Einstein’s Postwar Campaign to Save the World from Nuclear Destruction

Einstein’s Postwar Campaign to Save the World from Nuclear Destruction

Although the popular new Netflix film, Einstein and the Bomb, purports to tell the story of the great physicist’s relationship to nuclear weapons, it ignores his vital role in rallying the world against nuclear catastrophe.

Aghast at the use of nuclear weapons in August 1945 to obliterate the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Einstein threw himself into efforts to prevent worldwide nuclear annihilation.  In September, responding to a letter from Robert Hutchins, Chancellor of the University of Chicago, about nuclear weapons, Einstein contended that, “as long as nations demand unrestricted sovereignty, we shall undoubtedly be faced with still bigger wars, fought with bigger and technologically more advanced weapons.”  Thus, “the most important task of intellectuals is to make this clear to the general public and to emphasize over and over again the need to establish a well-organized world government.”  Four days later, he made the same point to an interviewer, insisting that “the only salvation for civilization and the human race lies in the creation of a world government, with security of nations founded upon law.”

Determined to prevent nuclear war, Einstein repeatedly hammered away at the need to replace international anarchy with a federation of nations operating under international law.  In October 1945, together with other prominent Americans (among them Senator J. William Fulbright, Supreme Court Justice Owen Roberts, and novelist Thomas Mann), Einstein called for a “Federal Constitution of the World.”  That November, he returned to this theme in an interview published in the Atlantic Monthly.  “The release of atomic energy has not created a new problem,” he said.  “It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an existing one. . . .  As long as there are sovereign nations possessing great power, war is inevitable.”  And war, sooner or later, would become nuclear war.

After the creation, in early 1947, of United World Federalists, the U.S. branch of the growing world federalist movement, Einstein served on its Advisory Board.

Einstein also promoted world federalist ideas through a burgeoning atomic scientists’ movement in which he played a central role.  To bring the full significance of the atomic bomb to the public, the newly-formed Federation of American Scientists put together an inexpensive paperback, One World or None, with individual essays by prominent Americans.  In his contribution to the book, Einstein wrote that he was “convinced there is only one way out” and this necessitated creating “a supranational organization” to “make it impossible for any country to wage war.”  This hard-hitting book, which first appeared in early 1946, sold more than 100,000 copies.

Given Einstein’s fame and his well-publicized efforts to avert a nuclear holocaust, in May 1946 he became chair of the newly-formed Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, a fundraising and policymaking arm for the atomic scientists’ movement.  In the Committee’s first fund appeal, Einstein warned that “the unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”

Even so, despite the fact that Einstein, like most members of the early atomic scientists’ movement, saw world government as the best recipe for survival in the nuclear age, there seemed good reason to consider shorter-range objectives.  After all, the Cold War was emerging and nations were beginning to formulate nuclear policies.  An early Atomic Scientists of Chicago statement, prepared by Eugene Rabinowitch, editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, underscored practical considerations.  “Since world government is unlikely to be achieved within the short time available before the atomic armaments race will lead to an acute danger of armed conflict,” it noted, “the establishment of international controls must be considered as a problem of immediate urgency.”  Consequently, the movement increasingly worked in support of specific nuclear arms control and disarmament measures.

In the context of the heightening Cold War, however, taking even limited steps forward proved impossible.  The Russian government sharply rejected the Baruch Plan for international control of atomic energy and, instead, developed its own atomic arsenal.  In turn, U.S. President Harry Truman, in February 1950, announced his decision to develop a hydrogen bomb―a weapon a thousand times as powerful as its predecessor.  Naturally, the atomic scientists were deeply disturbed by this lurch toward disaster.  Appearing on television, Einstein called once more for the creation of a “supra-national” government as the only “way out of the impasse.”  Until then, he declared, “annihilation beckons.”

Despite the dashing of his hopes for postwar action to end the nuclear menace, Einstein lent his support over the following years to peace, nuclear disarmament, and world government projects.

The most important of these ventures occurred in 1955, when Bertrand Russell, like Einstein, a proponent of world federation, conceived the idea of issuing a public statement by a small group of the world’s most eminent scientists about the existential peril nuclear weapons brought to modern war.  Asked by Russell for his support, Einstein was delighted to sign the statement and did so in one of his last actions before his death that April.  In July, Russell presented the statement to a large meeting in London, packed with representatives of the mass communications media.  In the shadow of the Bomb, it read, “we have to learn to think in a new way. . . .  Shall we . . . choose death because we cannot forget our quarrels?  We appeal as human beings to human beings:  Remember your humanity, and forget the rest.”

This Russell-Einstein Manifesto, as it became known, helped trigger a remarkable worldwide uprising against nuclear weapons in the late 1950s and early 1960s, culminating in the world’s first significant nuclear arms control measures.  Furthermore, in later years, it inspired legions of activists and world leaders.  Among them was the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev, whose “new thinking,” modeled on the Manifesto, brought a dramatic end to the Cold War and fostered substantial nuclear disarmament.  

The Manifesto thus provided an appropriate conclusion to Einstein’s unremitting campaign to save the world from nuclear destruction.

Image courtesy of US Govt. Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s Getting Late

It’s Getting Late

For some time, it’s been apparent that the world’s nations are not meeting the growing challenges to human survival.

A key challenge comes from modern war.

Over the centuries, as military weapons have grown ever more destructive, war-related devastation has grown accordingly.  World War II was the deadliest military conflict in human history, with an estimated 70-85 million people perishing from the war directly or through war-caused disease, famine, and other indirect factors.  Most of the dead were civilians.  In addition, many millions of people were wounded―blinded, crippled, driven mad, or otherwise ravaged by the vast carnage.  Large portions of the globe had become a charnel house, with the battered survivors left to desperately scavenge for food amid the burnt-out rubble and ruin.

