The Parliaments of the World’s Religions

The Parliaments of the World’s Religions

The first time that many religious representatives met with each other was at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893.  Three of the goals of this gathering were to show “what and how many important truths the various Religions hold and teach in common;” to discover “what light Religion has to throw on the great problems of the present age;” and “to bring the nations of the earth into a more friendly fellowship, in the hope of securing permanent international peace.”  The president of this Parliament proclaimed, “Henceforth the religions of the world will make war, not on each other, but on the giant evils that afflict humanity.”  But after two world wars, the Holocaust and other genocides, the Cold War with massive nuclear proliferation, and over eighty wars since the end of the Second World War, many people representing many different religions realized the need for modern Parliaments in order to address our current global problems.

So in 1993 many religious leaders in Chicago organized the first modern Parliament.  The other modern Parliaments were then held in Cape Town, South Africa in 1999, in Barcelona, Spain in 2004, in Melbourne, Australia in 2009, in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2015, in Toronto, Canada in 2018, virtually in 2021, and most recently back in Chicago this year from August 14 to 18.  I have been fortunate to participate in all of these modern Parliaments.

The modern Parliaments are religious conventions that are open to anyone who is committed to learning about other religions and dialoging with people from other religions.  Each day of the Parliament involves meetings, presentations, and panels about the beliefs and practices of different religions or about humanity’s most pressing problems:  violence, human rights atrocities, poverty, racism, gender inequality, war and genocide, nuclear weapons, and environment degradation due to global warming.  Leaders of various groups within Judaism, Christianity, Islam, the Baha’i Faith, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Confucianism, Taoism, and other religious groups gave speeches in the plenary sessions about how they think these global problems can be solved. 

The theme of the 2023 Parliament in Chicago was “A Call to Conscience:  Defending Freedom and Human Rights.”  There were over 7,000 attendees at this Parliament in Chicago, representing about 100 countries and over 200 different religious groups.  There were over 100 sessions or presentations during each day of the Parliament.  There were many opportunities to attend different religious services at the Parliament.  Many dances and songs performed by various religious groups were also part of this global experience.  Every day a large group of Sikhs offered a free meal of traditional Indian food to large groups of participants.  Everyone who attended these langars was asked to follow the Sikh custom of removing one’s shoes and covering one’s head with a turban or a cloth.

There was a major emphasis at this latest Parliament on the Declaration of a Global Ethic.  It was written by a group of scholars from different religions for the 1993 Parliament.  The Global Ethic emphasizes a commitment to a culture of non-violence and respect for life, solidarity and a just economic order, tolerance and a life of truthfulness, equal rights and partnership between men and women, and sustainability and care for the Earth.  These principles reflect the ancient commandments taught in some way by all of the major religions:  ‘you shall not murder/kill, steal, lie, or commit adultery.’  According to the Global Ethic, people from every religion or no religion can agree on universal ethical values such as non-violent conflict resolution, honesty, human rights, labor rights, working against corruption in government and economics, working for justice, and protecting the environment.    

Another document that was emphasized at recent Parliaments is the Charter for Compassion.  This Charter is based on the Golden Rule that has been taught by all of the major religions in various formulations.  The Charter calls upon all to restore compassion to the center of morality and religion, to reject any interpretation of scripture that breeds hatred or violence, to teach accurate and respectful information about other religions, to appreciate cultural and religious diversity, and to cultivate empathy for the sufferings of others, even those regarded as enemies.  Because of the modern Parliaments, many cities around the world have declared themselves to be Compassion Cities.

There were several sessions at the 2023 Parliament that emphasized the need for a democratic world federation.  One was led by Sovaida Ma’ani Ewing, a representative of the Baha’i Faith.  She argued that war, climate change, mismanagement of natural resources, proliferation of nuclear weapons, and financial upheavals can best be solved by establishing collective decision-making institutions that can evolve into a democratic world federation of nation-states. Bruce Knotts, the President of Citizens for Global Solutions and a Trustee of the Parliament, was involved in many sessions in Chicago.  Rebecca Shoot, the Executive Director of Citizens for Global Solutions, was a panelist on a session about how to eliminate nuclear weapons.

