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Category: Global Democracy & Governance

​Robert Muller (11 Mar 1923 – 20 Sep 2010): Crossing Frontiers for Reconciliation

Robert Muller (1923-2010). Personal photo from Association of World Citizens
“The time has come for the implementation of a spiritual vision of the world’s affairs. The entire planet must elevate itself into the spiritual, cosmic throbbing of the universe.”— Robert Muller
Robert Muller, whose birth anniversary we mark on 11 March, was the former Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Service of the United Nations, and, after his retirement, he served as Honorary President of the Association of World Citizens. He was brought up in Alsace-Lorraine still marked by the results of the First World War.   As a young man, he joined the French Resistance movement during the Second World War when Alsace-Lorraine had been re-annexed by Germany. At the end of the War, he earned a Doctorate in Law and Economics at the University of Strasbourg. Strasbourg was to become the city symbolic of French-German reconciliation and is today home of the European Parliament.

Determined to work for peace having seen the destructive impact of war, he joined the United Nations Secretariat in 1948 where he worked primarily on economic and social issues. For many years, he was the Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Council. His work with ECOSOC brought him into close contact with NGOs whose work he always encouraged

CGS Marches for Women of the World…And for One World

Women for the Human Race...Not a New Arms Race

CGS was a robust participant in the historic Women's March on Washington on January 21st, the day after the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th American president. 

CGS, of course, is a nonpartisan organization. But as President-Elect, Mr. Trump indicated that he intended to increase the American nuclear arsenal "until the world comes to its senses," and even tweeted the words, "Let it be an arms race." 

Few things could be more contrary to the CGS vision of enduring world peace through enforceable world law. In the short term, we know that a renewed nuclear arms race will diminish American national security and everyone else's as well. In the long term, our goal of something like a world republic would bring an end forever to perpetual arms competition, the forever arms race, Thomas Hobbes's permanent "war of all against all." Our dream is that China and America will interact tomorrow, in a Federal Republic of Earth, in much the same way that California and Texas relate today within the political community that is the United States of America. Californians and Texans can be quite different! But California and Texas don't fight wars. And they don't spend billions of dollars on weapons of death, every single year, on and on into the dim mists of perpetuity, to "deter" the other from starting one. 

So CGS joined a coalition at the Women's March spearheaded by our friends at Women's Action for New Directions. We helped to craft the slogan adopted by this coalition: "Women for the Human Race, Not a New Arms Race."   https://m.facebook.com/events/283920202010752/

Obama's Legacy

President Obama Voting in a US Election

Discussions of Obama's legacy are often too narrow.  They focus on specific policies that were adopted or not adopted.  They don't pay enough attention to what Obama himself said at his January 10 valedictory speech in Chicago.  When the audience began shouting "No, no, no, no, no" as he mentioned the coming change in the White House, Obama responded with a statement that displays his wisdom and his understanding of the important role of the United States in world history, namely that one of our nation's great strengths "is the peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next."

We have constructed a large and prosperous democratic nation that decides who should have ultimate political power in our country for the next few years on the basis of elections rather than fighting violent military battles.   In a democracy groups with opposing views and interests realize that the results of an election can be reversed in the next election and the next and the next.  Violence is not necessary.

In a stable democracy there is no one winner-take-all for the foreseeable future.  The rulers for the moment can be changed in the next election.  Progress toward an ideal community can be made gradually and even with steps forward and back.

We had our very destructive Civil War (1861-1865) to determine that we would preserve the democratic federal Union.  For a century and a half after that our country has experienced the wonderful benefits of a united democratic federal government that determines its rulers by elections instead of wars and is governed by law and courts rather than destructive military battles.  Obama realizes that, and his whole life as well as his presidency has been guided by it.

January 11: National Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Enslaved Sex Worker Helps DHS Take Down Her Captors (photo from www.dhs.gov)

January 11, 2017 is a special day.  Not because of the numeric coincidence of 1-11-17.  But because of the large number of human beings who remain victims of human trafficking, one of the most degrading, harmful and illegal injustices known on earth, and we have to be reminded of it. 

In 2007, the U.S. Senate designated January 11 as the National Human Trafficking Awareness Day --  making it the 10th year the world has virtually ignored it.  If we knew the real costs of this global injustice we would not need to be reminded.  This crime is not just costly.  It has deadly and potentially catastrophic consequences for us all.

The Senate marked this day not just to generate awareness, but to generate action. Now they need to take it.  Remind them with a phone call, email, tweet, hand written letter, or personal visit.  Why?  Because the only thing that remains missing is the political will to end it.  The political will to create a global structure and system with the means to dismantle trafficking networks and assist survivors in rebuilding their lives, and sometimes their nation.

There are three fundamental ‘self-evident truths’ that will persist in our new ‘post-truth’ era when dealing with nearly any global problem.

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.    

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.