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Category: Global Democracy & Governance

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.

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.

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.

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.

Will the European Union End Its U.S. Visa Waiver Program?

https://de.usembassy.gov/visas/travel-tourism/

Visa-free travel throughout the world is one of the biggest perks of carrying a U.S. passport. Today, you can visit 154 countries without the paperwork, but that could change this summer. The European Union may slam the door on traveling freely, a decision with consequences beyond tourism.

On April 12, the European Commission met to consider altering visa requirements for U.S. citizens, 15 years after establishing the program that allows Americans to travel to EU countries for up to 90 days without a visa. The move is an attempt to pressure the U.S. government into adding Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, and Romania—all EU member states—to the list of countries entitled to visa-free travel in America. But the U.S. has held out on extending the same program to all EU members, citing security concerns. (Canada faces a similar threat over Romania and Bulgaria.)

While European national parliaments are unlikely to ratify an end to the program given the value of U.S. tourism, the issue could impact negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), an agreement three years in the making.

“There’s no doubt that if the EU were to slap a visa requirement on the U.S., it would be very, very bad news for the European tourism industry,” said Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a Washington D.C.-based think tank. "It would also quite frankly send the wrong political signal in the middle of TTIP negotiations.” 

On the other hand, the U.S. State Department hasn't expressed concern over the repeal of the visa waivers.