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Category: Human Rights

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

Declaration of Peace

Earth as seen from outer space.

These are self-evident truths:

That all humans are a single family living on a fragile and endangered planet whose life support systems must  remain intact if we are to survive;

That the well-being of the planet and the well-being of humanity are one and the same;

That the well-being of each requires the well-being of all—security is common;

That all humans have a natural right to peace and a healthy planet;

That all war is a crime against humanity and nature;

That any war anywhere degrades the quality of life for all of us everywhere;

That we live at the decisive moment in history when we will choose between break down or breakthrough on a planetary scale;

That we here now dedicate our intellectual, spiritual and material resources to the establishment of permanent peace and the conservation of nature, and,

That we are fully endowed by our Creator with the wisdom and the ability to achieve these ends.

Let My Children Go: World Efforts to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Universal Children's Day Celebration in Civilian Protection Site Juba, South Sudan

12 June is a red letter day on the UN agenda of events as the World Day Against Child Labor.  It marks the 12 June arrival in 1998 of hundreds of children in Geneva, part of the Global March against Child Labour that had crossed a 100 countries to present their plight to the International Labor Organization (ILO).

“We are hurting, and you can help us” was their message to the assembled International Labor Conference which meets each year in Geneva in June.  One year later, in June, the ILO had drafted ILO Convention N° 182 on child labor which 165 States have now ratified — the fastest ratification rate in the ILO’s  history.

ILO Convention N°182 sets out in article 3 the worst forms of child labor to be banned:

a)  all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labor, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict;

b)  the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances;

c)  the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties;

d)  work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.

Ben Ferencz: a life dedicated to “world peace through world law”

Defendants during the Nuremberg Trials
 “60 MINUTES” on Sunday evenings is a very popular weekly TV news programs.  The second segment of the May 7, 2017 program focused on Ben Ferencz, a prosecutor for the Nuremberg Trials after World War II.  In those trials Nazi leaders were convicted for the killing of millions of Jews and others in what became known as "the Holocaust.”  Fortunately you can see Leslie Stahl’s wonderful interview of Ben again and again at  <http://www.cbsnews.com/news/what-the-last-nuremberg-prosecutor-alive-wants-the-world-to-know/>.
 
An important part of the interview comes near the end when Ferencz clearly makes the point that war turns generally good people into murderers.  His goal during much of his 97 years has been to end war by means of the use of law.   The disaster of wars exists because the world of nation-states with unlimited national sovereignty still lacks a system of law and government at the global level.
 

Syria: Chemical Weapon Use, Destruction of Children, The Ethical Vacuum

Syrian children in a doorway (UN photo)

The Association of World Citizens calls for the re-affirmation of humanitarian international law. It is a call to the soldiers and militia members in armed conflicts to refuse orders to violate humanitarian international law by refusing to use weapons outlawed by international treaties such as chemical weapons, land mines,  cluster munitions or any weapon to attack civilians, especially children and women. We must defend all who use their individual conscience to refuse to follow orders to violate humanitarian international law.

At the heart of this growing phenomenon of mass violence and social disintegration is a crisis of values.  Perhaps the most fundamental loss a society can suffer is the collapse of its own value system.  Many societies exposed to protracted conflicts have seen their community values radically undermined if not shattered altogether.  This has given rise to an ethical vacuum, a setting in which international standards are ignored with impunity and where local value systems have lost their sway.  Olara Otunnu, then Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Report to U.N. General Assembly, 1998

The attack on Khan Sheikhoon in Idib Province of Syria on 4 April 2017 raises at least two essential issues concerning humanitarian international law and the protection of children in times of armed conflict.