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Category: Global Democracy & Governance

A Vision of Hope

Fr Ben and friends at the celebration of his Sustainability Hero award at Xavier University

In the Commonweal magazine article “Protect Thy Neighbor” (June 21, 2016) authors Mark J. Allman and Tobias Winright echo the Catholic Catechism when they say: “If and when the day ever comes when war is abolished—and like all Catholics, we pray for the arrival of that day.”

Catholics are urged by the Catechism (#2307) not only to pray for the day when war is abolished, but work to end it.  “Because of the evils and injustices that accompany all war the Church insistently urges everyone to prayer and to action so that the divine Goodness may free us from the ancient bondage of war.”

Forty years after the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson said “Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. ... [They] must advance ... and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

What should humanity do now to exchange our old clothes of the past for something more appropriate for today's world?  I propose that we commit ourselves to advancing love over hate and hope over despair.  We should strive to implement structures that will make our planet sustainable and our human family more ethical and moral.  We should practice active non-violence and wage peace rather than war.  We should seek to establish security and justice for all.  We should develop a global community where basic human rights are protected and greater economic equity is implemented.  We should create a democratic world federation that would be a legal governing body for the Family of Nations.  That is an ideal for humanity that has been advocated by many, including in several official pronouncements of the Catholic Church.

Maine Chapter of CGS Supports the Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly

Shirley Davis at the CGS Maine Chapter Table supporting the UNPA

The Global Week of Action for a UN Parliamentary Assembly runs until Oct 30, 2016, but there is nothing magic about that date.  CGS encourages actions in support of this important idea before, during and after the official Global Week of Action. 

On the afternoon of September 17, 2016, the Maine Chapter of Citizens for Global Solutions had a table and map display in support of the Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA).  We did this in conjunction with many other organizations participating in the End Violence Together program in downtown Bangor, Maine.  Our banner in support of UNPA was suspended from a table.  We displayed a world map on an easel that demonstrated areas in the world where action has already taken place in support of this goal.  

The Campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly is a global network of parliamentarians, non-governmental organizations, scholars, and dedicated citizens that advocates democratic representation of the world's citizens at the United Nations. A United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, UNPA, for the first time would give elected citizen representatives, not only states, a direct and influential role in global policy.

Institutions that have expressed support include numerous civil society organizations, parliaments, international parliamentary assemblies and party networks. For instance, the Pan-African Parliament, the European Parliament, and the Latin-American Parliament have adopted resolutions ñ as have the Socialist International, the Liberal International, or the Green World Congress.  1466 members of parliaments from 120 countries endorse the campaign.

UN Day: Changing of the Guard

Secretary-General Meets António Guterres before General Assembly Appointment

UN Day, 24 October, this year is marked by preparations for a changing of the guard. The ten years of Ban Ki-moon as Secretary-General will give way on one January 2017 to the new Secretary- General, Antonio Guterres, who was during the same ten-year period the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. As with the changing of the guard in front of a palace or national monument, the persons change but the guards have the same uniform. 

Ban Ki-moon brought his long experience in South Korean diplomacy and a certain non-confrontational Asian style – somewhat similar to that of the Berman U Thant- to the UN. (1) The major road marks of UN action during his leadership of the organization were related to socio-economic development: the setting of the 2015-2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Both agreements are important and needed a good deal of “behind the meeting hall” efforts to reach consensus.  However development goals and anti-poverty measures have been relatively the same since the early 1960s when the former African colonies joined the UN. As has been said, setting goals is relatively simple, reaching them is more difficult. 

Development is at the heart of the UN system – the UN and its programmes and the major Specialized Agencies (FAO, ILO, WHO, UNESCO) as well as the two financial bodies (the World Bank and the IMF). There are issues of coordination and overlap of tasks, but basically the development efforts continue with few changes. 

The same steady continuation can be said to be true of the UN's human rights efforts. The international norms have been set, but the UN Secretariat has relatively few ways of control or pressure on what member States do in the human rights field. In keeping with the development focus of the UN system, there has been a somewhat greater emphasis on socio-economic rights and the fight against poverty but most of these goals had also been set earlier. 

Maria Montessori: The Spirit of Education for World Citizenship

Global Citizen Education Program at UNESCO would make Maria Montessori proud.

Maria Montessori (1870-1952), an Italian childhood educator and world citizen, would have been pleased at the efforts of the United Nations and UNESCO to promote Global Citizenship Education1. Montessori argued for a child's dignity and autonomy and for the ability of the child to break out of the narrow bonds of nationalistic education. She stressed that children have a unique consciousness and a special sensitivity in the early years which must be nurtured and allowed to develop along its own course.

The world citizen spirit of Maria Montessori's teaching displeased the narrow nationalist leaders in power in the 1930s. The Fascist government of Mussolini closed the Montessori schools in Italy in 1934 as did Hitler in Germany and then in Austria when Hitler's  troops moved into Vienna.  The dictators saw that creative thinking among children was a danger to their authoritarian rule.  She spent the Second World War years in India where her educational ideas influenced a growing number of Indian teachers.

 She stressed education for world citizenship in both content and methodology for as she pointed out access to education and to various forms of learning is a necessary but not sufficient condition to world citizenship education. A comprehensive system of education and training is needed for all groups of people and at all levels, both formal and non-formal. The development of a holistic approach based on participatory methods is crucial.

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.