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435 Campaign for Global Justice: US Global Justice Corps

Floor of US House of Representatives

Don’t just vote….Petition for Justice.  

“Don’t boo!  Vote!” President Obama retorted after a crowd reacted to promises of the GOP Presidential Nominee leading up to the 2016 election.  Although voting is an important first step for citizens, it is not the only step we can take to have an impact on our politics and our lives.  It matters greatly what we do as citizens between elections.  Educating our elected officials, regardless of our opinion of them, can make an enormous and lasting difference.

‘We the people’ have the right (dare I say duty) to petition our elected officials on what we see is needed.  And, we can do it every day of the year between elections.  This means that a small group of committed souls with loving persistence can regularly educate their policy makers.  The policy makers can be swayed using accurate, detailed and locally relevant information on why it is in their own best interest (and the interest of his/her constituents) to support or lead on a specific policy issue.  This is how our government is supposed to work. Too often ‘we the people’ leave policy makers to the influence of paid corporate lobbyists.    

A Vision of Hope

Fr Ben and friends at the celebration of his Sustainability Hero award at Xavier University

In the Commonweal magazine article “Protect Thy Neighbor” (June 21, 2016) authors Mark J. Allman and Tobias Winright echo the Catholic Catechism when they say: “If and when the day ever comes when war is abolished—and like all Catholics, we pray for the arrival of that day.”

Catholics are urged by the Catechism (#2307) not only to pray for the day when war is abolished, but work to end it.  “Because of the evils and injustices that accompany all war the Church insistently urges everyone to prayer and to action so that the divine Goodness may free us from the ancient bondage of war.”

Forty years after the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson said “Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. ... [They] must advance ... and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

What should humanity do now to exchange our old clothes of the past for something more appropriate for today's world?  I propose that we commit ourselves to advancing love over hate and hope over despair.  We should strive to implement structures that will make our planet sustainable and our human family more ethical and moral.  We should practice active non-violence and wage peace rather than war.  We should seek to establish security and justice for all.  We should develop a global community where basic human rights are protected and greater economic equity is implemented.  We should create a democratic world federation that would be a legal governing body for the Family of Nations.  That is an ideal for humanity that has been advocated by many, including in several official pronouncements of the Catholic Church.

Maine Chapter of CGS Supports the Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly

Shirley Davis at the CGS Maine Chapter Table supporting the UNPA

The Global Week of Action for a UN Parliamentary Assembly runs until Oct 30, 2016, but there is nothing magic about that date.  CGS encourages actions in support of this important idea before, during and after the official Global Week of Action. 

On the afternoon of September 17, 2016, the Maine Chapter of Citizens for Global Solutions had a table and map display in support of the Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA).  We did this in conjunction with many other organizations participating in the End Violence Together program in downtown Bangor, Maine.  Our banner in support of UNPA was suspended from a table.  We displayed a world map on an easel that demonstrated areas in the world where action has already taken place in support of this goal.  

The Campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly is a global network of parliamentarians, non-governmental organizations, scholars, and dedicated citizens that advocates democratic representation of the world's citizens at the United Nations. A United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, UNPA, for the first time would give elected citizen representatives, not only states, a direct and influential role in global policy.

Institutions that have expressed support include numerous civil society organizations, parliaments, international parliamentary assemblies and party networks. For instance, the Pan-African Parliament, the European Parliament, and the Latin-American Parliament have adopted resolutions ñ as have the Socialist International, the Liberal International, or the Green World Congress.  1466 members of parliaments from 120 countries endorse the campaign.

UN Day: Changing of the Guard

Secretary-General Meets António Guterres before General Assembly Appointment

UN Day, 24 October, this year is marked by preparations for a changing of the guard. The ten years of Ban Ki-moon as Secretary-General will give way on one January 2017 to the new Secretary- General, Antonio Guterres, who was during the same ten-year period the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. As with the changing of the guard in front of a palace or national monument, the persons change but the guards have the same uniform. 

