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Join the 2017 Global Week of Action for a UN Parliamentary Assembly, Oct 20-30: Demand Global Democracy

World Parliament Now

This year please join citizens from around the world in demanding the creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) to bring global democracy to discussion of global concern.  The UNPA will inject fresh ideas in UN debates by bringing together democratically elected leaders to address issues that concern citizens worldwide. It will add an important democratic dimension to UN governance and contribute to developing a robust transnational democratic culture. 

You can be a part of this. Vocalizing your support locally is the first step in having our voices heard globally.  Click here to learn where some of the local events in support of the Global Week of Action are taking place.  

You can do something as simple as signing the petition to include your voice in the count of global citizens supporting this idea.  Or you can organize a simple local event that captures a photograph of like-minded people holding a "World Parliament Now" sign.  Or you can check out this link for other ideas for events to do in your local area.

Brexit and the Future of the E.U.

Brexit

The initial news of Brexit was greeted with dismay by a majority of people with a liberal internationalist outlook, myself included. Most saw it as a serious setback for the European Union (E.U.), with some even hailing it as the beginning of the end for the bloc. However, in the aftermath of this event, we are beginning to see a different picture emerging. The immediate after effect was not a propagation of nationalist movements, but rather a reaction against them. Geert Wilder’s Partij voor de Vrijheid (Party for Freedom) party failed to gain power in Denmark, as did Marine Le Pen’s Front Nationale in France. In Germany, the previously expanding Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany) experienced a precipitous decline in popular support. This lack of proliferation of nationalism is an encouraging sign, and the E.U. has not, as some may have feared or indeed hoped, experienced any similar shocks since Brexit.

Why Net Neutrality Should Be Considered A Human Right

Keep the internet open

In 2012, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations determined that a connection to the internet is a human right. Among other things, the resolution encourages nations without widespread internet coverage to improve access for all citizens. The resolution also condemns any attempt to impede free speech online. The resolution was updated and unanimously adopted again in 2014 and then again in 2016, demonstrating that all members of the Council recognize the importance of free access to information and the right to freedom of expression online.

Though the resolution doesn’t specifically address net neutrality, it does condemn the practice of disrupting or preventing internet access. Net neutrality is an important aspect of online communications and should also be considered a human right.

What is Net Neutrality?

The internet is a platform based on the free and open exchange of information. Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers, governments and other entities providing or monitoring internet access must treat all data the same, without regard to the user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment or mode of communication.

Without a guarantee of neutrality, service providers can restrict certain websites, slow streaming speed for video services and funnel customers to sites they control versus their competitor’s sites.

Threats to Net Neutrality

Just as there are efforts to block other forms of free speech, there are many financial and political incentives for governments and corporations around the world to restrict the freedom of the internet.

ISPs Selling Data

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

Protect our earth from nuclear weapons

On 7 July 2017, at the United Nations in New York, a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was voted by 122 Member States, one Member State, the Netherlands, voted against, and one Member State, Singapore, abstained.  The nuclear-weapon States did not participate in the drafting of the Treaty.

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

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

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

Declaration of Peace

Earth as seen from outer space.

These are self-evident truths:

That all humans are a single family living on a fragile and endangered planet whose life support systems must  remain intact if we are to survive;

That the well-being of the planet and the well-being of humanity are one and the same;

That the well-being of each requires the well-being of all—security is common;

That all humans have a natural right to peace and a healthy planet;

That all war is a crime against humanity and nature;

That any war anywhere degrades the quality of life for all of us everywhere;

That we live at the decisive moment in history when we will choose between break down or breakthrough on a planetary scale;

That we here now dedicate our intellectual, spiritual and material resources to the establishment of permanent peace and the conservation of nature, and,

That we are fully endowed by our Creator with the wisdom and the ability to achieve these ends.

Let My Children Go: World Efforts to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Universal Children's Day Celebration in Civilian Protection Site Juba, South Sudan

12 June is a red letter day on the UN agenda of events as the World Day Against Child Labor.  It marks the 12 June arrival in 1998 of hundreds of children in Geneva, part of the Global March against Child Labour that had crossed a 100 countries to present their plight to the International Labor Organization (ILO).

“We are hurting, and you can help us” was their message to the assembled International Labor Conference which meets each year in Geneva in June.  One year later, in June, the ILO had drafted ILO Convention N° 182 on child labor which 165 States have now ratified — the fastest ratification rate in the ILO’s  history.

ILO Convention N°182 sets out in article 3 the worst forms of child labor to be banned:

a)  all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labor, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict;

b)  the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances;

c)  the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties;

d)  work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.