Although some scholars have pointed out that warfare has declined since then, and especially since the end of the Cold War, there was a sharp turnabout in 2022, when the wars in Ethiopia and Ukraine contributed to more battle-related deaths than in any year since 1994.  By late 2023, Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine alone had produced an estimated 315,000 killed or injured Russian troops, while the number of casualties among Ukrainian troops and civilians, though unknown, is certainly enormous.  Among these and the many other wars currently raging―in Sudan, Myanmar, Ethiopia, the Sahel, and Syria, to name only a few―the recent one in Gaza, with the fastest daily death rate of the 21st century, is particularly alarming, having already led to nearly 30,000 deaths and nearly 70,000 injuries.

And then, of course, there’s nuclear war, which emerged in 1945 with the utter annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and which now has the capacity to end virtually all life on earth.  Amid public threats from leaders of nuclear-armed nations to launch a nuclear war, the editors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have set their “Doomsday Clock” at its closest ever to apocalypse.

War―particularly nuclear war―is probably the fastest way to extinguish the human race, but there are other crises underway that, on a longer-range basis, seem likely to accomplish the same task.

The most serious of these crises is environmental.  In recent decades, there has been a rapid loss of biodiversity, with the sixth mass extinction of wildlife clearly accelerating.  Pollution has grown dramatically.  This includes pollution of land and water caused by chemicals and by plastic (which takes 400 years to decompose) and of the air caused by industrial, motor vehicle, and other emissions (leading to an estimated 4.2 to 7 million human deaths annually).  Damage to the soil, caused especially by use of toxic chemicals and other pollutants, as well as by deforestation, has become particularly severe. The United Nations has estimated that some 40 percent of the planet’s soil is now degraded.

A key element in the environmental collapse is the growing climate catastrophe, caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels.  Melting icecaps and rising sea levels, unprecedented hurricanes, floods, and wildfires, and ocean acidification are all well underway.  Together with unsustainable farming practices, rising temperatures have produced growing food and water scarcity.  UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres declared that, unless immediate action is taken, there will be a “global food emergency that could have long term impacts on hundreds of millions of adults and children.”  Furthermore, it is estimated that, by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s people might face water shortages.  Commenting on the deteriorating climate situation, Guterres declared gloomily in September 2023 that “humanity has opened the gates to hell.”

The rise of rightwing nationalism provides yet another challenge to human survival.  In recent years, rightwing political movements―headed by authoritarian demagogues such as Donald Trump (United States), Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil), Vladimir Putin (Russia), Narendra Modi (India), Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Turkey), Marine Le Pen (France), Benjamin Netanyahu (Israel), Viktor Orban (Hungary), and their counterparts in other lands―have transformed the landscape of world politics.  Appealing to xenophobia, militarism, racism, and religious prejudice, they have made great strides toward stirring up longstanding hatreds in their ruthless quest for power.  A key to their success along these lines has been their call to revive the ostensible glory of their own nations by purging their internal enemies and triumphing over other, ostensibly inferior, countries abroad.  Redolent of the fascist movements of the 1930s, this Radical Right approach portends worldwide turmoil, violence, and destruction.

Of course, it might not be too late to head off these developments.  After all, in the twentieth century, humanity did manage to defeat the drive of the rightwing maniacs who established fascist regimes and launched vast wars to rule the world.  In the aftermath of the chaos and destruction of World War II, humanity did manage to create the United Nations and to extend the range of international law.  And, still later, as the planet stood on the brink of nuclear war, humanity did manage to roll back the nuclear menace and, for a time, halt the nuclear arms race and curb the prevalence of war.

Moreover, there are a great many efforts underway―by social movements and some far-sighted governments―to address the contemporary crises.  Peace, environmental, and political action movements have flourished and brought forth demands for sweeping changes in public policy.  In addition, some social movements, recognizing the global nature of the problems facing humanity, have called for enhanced global governance to cope with the severe threats posed by war, environmental devastation, and violations of human rights. The Summit of the Future on the horizon in September 2024 has been hailed as a “once in a generation” opportunity for meaningful reform of the global governance architecture. This watershed moment could be seized as a chance to correct course and avert disaster for humanity and the planet.

Even so, as the world once again veers toward destruction, it’s clear that it’s getting late―very late―to avert catastrophe.

Overcoming the Obstacles to UN Maintenance of International Peace and Security

Overcoming the Obstacles to UN Maintenance of International Peace and Security

Although, according to the UN Charter, the United Nations was established to “maintain international peace and security,” it has often fallen short of this goal.  Russia’s ongoing military invasion of Ukraine and the more recent Israeli-Palestinian war in Gaza provide the latest examples of the world organization’s frequent paralysis in the face of violent international conflict.

The hobbling of the Security Council, the UN agency tasked with enforcing international peace and security, bears the lion’s share of the responsibility for this weakness.  Under the rules set forth by the UN Charter, each permanent member of the Security Council has the power to veto Security Council resolutions.  And these members have used the veto, thereby blocking UN action.

This built-in weakness was inherited from the UN’s predecessor, the League of Nations.  In that body, a unanimous vote by all member nations was required for League action.  Such unanimity of course, proved nearly impossible to attain, and this fact largely explains the League’s failure and eventual collapse.

The creators of the United Nations, aware of this problem when drafting the new organization’s Charter in 1944-45, limited the number of nations that could veto Security Council resolutions to the five major military powers of the era―the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, China, and France.

Other nations went along with this arrangement because these “great powers” insisted that, without this acceptance of their primacy, they would not support the establishment of the new world organization.  The Charter’s only restriction on their use of the veto was a provision that it could not be cast by a party to a dispute―a provision largely ignored after 1952.  Fortifying the privileged position of these five permanent Security Council members, the Charter also provided that any change in their status required their approval. 

In this fashion, the great powers of the era locked in the ability of any one of them to block a UN Security Council resolution that it opposed.

