Rene Wadlow

Guest Blogger

Rene Wadlow is the President of the Association of World Citizens, an international peace organization with consultative status with ECOSOC, the United Nations organ facilitating international cooperation on and problem-solving in economic and social issues.

​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

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.

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.