The Global Citizen
Category: Ending Genocide and Mass Atrocities
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.
Ever since President Obama drew a red line to prevent further use of poison gas by Bashar al-Assad to murder Syrian citizens, I have advocated action to enforce the treaty against the use of such weapons. The U.S. Congress refused to review and endorse Obama's call for action because Russia and other supporters of Assad said they would remove the remaining poison gas from Syria and take it to Russia. However, they did not actually fulfill this commitment. This lack of action was wrong, morally and legally.
Now, we can move forward—carefully. Let us take creative notice of the fact that Russia and Iran have been acting as the protectors of the use of poison gas. Let us state that clearly. Let us, the United States of America, stand for international law and justice for people worldwide. Let us continue to mend relationships with Arab leaders who also support law and justice. Let us continue our efforts to defeat ISIS and its violence against the people of Syria, Iraq and other nations, but let us note that this is above all a war of ideas. It is basically a war for human rights and a struggle for a peaceful world.
In his speeches before both CPAC and the U.S. Congress, President Trump described with pinpoint accuracy the sovereign state system of today. But might we see a global anthem tomorrow, and a world flag, and even a United Earth? This posting is a short version of Tad’s longer article posted on AlterNet on March 10, 2017. Click here to read his full article and join in the discussion taking place there.
“We will serve the citizens of the United States of America, believe me,” said President Donald Trump at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on February 24th. “There is no such thing as a global anthem, a global currency, or a global flag.” Four days later, in his first speech before a joint session of Congress, he continued, “My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America.”
But someday, is it possible that people around the world might actually sing a global anthem together? And hoist a global flag? And dwell together as citizens of a United Earth?
Our world grows smaller and more interconnected every day. No grand historical development is more defining of the modern age. Can we imagine the same feelings of camaraderie, kindred spiritedness, and tribal solidarity about our single human community? Can our loyalty to the world as a whole — as it does for many for one’s nation -- make our blood rush a little more quickly through our veins? Might our allegiance to our nations be accompanied by an allegiance to humanity?
If I were another on the road, I wouldn't have looked back. I'd have said what one traveler says to another: Hello stranger, wake up your guitar! Let's postpone our tomorrow to lengthen our road and widen our space, so that we may be rescued from our story together.
-- Mahmoud Darwish, Palestinian poet.
By creating special observance days, the United Nations tries to promote international awareness and action on specific issues. Thus 6 February is International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation and 20 March is International Day of Happiness. 2 May highlights an issue we do not think about often: World Tuna Day. 18 December has been designated as the International Migrants Day, but even without a special day, migrants and refugees have become world-wide issues leading to political debate, especially in Europe and the USA.
Asylum seekers and immigrants with low level of education are often seen as a “burden”, not only for “Fortress Europe” but also for first reception countries. Thus, today's borders function as a filter, separating the “wanted” - that is, migrants who can be used - from the “unwanted”. The filter serves to separate those that get in from those who are pushed back.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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