As War Keeps Poisoning Humanity, Organizing Continues to Be the Antidote

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Opinion

United Nations military personnel are the Blue Helmets on the ground. Today, they consist of over 70,000 troops contributed by national armies from across the globe and help keep the peace in military conflicts worldwide. Credit: United Nations

SAN FRANCISCO, USA, Sep 14 2021 (IPS) – Last weekend, U.S. corporate media continued a 20-year repetition compulsion to evade the central role of the USA in causing vast carnage and misery due to the so-called War on Terror. But millions of Americans fervently oppose the military-industrial complex and its extremely immoral nonstop warfare.


CodePink and Massachusetts Peace Action hosted a national webinar to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11 — the day before Sunday’s launch of the Cut the Pentagon campaign — and the resulting video includes more than 20 speakers who directly challenged the lethal orthodoxy of the warfare state. As part of the mix, here’s the gist of what I had to say:

When we hear all the media coverage and retrospectives, we rarely hear — and certainly almost never in the mass media hear — that when people are killed, whether it’s intentional or predictable, those are atrocities that are being financed by U.S. taxpayers.

And so we hear about the evils of Al Qaeda and 9/11, and certainly those were evils, but we’re not hearing about the predictable as well as the intentional deaths: the tens of thousands of civilians killed by U.S. air strikes alone in the last two decades, and the injuries, and the terrorizing of people with drones and other U.S. weapons. We’re hearing very little about that.

Part of the role of activists is to make those realities heard, make them heard loud and clear, as forcefully and as emphatically and as powerfully as possible. Activist roles can sometimes get blurred in terms of becoming conflated with the roles of some of the best members of Congress.

When progressive legislators push for peace and social justice, they deserve our praise and our support. When they succumb to the foreign-policy “Blob” — when they start to be more a representative of the establishment to the movements rather than a representative of the movements to the establishment — we’ve got a problem.

It’s vital for progressive activists to be clear about what our goals are, and to be willing to challenge even our friends on Capitol Hill.

I’ll give you a very recent example. Two leaders of anti-war forces in the House of Representatives, a couple of weeks ago, circulated a “Dear Colleague” message encouraging members of the House to sign a letter urging the chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith, to stand firm behind President Biden’s 1.6 percent increase in the Pentagon budget, over the budget that Trump had gotten the year before.

The point of the letter was: Chairman Smith, we want you to defend the Biden budget’s increase of 1.6 percent, against the budget that has just been approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee with a 3.3 percent increase.

That kind of a letter moves the goal posts further and further to the liking of the military-industrial complex, to the liking of war profiteers, to the liking of the warfare state. And so, when people we admire and support, in this case Rep. Mark Pocan and Rep. Barbara Lee, circulate such a Dear Colleague letter, there’s a tendency for organizations to say: “Yeah, we’re going to get behind you,” we will respond affirmatively to the call to urge our members to urge their representatives in Congress to sign this letter.

And what that creates is a jumping-off point that moves the frame of reference farther and farther into the militarism that we’re trying to push back against. For that reason, my colleagues and I at RootsAction decided to decline an invitation to sign in support.

I bring up that episode because it’s indicative of the pathways and the crossroads that we face to create momentum for a stronger and more effective peace and social justice movement. And it’s replicated in many respects.

When we’re told it’s not practical on Capitol Hill to urge a cutoff of military funding and assistance to all countries that violate human rights — and when we’re told that Israel is off the table — it’s not our job to internalize those limits that have been internalized by almost everyone in Congress, except for the Squad and a precious few others.

It’s our job to speak not only truth to power but also about power. And to be clear and candid even when that means challenging some of our usual allies. And to organize.

At RootsAction, we’ve launched a site called Progressive Hub, as an activism tool to combine the need to know with the imperative to act.

It’s not easy, to put it mildly, to go against the powerful flood of megamedia, of big money in politics, of the ways that issues are constantly framed by powerful elites. But in the long run, peace activism is essential for overcoming militarism. And organizing is what makes that possible.

Norman Solomon is the national director of RootsAction.org and the author of many books including War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 and 2020 Democratic National Conventions. Solomon is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

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A Milestone Anniversary Reiterates The Culture of Peace is a Movement, not a Revolution

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Opinion

Credit: United Nations

NEW YORK, Sep 13 2021 (IPS) – Today, on 13 September 2021, the UN Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the General Assembly in 1999 will be turning 22.

