.Since there has been no visible progress on the reduction of nuclear weapons through negotiations among the nuclear-weapon States − the USA and the Russian Federation hold some 95% of them − efforts have been made to make legally-binding nuclear-weapon free zones. The first nuclear-weapon free zone to be negotiated was a direct aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962. A nuclear exchange between the USA and the USSR was close enough so that the Latin American leaders were moved to action. Mexico under the leadership of Ambassador Alfonso Garcia-Robbles at the UN began immediately to call for a de-nuclearization of Latin America. In February 1967 the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America was signed at Tlatelolco, Mexico. It established a permanent and effective system of control which contains a number of novel and pioneering elements as well as a body to supervise the Treaty.
The Latin American Nuclear-weapon Free Zone was followed by four other geographic zones: South Pacific, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Central Asia − basically States which have neither the financial or technical capacity to develop nuclear weapons.
Today, there are four tension areas that involve States which have nuclear weapons and where no negotiations to reduce tensions are going on: Korea, India-Pakistan, the wider Middle East, and USA-Russia. Only Korea and the Middle East were mentioned by name in the draft "final statement". However when the draft speaks of "nuclear-weapon States", they have the US and Russia in mind. "The Conference notes with concern that, despite the achievements in bilateral and unilateral nuclear arms reductions, the total estimated number of nuclear weapons deployed and in stockpiles of nuclear-weapon States still amounts to several thousands and many remain on high alert. The Conference stresses in this regard that the reductions in deployment and in operational status are welcome but cannot substitute for the irreversible elimination of nuclear weapons as required under Article VI of the Treaty. The Conference notes concerns expressed by non-nuclear weapon States regarding programmes for the development of advanced new types of nuclear weapons as well as the qualitative improvements of existing nuclear weapon systems."
There have been earlier calls for a Middle East Nuclear-weapon Free Zone. The NPT Review and Extension Conference in 1995 called for a conference to negotiate such a nuclear-weapon free zone. The desirability of establishing such a zone and eliminating nuclear-weapon delivery systems is widely recognized. Indeed, the United Nations General Assembly has resolutions calling for such a zone, first introduced by Egypt and Iran in 1974. Since 1980, such resolutions have attracted consensus support, including the qualified endorsement of Israel which has supported the concept but argued that it cannot proceed until peace settlements are achieved with its neighbors.
The Israeli government continues to argue that negotiations on such a zone can only be considered following peace settlements with all of its Arab and Islamic neighbors. There is also the possible linkage between nuclear and chemical weapons, involving the perception that the nuclear option may be needed as security against chemical attack.
Mohamed ElBaradei, former Director of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has called for negotiations on such a zone. " This is the last chance to build security in the Middle East based on trust and cooperation and not on the possession of nuclear weapons."
At the NPT Review, it was the delegation of Egypt led by Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Hashim Badr which was most active in pushing for the UN Secretary General to call for a conference in 2016 to discuss a Middle East Nuclear-weapon Free Zone, if Israel wants to attend the conference or not. He also called for the replacement of Ambassador Joakko Laajava of Finland for being ineffectual. Finland has been charged by the UN to organize such a conference. Finland has been willing to host it, but no visible progress has been made.
However the problems of the Middle East are not conditioned by the quality of diplomats from Finland. Finland, as a neutral between NATO and the Warsaw Pact States during the Cold War (1945-1990) developed a diplomatic service of greater skills and number than a State of that size would normally have. This is true for the same reasons of the Swiss diplomatic service, but Middle East tensions are such that neither Finland nor Switzerland have much influence.
There were some, myself included, who felt that the recent nuclear agreement with Iran would create an atmosphere that would allow for progress. I had written in mid-April at the start of the month-long NPT Review "Today, all who are concerned with peace and cooperation in the wider Middle East region can take heart from the progress made in the accord on the Iranian nuclear program. There are still elements which need to be finalized, but the current accord is a witness to the value of good-faith negotiations to find avenues of common interest.
"This search for security based upon common endeavors must continue and gain in momentum. The present improvement in relations with Iran is the time and the opportunity to undertake the task of building common security in the Middle East. Acting together, States and peoples, both those of the Middle East and those outside, must help to define a dynamic vision and program for achieving security and peace, a program that is realistic, achievable and that stimulates the large cooperative response that is so urgently needed."
I underestimated the difficulties that would arise in the Review Conference over the Middle East. Rather I had thought that US-Russian tensions over Ukraine and NATO reactions might prevent a consensus as the Soviet moves into Afghanistan in January 1980 had created such tensions that the 1980 NPT Review was unable to agree on a "final statement". However, the Ukraine-related tensions did not come up publicly, and it was the Middle East Nuclear-weapon Free Zone that focused the disagreements.
