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Category: Human Rights

John B. Anderson 1922-2017, President of the World Federalist Association 1991-2003

John Anderson in 1997 from WFA Historical Survey

Being asked to write John ’s obituary for the Citizens for Global Solutions website is a great honor.  His death is very personal to me.  His last voicemail message, captured on my phone, is a small treasure that never fails to lift my spirits. That still booming resonance, the shear tonal power of John Anderson’s voice was strong even in his mid-nineties. Driven by a fearless and brilliantly-insightful intellect, uncompromising moral values, and a stark honesty, the thunderous sound of John’s voice was mated with superb oratorial skills. His profound speaking moved audiences far and wide, including his colleagues in the US Congress.  

The many current news articles about John focus mostly on his life up until 1980 when he ran for president, but report relatively little of the 37 years to follow. I met him in 1991after Norman Cousins died and John took over as president of the World Federalist Association. We worked together until 2003, when the WFA merged with the Campaign for UN Reform and the position of president was eliminated. Most of my fellow world federalists knew John in the context of his service to a vision of a world that would be truly “postwar,” a vision he carried to the end of his long life. 

John was a lawyer, a professor of international law.  He saw the just rule of law as a means by which the problem of war would be solved in a global society.  He saw the potential of American leadership to leverage its superpower authority to bring about a democratic federal republic of the world, where every nation would have both protection from invasion and a responsibility to uphold the security of all other nations. 

The Disintegrating Donbass. Is there a future for a con-federal Ukraine?

OSCE SMM monitoring the movement of heavy weaponry in eastern Ukraine

The flight on 23 November 2017 of Igor Plotinitsky, President of the separatist Ukrainian area of the Lugansk People's Republic is a sign of the continuing difficulties of developing appropriate forms of constitutional government in the Ukraine.  Plotinitsky was in open conflict with his "Minister of the Interior" Igor Konet whom he had fired but who refused to give up his position.  It is reported that military troops are moving from Donetsk, the other People's Republic of the Donbass, and perhaps other troops from Russia but without signs of identification.

Much of the fate of the two Donbass People's Republics is in the hands of President Putin, but he is unwilling to take public responsibility.  Some have argued that two people's republics in Donbass is one too many and that the two republics will be unified under the leadership of President Alexandre Zakhartchenko of Donetsk.  Meanwhile the Ukrainian government has reinforced its troops on the frontier with the separatist zone.

Officially the Donbass is under an agreement signed in Minsk on 12 February 2015 among Russia, Germany, France, and Ukraine acting under a mandate of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  The agreement called for a ceasefire, local elections, a reintegration into the State of Ukraine but with constitutional reforms giving greater local autonomy.  In practice, the Minsk accords have never been carried out.

How Miss Peru Contestants Shined the Spotlight on Femicide

Latin America, Peru, Human Rights, women's rights, Violence Against Women

Picture this: Gorgeous women dressed in sequin gowns line up on stage. One by one, they step up to the microphone and introduce themselves.  

“My name is Camila Canicoba, and I represent the department of Lima. My measurements are: 2,202 cases of femicide reported in the last nine years in my country,” says the first.

“My name is Karen Cueto, and I represent Lima and my measurements are 82 femicides and 156 attempted femicides so far this year,” says the second.

No, this isn’t a UN Women gala. It’s the 2017 Miss Peru pageant. In a surprising twist, the 23 contestants broke the tradition of revealing their measurements (bust, waist, and hip) to announce far more important numbers: the statistics on violence against women in their homeland.

The numbers are easy to gloss over. (How many more women die in car crashes each year, you might ask.) True, statistics can come across as meaningless without the stories behind them, which is why the faces of battered women flashed behind the contestants as they spoke. But they didn’t end there. Each woman finished by answering the following: which law would they change to end violence against women?

Latin America's 'Woman' Problem

Pageant organizer Jessica Newton’s brilliant idea put women’s rights center stage and turned an old fashioned competition into a moment of solidarity. But why in Peru? And why now?