Many modern philosophers and religious leaders have realized that there will be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions.  Furthermore, there will be no peace among the religions without dialogue among the religions.  I am convinced that the Parliaments of the World’s Religions are important forums for promoting world citizenship, compassion, and a global ethic for the global community.  The world’s religions have a responsibility of building a secure foundation for these values so that a democratic system of enforceable world laws can outlaw war and solve our global problems

Domestic Violence And Women’s Empowerment Initiatives: Exploring The Relationship In A Patriarchal Setting

Domestic Violence And Women’s Empowerment Initiatives: Exploring The Relationship In A Patriarchal Setting

Domestic violence is the most common form of violence against women and is reported globally to be experienced by one out of every three women. Women in low- to middle-income countries, including India, are disproportionately affected, owing to the predominant patriarchal culture in these countries. According to recent data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), close to 30% of Indian women have experienced some form of violence, whether physical, sexual, or emotional.

To combat this epidemic of violence, studies in this domain recommend various women’s empowerment initiatives, such as higher education, female labor force participation, and pay parity, among others. However, a recent study from India reports that lower levels of education, rural residence, lower family income, and higher earnings by women correlate with a higher incidence of physical abuse. The authors of one study (Singh & Babbar, 2022) argue that men in Indian society do not take kindly to their wives’ earning more money than they do. This prevalent attitude also correlates with Relative Resource Theory, which holds that a man is likely to be more abusive when he feels that his dominance is being challenged by a woman who earns more money than he does. In a patriarchal society the man is supposed to be the sole breadwinner and he controls his family through resource provision; if he fails to do so, he is mocked by the community. If a man lacks the resources to fulfill this role, he resorts to aggression and violence as a tool to control his family, especially his wife.  Patriarchy is so deeply rooted in this socio-cultural context that any policy initiatives aiming to empower women are bound to fail, as women should not be seen as breadwinners. Several other studies in this same cultural context report the identical negative relationship between women’s economic empowerment and their risk of being abused. Incidences of domestic violence has increasingly been reported in high-income families as well.

This social prejudice thus raises the critical need for future research to disentangle this relationship. Among the sociological theories which explain domestic violence, the most popular is resource theory which postulates that domestic violence is more common among lower socio-economic groups due to lack of resources. However, the incidence of domestic violence has increasingly been reported in high-income families as well. A quick survey of the literature in this domain suggests that, except for a few, the existing studies do not explain the link between empowerment and the risk of abuse.

Women’s Role in Patriarchy

Patriarchy has been consistently reported to be the main cause of the violent victimization of women; however, the acceptance by women themselves of patriarchal norms tends to be neglected as a factor predicting violence against women. Research suggests that women who accept patriarchal norms are more likely to be physically abused by their husbands. According to data from NFHS-4 (2015–16), more women (25%) than men (15%) think that it is justified for a husband to beat his wife if she goes out without telling him, argues with him or neglects their children. Is this finding not shocking, given the discourse of gender equality so widespread in our society? Why would women themselves accept a subordinate position—the patriarchal norm—in an intimate relationship when she has the right to equality.

Patriarchy is the belief system which holds that men are justified in controlling women and have the right to exercise such control. The subjugation of women in and of itself is not the central theme in patriarchy but patriarchal culture is deeply misogynistic. In such a culture, women are seen as less capable, less trustworthy. Violence against women is justified by the choices and natures of individual men and women. Patriarchy is thus a social system and not a conscious conspiracy against women by men. Indeed,  it is not always conscious and men too are victims, since in a patriarchal society men are supposed to be strong, to hide their emotions, to support their families through their work, etc., making men vulnerable to many mental health issues.

Women are often considered to be the principal victims of patriarchy, but in reality, they themselves are often enforcers of patriarchal norms. Patriarchy is considered to be the source of order in the family and many family members, including young boys and girls, are conditioned to believe that any failure to maintain this order may jeopardize the well-being of the whole family. Thus, the system continues to be passed on from generation to generation and women blindly carry this burden in the name of maintaining the harmony and dignity of the family.