You would recall that the 20th anniversary of The Culture of Peace of its adoption by the world’s highest multilateral body in 2019 was observed by the United Nations in an appropriate and befitting manner, as called for by the Assembly. It was an occasion for reiteration and recommitment by us all to create the culture of peace in our world, beginning with each one of us.


After the UN Charter, this is the only major document of the UN which focuses on peace in a most comprehensive manner. We need to pay increasingly more attention to this landmark document for its full and effective implementation.

Last week another integrally-connected milestone gathering – the 2021 UN High Level Forum on The Culture of Peace – took place at the UN General Assembly convened by its President of the 75th session.

This day-long event organized on 7 September 2021 attained a special profile and attention as it was the 10th anniversary of the annual UN high level forums which was first initiated in 2012 during the 66th session of the Assembly by its then President, Ambassador Nassir Al-Nasser of Qatar.

His objective was to create a new platform for the culture of peace at the UN to be held on an annual basis for an opportunity to exchange ideas between the Member States and civil society organizations.

I happened to be his senior special advisor involved in conceptualizing and organizing that very first forum on 14 September, the day after the 11th anniversary of The Culture of Peace.

Ambassador Anwarul K Chowdhury

This year’s Forum was held in a hybrid format, both in-person and virtual platforms. With its focus on the theme “The Transformative Role of The Culture of Peace: Promoting Resilience and Inclusion in Post-Covid Recovery”, the Forum provided the opportunity to the participants and all stakeholders to exchange ideas and make suggestions on how to utilize the values of culture of peace in post-Covid recovery efforts, especially to ensure that the recovery, which unfortunately is yet to happen, is durable, resilient and inclusive.

The President of the General Assembly Volkan Bozkir of Turkey, under whose leadership the 2021 Forum took place, earned the grateful tribute of all stakeholders for his guidance, initiative and encouragement in convening and holding this 10th anniversary forum under extremely challenging circumstances very successfully. The Panel Discussion was a fitting conclusion to this remarkable gathering.

As I was preparing for the Panel Discussion, I ran into the historical perspective that this year will reach the quarter century mark of my close association with and advocacy for the culture of peace at the United Nations. In 1997, I took the lead in proposing along with some other Ambassadors in a letter to the newly-elected UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to include a specific, self-standing agenda item of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on The Culture of Peace.

A new agenda item was thus agreed upon after considerable negotiating hurdles and the new item was allocated to the plenary of the General Assembly for discussion on an annual basis. That is the basis for the annual resolutions on The Culture of Peace by the General Assembly from that year.

Under this item, UNGA adopted in 1997 a resolution to declare the year 2000 the “International Year for The Culture of Peace”, and in 1998, a resolution to declare the period from 2001 to 2010 as the “International Decade for The Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World”.

In the year after that the United Nations adopted its Declaration and Programme of Action on The Culture of Peace, a monumental document that transcends boundaries, cultures, societies and nations. It was an honor for me to Chair the nine-month long negotiations that led to the adoption of this historic norm-setting document by consensus.

As I mentioned Secretary-General Kofi Annan earlier, let me quote his thoughts on the culture of peace – I cite this quote often: “Over the years we have come to realize that it is not enough to send peacekeeping forces to separate warring parties. It is not enough to engage in peace-building efforts after societies have been ravaged by conflict. It is not enough to conduct preventive diplomacy. All of this is essential work, but we want enduring results. We need, in short, the culture of peace.”

Absolutely right – we need “enduring results” and for that we need “The Culture of Peace”. The Culture of Peace is not a hollow phrase – or an empty sentiment. It has a transformational opportunity for humanity – it has the energy and enthusiasm of many of us individually and collectively around the world.

These annual forums are very special in their involvement of civil society. These are the only High-Level Forums in the UN which are fully 50-50 gender balanced in their panel compositions. I am proud to say that this was possible as the Global Movement for The Culture of Peace (GMCoP) which is the civil society partner in supporting the Forum has been very diligent in upholding these values.

The concept note of this year’s Forum forcefully reiterated that “…it is an imperative to inculcate the values of The Culture of Peace among nations, societies and communities, with particular attention to the younger generation, through promotion of compassion, tolerance, inclusion, global citizenship and empowerment of all people.”