How Catalonia and Kurdish Independence Can Actually Bring the World Closer Together

Symbol for Kurds' desire for independence with flag of Caledonia made into a heart.

Recently two separate countries dealt with succession movements from within.  First was Iraq where Kurds, emboldened by their recent battlefield success against ISIS, formally voted for independence.[1]  This referendum would essentially solidify the current situation in the country where Kurds have long held autonomous power in the region known as “Kurdistan."  The other country battling a secessionist movement is Spain.  In their case, Catalonia, a wealthy province in the northeast part of Spain, is attempting to break free in order to more fully embrace its own culture and to avoid paying taxes to prop up poorer parts of the country.[2]

These two movements share far more than just a desire for independence.  In both cases the desire to achieve independence traces at least some of its roots to history.  In the case of the Kurds, they have been a marginalized ethnic group in Northern Iraq for decades and were also the targets of ethnic cleansing by former Dictator Saddam Hussein.  For Catalonians, it stems back to the Spanish Civil war when that region served as a center of resistance to Franco’s Fascist regime in Madrid and thus was the focus of his animosity.

Yemen: Effective Humanitarian Aid Depends on a Peace Accord

United Nations Yemen Observation Mission (UNYOM)

The United Nations together with the governments of Sweden and Switzerland which have often led humanitarian issues in the U.N. system held a high-level pledging conference in Geneva on 25 April 2017 to again draw attention to the deepening humanitarian crisis in war-torn Yemen, currently the largest food security emergency in the world.  Some 60% of the population is in a food-insecure situation.

More than 3.5 million people have been displaced in the cycle of escalating violence.  "We are witnessing the starving and the crippling of an entire generation. We must act now, to save lives" said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who presided over the conference. Realistically, he stressed that funding and humanitarian aid alone will not reverse the fortunes of the millions of people impacted.  Diplomatically, he called for a cessation of hostilities and a political settlement with talks facilitated by the Special Envoy of the Secretary General, the Mauritanian diplomat Ismail Ould Chekh Ahmed.

UN officials and most diplomats are reluctant to call the armed conflict by its real name: "a war of aggression".  The aggression of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition (Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates) against Yemen began on 24 March 2015.  The Saudi-led coalition is helped with arms and "intelligence" by the USA and the UK which appreciate Saudi money for arms and do not want to antagonize a large segment of the Arab world when the conflicts of Syria-Iraq-Kurds-Turkey is still "on the table."

Global Week of Action for UN Parliamentary Assembly: #HumanityFirst

World Parliament Now

America first. Russia first. China first.

The United States of America puts American interests first. Just as every other nation in the world puts its own interests first. President Donald Trump was right about that in his first speech before the United Nations, on Sept. 19. Few world leaders have so nakedly expressed the essence of the Westphalian state system, established by treaty in 1648, and under which every human being dwells today.

“As president of the United States,” Trump said, “I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries, will always, and should always, put your countries first.” This is controversial? Every undergraduate learns this on the first day of International Relations 101. It is the first principle of the realpolitik practiced by Henry Kissinger, Winston Churchill and Otto von Bismarck.

Virtually every other American president has made the same point. President Barack Obama, expressing his conception of larger interests during his final speech before the United Nations in 2016, returned in the end to his own primary obligation—and that of his counterparts. “Sometimes I’m criticized in my own country for professing a belief in international norms and multilateral institutions. But I am convinced that in the long run, giving up some freedom of action — not giving up our ability to protect ourselves or pursue our core interests, but binding ourselves to international rules over the long term — enhances our security. And I think that’s not just true for us.”

European Reform and Trump’s First United Nations Speech: What are the Implications?

European Reform in the time of Trump

Europe is at a crucial point in its history, and in the last few weeks certain significant developments have emerged.  Separately, they make for interesting political developments.   Combined, they have substantial geo-political implications.