Not surprisingly, they availed themselves of this privilege.  By May 2022, Russia (which took the seat previously held by the Soviet Union), had cast its veto in the Security Council on 121 occasions.  The United States cast 82 vetoes, Britain 29, China 17, and France 16.

As the Council’s paralysis became apparent, proponents of UN action gravitated toward the UN General Assembly.  This UN entity expanded substantially after 1945 as newly-independent countries joined the United Nations.  Moreover, no veto blocked passage of its resolutions.  Therefore, the General Assembly could serve not only as a voice for the world’s nations, but as an alternative source of power.

The first sign of a shift in power from the Security Council to the General Assembly emerged with the General Assembly’s approval of Resolution 377A:  “Uniting for Peace.”  The catalyst was the Soviet Union’s use of its veto to block the Security Council from authorizing continued military action to end the Korean War.  Uniting for Peace, adopted on November 3, 1950 by an overwhelming vote in the General Assembly, stated that, “if the Security Council, because of lack of unanimity of the permanent members, fails to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security . . . the General Assembly shall consider the matter immediately with a view to making appropriate recommendations to members for collective measures.”  To facilitate rapid action, the resolution created the mechanism of the emergency special session.

Between 1951 and 2022, the United Nations drew upon the Uniting for Peace resolution on thirteen occasions, with eleven cases taking the form of the emergency special session.  In addition to dealing with the Korean War, Uniting for Peace resolutions addressed the Suez confrontation, as well as crises in Hungary, Congo, Afghanistan, Palestine, Namibia, and Ukraine.  Although, under the umbrella of Uniting for Peace, the General Assembly could have recommended “armed force when necessary” against violators of international peace and security,the Assembly adopted that approach only during the Korean War.  On the other occasions, it limited itself to calls for peaceful resolution of international conflict and the imposition of sanctions against aggressors.

These developments had mixed results.  In 1956, during the Suez crisis, shortly after the General Assembly held a Uniting for Peace session calling for British and French withdrawal from the canal zone, both countries complied.  By contrast, in 1980, when a Uniting for Peace session called for an end to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Moscow ignored the UN demand.  It could do so thanks to the fact that General Assembly resolutions are mere recommendations and, as such, are not legally binding.

Even so, global crises in recent years have heightened pressure to provide the United Nations with the ability to take effective action.  In April 2022, shortly after the Russian government vetoed a Security Council resolution calling for Russia’s unconditional withdrawal from Ukraine, the General Assembly voted that, henceforth a Security Council veto would automatically trigger a meeting of the Assembly within ten days of the action to cope with the situation.

Meanwhile, numerous nations have been working to restrict the veto in specific situations.  In July 2015, the UN Accountability, Coherence, and Transparency Group proposed a Code of Conduct against “genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes” that called upon all Security Council members to avoid voting to reject any credible draft resolution intended to prevent or halt mass atrocities.  By 2022, the Code had been signed by 121 member nations.  France and Mexico have taken the lead in proposing the renunciation of the veto in these situations.

These reform initiatives are likely to be addressed at the September 2024 UN Summit of the Future.

Clearly, as the history of the United Nations demonstrates, if the world organization is to maintain international peace and security, it must be freed from its current constraints.

This article was originally published in PeaceVoice.

Replacing a Disastrous War with a Just Peace in Ukraine

Replacing a Disastrous War with a Just Peace in Ukraine

Although the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza has captured the world’s horrified attention, the war in Ukraine has had even more terrible consequences. Grinding on for nearly two years, Russia’s massive military invasion of that country has taken hundreds of thousands of lives, created millions of refugees, wrecked Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and economy, and consumed enormous financial resources from nations around the world.

And yet, despite the Ukraine War’s vast human and economic costs, there is no sign that it is abating.  Russia and Ukraine are now bogged down in very bloody military stalemate, with about a fifth of Ukraine’s land occupied and annexed by Russia.

Meanwhile, polls show that an overwhelming majority of Ukrainians remain determined to continue the struggle to free all of Ukraine from Russian captivity. Indeed, an opinion survey in the fall of 2023 found that 80 percent of Ukrainians polled believed that under no circumstances should Ukraine give up any of its territory.

Similarly, in Russia, polls have found that a majority of the public appears content with the Putin regime’s military conquest of Ukraine and is opposed to any peace settlement that would relinquish Russian control of conquered Ukrainian land.  Of course, the accuracy of Russian polls on the Ukraine War remains deeply suspect, for professing opposition to the war could easily lead to arrest, as it did for 20,000 Russians in 2022. Perhaps for this reason, numerous Russians polled refused to answer the question of where they stood on the war.  One participant responded: “Thank you for the opportunity not to testify against myself.”  In any case, in increasingly authoritarian Russia, public sentiment against war seems unlikely to alter the Putin administration’s determination to triumph on the battlefield.

Admittedly, in the United States, the major supplier of military and economic aid to beleaguered Ukraine, some developments point to declining enthusiasm for that role.  The Republican Party has revived its 1930s policy (once termed “isolationism”) of appeasing military aggression by rightwing dictatorships, while leftists with an anti-American slant see a Russian victory as a useful way of somehow destroying “U.S. imperialism.”  Nonetheless, unless Donald Trump and his MAGA followers sweep into power in 2024, it seems unlikely that the U.S. government or its NATO partners will entirely abandon Ukraine to a future under the jackboot of Russian military occupation.

Given these obstacles, is there a way to secure a just settlement of the Ukraine War?

There is, but it will take some creative action by the United Nations, the global organization that has been authorized to enforce international security.

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the overwhelming majority of the world’s nations have repeatedly used their participation in the UN General Assembly to condemn the Russian invasion and to call for a just peace in Ukraine.  For example, on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the war, the General Assembly, by a vote of  141 nations to 7 (with 32 abstentions), demanded that Russia “immediately, completely, and unconditionally” withdraw its military forces from Ukraine and called for a “cessation in hostilities” and a “comprehensive, just and lasting peace” based on the principles enshrined in the UN Charter.  The UN Charter, of course, constitutes international law and bans “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State.”