Many tend to criticize men for promoting patriarchal norms, but children learn these cultural norms from their parents. Thus, it is “normal” for children to grow up thinking that male authority is the norm and that any deviation would bring disorder and disharmony. Thus, the education of women, especially the older generation, is needed to break this cycle. As per NFHS-4 data, it is women’s own acceptance of the patriarchal norms—for example, that wife-beating is justified—that is the most significant predictor of her own risk of abuse.

In my own ongoing research into the factors affecting women’s acceptance of patriarchal norms and the role of education, I found that, above and beyond other socio-economic factors, the media—specifically watching television—play a major role in shaping patriarchal norms among Indian women in the age group of 15 to 49 years. As per our data analysis in NFHS-4 (the domestic violence module) women who read newspapers daily are less likely to accept regressive gender norms, while women who watch television daily are more likely to accept patriarchal norms. This finding perhaps mirrors the arguments by feminists against TV soaps which tend to normalize patriarchy and male dominance and have the  highest TRP (target rating points, the metric used by marketing agencies to measure the highest number of viewers of a given television program).

Gendered Content: The Role of Mass Media 

In popular daily soaps broadcast on television, it is often seen that the woman who is submissive, who cares for everyone, and who gives preference to family rather than work, is considered “perfect” and is portrayed as a desirable “wife.” The most common theme among highly rated daily soaps is that of two women fighting to get the attention of a man. Lead actresses portray “superwoman”, who smoothly manages the household, the office, the children, her in-laws, even her husband’s business. Obviously, such content normalizes prevailing gender roles and the profound inequalities in the society.

The significance of the mass media in perpetuating patriarchal norms among women has serious implications for the content of daily soaps. There is no doubt that education has the potential to promote gender equality in society and that the media have the potential to play a crucial rule in reinforcing more progressive social and cultural norms. However, the question remains to be explored whether daily soaps are designed to serve the real needs of their consumers or whether they primarily promote regressive gendered norms.

The relationship between women’s empowerment initiatives and the risk of physical abuse is not linear. Unless and until there is an acceptance of women’s empowerment in a patriarchal society, these initiatives may not translate into a lower incidence of violence against women. Further research is needed to understand the factors predicting women’s acceptance of patriarchal norms, since research shows clearly  that it remains a significant predictor of domestic violence against women.

The Ukraine War And International Law

The Ukraine War And International Law

The Ukraine War has provided a challenging time for the nations of the world and, particularly, for international law.

Since antiquity, far-sighted thinkers have worked on developing rules of behavior among nations in connection with war, diplomacy, economic relations, human rights, international crime, global communications, and the environment.  Defined as international law, this “law of nations” is based on treaties or, in some cases, international custom.  Some of the best-known of these international legal norms are outlined in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Geneva Conventions.

International Law and Ukraine

The UN Charter is particularly relevant to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  Article 2, Section 4, perhaps the most important and widely-recognized item in the Charter, prohibits the “use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”  In Article 51, the Charter declares that “nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a member of the United Nations.”

Ukraine, of course, although partially or totally controlled by Russia or the Soviet Union during portions of its past, has been an independent, sovereign nation since 1991.  That year, the Soviet Union, in the process of disintegration, authorized Ukraine to hold a referendum on whether to become part of the Russian Federation or to become independent.  In a turnout by 84 percent of the Ukrainian public, some 90 percent of participants voted for independence.  Accordingly, Ukraine was recognized as an independent nation.  Three years later, in the Budapest Memorandum, Ukraine’s government officially agreed to turn over its large nuclear arsenal to Russia, while the Russian government officially pledged not only to “respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine,” but to “refrain from the threat or use of force” against that country.  In 1997, Ukraine and Russia signed the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership, in which they pledged to respect one another’s territorial integrity.

