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.

Climate Change, the SDGs, and My Father

Climate Change, the SDGs, and My Father

My father was always the smartest person in the room. Despite never studying medicine, he once assisted a pre-med friend in preparing for an exam entirely by recalling intricate anatomical structures from a biology course he had taken thirty years prior.

My father was also a smoker. Some of my earliest memories are my tearful pleas to him to stop, knowing, as we both did, the risks. My dad did the math and determined that he didn’t yet need to change behavior. He would coin clever phrases like “maybe I might” and “I want to want to quit.” This reticence instilled in me, from a very young age, a curiosity about what truly motivates people to change. Is it data? We had that. Is it the cries of children? We had that, too.

As I awoke earlier this week to the news that agreement had been reached in Dubai, I, like many, chose to see hope in this small step. I will work tirelessly to contribute my small portion to this great collective effort to stave off the worst consequences of climate change. Yet a question remains in my mind—to what degree can these agreements bend the curve of our behavior? How can we ensure the trajectory will be meaningfully different with this consensus having been reached?

I look to examples the international community has created to shape the behavior of governments and humanity more broadly. The Security Council, the human rights system, the sustainable development goals. Each has had an impact in its own way. A stronger enforcement mechanism like the Security Council increases legitimacy, but limits consensus. A systematic and mandatory review system, like the Universal Periodic Review, ensures oversight and greater fact-finding, but is dependent on Member State compliance for results. And an entirely voluntary system, like the Sustainable Development Goals, can inspire the masses and allow the tracking of progress. Yet for the SDGs, and based on recent reports, the curve has yet to be bent sufficiently to achieve the prosperity a bright-eyed 2015 international community hoped for.

These are all helpful in their own right. But the forces of inertia are strong. Volition and motivation are needed. 

Nowhere is this more relevant than in the case of climate agreements. Many nations which have contributed the least to climate change must respond to consequences not of their making. And those which exercise an outsized influence on the shape and direction of human affairs, for reasons of history and current priorities, are being asked to sacrifice a degree of short-term well-being of their economies for the long-term security of themselves and others. The science is clear; the issue is summoning the will to overcome the uncomfortable to achieve the necessary. In a way, these countries are my brilliant father. 

When my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer—the risk of which was increased by his smoking habit—he quit immediately. It was remarkable. But it was too late. He might have gotten cancer anyway, and it isn’t fair to place blame not knowing the alternate reality. But he certainly did not follow the rules of the precautionary principle in his behavior.

I am heartened to know that in communities around the world, action is being taken now to improve humanity’s relationship with the natural world. People are not waiting. Agreements like those reached in Dubai, in Paris, and elsewhere are important. They represent the consensus of governments, and we, as well-wishers of humanity and the planet, should encourage and expect ever higher ambition. 

Yet regardless of our opinion of the outcome in 2023, we have a responsibility to continue looking for the stores of motivation and the diversity of options for individuals, institutions, and communities to make the necessary changes in light of the mounting evidence. If any lesson is to be taken from my family, it is that waiting is not a viable option.

This article was originally published in Bahá’í International Community’s blog.

Photo credit: Baha’i International Community

Pope Francis’ “Laudate Deum” (2023)

Pope Francis’ “Laudate Deum” (2023)

Pope Francis released this apostolic exhortation “to all people of good will on the climate crisis” on October 4, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi.  Its Latin title refers to the message of St. Francis to “praise God for all of God’s creatures.” (#1)  This letter to the world is an addendum to his 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si” (“Praise Be,” the beginning words of a canticle by St. Francis).  That encyclical is known as “On Care for Our Common Home.” 

Pope Francis decided to write Laudate Deum because “climate change is one of the principal challenges facing society and the global community” (#3) but he is gravely disappointed that “our responses have not been adequate.” (#2)  The acceleration of global warming is evident now.  “Despite all attempts to deny, conceal, gloss over or relativize the issue, the signs of climate change are here and increasingly evident.” (#5) 

According to Pope Francis, “it is no longer possible to doubt the human–‘anthropic’–origin of climate change.” (#11)  He says that it is a fact that the average global temperature has risen dramatically with the increase use of fossil fuels.  The consequence is the melting of glaciers and the polar regions, the acidification of the oceans, and the rising of sea level.  He concludes that “the change in average surface temperatures cannot be explained except as the result of the increase of greenhouse gases.” (#14)  He believes that some effects of the climate crisis are already irreversible.

What has gotten us to this point?  Pope Francis argues that a growing technocratic paradigm that exploits nature because of unbridled power and economic ambition is the underlying issue.  Humans have forgotten that we are part of nature and that how we interact with the rest of nature affects our future.  Therefore, “we need to rethink among other things the question of human power, its meaning and its limits.” (#28)  We need to reassess an economic mentality about maximum gain at minimal cost because such an attitude has serious consequences about care of our common home and care for the poor and needy.

