Overcoming the Obstacles to UN Maintenance of International Peace and Security

Overcoming the Obstacles to UN Maintenance of International Peace and Security

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article was originally published in PeaceVoice.

Russia’s Ukraine Invasion: How Do We Find A Peaceful Solution To End War?

Russia’s Ukraine Invasion: How Do We Find A Peaceful Solution To End War?

The war in Ukraine has destabilized and polarized the international order. It pits two nuclear-armed superpowers, the United States and Russia, against each other. Any miscalculation can take all of us to nuclear Armageddon. This war has created untold human misery.  Ending this war should be a top priority for humankind. How can the war be ended and on what terms?

Conventional wisdom holds that wars end in one of two ways. Either one side wins and the other loses or they negotiate a peace agreement by coming to an understanding that both sides can live with. The Russian invasion of Ukraine currently looks like a stalemate, with little territory being won or lost in the last year and both sides seemingly adhering to a position requiring total victory.

Russia seems to be playing the long game, of waiting out the resolve of the West to fund and support Ukraine. Sanctions on Russia have had an effect, but it still sells oil to China, India, and much of the world.

Ukraine’s goal is to regain its lost territory, maintain its current territory, and achieve security against future invasions. Russia wants to control all of Ukraine and wants to prevent it from joining NATO. The question is, can a peace agreement be made that both sides can live with?

Countries at war start to look for alternatives when victory is no longer assured or even likely. This war has reached that point. Negotiations give countries options in a no-win situation. Are the parties ready to negotiate?

Peace agreements are reached by making a win-win deal where both sides get something they want out of it. Of course, they need to compromise and give up some things as well.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is a key to any peace deal, for he must be willing to negotiate and implement any agreement reached. But the other key is Ukraine, whose territory has been invaded, occupied, and annexed by Russia.

The “deciders” will be Russia (essentially Putin) and Ukraine (the Zelensky administration). They will be the ones with representatives at the negotiating table.

Beyond “the table,” there are other influencers, such as those who support Ukraine with arms and funding–the European Union and the US. Some tacitly support Russia by continuing commerce with Putin and by not voting in the UN to sanction Russia.

If an understanding and peace settlement is to be reached between Ukraine and Russia, we must consider what institution is most capable of facilitating the necessary negotiations. The United Nations which is the world’s largest and most important international peace organization is the logical party, for this task, according to its charter, its goal is to “prevent the scourge of war.”  Unfortunately, the UN Security Council is hobbled by the fact that Russia and the other great powers that emerged victorious in World War II―the United States, France, the United Kingdom, and China―exercise veto power. And Russia has vetoed Security Council action in connection with the Ukraine war.

Another option is for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to organize serious peace negotiations. The role of the Secretary-General is that of chief diplomat for all nations. That official is charged with mediation and appointment of envoys to broker peace agreements. In getting such negotiations off the ground, he might find it useful to draw upon countries such as China or Turkey, both of which have a rapport with Putin.

The International Court of Justice was foreseen by the UN Charter as the primary method of resolution of disputes between Countries, offering law as an alternative to war.  The law needs enforcement, and the ICJ is limited in this area. Its preliminary ruling against Russia, nearly two years ago, was ignored by Putin. The International Court of Justice has resolved the majority of the cases they hear through a voluntary agreement. If we are to move from an international system based on war and military force to a system based on law and justice, we need to empower and expand the International Court of Justice to include all nations in the UN.

We must also move forward with reform of the UN Security Council, thereby ending its paralysis when it comes to enforcing world peace and security. A more democratic United Nations, with greater funding and enforcement power, is necessary if we hope to survive this dangerous time. We can move from war to law by reforming and strengthening the United Nations, but it will take some creative thinking and action by all of us.

This article was originally published in Black Star News.

Image Credits: UN Photo/Manuel Elías

Replacing a Disastrous War with a Just Peace in Ukraine

Replacing a Disastrous War with a Just Peace in Ukraine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credits: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

The Time Has Come To Build A Viable Global System Of Collective Security

The Time Has Come To Build A Viable Global System Of Collective Security

Lessons Repeat Themselves Until Learned

One of the inescapable features of human existence is that lessons we fail to learn repeat themselves over and over, usually with increasing ferocity until the lesson is learned. This principle applies not only to our individual lives, but to humanity’s collective life as well. One of these global lessons that has been repeating itself with ever-increasing intensity is that localized or regional conflicts have global repercussions.