Ban Ki-moon brought his long experience in South Korean diplomacy and a certain non-confrontational Asian style – somewhat similar to that of the Berman U Thant- to the UN. (1) The major road marks of UN action during his leadership of the organization were related to socio-economic development: the setting of the 2015-2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Both agreements are important and needed a good deal of “behind the meeting hall” efforts to reach consensus.  However development goals and anti-poverty measures have been relatively the same since the early 1960s when the former African colonies joined the UN. As has been said, setting goals is relatively simple, reaching them is more difficult. 

Development is at the heart of the UN system – the UN and its programmes and the major Specialized Agencies (FAO, ILO, WHO, UNESCO) as well as the two financial bodies (the World Bank and the IMF). There are issues of coordination and overlap of tasks, but basically the development efforts continue with few changes. 

The same steady continuation can be said to be true of the UN's human rights efforts. The international norms have been set, but the UN Secretariat has relatively few ways of control or pressure on what member States do in the human rights field. In keeping with the development focus of the UN system, there has been a somewhat greater emphasis on socio-economic rights and the fight against poverty but most of these goals had also been set earlier. 

Mercosur to Suspend Venezuela over Human Rights Record?

Venezuela, South America, Mercosur, Human Rights, European Union

Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami famously wrote, “Hell has no true bottom.” And Venezuela may be proof. As the country continues its downward economic spiral, it now faces pressure from Mercosur to meet the organization’s human rights and immigration standards. The South American trade bloc warned that Venezuela’s membership will be suspended if it fails to meet the December 1st deadline to improve conditions, Bloomberg reported. (Upon joining in 2012, the country agreed to the four-year timeline to meet all the requirements.)

In June, Caracas was set to assume the bloc’s rotating presidency, but leading members Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay filled the role using an interim team from other states in order to “preserve and strengthen Mercosur,” the ministers said. It was an early warning sign that Venezuela was on shaky ground with its trading partners.

The decline in global commodity prices has led Mercosur to seek out new ties with other trade blocs—including the European Union, which evaluates the human rights records of potential partners. Given Venezuela’s increasing political turmoil, the oil-rich nation is quickly becoming a liability. 

“The European Union has condemned Venezuela for human rights violations. So (Venezuelan President Nicolas) Maduro isn’t exactly the best face for Mercosur to have right now,” Roberto Moritan, a former deputy foreign minister in Argentina, told The Wallstreet Journal.

Maria Montessori: The Spirit of Education for World Citizenship

Global Citizen Education Program at UNESCO would make Maria Montessori proud.

Maria Montessori (1870-1952), an Italian childhood educator and world citizen, would have been pleased at the efforts of the United Nations and UNESCO to promote Global Citizenship Education1. Montessori argued for a child's dignity and autonomy and for the ability of the child to break out of the narrow bonds of nationalistic education. She stressed that children have a unique consciousness and a special sensitivity in the early years which must be nurtured and allowed to develop along its own course.

The world citizen spirit of Maria Montessori's teaching displeased the narrow nationalist leaders in power in the 1930s. The Fascist government of Mussolini closed the Montessori schools in Italy in 1934 as did Hitler in Germany and then in Austria when Hitler's  troops moved into Vienna.  The dictators saw that creative thinking among children was a danger to their authoritarian rule.  She spent the Second World War years in India where her educational ideas influenced a growing number of Indian teachers.

 She stressed education for world citizenship in both content and methodology for as she pointed out access to education and to various forms of learning is a necessary but not sufficient condition to world citizenship education. A comprehensive system of education and training is needed for all groups of people and at all levels, both formal and non-formal. The development of a holistic approach based on participatory methods is crucial.

Solar Power’s Surprising Win in Chile

Chile, Spain, Dubai, solar energy, renewable energy, climate change

Chile has officially debunked the argument that coal is cheaper than solar.

Solarpack Corp. Technologica, a Spanish developer, won contracts to sell solar power for $29.10 per megawatt-hour at an energy auction in August, the lowest price ever. Not only does this beat out the deal in Dubai from last May, it went for almost half the price of coal at the same event. Chilean solar power is now at one of the lowest rates for any kind of electricity anywhere, according to Solarpack General Director Inigo Malo de Molina.

“Solar energy technology has evolved and proved it is competitive,” Molina told Bloomberg in a telephone interview from Santiago. “Prices for electricity generation have changed drastically in the last years. Solar energy in Chile is now the cheapest in the market.”