Even so, it is the UN Security Council that is tasked with enforcing international security, and Russia has used its veto in that UN entity to block UN action to end the Ukraine War.

The paralysis of the UN Security Council, however, need not continue.  As Louise Blais, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations from 2017 to 2021, has recently pointed out, Article 27 (3) of the UN Charter states that a party to a dispute before the Security Council shall abstain from voting in connection with the dispute.  But, when it came to the Security Council’s votes on the Ukraine War, as Blais noted, “none of the 10 elected Security Council members had the courage, vision or backing to put forward a resolution” demanding abstention. According to Blais, the unwillingness of the four other veto-wielding members (Britain China, France, and the United States) to avoid a crippling Russian veto and, thereby, empower the Security Council to act, reflected their “zero interest in supporting such a move for fear it would limit their own power in the future.”

But there is ample precedent for limiting the veto in this fashion.  The United Nations has a history of veto-wielding nations abstaining from Security Council voting when they are parties to a dispute.  As Blais observes, between 1946 and 1952, Security Council members “regularly adhered to the obligatory abstention rule.”  Only in later years did the five permanent Security Council members curtail the application of this practice.

In short, based on both international law and precedent, the UN Security Council has the authority to impose a settlement of the disastrous Ukraine War.  What kinds of international action this would require would need to be determined by the world organization, just as the final terms of a peace agreement would ultimately need to be accepted by the contending parties. But, given the overwhelming support in the UN General Assembly for the withdrawal of Russian military forces from Ukraine and for a lasting peace agreement, such a peace settlement is likely to be a just one.

At the least, this would be a far better method of dealing with international conflict than the current full-scale war currently raging in Ukraine.  And it could serve as a model for resolving other intractable disputes, such as the brutal Israel-Palestine conflict, as well.

This article was originally published in International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War’s Peace and Health Blog

Image Credits: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Time to Abandon International Anarchy

Time to Abandon International Anarchy

In December 1934, Arthur Henderson, a leader of the British Labour Party, declared in his speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize that the immense human suffering caused by World War I “led to the very clear realization that international anarchy must be abandoned if civilization was to survive.”

Unfortunately, that realization did not go very far or very deep.  Although, since that time, international law has been refined, nations remain far from adhering to its provisions or accepting its enforcement by the United Nations.

The Arab-Israeli Conflict

The lengthy, bloody conflict between the Israelis and their Arab neighbors provides a dramatic illustration of this point. 

On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly adopted a plan to replace the British Mandate in Palestine with a partition of that land between a Jewish state and a Palestinian state.  The UN decision was fiercely resented by the surrounding Arab nations, which launched a war against the new Jewish state, Israel—a war from which Israel emerged victorious in 1948.

This victory did not end the violence, however, or the violations of international law.  Having fled abroad from the fighting in 1948, over 700,000 Palestinians, in contravention of international law, were denied the right to return to their homes in Israel.  Egypt, which, in 1956, had agreed under UN pressure to the demilitarization of the Sinai Peninsula, expelled UN observers in 1967, massed its troops on Israel’s border, and together with Jordan, readied itself to invade Israel.  In turn, Israel launched devastating attacks on Egyptian, Jordanian, Syrian, and Iraqi military forces.  Victorious in this Six-Day War, Israel gained control of the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights. 

Over the ensuing decades, numerous violent clashes followed, with Israel, now the dominant military power in the region, defeating Arab and Palestinian resistance.  Meanwhile, Israel defied international law by continuing to occupy the territory conquered in 1967, colonizing it with Jewish settlements, and violating the human rights of its Palestinian residents.  For their part, Hamas terrorists, dedicated to unremitting war against Israel, committed horrendous war crimes against noncombatants in clear violation of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.  When the Israeli government deprived Gaza’s civilian population of food, water, and other essentials of survival, it, too, defied international law.

The Russia-Ukraine War

The Russian invasion of Ukraine provides another clear example of flouting international law.  Article 2, Section 4 of the UN Charter prohibits the “use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”  Ukraine had been an independent, sovereign nation since 1991, when the Soviet Union authorized a referendum on whether it wanted to become part of the new Russian Federation or to become independent.  In the balloting, 90 percent voted for independence, which was formally accepted.  Three years later, in the Budapest Memorandum, the Russian government pledged to “respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine” and to “refrain from the threat or use of force” against that nation.

Nevertheless, in 2014 the Putin regime drew upon Russian military power to seize and annex Crimea in southern Ukraine and to arm pro-Russian separatists and unleash its own thinly-disguised military forces in eastern Ukraine.  In February 2022, the Russian government, determined to seize full control of Ukraine, launched a massive military invasion.  Although fierce resistance by the Ukrainians prevented a complete Russian takeover, that September Putin announced the annexation of four additional regions of Ukraine, declaring that Russia would never surrender them.

Most of the world’s nations assailed this behavior as a flagrant violation of international law.  In March 2014, after a Russian veto blocked a UN Security Council rebuke, the UN General Assembly voted by an overwhelming margin to condemn the Russian action that year.  In March 2022, amid a new Russian veto of UN Security Council action, the UN General Assembly roundly condemned the full-scale Russian invasion by a vote of 141 to 5 (with 35 abstentions), while the International Court of Justice, the world’s highest judicial authority, voted by 13 to 2 (with Russia’s judge casting one of the negative votes) that Russia should “immediately suspend” its invasion.  That October, the UN General Assembly, by a vote of 143 nations to 5 (with 35 abstentions), called on all nations to refuse recognition of Russia’s “attempted illegal annexation” of Ukrainian territory.