The 2015 Paris Agreement has ambitious goals that are not currently being met.  Pope Francis hopes that the next climate conference will lead to the “necessary transition towards clean energy sources such as wind and solar energy, and the abandonment of fossil fuels.” (#55)

Pope Francis also addresses the weakness of international politics.  Individual nations acting alone cannot solve the climate crisis or any of our other global problems.  He says that we need multilateral agreements based on the principle of subsidiarity.  Solving global problems requires “establishing global and effective rules” (#42) and “increased ‘democratization’ in the global context.” (#43)

The reason why humanity has been unable to solve major global problems is because of our current international system of sovereign nation-states.  International law is a system of non-binding treaties.  No nation is required to become a party to any international treaty.  National governments that enter into treaties can withdraw from them or ignore them based on their perceived national interest. 

In Laudato Si, Pope Francis agreed with several previous popes that “there is urgent need of a true world political authority.” (#175)  Many Catholic leaders have been arguing that outlawing war and genocide as well as solving global problems such as climate change will require a truly effective democratic world public authority that can create and enforce world laws and prosecute individuals who violate them.  Until such a system is created, Pope Francis says that it is imperative that national governments become parties to effective environmental treaties and that they keep their treaty obligations.    

With this letter to the global community, Pope Francis continues his warning about the existential crisis caused by climate change.  He emphasizes the physical and spiritual dimensions of this crisis.  This letter needs to be studied by members of the world community because it concerns the future of our common home. 

Image credit: Dcpeopleandeventsof2017CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Global Challenges Require Global Solutions: How We Can Prevent A Complete Climate Catastrophe

Global Challenges Require Global Solutions: How We Can Prevent A Complete Climate Catastrophe

When it comes to the climate crisis, we are running out of time.

In 1994, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change  established the Conference of the Parties (COP) to encourage UN member states to meet annually to discuss scientific data and technological advances related to climate change and implement international environmental agreements. Despite the global interest in addressing climate change, the next 29 years would be characterized by lukewarm international efforts to divert a climate catastrophe. In line with this record, the recent COP27 hosted by Egypt failed to secure cooperation on key issues and induce the necessary commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the earliest international environmental treaties was the Montreal Protocol of 1987. The Montreal Protocol was a success because all 197 UN member states ratified the treaty and it effectively coordinated international efforts to eradicate about 99 percent of ozone-depleting substances (ODS). One major reason behind its success was that it established a “Multilateral Fund” to provide financial backing to countries, especially those who were not meeting their goals. It also prioritized the concept of “common but differentiated responsibilities” by giving developing countries more time to eliminate their production of ODS.

The Kyoto Protocol, which entered into force in 2005, was the first “legally binding” climate treaty that aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, it was not successful because the United States never ratified it and China was not required to commit to stringent emissions reduction targets. As this treaty required real economic sacrifices from industrialized countries, it was unable to effectively coordinate international efforts.

The most comprehensive environmental treaty to date was the Paris Agreement of 2015. The Paris Accords required all UN member states to commit to containing average global temperature increases to below 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures through setting nationally determined contributions (NDCs). However, this unenforceable agreement was vulnerable to the vicissitudes of domestic politics that led countries to renege on their climate commitments or abandon the treaty altogether, as the United States did under President Donald Trump. Consequently, most climate change experts say that countries’ emissions reduction plans are not sufficient and will not be executed quickly enough to contain temperature increases to 1.5°C.

What lies behind the failure of international climate treaties to secure meaningful action?

One factor is the disagreement between industrialized and developing nations over which should bear most of the burden for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Wealthy countries like the United States and Britain have contributed the most to cumulative emissions by normalizing environmentally unsustainable overconsumption. Beginning with the Industrial Revolutions, emissions stemming from the manufacturing of goods in European countries, supplied with raw materials from their colonies in Africa, South America, and Asia, skyrocketed. Industrializing countries like China and formerly colonized nations like India argue that, given the economic wealth and technological advancements acquired by others through industrialization and colonization, the wealthiest countries are the best equipped financially and technologically to lead efforts to address the climate crisis. They insist that demands to cut back on their own emissions are unreasonable, given their minor role in causing the current crisis, and that reducing their emissions will temporarily stifle the economic growth that wealthier countries have enjoyed.

Furthermore, the lack of global institutions that enact, interpret, and enforce international environmental laws and treaties seriously hinders coordinated international action. This “global governance deficit” lies at the root of international environmental treaties’ inability to catalyze collective action and hold countries to their climate commitments. A world order based on absolute national sovereignty therefore sacrifices a sustainable world future at the altar of national sovereignty and national political considerations.