A major difficulty of moving to good-faith negotiations on a Middle East Nuclear-weapon Free Zone is the absence of a regional organization involving all States in the wider region. There needs to be leadership from within the Middle East for constructive, institution-building action. I believe that there is an urgent need to take steps toward creating a broad security and cooperation zone which has conflict resolution, arms control, human rights, and economic cooperation dimensions.
The prime example of such a multi-purpose regional security organization is what is today the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The creation of such an organization arose from proposals and discussions in the late 1960s as an effort to find ways for structured discussions between NATO, Warsaw Pact and neutral countries of Europe. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was a small number of Non-governmental organizations (NGO) which were first calling for a pan-European agreement.
Formal talks among government representatives started in Helsinki during the first half of 1973 and then were carried on from September 1973 to June 1975 in Geneva. However, prior to 1973 and during the Geneva stage of the negotiations there had been a good number of informal discussions including NGOs and academics.
Likewise today, it may be that there is still such great suspicion of the motives of States in the Middle East that NGOs must again take the lead. Helping to build an Organization for Security and Cooperation in the Middle East is a challenge to all of us of good will − a creative challenge which we must undertake together.
Another major difficulty for the governments to reach a consensus at the NPT Review is that there is no real UN forum to discuss disarmament and arms control. In the early NPT Reviews, compromises were reached because the most active disarmament ambassadors, such as those of Mexico, Sweden and Yugoslavia were willing to accept weak "final statements" knowing that they could fight again another day in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. Today, the Conference on Disarmament is so soundly asleep that what arms control discussions are carried out in the UN are done at the UN General Assembly. However, the General Assembly was not designed for continued and technical discussions on arms issues. The NPT draft statement was polite yet noted that "The Conference expresses its concern that since the 2010 Review Conference, the Conference on Disarmament has not commenced substantive work on any agenda item in the context of a comprehensive and balanced programme of work."
I tend to be pessimistic concerning the will of governments to deal with disarmament and arms control issues. I see no national leaders, and when States regularly met at the UN or in treaty reviews such as the NPT Review, there is constant repetition but little forward motion. Unlike human rights and socio-economic development where NGOs can work at the local level while at the same time trying to influence national and world policy at the UN, military strategy, arms production, deployment of military forces − all are in the hands of national executives with some small influence from legislatures.
The area where NGOs might have an impact, as I mentioned, is to focus on the creation of an Organization for Security and Cooperation in the Middle East. Perhaps also efforts to reduce tensions concerning Ukraine and NATO reactions would be useful as the tensions have grown well beyond a reasonable evaluation of the situation. Strong and diverse NGO leadership is needed − leadership whose voices can be heard above the beating drums and saber rattling.
NPT: New Opportunities and Obsolete Perceptions - Read HERE!
Rene Wadlow, President and a representative to the United Nations, Geneva, Association of World Citizens.
Palmyra: Protection of the Cultural Heritage of Humanity in Periods of Armed Conflict
Rene Wadlow, President and a representative to the United Nations, Geneva, of the Association of World Citizens
In a 15 May 2015 message to Madame Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General, the Association of World Citizens highlighted its Appeal for a Humanitarian Ceasefire in and around Palmyra, Syria, a UNESCO Heritage of Humanity site. On the 15th of May, there was an intensification of fighting around Palmyra between the forces of ISIS and the government. A humanitarian ceasefire was an appropriate measure at that time. Now, it seems that the ISIS forces have taken control of the city and some of the area around it. Thus the Appeal of the Association of World Citizens must be addressed to the leadership of the ISIS, although the Association of World Citizens has no direct communication avenues to the ISIS.
Palmyra is a rich contribution to the cultural heritage of all the Syrian people, no matter to what political faction they may now belong. Moreover, Palmyra is for all of humanity a moving example of trade routes such as the Silk Road and cultural exchanges through the centuries. For some 400 years, Palmyra was an important outpost of the Roman Empire, a link between the Gulf and the Mediterranean.
We believe that if ISIS wishes to be seen as a valid participant in future negotiations concerning the future of Syria and Iraq, it must show its willingness to respect world law. The protection of the cultural heritage of humanity is an important element of world law binding on States, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and individuals.
The Association of World Citizens works in the tradition of the Roerich Peace Pact and its Banner of Peace for the protection of cultural institutions.
Early efforts for the protection of educational and cultural institutions were undertaken by Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947) a Russian and world citizen. Nicholas Roerich had lived through the First World War and the Russian Revolution and saw how armed conflicts can destroy works of art and cultural and educational institutions. For Roerich, such institutions were irreplaceable and their destructions was a permanent loss for all humanity. Thus, he worked for the protection of works of art and institutions of culture in times of armed conflict. Thus he envisaged a universally-accepted symbol that could be placed on educational institutions in the way that a red cross had become a widely-recognized symbol to protect medical institutions and medical workers. Roerich proposed a "Banner of Peace" − three red circles representing the past, present and future − that could be placed upon institutions and sites of culture and education to protect them in times of conflict.