The Russian Military Assaults of 2014 and 2022

Despite these actions, which have the status of international law, the Russian government, in 2014, used its military might to seize and annex Crimea in southern Ukraine and to arm pro-Russian separatist groups in the nation’s eastern region, the Donbas.  Although a Russian veto blocked a UN Security Council rebuke, the UN General Assembly, on March 27, 2014, passed a resolution (“Territorial Integrity of Ukraine”) by a vote of 100 nations to 11, with 58 nations abstaining, condemning the Russian military seizure and annexation of Crimea.  Ignoring this condemnation of its behavior by the world organization, the Russian government incorporated Crimea into the Russian Federation and, in August, dispatched its military forces into the Donbas to bolster the beleaguered separatists.  Over the following years, Russia’s armed forces played the major role in battling the Ukrainian government’s troops defending eastern Ukraine.

Then, on February 24, 2022, the Russian government, in the most massive military operation in Europe since World War II, launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.  Although UN  Security Council action was again blocked by a Russian veto, the UN General Assembly took up the issue.  On March 2, by a vote of 141 countries to 5 (with 35 abstentions), it demanded the immediate and complete withdrawal of Russian military forces from Ukrainian territory.  Asked for its opinion on the legality of the Russian invasion, the International Court of Justice, the world’s highest judicial authority, ruled on March 16, by a vote of 13 to 2 (with Russia’s judge casting one of the two negative votes) that Russia should “immediately suspend” its invasion of Ukraine.

The Illegality of Russia’s Annexation of Ukrainian Territory

In late September 2022, when the Kremlin announced that a ceremony would take place launching a process of Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that “any annexation of a state’s territory by another state resulting from the threat or use of force is a violation of the principles of the UN Charter and international law.”  Denouncing the proposed annexation, Guterres declared:

  • It cannot be reconciled with the international legal framework.
  • It stands against everything the international community is meant to stand for.
  • It flouts the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
  • It is a dangerous escalation.
  • It has no place in the modern world.

Nevertheless, the following day, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an accord to annex the regions, declaring that Russia would never give them up and would defend them by any means available.

In turn, the nations of the world weighed in on the Russian action.  On October 12, 2022, the UN General Assembly, by a vote of 143 countries to 5 (with 35 abstentions), called on all nations to refuse to recognize Russia’s “attempted illegal annexation” of Ukrainian land.

Law Without Enforcement

What, then, after surveying this sorry record, are we to think about the value of international law?  It is certainly useful for defining the rules of international behavior―rules that are essential to a civilized world.  Addressing the UN Security Council recently, the UN Secretary General declared that “the rule of law is all that stands between peace and stability” and “a brutal struggle for power and resources.”  Even so, although it is better to have agreed-upon rules rather than none at all, it would be better yet―indeed, much better―to have them enforced.

And therein lies the fundamental problem:  Despite agreement among nations on the principles of international law, the major entities providing global governance―the United Nations and the International Court of Justice―lack the power to enforce them.  Given this weakness at the global level, nations remain free to launch wars of aggression, including wars of territorial conquest.

Surely the Russian invasion of Ukraine should convince us of the need to strengthen global governance, thereby providing a firmer foundation for the enforcement of international law.

Human And Environmental Rights Come With Mutual Responsibilities

Human And Environmental Rights Come With Mutual Responsibilities

If we want a world where our human and environmental rights are elevated, we must place as much importance on our responsibilities to humanity and the planet as we put on our rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) sets forth the fundamental rights belonging to every individual in the world. The UDHR celebrated its 74th anniversary on December 10, 2022.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Declaration on the Human Environment and the 5th anniversary of the Declaration of Ethical Principles of Climate Change. These declarations call for the preservation, enhancement, and equitable use of the environment for present and future generations.

The UN Conference of Parties that occurs every year, the most recent being COP27 in Egypt last month, develops additional accords to enforce environmental rights, such as the Loss and Damage Fund intended to assist people in places most negatively affected by climate disasters.

Distressingly, humanity has yet to fulfill the duties that arise from these global meetings of national governments and from these rights declarations. Celebrating these declarations and international agreements builds an understanding of human and environmental rights. Rights awareness is the first step. The next step is to implement the goals of the declarations, especially for people living in the most vulnerable situations.