A good example is the war in Syria, which spawned a number of crises that impacted countries far beyond its border. One of them was the refugee crisis, which affected not only Syria’s immediate Middle Eastern neighbors like Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey but had far-reaching effects in Europe as well. The wave of refugees washing up on Europe’s shores was a driving force in the rise of right-wing governments in several countries. It was also one of the factors that precipitated Brexit, as the United Kingdom frantically attempted to take control of its own destiny and limit the flow of unwanted refugees to its shores.

The Syrian conflict also created fertile conditions in Syria and Iraq that allowed ISIS to flourish and carry out brutal acts that impacted the citizens of many nations near and far. In addition, the civil war in Syria resulted in the creation of what some of the media referred to as a “proto world war,” as countries arrayed themselves on opposing sides of a widening conflict.

We Missed the Opportunity to Learn from the War in Syria

Unfortunately, the international community failed to grasp the opportunity arising from the conflict in Syria to devise a global mechanism to end the Syrian conflict. It is therefore no surprise that one of the most pressing conflicts of the day, Russia’s war against Ukraine, has left our global leaders paralyzed, dithering, taking half-measures and seemingly unable to take the kind of decisive and effective action that would have nipped it in the bud before it festered into the global morass it is today.

The War in Ukraine Has Triggered Several Global Crises

This latest regional conflict has been having its own world-encircling impact: indeed, it has been responsible for triggering several global crises. They include a global food crisis that has resulted in food shortages and the rise in the price of bread, a staple food which so many, especially in the poorest nations, rely on for survival. The Ukraine conflict has also sparked a global energy crisis as the flow of natural gas from Russia, on which many countries have relied, has significantly diminished. The result has been a spike in the price of energy across the world, including the richer nations of Europe. In the U.K. alone, the cost of heating homes has risen dramatically, causing much economic pain. As though this were not enough, the war has contributed to the rise of stubborn inflation worldwide which is having a significant and deleterious impact on the global economy. Some, including the World Bank, fear that we will soon find ourselves in a global recession.

To add to all these global crises, the nations of the world are dividing themselves into two opposing camps with the United States, Europe, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand arrayed on one side and Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and possibly India on the other. This level of global polarization constitutes a threat to global peace and security. In the past, it has led to world wars, a consequence we want to avoid at all costs. The threat is exacerbated by the increasing worry that nuclear weapons may be used either accidentally or deliberately by one of these nations in a moment of heated miscalculation, triggering a nuclear war, which, even if limited geographically, would have disastrous consequences for humanity.

It’s Time to Revisit President Wilson’s 14 Points and the Atlantic Charter

The ever-increasing cascade of crises points to the imperative need for the international community to devise a viable global system of collective security that is capable of ensuring international peace. It is time for the world to revisit and finally implement two principles proposed by two American presidents in the early and middle parts of the twentieth century.

The first is the principle that was proposed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1918 as part of his 14 Point program which called for limiting the number of arms each nation can possess to the smallest amount consistent with domestic safety. Alas, the world failed to implement this recommendation when it created the League of Nations in the aftermath of the First World War. It failed to do so at its peril and suffered another devastating world war. The world then missed another opportunity to implement President Wilson’s recommendation when the United Nations was created after the Second World War.

The second principle that the world should seriously revisit and implement is set out in Article 8 of the Atlantic Charter, drawn up by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill in August 1941. This principle called for nations to abandon the use of force “for realistic as well as spiritual reasons.” It, too, was never implemented.

The Key to Peace is Creating a Global System of Collective Security

Given the recent horrors humanity has experienced as a result of the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine (and in many other nations, including Yemen, Ethiopia, Myanmar, and Sudan), the international community may finally be ready to build a global system of collective security that is firmly grounded in these two foundational principles.

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.

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.”