The Renewed Nuclear Arms Race

Perhaps the most chilling manifestation of international anarchy is the renewed nuclear arms race.  Recognizing the potential for worldwide destruction in a nuclear war and pressed for action by an uneasy public, the nations of the world did, eventually, sign nuclear arms control treaties.  Among these agreements was the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1968, in which non-nuclear nations pledged to forgo building nuclear weapons, while the nuclear nations agreed to divest themselves of their nuclear arsenals.  Nevertheless, in recent decades, additional nations have become nuclear powers, while existing nuclear powers have scrapped previous nuclear disarmament agreements.  Symptomatically, the nuclear powers oppose the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which became international law in 2021.

Indeed, all the nuclear nations are currently engaged in nuclear weapons buildups―planning and developing new, more efficient weapons of mass destruction.  Some government officials, among them Vladimir Putin, publicly threaten to launch nuclear war against nations opposing their international policies.

The planet faces a perilous future, indeed, particularly when one considers that, as of early 2023, it was undergoing the largest number of violent conflicts since World War II.

Global Governance

Against this backdrop, it’s tempting to conclude that, thanks to the apparently ungovernable nature of the world, the annihilation of civilization is inevitable.  But is the world ungovernable―or merely lacking an effective government?

Given the fact that the United Nations was created to guarantee international security, a logical solution to the problem of effective governance is to strengthen the ability of the world organization to enforce international law.  By curbing international anarchy, this action would prevent marauding nations and armed bands alike from indulging their worst impulses.  It would also significantly enhance the prospects for peace, justice, and human survival.

Image Credits:
Håkan Dahlström from Malmö, SwedenCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Tanner Willis

Tanner Willis

Operations Officer

Tanner Willis has a master’s degree from United Nations Institute of Training and Research (UNITAR) in international affairs and diplomacy. During his time at UNITAR he has been part of two fellowships, one with Al Fusaic as an information and communication technology and international affairs fellow. Al Fusaic is a non-profit who aims to provide education and career advancement to promote peace and security in Southwest Asia and North African region. His second graduate fellowship was with the United Nations Association – National Capital Area (UNA-NCA). UNA-NCA advocates alongside UNA-USA for further partnership with the United States and the United Nations to achieve goals surrounding global issues and uphold the UN charter.

Tanner’s research experience focuses on how information & communications technology influences social and political dynamics with civil society and their relationship with governments. His experience will help CGS utilize digital technologies to promote CGS' mission in promoting peace, international law, and human rights in a responsible and ethical manner. 

In his spare time Tanner is an avid basketball fan of his home team of the University of Kentucky Wildcats. He has played, refereed, broadcasted, and coached basketball and enjoys all levels of the game. He also loves going to art museums, hiking, and traveling with his wife

Bruce Knotts

Bruce Knotts


Bruce Knotts was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia, worked for Raytheon in Saudi Arabia (1976-80) and on a World Bank contract in Somalia (1982-4), before he joined the Department of State as a U.S. diplomat in 1984. Bruce had diplomatic assignments in Greece, Zambia, India, Pakistan, Kenya, Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire and The Gambia, where he served as Deputy Chief of Mission. While in Cote d’Ivoire, Bruce served as the Regional Refugee Coordinator for West Africa. Bruce worked closely with several UN Special Representatives and observed UN peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone from 2000-2003. Bruce retired from the Foreign Service in 2007 and began directing the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO) in 2008. Bruce founded faith-based advocacy for sexual orientation/gender identity human rights at the United Nations and continues to advocate for the rights of women, indigenous peoples and for sustainable development in moral terms of faith and values. Bruce is co-chair of the UN NGO Committee on Human Rights, the chair of the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security, a member of steering committee of the NGO UN Security Council Working Group. Bruce retired from the UUA September 30, 2022. Bruce is currently the UN representative of the International Convocation of Unitarian Universalist Women. In 2006, Bruce and Isaac Humphrie were wed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

James Lowell May

James Lowell May

Program Officer

James May is a programme and project development specialist. He has lived in Serbia since 2005, and prior to joining Citizens for Global Solutions, worked across the Western Balkans on a broad range of issues including human, minority and child rights, accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity, Holocaust commemoration, democratic participation, social justice and economic empowerment, and environmental restoration.

James began working in the Western Balkans on issues related to accountability for human rights violations, first for the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, a coalition of NGOs active in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, as the network’s development coordinator, then the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights, leading a research project documenting the nomenclatural of the Milosevic Regime, and then the Federation of Jewish Communities in Serbia, running a Holocaust research and education project.

James then transitioned from accountability to efforts to protect and fulfil the rights of marginalised communities. For a decade James worked for the Centre for Youth Integration, an NGO that provides specialized services for children and youth in street situations in Belgrade, where he began as a volunteer before taking up a permanent role, while concurrently volunteering for community mental health organizations, as well as consultancy work for a number of local and international organizations, and most recently branched out to apply his experience to the environmental sector, focussing on social impact assessments and community-oriented nature-based solutions projects.

James has a degree in Archaeology from University College London. He was born and grew up in Great Britain. He is an avid cyclist.

Honorable David J. Scheffer

Honorable David J. Scheffer

Former U.S. Ambassador

Amb. David J. Scheffer is senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), with a focus on international law and international criminal justice. Scheffer was the Mayer Brown/Robert A. Helman Professor of Law (2006-2020) and is Director Emeritus of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. He is Professor of Practice at Arizona State University (Washington offices). He was Vice-President of the American Society of International Law (2020-2022) and held the International Francqui Professorship at KU Leuven in Belgium in 2022. From 2012 to 2018 he was the UN Secretary-General’s Special Expert on UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials, and he was the Tom A. Bernstein Genocide Prevention Fellow working with the Ferencz International Justice Initiative at the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (2019-2021).