To address these challenges, the world urgently needs international legal action that goes beyond the nation-state status quo. The UN General Assembly could be reformed to pass legally binding and enforceable resolutions through a voting process that also takes into account factors like population. The General Assembly could then pass binding resolutions requiring industrialized and high emitting countries like the United States and China to spearhead emissions reduction efforts and establish ecocide law to make environmental destruction an international criminal act, prosecuted by the International Criminal Court. Building an enforcement mechanism into international environmental treaties would mitigate our current climate crisis.

Promoting meaningful international climate action may also require creating new global governance institutions, such as an International Court for the Environment. Experts have proposed a “Climate Club” that would establish a single international target carbon price and sanction noncompliant countries and countries that do not participate.

In today’s warming world, the stakes have never been higher. To prevent an irreversible chain reaction of climate catastrophe, we must marshal our scientific acumen, political will, and technological prowess on a global scale to contain global temperature rise. Doing so will require addressing the politics of climate change policy within and among countries and the current ineffective system of global environmental governance, including its unenforceable international treaties.

The path forward will not be easy, for it will require unprecedented grassroots mobilization and political courage. But the task isn’t impossible. The far-sighted individuals who gathered in San Francisco to create the United Nations knew the difficulties that awaited them, but never surrendered to pessimism, hopelessness, or cowardice. They appreciated that the survival of humankind largely depended on their determination to forge a new path forward for international governance. We must do the same now with respect to the climate crisis, embracing effective global environmental governance and cooperation. The survival of 8 billion humans and all other species on our beloved Earth hinges on our success.

Lula’s Victory In Brazil’s Presidential Election: A Potential New Start For International Democracy And Climate Change

Lula’s Victory In Brazil’s Presidential Election: A Potential New Start For International Democracy And Climate Change

On the last weekend of October 2022, Brazil elected a new president: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who defeated Jair Bolsonaro in a closely-fought second-round vote. Lula secured 50.8 percent of the vote compared to Bolsonaro, who garnered 49.2 percent.

On the last weekend of October 2022, Brazil elected a new president: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who defeated Jair Bolsonaro in a closely-fought second-round vote. Lula secured 50.8 percent of the vote compared to Bolsonaro, who garnered 49.2 percent .

The return to office for Lula, who led the country from 2003 to 2010, would mark an extraordinary political change from a nationalist government to a government better inclined towards international democracy.

“Today the only winner is the Brazilian people,” Lula da Silva told the crowds gathered at a Sao Paulo hotel. “This isn’t a victory of mine or the Workers’ Party, nor the parties that supported me in campaign. It’s the victory of a democratic movement that formed above political parties, personal interests and ideologies so that democracy came out victorious.”

We can say that in addition to the Brazilian people, the world has also gained victory from da Silva’s victory because the proposals of the new president concern us all. Indeed, point of views of Lula and Bolsonaro deeply differ on various issues. The two politicians diverging views on these issues are subsequently outlined.

On the Amazon and climate change

Speaking during the annual debate in the UN General Assembly on Sept. 24 2019, Mr. Bolsonaro, who negates climate change, stressed that “the Amazon is not now destroyed by the flames, as the media would like to believe.” Bolsonaro underlined that “It is a fallacy to say that the Amazon is the heritage of humankind, and a misconception, as confirmed by scientists, to say that our Amazonian forests are the lungs of world. Using these fallacies, certain countries instead of helping, embarked on the media lies and behaved in a disrespectful manner and with a colonialist spirit. They even called into question that which we hold as the most sacred value: our own sovereignty.”(1) He also thanked Donald Trump who shares his approach to national sovereignty.

But reality says than since Bolsonaro took office since January 2019, deforestation has almost doubled compared to the previous year. During 2020 and 2021, Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions increased by 9.5%. Of all emissions, 46% were due to deforestation, mainly driven by illegal mining and livestock expansion.

Preliminary reports indicate that in 2022, deforestation will reach record levels in the Amazon region. Izabella Teixeira, Brazil’s former environment minister from 2010 to 2016, promised to update the country’s nationally determined contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement, which outlines its plans to cut emissions. Brazil proposed its first NDC in September 2015 and has since updated it twice, the first time being in 2020 and the second in 2022. In both updates, made under Bolsonaro’s term as president, the country used accounting tricks to weaken its climate goals.

Conversely, according to Teixeira, Lula’s priority is to curb deforestation, the country’s main source of emissions, which has surged to a decade high under Bolsonaro (2).

