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Signs of Hope Inside CGS

Donna with her new grandchild

I have become the chair of Citizens for Global Solutions Action Network at a difficult time.  It was very difficult to lay off our dedicated staff at the beginning of May.  But it became clear to all the members of both Boards (Citizens for Global Solutions Education Fund and Citizens for Global Solutions Action Network) that we didn’t have a choice.  Financially we couldn’t afford their salaries.  Some of our employees had been with us a very long time.  The decision and the process were painful.  It has been like losing dear friends.

So now we enter a new phase in the life of Citizens for Global Solutions.  We are now a volunteer-led, volunteer-run organization.  We hope to hire staff and interns again in the future, but for the time being we are looking for a few good volunteers.

So why should you, our members, our colleagues, our friends, our donors, our volunteers stick with us?  I believe there are many signs of the times that point to hope for our organization and our world.  This blog will share hopeful signs within our organization:


Hiroshima after the bomb from UN website

Thanks to President Obama for visiting Hiroshima and thereby calling attention to the increasing horror of warfare.  The President has an important message which much of the media seems to be missing, that in the future humanity must avoid not only nuclear war but all warfare.

It is past time for the world's leaders to see that the development of any kind of weapons is not the cause of war but rather the effect of leaders expecting wars and wanting to win them rather than lose them.  Wars are a disease of our human society, and the desire to make ever more destructive weapons is a symptom of that disease.

Some people think that we must always have wars because there will always be conflicts, but that is a mistake.  Not all conflicts are wars.  Humans engage in warfare when they do not rely on a better way to deal with conflicts.  

In fact, we humans have developed a peaceful way of resolving conflicts, even intense conflicts between groups with opposing interests.  It is called democratic government, and we are seeing it at work right in our election taking place this November.  Different groups have different views about what policies the government of our community should follow.  A few even want to continue to use violence to deal with these conflicts, but fortunately most are committed to having elections according to agreed-upon rules.  Then the winning majority make laws which are in effect until the next election.   Courts are established to determine how the laws apply to particular cases.  We will have a very contentious election, but there will not be a war.

The United States of America is not the only country that has demonstrated the value of democracy, that is, of resolving conflicts by political and judicial means along with regular elections.  Democracy promotes bit-by-bit progress over a long period of time.

The Security of Human Rights

Recently, President Obama announced the end of the arms embargo against Vietnam, “ensur[ing] that Vietnam has access to the equipment it needs to defend itself and...underscoring the commitment of the United States to a fully normalized relationship with Vietnam.” While the Obama Administration has maintained that this is not being done as a response to China’s growing military, and hold over the disputed South China Sea, others see it as strategic decision to balance a rising China.

But some, like John Sifton of Human Rights Watch, have criticized the move as being “undeserved at this time.” With Obama too noting that “there are still areas of significant concern in terms of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, [and] accountability with respect to government,” many argue that Vietnam’s current treatment of human rights does not merit closer ties with the U.S. For example, an activist was grabbed and held until after Obama had left the country.

World Humanitarian Summit: On the front lines for action

World Humanitarian Summit 2016

The World Humanitarian Summit organized by the United Nations will open on 23 May 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey.  The aim of the conference in the words of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki moon is to see what should be done “to end conflict, alleviate suffering and reduce risk and vulnerability.”  Turkey is on the front lines of the consequences of armed conflict with nearly three million refugees from Syria and Iraq as well as its own attacks against Kurds. Turkey has entered into agreements with the States of the European Union concerning the flow of refugees through Turkey to Europe − agreements that have raised controversy and concern from human rights organizations.

Given the policies of the Turkish government, some non-governmental organizations have refused to participate in protest.  Doctors Without Borders − one of the best-known of the relief organizations − has pulled out.  However, the Association of World Citizens will participate while working for a settlement of Kurdish issues at the same time.

As with all UN conferences, there has been a good deal of earlier discussion. These discussions within UN agencies, national governments, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have led to a synthesis document which sets out the agenda and the main lines for discussion in Istanbul.  It is the Secretary-General’s report for the World Humanitarian Summit One humanity: shared responsibility. (A70/709). There is a useful overview of the current world situation of refugees, internally-displaced people and of people on the move to escape persistent poverty.  There are also warnings about future displacement of people due to the consequences of climate change.

New Challenges for Global Citizens

The Global Citizenship Commission (GCC) under the leadership of the former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown presented its report The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the 21st Century (free PDF download) to the United Nations on 18 April 2016.

The Global Citizenship Commission was created “to illuminate the ideal of global citizenship. What does it mean for each of us to be members of the global society?” The principal aim of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was to create a framework for a world society that was in need of universal codes based on mutual consent in order to function. This universality was clearly reaffirmed in the 1993 Vienna Declaration of the World Conference on Human Rights in which nearly all UN Member States took part.

In 1948, the members of the UN Commission on Human Rights saw the human rights process as a three-step effort. First was the proclamation of the general principles which was the UDHR. The second step was to be the codification of these principles into laws both at the world and at national levels. The third step was to be some form of implementation through reports and observation, possible complaints procedures and ultimately some form of enforcement or sanctions. In 1948, it was not clear how the second and third steps should be carried out.

A New Direction for Our Organization

CGS National Offices in Washington, DC

Dear Citizens for Global Solutions friends, members and supporters,

The boards of Citizens for Global Solutions are excited to announce a new direction for the organization -- one that reflects our current resource capacities and some difficult but realistic decisions by our volunteer leadership.