During the second term of the Clinton Administration (1997-2001), Scheffer was the first ever U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues and led the U.S. delegation to the UN talks establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC). He signed the Rome Statute of the ICC on behalf of the United States on December 31, 2000. He negotiated the creation of five war crimes tribunals: the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, and the ICC. He chaired the Atrocities Prevention Inter-Agency Working Group (1998-2001). During the first term of the Clinton Administration (1993-1997), Scheffer served as senior advisor and counsel to the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Dr. Madeleine Albright, and he served on the Deputies Committee of the National Security Council. Ambassador Scheffer received an A.B. (Government and Economics) from Harvard College, B.A. (Honour School of Jurisprudence) from Oxford University (where he was a Knox Fellow), and LL.M. (International and Comparative Law) from Georgetown University Law Center.

Alex Andrei

Alex Andrei

Director of Technology and Design

Alex is an experienced professional in designing digital products, managing online applications, and providing IT consulting services. Their background is in working with online applications design, digital accessibility, learning management platforms, user experience and interface design for online and mobile applications. They have over 10 years of experience working with higher-education institutions, nonprofits, and business.

He believes that in today’s rapidly evolving landscape, organizations need to adapt and thrive in the digital realm to gain a competitive edge and be as successful as they can be. Alex specializes in supporting organizations in their digital transformation initiatives and creating effective user experiences and driving efficiency through technology to empower people.

As Director of Technology and Design, Alex focuses on identifying opportunities to integrate various technologies in ongoing operations and new initiatives at CGS to support programs, partners, and team members in achieving their goals.

Alex has a passion strategically leveraging cutting edge technologies to maximize the value of what can be done with limited resources to create a lasting impact and great experiences for people.

Jon Kozesky

Jon Kozesky

Director of Development 

Jon brings over 17 years of experience in development and fundraising in both the public and private sectors.  He started his career in politics working in the Ohio Statehouse and later in the office of U.S. Congressman Steven LaTourette, as well as former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. After leaving Capitol Hill, Jon pursued his passion of helping nonprofits secure the resources they needed to best serve their constituents. This passion led to his founding of Jon Thomas Consulting, a boutique nonprofit management and development firm serving organizations across the United States and throughout the world in streamlining their processes and maximizing their revenue growth through grant writing, government affairs, donor stewardship, and major event planning.

Prior to his fundraising career, Jon proudly served his community as a firefighter and water rescue diver. In his personal time, Jon is a champion competitive sailor and a bit of a thrill-seeker, having skydived and bungee jumped on 6 continents.

Jacopo Demarinis

Social Media & Communications Coordinator

Jacopo De Marinis is a 2022 graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he majored in Public Policy and Law, and is pursuing a career in peacebuilding and conflict resolution. While studying at UIUC, he co-founded a student chapter of Chicago Area Peace Action, CAPA UIUC, and spearheaded student campaigns for climate justice, justice for Black farmers, and a Chicago Department of Peacebuilding. He currently sits on the boards of Anne's Haven, a Chicago community-based organization dedicated to women's empowerment, and Chicago Area Peace Action. Jacopo has published articles on topics including conflict diplomacy, US-China relations, and United Nations reform in CounterPunch, Countercurrents, the LA Progressive, and on the Nepal Institute for International Cooperation and Engagement's website, among others. Jacopo joined the CGS team in September of 2022, as he strongly believes that stronger global governance and UN reform is necessary if we are to realize a more peaceful and just world.

Marvin Perry

Accounting Manager

Marvin has been working in the areas of HIV/AIDS, international peace and human rights. He has worked with both national and international non-profits in the DC area. Marvin brings years of experience in non-profit finance and administration. Marvin is a certified human resources professional and holds an MBA from Howard University School of Business.

Peter Orvetti

Communications Consultant

Peter Orvetti is an editor and political analyst who has spent most of his career providing daily intelligence briefings for the White House across four presidential administrations, as well as multiple Cabinet agencies, trade associations, and Fortune 500 companies. He is the author of several “Young People’s Guides” to various U.S. federal elections and is a former daily columnist for NBC Universal’s Washington, D.C., website.

He has been involved with CGS and other world federalist organizations for more than a decade and publishes the daily “One World Digest” email newsletter. He is also a theater reviewer and an actor in both professional and amateur productions.

Drea Bergman

Director of Programs

Drea Bergman has been shaping world citizens developing global youth programs as Director of Programs for CGS. She is a public policy researcher with master’s degrees from Maastricht Graduate School of Governance and the United Nations University-MERIT (Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology). She specializes in evidenced-based public policy programs using mixed-methods research and has focused especially on spearheading digital transformation for a variety of NGOs and foundations. Some of her other projects have included research in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. More recently, she has lent her expertise by providing strategic planning for social enterprise start-ups.

Bob Flax

CGS Education Fund President

Bob Flax, Ph.D. is the former Executive Director of Citizens for Global Solutions (now retired). He has spent a lifetime addressing human suffering, first as a psychologist, then as an organization development consultant, and for more than a decade, as a global activist through the World Federalist Movement. He also teaches in the Transformative Social Change Program at Saybrook University.

Bob has a B.A. in Psychology and Philosophy from New York University (1977), an M.A. in Psychology from Long Island University (1980), a Ph.D. in Psychology from Saybrook Institute (1992), an M.A. in Organization Development from Sonoma State University (2007), a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University (2015) and a Diploma in Global Leadership at the UN Peace University in Costa Rica (2019).

Bob’s love of adventure has led him to international trekking, scuba diving, and climbing the tallest mountains on 3 continents. He also maintains a Buddhist meditation practice and lives in a co-housing community in Northern California.

Rebecca A. Shoot

Executive Director

Rebecca A. Shoot is an international lawyer and democracy and governance practitioner with more than 15 years of experience in the non-governmental, inter-governmental, and private sectors supporting human rights, democratic processes, and the rule of law on five continents.

