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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.

A Model for Climate Change: Guatemala's Agro-Ecological Center

Guatemala, Climate Change, German Society for International Cooperation, Agriculture, Food Security

Plagued by rising temperatures, droughts, and elevated carbon dioxide levels, Central America's agricultural sector hangs in the balance. But the Guatemalan town of San Miguel Chicaj in Baja Verapaz may have the answer to this increasingly worrisome problem. With support from the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), San Miguel Chicaj will soon be home to an agro-ecological center designed to serve as a model of adaption to climate change.

For the past ten years, the state of Baja Verapaz has been part of the 'dry corridor', making it the perfect testing ground for the agro-ecological center's techniques. The center, located in a small forest surrounded by cornfields and nurseries, plans to teach people to adapt crop production to the changing environment.  

"It will strengthen our crops…serve as a space for youth to be trained in agricultural-related activities," the chief counselor of San Miguel Chicaj told El Periodico.

The project, which is in the second phase of the "Adapt" initiative of the GIZ, has been called "innovative" and "a new way to address climate change" by the organization's head of cooperation Thomas Cieslik.

Under construction on municipal land, it will cost around $100,000 USD to complete. GIZ, meanwhile, is providing €10.5 million over six years (2013-2018) to invest in consulting and training. Once open, the center will fund operations by charging schools, universities, and companies for training students and employees.

It won't be ready for about a year-and-a-half, but GIZ is already conducting workshops to teach residents of Baja Verapaz how to reduce their impact on the environment. 

Letters to Jake Series, Letter #9

Jake with his twin sisters Annette and Clair on the 4th of July

Dear Jake,

I love the attached picture of you and the twins all dressed for this year’s 4th of July celebration!  Our 4th of July holiday honors the signing of the “Declaration of Independence” which put forth our belief that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Of course with three sisters you realize that in today’s world “men” doesn’t only apply to men but to all people !!  Annette, Clair and baby Grace won’t let you forget that.

There is another part of American history that I like to acknowledge and celebrate—the idea of moving from a confederation of states, which the US was after our war of independence, to a federation of states which we are now.  When the United States agreed to federate, the states agreed to stop solving their disagreements on the battlefield and instead take them to court.  The “rule of law” is an important part of how all Americans are allowed to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I would like to take these same principles of federation and the “rule of law” and apply them now across the nations of the world.  It is very possible for the nations of the world to come together to solve their disagreement in court instead of in war.  The US has proved that this approach works and is a better way to protect the rights of all people on earth.

Yemen negotiations move ahead slowly – post-war planning needed

Over 170 schools have been destroyed in the north of Yemen due to the conflict.

The UN-mediated peace negotiations for Yemen led by Ismail Ould Cheikh in Kuwait move ahead slowly. The 13-month war was at first between Hauthis tribal forces loyal to the former president Ali Abdallah Saleh and those supporting the current president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi who had been Saleh’s vice-president for many years. The war is a struggle for power but is not an ideological-religious-tribal conflict.

Into this conflict has come a Saudi Arabian-led military coalition using bombs and sophisticated weapons. As a result, some 2.5 million people have been displaced within the country. Yemen was already a poor country which needed to import much of its agricultural and food supplies. As a result of the Saudi bombing raids, the underdeveloped socio-economic infrastructure has been largely destroyed.

Thus, 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 Programme 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.

The Refugee Crisis: United Nations Declares the Problem “Unprecedented”

Migrants on the move with small children in Miratovac, Serbia

One of the unintended consequences of people fleeing their homelands as a result of conflict, terrorism, famine, and political and religious persecution has been an increase in right-wing nationalism and an anti-immigrant populist uprising as witnessed by the recent “Brexit” vote in Great Britain.

From France to Germany, Italy and Austria; from the Netherlands to Hungary and Greece, a wave of nationalistic leaders has taken center stage across the continent of Europe seeking to capitalize on the anti-refugee bias.

We in the United States have witnessed political rhetoric that feeds on the fears of the populace – real or imagined. Despite passage of the American SAFE Act in response to the terrorist attacks in Paris, some seek to completely bar Syrian refugees from entering the U.S., fearing that refugees are posing as terrorists. The vetting process is extremely stringent, as it should be, but it is wrong to assume all refugees mean us harm.

Each year on June 20th the world comes together to mark World Refugee Day. Beginning in 2001 it is a time to commemorate the strength, courage, and resilience of millions of refugees. The U.N. estimates that 65 million people have been displaced as a consequence of ongoing regional hostilities. This is the largest number ever to be reported by the U.N.

To place this figure into some perspective, consider this: one in every 113 people is now a refugee, asylum-seeker or internally displaced. Furthermore, in 2015 24 people had to flee their homeland every minute due to conflict or persecution, according to the U.N.’s Global Trends 2015 report submitted by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Rio 2016: Olympic Games Trump Human Rights?

2016 Olympics, Brazil, Rio de Janiero, Human Rights, Police Brutality

Ready or not, Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Summer Olympics in August.  The Brazilian city, which is set to receive one million visitors,  has long been plagued by violent crime and police brutality—a security risk for both athletes and tourists.  In order to combat these fears, Brazil loaned $895 million to the city to keep the peace. But there is another, often neglected group, that also deserves protection: Rio de Janeiro's residents.

Combined with the numbers on police violence, Brazil's security policy gives NGOs and observers reason to pause.  Police in the state of Rio de Janeiro were responsible for 436 killings in 2014 alone, according to Human Rights Watch. And no fewer than 85,000 security officers will be deployed throughout the games. (Forces include civilian and military police, National Public Security Force soldiers, members of the armed forces,  and privately funded brigades.)

Police Brutality

Brazil's extreme security measures might make visitors feel more at home, but the same can't be said for millions of residents who face high rates of homicides committed by police. These security operations to reduce crime before events such as the World Cup or the Olympics often threaten the local population, according to Amnesty International.

Reimagining the United Nations: A 2020 Vision

Future Parliament

This essay is a revised and updated version of the cover story for the Fall/Winter 2015 issue of DISARMAMENT TIMES, the journal of the United Nations NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace, and Security.

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"Does the United Nations Still Matter?" It often seems so irrelevant to the problems of the modern age that those words appeared last year on the front page of The New Republic magazine. More than seven decades after the UN's invention in 1945, our multiple planetary crises seem dramatically different from those confronting the generation that emerged from the rubble of the Second World War. Isn’t it time to devise architectures of global governance intended not to avoid the mistakes of the 1930s, but focused instead on the intertwined predicaments of our own 21st Century?

A New Global Governance Commission

If so, we have a new guide to start the journey. It’s the report from the “Commission on Global Security, Justice, and Governance,” co-chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former UN Under-Secretary-General Ibrahim Gambari. The name they chose reflects the inescapable links the Commission sees among those three variables. Their report elaborately makes the case that we can’t have security anywhere without justice, or justice anywhere without security. And it asserts that nothing could do more to provide both security and justice to much of humanity than smart 21st Century innovations in global governance.

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 AND WAR: PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE

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.