In a recent speech, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Junker, outlined a series of ambitious reforms for the European Union. They called for significant integration, even going so far as to propose the selection of a single European President and the election of European Union Ministers of Finance and Economy. Should these reforms come to pass, they could lead to the emergence of a stronger, more unified E.U. Their prospects do not look particularly bleak when one considers that alongside the reform-minded president Macron of France, Junker is also working with the intrinsically pro-European Chancellor Merkel of Germany, who recently won another four-year term. It is worth noting that where some may find ill omens in the electoral gains of the far-right Alternative for Germany party (AFD) in the recent election, at 12.6% they only managed to gain a similar share of the popular vote to that which the UKIP got in the 2015 British General Election and less than half of that possessed by the current German opposition party.  Merkel is now likely in power for another four years, so she is in a strong position to help facilitate Junker’s reforms. The adoption of his reforms would be a significant step towards the creation of a federated Europe. By itself this would prove momentous, but it also comes at a crucial time in international politics.

World Citizenship Is More Popular Than You Might Think

Students at Peace Bell for International Peace Day

Has nationalism captured the hearts and minds of the world’s people?

It certainly seems to have emerged as a powerful force in recent years.  Trumpeting their alleged national superiority and hatred of foreigners, political parties on the far right have made their biggest political advances since the 1930s.  After the far right’s startling success, in June 2016, in getting a majority of British voters to endorse Brexit―British withdrawal from the European Union (EU)―even mainstream conservative parties began to adopt a chauvinist approach.  Using her Conservative Party conference to rally support for leaving the EU, British Prime Minister Theresa May declared contemptuously: “If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere.”

The tilt toward an aggressive nationalism was particularly evident in the United States, where Donald Trump―amid chants of “USA, USA” from his fervent supporters―promised to “make America great again” by building a wall to block Mexicans, barring the entry of Muslims to the United States, and expanding U.S. military might.  Following his surprise election victory, Trump told a rally in December 2016:  “There is no global anthem.  No global currency.  No certificate of global citizenship.  We pledge allegiance to one flag and that flag is the American flag.”  After wild cheering from the crowd, he added:  “From now on it is going to be:  America First.  Okay?  America first.  We’re going to put ourselves first.”

The World's Largest Lesson

World's Largest Lesson

In 2015, the world community decided upon 17 Sustainable Development Goals, themselves containing 169 separate targets. These goals range from elimination of poverty to tackling climate change, but they all share a common intention; by the time they are completed, ideally in 2030, the world will be fairer, cleaner, and more sustainable than ever before.

To try and raise awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals, the “World’s Largest Lesson” campaign was launched, with the intent of educating all about what the Goals seek to achieve, and how we can help. Providing resources and advice to teachers and pupils alike, it aims to facilitate participation at all levels. By doing so, they hope to create the sort of grass roots support that has in the past affected real change, and can do so again in the future. We know this sort of movement is possible, and we know the things it can achieve. As such, I encourage all who are interested to visit the website of the “World’s Largest Lesson”, at: http://worldslargestlesson.globalgoals.org/

Why Net Neutrality Should Be Considered A Human Right

Keep the internet open

In 2012, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations determined that a connection to the internet is a human right. Among other things, the resolution encourages nations without widespread internet coverage to improve access for all citizens. The resolution also condemns any attempt to impede free speech online. The resolution was updated and unanimously adopted again in 2014 and then again in 2016, demonstrating that all members of the Council recognize the importance of free access to information and the right to freedom of expression online.

Though the resolution doesn’t specifically address net neutrality, it does condemn the practice of disrupting or preventing internet access. Net neutrality is an important aspect of online communications and should also be considered a human right.

What is Net Neutrality?

The internet is a platform based on the free and open exchange of information. Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers, governments and other entities providing or monitoring internet access must treat all data the same, without regard to the user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment or mode of communication.

Without a guarantee of neutrality, service providers can restrict certain websites, slow streaming speed for video services and funnel customers to sites they control versus their competitor’s sites.

Threats to Net Neutrality

Just as there are efforts to block other forms of free speech, there are many financial and political incentives for governments and corporations around the world to restrict the freedom of the internet.

ISPs Selling Data