In nearly a decade with the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Rebecca held numerous positions in headquarters and the field supporting and leading democracy and governance programs in Central and Eastern Europe and Southern and East Africa. She subsequently moved to a leadership role steering NDI’s Governance projects globally and directing programming for the bipartisan House Democracy Partnership of the U.S. House of Representatives. Rebecca created a global parliamentary campaign for Democratic Renewal and Human Rights as Senior Advisor to Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA), an international network of legislators committed to collaboration to promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Prior to that, she directed PGA’s International Law and Human Rights Programme and ran PGA’s office in The Hague. Most recently, she helmed global programming to promote gender equality and criminal justice reform for the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI).

Rebecca has spoken at high-level conferences and events on five continents (and increasingly, globally through online platforms). Her publications include the first Global Parliamentary Report (IPU & UNDP 2012), Political Parties in Democratic Transitions (DIPD 2012), and Navigating between Scylla and Charybdis: How the International Criminal Court Turned Restraint Into Power Play (Emory Int’l L. Rev. 2018), which was honored with the Emory International Law Review’s Founder’s Award for Excellence in Legal Research and Writing.

Rebecca is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and is a member of several bar associations, including the American Branch of the International Law Association (ABILA), where she serves as Advocacy Director for the International Criminal Court (ICC) Committee. She served as a Visiting Professional in the Presidency of the ICC and has provided pro bono legal expertise to The Carter Center, International Refugee Assistance Project, United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, and U.S. Marine Corps University, where she helped develop the international humanitarian law curriculum.

Rebecca earned a Juris Doctorate with Honors from Emory University School of Law, where she received several academic distinctions, including the David J. Bederman Fellowship in International Law and Conley-Ingram Scholarship for Public Interest Leadership. She earned a Master of Science in Democracy & Democratisation from University College London School of Public Policy and a Bachelor of Arts Magna Cum Laude in Political Science from Kenyon College. She holds certificates in Conflict Analysis from the U.S. Institute of Peace and in Public International Law from The Hague Academy of International Law.

As Executive Director of CGS, Rebecca will continue her current role as Co-Convener of the Washington Working Group for the International Criminal Court (WICC), a diverse coalition of human rights organizations, legal associations, former government officials, and leading legal professionals. CGS and WICC have a rich and intertwined history that this dual appointment brings full circle, with CGS formerly serving as host for the coalition and with several current and former common Board and National Advisory Committee members.

She also acts, directs, and writes for the theater.

Helen Caldicott

Physician, Author, and Speaker

Helen Caldicott is a physician, author, and anti-nuclear advocate. She founded several associations dedicated to opposing the use of nuclear power, depleted uranium munitions, nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons proliferation, and military action in general. In 1980, she founded the Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament (WAND), which was later renamed Women’s Action for New Directions. In 2008, she founded the Helen Caldicott Foundation for a Nuclear Free Future.

Blanche Wiesen Cook

Blanche Wiesen Cook

Professor, Author, and Historian

Blanche Wiesen Cook is a Distinguished Professor of History and Women’s Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. She is author of a three-volume biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, as well as The Declassified Eisenhower: A Divided Legacy of Peace and Political Warfare.

David Cortright

Author, Activist, and Leader

David Cortright is director of Policy Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame and chair of the Board of the Fourth Freedom Forum. In 1977, Cortright was named the executive director of he Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy (SANE), which under his direction became the largest disarmament organization in the U.S. Cortright initiated the 1987 merger of SANE and the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign and served for a time as co-director of the merged organization. In 2002, he helped to found the Win Without War coalition in opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

He is the author or co-editor of 19 books including Waging Peace in Vietnam: U.S. Soldiers and Veterans Who Opposed the WarGandhi and Beyond: Nonviolence for a New Political Age, and Peace: A History of Movements and Ideas.

Andrea Cousins

Andrea Cousins

Psychologist, Psychoanalyst, and Anthropologist

Andrea Cousins is a psychologist and psychoanalyst who has practiced for more than 30 years. She has a doctorate in anthropology from Harvard University and a Doctor of Psychology degree from the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology. Her father, journalist and peace activist Norman Cousins, served as president of the World Federalist Association and chairman of the Committee for Sane Nuclear Policy, and was honored with recognitions including the United Nations Peace Medal.

Gary Dorrien

Gary Dorrien

Professor, Author, Social Ethicist

Gary Dorrien is the Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Religion at Columbia University. An Episcopal priest, he has taught as the Paul E. Raither Distinguished Scholar at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and as Horace De Y. Lentz Visiting Professor at Harvard Divinity School. He is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America’s Religion and Socialism Commission and the author of 18 books on ethics, social theory, philosophy, theology, politics, and intellectual history.

Daniel Ellsberg

Lecturer, Writer, and Activist

Daniel Ellsberg is a political activist and former military analyst. While employed by the RAND Corporation, Ellsberg precipitated a national political controversy in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret Pentagon study of the U.S. government decision-making in relation to the Vietnam War, to The New York Times, The Washington Post and other newspapers.

Since the end of the Vietnam War, Ellsberg has continued his political activism, giving lecture tours and speaking out about current events. Ellsberg was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 2006. In 2018, he was awarded the 2018 Olof Palme Prize for his “profound humanism and exceptional moral courage.”

Oscar Andrew Hammerstein

Oscar Andrew Hammerstein

Painter, Writer, Lecturer, and Historian

Oscar Andrew Hammerstein is a painter, writer, and lecturer. He has taught graduate-level courses on New York theatre history and general musical theatre history as an adjunct professor at Columbia University. He is the author of The Hammersteins: A Musical Theatre Family.

Randy Kehler

Randy Kehler

Pacifist Activist

Randy Kehler is a pacifist activist who served 22 months in prison for returning his draft card in 1969 and refusing to seek exemption as a conscientious objector, seeing that as a form of cooperation with the Vietnam war effort. He played a key role in persuading Daniel Ellsberg to release the Pentagon Papers, and later served as executive director of the National Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign. Kehler and his wife Betsy Corner refused to pay taxes for military expenditures, resulting in the federal seizure of their Massachusetts home in 1989. They continue to withhold their federal income taxes.

