The Global Citizen

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Category: Ending Genocide and Mass Atrocities

Immigration, Detention, Control

UN Photo of Syrian Refugees at a camp in Jordan

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.

migr01Asylum 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.

435 Campaign for Global Justice: US Global Justice Corps

Floor of US House of Representatives

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 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.

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.

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.

Kerry Deems Actions of ISIS Genocide

Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Thursday that ISIS (also known as Daesh) has been committing genocide against religious minorities in the Middle East. This announcement marks the second time in United States history that the executive branch has used the term “genocide” in reference to a current conflict, the first instance being Darfur in 2004.

The announcement was made after the House of Representatives passed a nonbinding resolution by a unanimous vote condemning ISIS atrocities as genocide. The statement was made in response to a deadline Congress set last year  for the Obama Administration to determine whether the targeting of minority religious and ethnic groups by ISIS could be defined as genocide.

During a news conference at the State Department, Kerry said, "My purpose here today is to assert in my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis, Christians and Shiite Muslims." He went on to detail the atrocities committed against each of the aforementioned groups, the entirety of which can be seen here.  After listing the crimes he added,

Naming these crimes is important. But what is essential is to stop them. That will require unity in this country and within the countries directly involved, and the determination to act against genocide, against ethnic cleansing, against the other crimes against humanity must be pronounced among decent people all across the globe.”

Sri Lanka Signs UN Anti-Landmine Treaty

https://blogs.state.gov/stories/2014/04/04/clearing-landmines-saving-lives

On March 3, Sri Lanka became the 163rd state to agree to the Ottawa Treaty, a UN anti-personnel mine ban convention. It's an important step toward recovery from the country's 26-year long civil war, a conflict that claimed upwards of 80,000 lives, displaced an estimated 280,000, and left the Northern and Eastern regions covered in landmines.

Weapon of Choice in the Civil War

The Sri Lankan Civil War ended in 2009, but unexploded mines and ordinances (UXOs) made returning home a risky proposition. Both the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan military relied heavily on landmines, scattering thousands undetonated devices across conflict areas.

Demining efforts, in turn, became a vital part of restoring Sri Lankan civil society. But progress was slow due to random placement, lack of maps on their locations, and too few flair machines, which safely detonate landmines.

Signing the Ottawa Treaty

By joining the convention, Sri Lanka has agreed to destroy all stockpiled anti-personnel mines it owns and/or controls under its jurisdiction within four years. The country must also continue its efforts to clear the devices and assist victims. (Over 21,000 people were killed or injured by landmines during the war, according to Landmine Monitor.)

What is the ICC Doing to Stop ISIS?

https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2014/october/help-identify-individuals-traveling-overseas-for-combat/image/isil-unknown-subject

Last week, I attended the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission briefing titled, “Seeking Justice for Atrocities: How the International Criminal Court Could Advance Accountability in Iraq and Syria.” The panel was made up of four highly qualified people in the field of international justice. I personally was very happy to see that three out of the four were women.

The panel included Minerva Mirabal, President of Parliamentarians for Global Action; Jane Stromseth, Professor of Law at Georgetown University; and James Stewart, Deputy Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Susana SaCouto, the Professorial Lecturer in Residence at American University, acted as mediator.

The event began, as most do, with each panelist giving an introductory speech. I was fully prepared for boredom to set in as I leaned back with my notepad in hand. However, I was quickley shocked back into full attention when Mirabal began to speak; her voice was filled with such intense passion, it was difficult to ignore.