Opportunities lie ahead of us, and we feel these changes will allow us to take advantage of them.

Earlier this month, the boards agreed to transition to a volunteer-run association. Our current staff is moving on to new opportunities. Over the next year our boards and trustees will oversee renovation of our national offices into housing for young interns.

We are maintaining our issue-driven website and social media, our advocacy and educational efforts, and our commitment to donors and activists. 

We will leverage our new partnership with the Commission on Global Security, Justice and Governance in support of several urgently needed global reforms, and several chapters will participate again in the Global Week of Action this October. 

Nationally and locally, our activists will continue educating and advocating for solutions to climate change, mass atrocities, and nuclear proliferation. As always, these efforts come together to ensure our goal of a democratically governed world, which remains an inspiring vision for many.

Donald Trump's Dangerous Views on Nuclear Weapons

Donald Trump, Nuclear Weapons, nuclear non-proliferation, United States, Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea, Russia

Barring a contested convention, Donald Trump will likely be named the Republican presidential nominee.  And while his polarizing stances on immigration, trade agreements, and economic recovery get the most press, there is one issue that should raise alarm across party lines: nuclear proliferation. According to Trump, it's "going to happen anyway."  

Surprisingly, the presidential candidate sees no reason for the United States to stop nuclear proliferation. In fact, he told the New York Times, "If Japan had that nuclear threat, I'm not sure that would be a bad thing for us." Nor would he dissuade South Korea and Saudi Arabia from obtaining nuclear weapons, too.

Japan and South Korea, in particular, rely on U.S. military support to maintain peace and stability in the region. Yet Trump has suggested withdrawing troops in favor of allowing nuclear armament, a move that would greatly impact foreign policy.

“If the U.S. allies defend themselves as Trump has said, the alliance will be broken, and it will lead to a nuclear domino situation in Asia,” Moon Keun-sik, an analyst with the Korea Defense and Security Forum in Seoul told Voice of America.

Security Council Resolution Highlights a Foundation of World Law

The protection of medical facilities and medical personnel is at the heart of the laws of war, more often called humanitarian law. On May 3, 2016, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2286 calling for greater protection for health care institutions and personnel in light of recent attacks against hospitals and clinics in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Afghanistan. These attacks on medical facilities are too frequent to be considered “collateral damage.” They indicate a dangerous trend of non-compliance with world law by both State and non-State agents.

The protection of medical personnel and the treatment of all the wounded--both allies and enemies--goes back to the start of humanitarian law in the experiences of Henri Dunant at the 1859 battle of Solferino in Italy. A businessman, not a doctor, Dunant found himself a witness of the battle and organized local women to start treating the wounded. negotiated so that doctors among the Austrian prisoners of war could be released to help the wounded. Nevertheless, many soldiers died from lack of care after acute suffering.

The image of the dying stayed in Dunant's mind. On his return to Geneva, he began to organize what has become the International Committee of the Red Cross, followed by many national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, now structured in a federation. Both the International Committee and the federation have their headquarters in Geneva and cooperate closely with the UN, the World Health Organization, the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, and NGOs.

Ethiopia: Where Economic Progress and Human Rights Clash

When you think of Ethiopia, images of starving children probably come to mind. But the East African nation has come a long way since the 1984-1985 famine, which claimed over one million lives. Economic growth has increased around 10 percent annually for the past decade, putting it in line with the government's goal of becoming a "middle-income" nation by 2025.

The country's "pro-poor" polices are transforming the nation and creating a path to prosperity and stability. Western governments—including the United States and Canada—consider Ethiopia an "island of stability" surrounded by the struggling states of Sudan, Somalia, South Sudan, and Eritrea.  

Yet for all its economic success, the Ethiopian government casts a long shadow on human rights.

Last year, a violent crackdown on protesters in Oromia resulted in upwards of 200 deaths, according to Human Rights Watch. The anti-government demonstrations, which were set off by plans to expand the capital Addis Ababa into the region, have been fueled by frustrations over political and economic marginalization. Protesters say the military and police responded with public beatings, unlawful arrests, and even killings.

Eyewitness testimonies, mostly reported via social media and by activists, have been difficult to verify. Restrictions on travel have made independent investigations next to impossible. Journalists can't travel without permission and are typically assigned a government minder when they do.

The Bigger Picture: #BringBackOurGirls is Only the Tip of the Iceberg

It has been two years since the abduction of 267 schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigeria. The tragedy initially shocked the world. Since 2014, the coverage of continuing kidnappings has dwindled, and the international community has seemed to remove itself from immediate concern.

However, the relative ease at which Boko Haram was able to carry out the kidnapping in Chibok has only led to an increase in abductions over the past two years. In order to educate the international community on the tragedies occurring in Nigeria, the female victims of Boko Haram deserve the ability to share their stories with the public both through peace negotiations and the media.

Beginning in 2012, schools became Boko Haram’s central target for abductions, which only worsened the already drastic education indices in northeastern Nigeria. The group has since destroyed almost 1,000 schools and targeted thousands of teachers and students.

The tragedies endured by the Chibok schoolgirls, which sparked the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, has been endured by thousands of young women in northeastern Nigeria over the past six years. Unfortunately, many of the victims continue to remain invisible to the world’s eye. According to the International Organization for Migration, the number of displaced people, or IDPs, in northeastern Nigeria has skyrocketed to 2.6 million, along with 17,000 people killed due to the six-year insurgency by Boko Haram.