In an article published by Le Monde (3) Lula da Silva affirmed that “today, the climate emergency, rising inequality and geopolitical tensions reveal the seriousness of the crisis affecting our planet. Unfortunately, Jair Bolsonaro has continued to make this situation worse by practicing climate revisionism, undermining the institutions of our democracy and promoting intolerance. Brazil, under my presidency, will again benefit from public policies aimed at improving the lives of our people and inspiring strong initiatives in favor of the protection of the environment, in particular the Amazon, and the fight against poverty in the world.”

On a Multipolar world

Lula da Silva explained his view on international affairs in the Tribune of Le Monde asserting that: “my goal now is to do more and better. For this, it is necessary for Brazil to be present at major international debates. We will develop a sovereign and active foreign policy. We will work for peace, dialogue and international cooperation. We believe in a multipolar world, and unlike some members of the Bolsonaro government, we do not believe that the Earth is flat and that the climate change does not exist. My Government will work with other countries to rebuild the Amazon Fund and thus take care of the Amazon rainforest and biodiversity.

In Latin America, we will strengthen Mercosur [Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay] and relaunch regional integration. We no longer want Latin America to limit itself to the sole export of raw materials. In this sense, we will work so that our countries can once again industrialize and technologically progress.

Faced with the growing rivalries between China and the United States, we want to dialogue with everyone, and build a strategic partnership with the European Union (EU). Improving the terms of the agreement Mercosur-EU will allow us to increase our trade, deepen our bonds of trust and strengthen the defense of our common values.

On the other hand, the priority of my government will be to restore the relationship with the African continent. Brasil will be present to help and expand political, economic and social cooperation with its countries. We believe – and, in winning, we will work – for a multipolar world united around values such as solidarity, cooperation, humanism and social justice. Faced with the challenges of civilizations that we live, we believe in a new global governance that must begin with the expansion of the UN Security Council and the establishment of new forms of cooperation between countries. We believe that another Brazil is possible, and that another world is possible because, in a past not so far away, we had started building it.”

In 2020, Lula published(4) a call “For a Multipolar World.” The call’s goal is “the creation of a multipolar world, free from unilateral hegemony and from sterile bipolar confrontation,” that “would permit a true re-founding of the multilateral order, based on principles of real multilateralism, in which international cooperation can truly flourish.” The call continues affirming that: “There seems to be an almost universal consensus that the world system will have to be rebuilt in a very fundamental way. It is not impossible, indeed it is imperative, that a certain number of states or supranational entities — such as a reborn European Union and the institutions dedicated to the integration of developing countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia (which will have to be reinforced or recreated) — shall look for alliances and partnerships, in a way that contributes to the creation of a multipolar world, free from unilateral hegemony and from sterile bipolar confrontation.”

On Latin American integration and Sur

In a speech at a rally on May 2nd 2022 Lula said, “We are going to create a currency in Latin America, because we can’t keep depending on the dollar”. He revealed that the currency would be called the Sur, which means “South” in Spanish. Lula explained that countries in Latin America could still keep their sovereign domestic currency, but they could use the Sur to do bilateral trade with each other, instead of having to exchange for US dollars. The Sur could also help to contain inflation in the region, Lula argued. He said the goal of the currency would be to deepen Latin American integration and strengthen the region’s economic sovereignty, weakening its dependence on the United States. Under Brazil’s current government, led by far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro, the South American giant has subordinated itself to Washington(5).

On the UN Security Council

Concerning global governance, Lula da Silva defends a new world governance, which would include the enlargement of the UN Security Council, and the creation of new institutions that “act differently from the IMF.” At a press conference with foreign media in Sao Paulo on August 22nd, Lula said that more countries need to become permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, so that the United Nations can better deal with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and growing tensions between China and Taiwan. Noting that the geopolitical landscape is changing, Lula said that the Security Council needs more and more nations and that the right to veto, held by its current five permanent members must be abolished. He asked why Brazil and countries such as Mexico, Egypt, Germany, South Africa and Japan cannot become permanent members, calling for Security Council reform based on geopolitics of the 21st century (6).

Contrary to what Lula said about the UN reform, the enlargement of the Security Council should follow a different and more representative composition. The federalists think that a regional representation (European Union, African Union, Mercosur, etc.) is more inclusive than a national one as proposed by new Brazilian President. Instead the proposal to abolish the anachronistic veto right of the five permanent members of Security Council is fully shareable. Even still, da Silva’s proposals point us in the right direction towards much needed reform in the international global governance system, and the hope here is that this will build some momentum and discourse around this issue.

The Lula da Silva’s victory in Brazil’s recent presidential election could represent a new start for international democracy. Let’s continue to watch the new government’s first steps on foreign policy, and see whether Lula’s electoral commitments will become reality.

This article originally appeared here:

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.”