Refugees, the stateless, the indigenous, the economically disadvantaged, and those facing war, discrimination, and oppression suffer the most from deleterious human impacts on the environment. Close to 100 million internally/externally displaced and stateless persons in the world – one out of every 80 persons – have had to flee their homes to seek safe places to live. As environmental destruction worsens, climate refugees will multiply this number exponentially.

Civil society has been present during the development of human and environmental rights declarations, but individual humans do not yet have a vote in world affairs. As national citizens, individuals can vote on local issues, but we have limited or no say in how governments and corporations around the world treat the oceans, the forests, the land, the atmosphere, and other species.

In the nation-state system, governments and their leaders can violate human and environmental rights with impunity, because individual accountability for global violations does not yet exist in human and environmental rights law spheres at the world level.

But there are legal and societal measures that we can implement to realize the promise of human and environmental rights declarations.

Global institutions of world law, such as a universal rights court and a people’s world parliament, are tools that can help realign humanity’s priorities to be in sync with the needs of the Earth.

Attempts to address environmental rights judicially are in process. For example, ecocide – severe, widespread, or long-term damage to the environment – is under consideration as a crime within the jurisdiction of the existing International Criminal Court and a future International Court for the Environment. An environmental rights court would adjudicate ecocide, but not the human rights violations of people living in affected areas.  A global judicial system that adjudicates violations of both human and environmental rights, a World Court of Human and Environmental Rights, would provide a holistic solution.

World law institutions are one component to realizing universal rights. The other component is empowering individual action by recognizing our legal status as world citizens. With the right to vote directly in world referenda or through world parliamentarians on issues that affect the entire world, we would increase our individual engagement and our personal responsibility.

Seeing the Earth as one, world citizens understand how our actions affect our fellow humans and the environment. Together, we can develop strategies for sustainable living based not just on human needs, but also on the needs of the Earth.

Human rights and environmental rights are intertwined. Without a safe and sustainable environment, our rights become meaningless. Without just and peaceful interactions among humans, the Earth becomes a victim of human violence, for war is one of the worst destroyers of nature.

As the brain and conscience for the planet, we world citizens have the duty to use our intelligence and empathy to harmonize the needs of humanity with the needs of the Earth.

CGS 2022 Global Citizen Award To Pope Francis

CGS 2022 Global Citizen Award To Pope Francis

Citizens for Global Solutions is honored to present Pope Francis with our Global Citizen Award  for 2022.  This award is presented once a year to an individual who is recognized as a Global Citizen by the general public for their commitment to one or more of the following areas:

  • An end to war and violence in the resolution of international disputes
  • The elimination of nuclear weapons
  • Democratic global governance
  • Protection of universal human rights and freedoms
  • Care of the global environment
  • Embracing loyalty to our world in addition to loyalty to any one nation

Pope Francis has demonstrated to the whole world his commitment to all these areas.

As the leader of the Catholic Church, he is truly catholic/universal in his concern for the entire human family and the planet we all share.

His work to protect the global environment is inspiring.  “Laudato Si” was instrumental in helping the people and the leaders of the world recognize the seriousness of the environmental crisis facing our common home.

We are inspired by his teaching in “Fratelli Tutti” about a love capable of transcending borders so that the human family can live together in harmony and peace, without expecting everyone to be or look the same.  We also agree with his advice in this document that we need new structures to solve global problems that affect us all.  Indeed Pope Francis is a great world citizen and a model for all of us.

Citizens for Global Solutions promotes the ideal of “world peace through world law” and democratic world federation, which is consistent with the Catholic Church’s teachings on a public authority for the world community, subsidiarity, solidarity, and the protection of human rights.

We are grateful to Bishop John Stowe, who is a member of the CGS National Advisory Council, who hand carried this award from the US to the Vatican for Pope Francis.  Bishop Stowe presented the award to Cardinal Michael Czerny, SJ, Prefect of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development.

Thank you, Pope Francis, for all you do to make our world a better, safer, healthier, more loving place for all humanity.

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.”