From Energy Crisis to Energy Abundance

It’s an amazing turn-around, given the county’s recent energy woes. Just five years ago, Chile’s energy prices were among the highest in Latin America. A few monopolistic utility companies dominated the sector, and Argentina had stopped selling natural gas to its neighbor. Facing the risk of blackouts, the private sector planned to open more coal-burning power plants and build hydroelectric dams that would have flooded Patagonia.

Development in the Digital Age

The biggest impacts often come from the seemingly smallest technological advancements: food-ordering apps, instagram, Pokemon Go. They not only make something rapidly accessible, but they do so in a way that highlights its huge role in our lives (or makes it a huge role in our lives). The same can be seen all over the world, but with arguably higher stakes. You open up the paper pull up your news app and see stories of other apps that are helping prevent deforestation through geo-tag reporting, improving democracy by disseminating knowledge and creating transparency in elections, mapping violence, and bringing mobile bank to rural villages.

Clearly, technology can not only solve problems, but also it can empower people. One study found that by “bringing internet access to the 4.1 billion people in the world who do not have it would increase global economic output by $6.7 trillion…, raising 500 million people out of poverty.” Yet, even if the world can overcome the barrier of affordable internet access, how do we guarantee that the gains are felt equally, by everyone? Unsurprisingly, a “report said the benefits of rapid digital expansion had been skewed towards the better-off and the more highly skilled, who were better able to take advantage of the new technologies.”

On the 71st Anniversary of Nagasaki: A Memorial for All Civilian Casualties of War

A memorial at the World Peace Bell for Civilian Casualties of War

On Tuesday, August 9, the Cincinnati Peace Committee held a memorial at the World Peace Bell in Newport KY to remember and honor civilian casualties of war.  August 9 is the 71st anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city of Nagasaki, Japan which happened 3 days after the annihilation of Hiroshima.  120,000 people were killed on these 2 days and tens of thousands would later die of radiation exposure.  Most of these people were civilians.

In spite of the attempt to protect civilians with international treaties, the killing of civilians during war is an even larger problem today.    United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that civilian fatalities account for more than 90% of all deaths in the wars that started since the 1990s.

Recently there was a report that US led airstrikes in Syria accidently killed more than 80 civilians, mostly woman and children.  This tragedy was practically ignored by the US media compared to the coverage of the terrorist attack in Nice that was of the same magnitude.  The US media mostly ignores civilian casualties of war caused by the US.  This lack of media coverage leaves our citizens woefully uninformed as to the loss of life and terror we inflict on the people of other nations, and results in our lack of understanding as to why there is such strong and growing anti-American sentiment.

We believe that US citizens need to be aware that our military is killing more civilians than soldiers in our ongoing wars.  We need to demand that our nation find other ways to make the world safe for us and for democracy, a way that is better than our current reliance on violence which kills innocent people and gives birth to terrorists resulting in even more violence.

Dag Hammarskjold (29 July 1905 -18 September 1961) Crisis Manager and World Community Builder

A collage of stamps from around the world honoring Dag Hammarskjold

You wake from dreams of doom and −for a moment− you know: beyond all the noise and the gestures, the only real thing, love's calm unwavering flame in the half-light of an early dawn. Dag Hammarskjold Markings1

Dag Hammarskjold became Secretary-General of the United Nations at a moment of crisis related to the 1950-1953 war in Korea, and he died in his plane crash in 1961 on a mission dealing with the war in the Congo. The first Secretary-General of the UN, Trygve Lie, had resigned in November 1952 in the light of the strong opposition of the Soviet Union and its allies to the way the United Nations Command operated in Korea. Even though it was called the “United Nations Command”, the main fighting forces and the logistic support were provided by the United States.

Among UN Security Council members and other important delegations, it was felt that, given the way Trygve Lie was pushed out before a second term, he should be replaced by a person from a Nordic country, and the name of Dag Hammarskjold started to be proposed as a suitable candidate from an appropriate country, Sweden. It took five months of discussions before on 10 April 1953 Hammarskjold took office in New York.