Roerich mobilized artists and intellectuals in the 1920s for the establishment of this Banner of Peace. Henry A. Wallace, then the US Secretary of Agriculture and later Vice-President was an admirer of Roerich and helped to have an official treaty introducing the Banner of Peace − the Roerich Peace Pact − signed at the White House on 15 April 1935 by 21 States in a Pan-American Union ceremony. At the signing, Henry Wallace on behalf of the USA said "At no time has such an ideal been more needed. It is high time for the idealists who make the reality of tomorrow, to rally around such a symbol of international cultural unity. It is time that we appeal to that appreciation of beauty, science, education which runs across all national boundaries to strengthen all that we hold dear in our particular governments and customs. Its acceptance signifies the approach of a time when those who truly love their own nation will appreciate in additions the unique contributions of other nations and also do reverence to that common spiritual enterprise which draws together in one fellowship all artists, scientists, educators and truly religious of whatever faith."
As Nicholas Roerich said in a presentation of his Pact "The world is striving toward peace in many ways, and everyone realizes in his heart that this constructive work is a true prophesy of the New Era. We deplore the loss of libraries of Lou vain and Overdo and the irreplaceable beauty of the Cathedral of Rheims. We remember the beautiful treasures of private collections which were lost during world calamities. But we do not want to inscribe on these deeps any worlds of hatred. Let us simply say : Destroyed by human ignorance − rebuilt by human hope."
Today, as citizens of the world, we must build upon these pioneer efforts to protect the testimonies of humanity's constant evolution toward beauty, harmony and peace.
26 September: UN-led International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons
"The struggle against the nuclear weapon cult and threats it poses to the international peace, security and development, like all struggles against belief systems which have outlived their times, is going to be long and arduous."
K. Subrahmanyam. Nuclear Proliferation and International Security.
The United Nations General Assembly has designated 26 September as the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, being celebrated this year for the second time "to enhance public awareness and education about the threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons and the necessity for their total elimination in order to mobilize international efforts toward achieving the common goal of a nuclear-weapon free world."
Achieving global nuclear disarmament − or at least forms of nuclear arms control − is one of the oldest goals of the UN. Nuclear weapon control was the subject of the first resolution of the UN General Assembly and it is the heart of Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). "Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control." A Review Conference on the Treaty is held at the United Nations once every five years since 1975, and the representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have constantly reminded governments of their lack of "good faith". I chaired the NGO representatives at the 1975 and 1980 Review Conferences, and while our views were listened to with some interest, the Review Conferences have been a reflection of the status of world politics at the time not a momentum for change, as the 2015 Review showed.
There are still some 16,000 nuclear weapons in the world, largely in the hands of the USA and the Russian Federation, some on "ready alert". There are plans to "modernize" nuclear weapons, and there are at least seven other States with nuclear weapons: North Korea, Pakistan, India and China in Asia, Israel in the Middle East and France and the UK in Europe. The instability and tensions of current world politics merit that we look at the ways in which governments and NGOs have tried to deal with the existence of nuclear weapons, their control and their possible abolition.
There have been four avenues proposed in the decades since 1945: presented, dropped, re-presented, combined with other proposals for political settlements, linked to proposals for general disarmament or focused on nuclear issues alone.
1) The first avenue proposed was the Baruch Plan, named after Bernard Baruch, a financier, often advisors to US Presidents going back to Woodrow Wilson and the First World War. He had been named a US delegate to the UN in charge of atomic issues. At the time, the USA had a monopoly of the scientific knowledge and technology needed to produce the A-Bomb, but the scientists who were advisors to Baruch knew that it was only a matter of time before other States, in particular the USSR, would also have the knowledge and technology. Therefore it seemed that the best hope of avoiding an arms race with nuclear weapons was to bring all the atomic energy industry under international UN control. The Baruch Plan proposed the creation of all International Atomic Development Agency which would have a monopoly of all activities connected with atomic research and development such as mining, ownership and management of refineries, and the construction of atomic reactors. The Agency staff would be internationally recruited and would be free from interference from national governments.
However, the Baruch Plan was proposed as the Cold War (1945-1990) was starting to heat up and become more structured. In 1949, the US nuclear monopoly was broken by the explosion of the first Soviet bomb, and then in 1950, war started in Korea. The Korean War led to the next stage, the second and third avenues in nuclear arms policy, someone contradictory but proposed at the same time, and in the light of the Korean War experience.