Gordon Orians

Gordon Orians


Gordon Orians, an ornithologist and ecologist for more than half a century, has focused his work on behavioral ecology and the relationships between ecology and social organization, as well as on the interface between science and public policy. He was director of the University of Washington Seattle’s Institute for Environmental Studies for a decade and has also served on the Board of Directors of the World Wildlife Fund and on state boards of the Nature Conservancy and Audubon.

Orians was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1989 and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1990.

William Pace

International Organizer

William Pace was the founding convenor of the Coalition for an International Criminal Court (ICC) and a co-founder of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect. He has been engaged in international justice, rule of law, environmental law, and human rights for four decades, serving as executive director of the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy, secretary-general of the Hague Appeal for Peace, director of the Center for the Development of International Law, and director of Section Relations of the Concerts for Human Rights Foundation at Amnesty International, among other roles. He is the recipient of the William J. Butler Human Rights Medal from the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the ICC.

James T. Ranney

Professor, International Legal Consultant, and Author

James T. Ranney is an adjunct professor of international law at Widener Law School. He co-founded the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center in Montana and served as a legal consultant to the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. He has written extensively on the abolition of nuclear weapons and the establishment of international dispute resolution mechanisms.

Rick Ulfik

Rick Ulfik

The Founder of WE, The World, and the WE Campaign

Rick Ulfik is the founder of We, The World, an international coalition-building organization whose Mission is to maximize social change globally. He and his organization work closely with the New York Center for Nonviolent Communication, where he has been a facilitator since 2004. He is also the co-creator of the annual 11 Days of Global Unity - 11 Ways to Change the World, September 11-21.

He is an award-winning composer and keyboard player who has written, arranged, produced and orchestrated music for television networks, feature films, commercials, and albums. He has performed with Queen Latifah, Phoebe Snow, Carlos Santana, Bernadette Peters, and Judy Collins.

John Stowe


John Stowe is the Roman Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky. He is a member of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, a mendicant religious order founded by Francis of Assisi. In 2015, Pope Francis appointed Stowe bishop of the Diocese of Lexington. He is the Episcopal President of the U.S. board of Pax Christi, an international Catholic Christian peace movement with a focus on human rights, disarmament, nonviolence, and related issues.

Barbara Smith

Author, Activist, and Scholar

Barbara Smith has played a significant role in Black feminism in the U.S. for more than 50 years. She taught at numerous colleges and universities for 25 years and has been published in a wide range of publications including The New York Times Book ReviewMs.Gay Community NewsThe Village Voice, and The Nation.

Among her many honors are the African American Policy Forum Harriet Tubman Lifetime Achievement Award, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Stonewall Award for Service to the Lesbian and Gay Community. In 2014, SUNY Press published Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith.

William J. Ripple

Conservationist, Author, and Professor

William J. Ripple is a Distinguished Professor of Ecology in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society at Oregon State University. He has published two books and has authored more than 200 scientific journal articles on topics including conservation, ecology, wildlife, and climate change. He was the co-lead author on the 2020 paper “The World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency,” which was endorsed by more than 14,000 scientist signatories from around the world. He is the director of the Alliance of World Scientists, which has approximately 26,000 scientist members from 180 countries.

Mark Ritchie

President, Global Minnesota

Mark Ritchie is president of Global Minnesota, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization devoted to advancing international understanding and engagement. He served as Minnesota secretary of state from 2007 to 2015. Since leaving elected public service, he has led the public-private partnership working to bring the 2027 World Expo to Minnesota and he has served on the board of directors for LifeSource, Communicating for America, U.S. Vote Foundation, and Expo USA. He is also a national advisory board member of the federal Election Assistance Commission.

Kim Stanley Robinson


Kim Stanley Robinson is the author of many works of science fiction, including the internationally bestselling Mars trilogy, and more recently Red Moon, New York 2140, and The Ministry for the Future. His work has been translated into 25 languages, and won awards including the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards. In 2016, asteroid 72432 was named “Kimrobinson.”

Leila Nadya Sadat

Special Advisor to the ICC Chief Prosecutor, Professor, Author

Leila Sadat is the James Carr Professor of International Criminal Law at Washington University School of Law and the director of the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute. She is an internationally recognized expert on the International Criminal Court (ICC) and served as Special Advisor on Crimes Against Humanity to Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of the ICC. She is also the director of the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative, a multi-year project to study the problem of crimes against humanity and draft a comprehensive convention addressing their punishment and prevention. She is a former member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, served as the Alexis de Tocqueville Distinguished Fulbright Chair at the University of Cergy-Pontoise in Paris, and is the author of several books.

Martin Sheen

Martin Sheen

Actor, Activist, and Leader

Martin Sheen is an Emmy Award-winning and Golden Globe Award-winning actor who has worked with directors including Francis Ford Coppola and Oliver Stone, in addition to starring as the U.S. president on the long-running television drama “The West Wing.” In his early days as a struggling actor in New York, he met activist Dorothy Day, beginning his lifelong commitment to social justice.

The self-described pacifist was an early opponent of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and has been a consistent opponent of nuclear arms. As honorary mayor of Malibu, California in 1989, he declared the city a nuclear-free zone. Nearly 20 years later, Sheen was arrested during a protest at the Nevada Test Site. Sheen said in 2009 that he had been arrested 66 times for acts of civil disobedience, leading one activist to declare Sheen to have “a rap sheet almost as long as his list of film credits.”

Sheen has also been active in anti-genocide and pro-immigrant causes, as well as in the environmental movement. In 2010, he told a crowd of young people, “While acting is what I do for a living, activism is what I do to stay alive.” In a 1963 episode of “The Outer Limits,” he portrayed a future astronaut wearing a large breast patch that read “UE. Unified Earth.”