Ben Ferencz: a life dedicated to “world peace through world law”

Defendants during the Nuremberg Trials
 “60 MINUTES” on Sunday evenings is a very popular weekly TV news programs.  The second segment of the May 7, 2017 program focused on Ben Ferencz, a prosecutor for the Nuremberg Trials after World War II.  In those trials Nazi leaders were convicted for the killing of millions of Jews and others in what became known as "the Holocaust.”  Fortunately you can see Leslie Stahl’s wonderful interview of Ben again and again at  <http://www.cbsnews.com/news/what-the-last-nuremberg-prosecutor-alive-wants-the-world-to-know/>.
 
An important part of the interview comes near the end when Ferencz clearly makes the point that war turns generally good people into murderers.  His goal during much of his 97 years has been to end war by means of the use of law.   The disaster of wars exists because the world of nation-states with unlimited national sovereignty still lacks a system of law and government at the global level.
 

Venezuela and the Fate of Latin American Democracy

Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, Bolivarian Revolution, Organization of American States, Hugo Chavez

As a student of Latin American history, I vividly recall debating why the region’s governments collapsed into dictatorship time and time again. Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay…yet Venezuela was largely absent from the conversation.

Maybe it was because the country seemed to have settled on a democratic system in 1958 after the people overthrew their “final” dictatorship, and avoided the mid-century military massacres their neighbors faced.

Or maybe it was the controversy surrounding President Hugo Chavez and his Bolivarian Revolution, loved by the Left and hated by the Right. And despite his clashes with the U.S., his approval rating remained high at home, due in part to a booming economy, which made him an unlikely harbinger for military rule.

The End of Venezuelan Democracy? 

Flash forward to today, and Venezuela is a very different place. Plagued by record-high inflation, shortages of food and medical supplies, and violent protests, human rights have been suspended in favor of law and order. And although President Nicolás Maduro has slowly continued to erode democratic institutions since he took office in 2013, the once promising nation may officially revert back to authoritarian rule in 2017.  

Exhibit A:In October 2016, Maduro cancelled a presidential recall referendum and postponed regional elections indefinitely. The country had already been declared under a state of emergency since January.

Exhibit B: On March 29, 2017, the Venezuelan Supreme Court, which is controlled by the executive branch, took over the National Assembly. While the ruling was reversed just days later, the separation of powers remains murky.

Ballot for Board of Directors CGS – Action Network

Citizens for Global Solutions

According to the bylaws of the Citizens for Global Solutions Action Network (CGS-AN), the members elect the Directors to the Board for a 3 year term.  A brief bio of all candidates is found at the end of this blog.  If you are ready to vote you can click here and vote electronically.

To be a voting member, you must have paid your $25 dues to the CGS-AN in the past 12 months.  To confirm this you can log-in to this website and check the “My Donations” tab on your personal home page.  If you need to pay your dues, you can do so by clicking here.

This ballot was created by soliciting nominations from the grassroots leaders and other members and is recommended by the CGS-AN Board.  Voting members may add to the proposed ballot the name(s) of other candidates by submitting a petition with the signatures of 4 other voting members. Petitions with signatures must be submitted to the Leadership Committee no later than June 1, 2017.  All Board candidates must be paid members who support the vision and mission of CGS, are willing to work to help raise funds for CGS, and agree to behave according to the organizational values.  The vision, mission and organizational values can be found at http://globalsolutions.org/about.

Here are brief bios for the candidates:

Jordan Bankhead, MS

Syria: Chemical Weapon Use, Destruction of Children, The Ethical Vacuum

Syrian children in a doorway (UN photo)

The Association of World Citizens calls for the re-affirmation of humanitarian international law. It is a call to the soldiers and militia members in armed conflicts to refuse orders to violate humanitarian international law by refusing to use weapons outlawed by international treaties such as chemical weapons, land mines,  cluster munitions or any weapon to attack civilians, especially children and women. We must defend all who use their individual conscience to refuse to follow orders to violate humanitarian international law.

At the heart of this growing phenomenon of mass violence and social disintegration is a crisis of values.  Perhaps the most fundamental loss a society can suffer is the collapse of its own value system.  Many societies exposed to protracted conflicts have seen their community values radically undermined if not shattered altogether.  This has given rise to an ethical vacuum, a setting in which international standards are ignored with impunity and where local value systems have lost their sway.  Olara Otunnu, then Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Report to U.N. General Assembly, 1998

The attack on Khan Sheikhoon in Idib Province of Syria on 4 April 2017 raises at least two essential issues concerning humanitarian international law and the protection of children in times of armed conflict.