2) Avenue two proposed that limited war could be carried out but with nuclear weapons that were smaller than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima and that would not necessary lead to an all-out war between the USA and the USSR. This avenue is most closely associated with Henry Kissinger and his book Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy. (1) The 1950-1953 Korean War showed that war was a real possibility, due perhaps to political miscalculations, erroneous intelligence, and failure to see how a local situation could have a much broader impact. The Korean War stopped without a victor, leaving a divided Korea, a situation which has gone on until today. The Korean experience augmented by the French-Vietnamese War which ended in 1954 led strategic thinkers to reflect on the nature of limited war. At the same time that Henry Kissinger was writing his book, reflecting largely in similar ways, Robert Osgood of the University of Chicago was teaching a seminar on limited war in which I was one of his students. The seminar led to the widely-read book: Limited War: The Challenge to American Strategy. (2)
3) It was in Europe where the opposing NATO-Warsaw Pact forces faced each other most closely, that the third avenue was proposed: nuclear-weapon free zones. In October 1957, the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adam Rapacki, put forward a plan for creating a nuclear-weapon free and neutral zone in central Europe, usually known as the "Rapacki Plan". The first stage would be the 'freezing' of nuclear armaments in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the two German States. The second stage would consist of a reduction of conventional armaments and complete de-nuclearization of the four States.
Although there had been intense discussions within the Warsaw Pact States before the Rapacki proposal was made public, mutual mistrust and suspicion among NATO and Warsaw Pact countries was such that no negotiations were undertaken. The situation was made all the more complicated by the Western refusal to recognize the German Democratic Republic. However, Rapacki had given birth to the innovative idea of negotiated nuclear-weapon free zones coupled with confidence-building measures.
Nuclear-weapon free zones took shape after the 1962 Cuban missiles crisis. Even today, it is difficult to know how close to a war the 1962 nuclear missiles in Cuba brought the USA and the USSR. It was close enough that it worried leaders in Latin America. Led by the Ambassador of Mexico to the UN and later Nobel Laureate, Alfonso Garcia Robles, negotiations for a Latin American nuclear-weapon free zone were started, and in 1967, 21 Latin American States signed the Treaty of Tlatelolco. In Latin America, two of the largest countries, Argentina and Brazil have nuclear power industries and a potential capacity to develop nuclear weapons. Thus the Treaty provides a confidence-building framework between these two regional powers, although the two States have none of the tensions between them that colored Warsaw Pact-NATO relations.
The Latin American nuclear-weapon free zone has led to other treaties creating nuclear-weapon free zones in the South Pacific, Africa and Central Asia.
4) The fourth avenue and the one most discussed at the UN these days is a convention to ban the possession and use of nuclear weapons on the lines of the conventions to ban chemical weapons, anti-personnel land mines and cluster munitions. These bans are based on the unacceptable humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, the inability to distinguish between civilians and military and other violations of the principles of humanitarian law.
A Nuclear Weapons Convention has captured the imagination of many in the disarmament community, initially among NGOs but increasingly within the governments of non-nuclear weapon States and the diplomatic community. The Nuclear Weapons Convention is strongly modeled on the Chemical Weapons Convention. Having followed from the sidelines the decade-long negotiations in Geneva which led to the Chemical Weapons Convention, I see two major differences. First, there had not been the wide discussions of the strategic use of chemical weapons as there had been on the strategic use of nuclear weapons in limited war situations. The second difference which had its impact is that the major chemical companies in Western Europe and the USA did not want to get involved in making chemical weapons. The costs for securing the manufacture of such weapons was greater than what they could charge governments for chemical weapons. Western governments were also reluctant to construct government-owned factories for making chemical weapons, all the more so that there existed a 1925 Geneva Protocol against their use. However, there is still money to be made in the nuclear weapons field.
My own view is that effective nuclear-weapon control will come from a combined regional conflict resolution and nuclear-weapon free zone approach that was first set out in the Rapacki proposals. I believe that the Korean Peninsula holds the most potential for a settlement within a nuclear-weapon free zone. There are proposals for re-starting six-power talks, and there are some Track II-NGO efforts along this line. A Middle East nuclear-weapon free zone coupled with conflict resolution and security provisions would be the most necessary given the current tensions and armed conflicts. The recent agreement with Iran may be a step in this direction. India-Pakistan tensions have gone on so long that both States may know how not to push too hard, but there are always dangers of events slipping out of control.
26 September serves as a reminder of the avenues proposed for nuclear disarmament, but disarmament diplomacy has stalled too often and inconsistent policies by governments have made the goal of complete elimination seem unreachable in the short term. Nevertheless we, as non-governmental peacebuilders, must continue to work creatively to generate the groundswell of opinion that will create a momentum of political will to move to a world without war and without nuclear weapons.
(1) KISSINGER. H. (1957) Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy. New York: Harper.
(2) OSGOOD. R. (1957) Limited War: The Challenge to American Strategy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
* Rene Wadlow is President and Representative of the Association of World Citizens to the United Nations, Geneva.
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