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Yemen: Effective Humanitarian Aid Depends on a Peace Accord

United Nations Yemen Observation Mission (UNYOM)

The United Nations together with the governments of Sweden and Switzerland which have often led humanitarian issues in the U.N. system held a high-level pledging conference in Geneva on 25 April 2017 to again draw attention to the deepening humanitarian crisis in war-torn Yemen, currently the largest food security emergency in the world.  Some 60% of the population is in a food-insecure situation.

More than 3.5 million people have been displaced in the cycle of escalating violence.  "We are witnessing the starving and the crippling of an entire generation. We must act now, to save lives" said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who presided over the conference. Realistically, he stressed that funding and humanitarian aid alone will not reverse the fortunes of the millions of people impacted.  Diplomatically, he called for a cessation of hostilities and a political settlement with talks facilitated by the Special Envoy of the Secretary General, the Mauritanian diplomat Ismail Ould Chekh Ahmed.

UN officials and most diplomats are reluctant to call the armed conflict by its real name: "a war of aggression".  The aggression of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition (Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates) against Yemen began on 24 March 2015.  The Saudi-led coalition is helped with arms and "intelligence" by the USA and the UK which appreciate Saudi money for arms and do not want to antagonize a large segment of the Arab world when the conflicts of Syria-Iraq-Kurds-Turkey is still "on the table."

Global Week of Action for UN Parliamentary Assembly: #HumanityFirst

World Parliament Now

America first. Russia first. China first.

The United States of America puts American interests first. Just as every other nation in the world puts its own interests first. President Donald Trump was right about that in his first speech before the United Nations, on Sept. 19. Few world leaders have so nakedly expressed the essence of the Westphalian state system, established by treaty in 1648, and under which every human being dwells today.

“As president of the United States,” Trump said, “I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries, will always, and should always, put your countries first.” This is controversial? Every undergraduate learns this on the first day of International Relations 101. It is the first principle of the realpolitik practiced by Henry Kissinger, Winston Churchill and Otto von Bismarck.

Virtually every other American president has made the same point. President Barack Obama, expressing his conception of larger interests during his final speech before the United Nations in 2016, returned in the end to his own primary obligation—and that of his counterparts. “Sometimes I’m criticized in my own country for professing a belief in international norms and multilateral institutions. But I am convinced that in the long run, giving up some freedom of action — not giving up our ability to protect ourselves or pursue our core interests, but binding ourselves to international rules over the long term — enhances our security. And I think that’s not just true for us.”

European Reform and Trump’s First United Nations Speech: What are the Implications?

European Reform in the time of Trump

Europe is at a crucial point in its history, and in the last few weeks certain significant developments have emerged.  Separately, they make for interesting political developments.   Combined, they have substantial geo-political implications.

In a recent speech, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Junker, outlined a series of ambitious reforms for the European Union. They called for significant integration, even going so far as to propose the selection of a single European President and the election of European Union Ministers of Finance and Economy. Should these reforms come to pass, they could lead to the emergence of a stronger, more unified E.U. Their prospects do not look particularly bleak when one considers that alongside the reform-minded president Macron of France, Junker is also working with the intrinsically pro-European Chancellor Merkel of Germany, who recently won another four-year term. It is worth noting that where some may find ill omens in the electoral gains of the far-right Alternative for Germany party (AFD) in the recent election, at 12.6% they only managed to gain a similar share of the popular vote to that which the UKIP got in the 2015 British General Election and less than half of that possessed by the current German opposition party.  Merkel is now likely in power for another four years, so she is in a strong position to help facilitate Junker’s reforms. The adoption of his reforms would be a significant step towards the creation of a federated Europe. By itself this would prove momentous, but it also comes at a crucial time in international politics.

World Citizenship Is More Popular Than You Might Think

Students at Peace Bell for International Peace Day

Has nationalism captured the hearts and minds of the world’s people?

It certainly seems to have emerged as a powerful force in recent years.  Trumpeting their alleged national superiority and hatred of foreigners, political parties on the far right have made their biggest political advances since the 1930s.  After the far right’s startling success, in June 2016, in getting a majority of British voters to endorse Brexit―British withdrawal from the European Union (EU)―even mainstream conservative parties began to adopt a chauvinist approach.  Using her Conservative Party conference to rally support for leaving the EU, British Prime Minister Theresa May declared contemptuously: “If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere.”

The tilt toward an aggressive nationalism was particularly evident in the United States, where Donald Trump―amid chants of “USA, USA” from his fervent supporters―promised to “make America great again” by building a wall to block Mexicans, barring the entry of Muslims to the United States, and expanding U.S. military might.  Following his surprise election victory, Trump told a rally in December 2016:  “There is no global anthem.  No global currency.  No certificate of global citizenship.  We pledge allegiance to one flag and that flag is the American flag.”  After wild cheering from the crowd, he added:  “From now on it is going to be:  America First.  Okay?  America first.  We’re going to put ourselves first.”

Rising Sea Levels and the Future of the Earth

A dog in Greenland

Scientists have projected that the Earth’s oceans could rise by between 2 and 5 feet within the next 80 years. This will prove to be detrimental for citizens of island nations, such as the people of Kiribati and especially the inhabitants of the Maldives. The Maldives is the lowest-lying nation in the world; this means that if seas were to rise just 3 feet, the whole nation would cease to exist. Without homes, the people of the Maldives   (a population of over 400,000 residents) would need to relocate — something that would not be easy to accomplish.

You may be wondering how exactly this will affect Americans. First, the Maldives and the US have had diplomatic relations since 1966 and have had economic ties with one another for decades. Additionally, the Maldives has opened itself to US investment through its tourism and business sectors, meaning that American investors’ money will disappear along with the island. The scary part is that it is not just the dozens of small island nations being affected, rather it is the whole world being affected: even the US will be directly damaged by rising sea levels. Coastal communities, especially those in Florida, are highly susceptible to rising sea levels. The rising sea levels are causing chronic flooding, forcing residents to move away because of the uninhabitable conditions. With a 3 foot increase in ocean levels, more than 4 million Americans will be severely affected.

Why are rising sea levels a problem?

The World's Largest Lesson

World's Largest Lesson

In 2015, the world community decided upon 17 Sustainable Development Goals, themselves containing 169 separate targets. These goals range from elimination of poverty to tackling climate change, but they all share a common intention; by the time they are completed, ideally in 2030, the world will be fairer, cleaner, and more sustainable than ever before.

To try and raise awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals, the “World’s Largest Lesson” campaign was launched, with the intent of educating all about what the Goals seek to achieve, and how we can help. Providing resources and advice to teachers and pupils alike, it aims to facilitate participation at all levels. By doing so, they hope to create the sort of grass roots support that has in the past affected real change, and can do so again in the future. We know this sort of movement is possible, and we know the things it can achieve. As such, I encourage all who are interested to visit the website of the “World’s Largest Lesson”, at: http://worldslargestlesson.globalgoals.org/

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".