The theme focusing on the transformative role of the culture of peace in relation to Covid recovery provided a platform to explore and discuss multiple ways and means for empowering all segments of the society, towards a resilient recovery, including by ensuring vaccine equity, asserting universal vaccination as a public good, bridging digital divide, ensuring centrality of women’s equality and empowerment, harnessing the power of youth and highlighting education, health and overall wellbeing of children.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr. AK Abdul Momen in his pre-recorded video presentation at the Forum articulated succinctly that “We must recognize that rebuilding from the COVID pandemic necessitates a renewed commitment and partnership of all stakeholders. Our efforts should be undergirded by the values of “The Culture of Peace’ as instilling these values contribute to building a resilient, inclusive and peaceful society.”

This year’s Forum heard the inspirational keynote speech by Dr. Beatrice Fihn, the Executive Director of 2017 Nobel Peace Prize winning organization ICAN, International Coalition for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, by calling on all that “On this 10th anniversary of the culture of peace, I am urging you all to continue and strengthen your work to promote education, sustainable and economic developments, human rights, gender equality, democratic participation and international peace and security.

She is the sixth Nobel Peace Prize laureate as the keynote speaker at The Culture of Peace Forums, which also make us proud that all of them are distinguished women Nobel Peace laureates. Complimenting Dr. Fihn for her keynote, I underlined that the essence of her keynote message has now become more pertinent in the midst of the ever-increasing militarism and militarization that is destroying both our planet and our people.

Video message by the activist and globally respected Mayor Kazumi Matsui of Hiroshima, the city which along with Nagasaki bear the scars of nuclear destruction and yearn for global peace, highlighted a major engagement of his world-wide peace organization announcing that “On the 7th of July this year, Mayors for Peace, which I preside over, adopted our new Vision, a set of concrete action guidelines, titled: “Vision for Peaceful Transformation to a Sustainable World.”

One of the objectives set forth by the new Vision is to ‘promote a culture of peace’.” Informing that the foundation of this policy change rests in the ability to build a consensus in favor of the abolition of nuclear weapons, he asserted that “To do this, first cultivating a culture of peace-a culture in which the everyday actions of each person are grounded in thinking about peace-is essential.

It is our belief, that this “bottom-up” approach is the most viable approach to peace, and is in line with the values which prompted the efforts of Ambassador Chowdhury and those in attendance.”

The Mayor’s passionate message included in the Peace Declaration, which he delivered in Hiroshima on 6th of August this year, advocated forcefully that “When like-minded people who seek peace unite for the same purpose, we can bring about a significant change in the world.”

Mayor Matsui encouraged the Forum by informing that “Mayors for Peace consists of over 8,000 member cities in 165 countries and regions around the world. With support from member mayors for our aforementioned cause, we will work to promote a culture of peace by expanding our membership and reaching out to a wider public.”

Often, I am asked how I assess the progress made so far since the Assembly adopted the Programme of Action in 1999. At this year’s High-Level Forum, as the Chair-Moderator of its Panel Discussion, I repeated my concern that lamentably, The Culture of Peace has yet to attain its worth and its due recognition at global and national levels as a universal mandate for the humanity to attain sustainable peace in the true sense.

When people wonder what are my plans to advance the concept in the UN system, my response verges on my advocacy message in general. The Declaration and Programme of Action on Culture of Peace adopted without any reservation is a landmark document of United Nations.

The Organization should, therefore, own it and internalize its implementation throughout the UN system. There seems to be lethargy in that direction because, I believe, the Secretary-General needs to make the culture of peace a part of his leadership agenda.

We should get that attention and engagement from him. Also, the UN entities, at least most of them, are preoccupied with what is known as “active agenda” which is a kind of daily problem-solving or problem-shelving.

That means no opportunities to focus on longer term, farsighted objective of sustainable peace with a workable tool that UN possess in the culture of peace programme adopted by its own apex body, the General Assembly. It is like a person who needs a car to go to work and has a car… but with a minimal interest in knowing how to drive it.

Many treat peace and culture of peace synonymously. There is a subtle difference between peace as generally understood and the culture of peace. Actually, when we speak of peace we expect others namely politicians, diplomats or other practitioners to take the initiative while when we speak of The Culture of Peace, we know that initial action begins with each one of us.

For more than two decades, my focus has been on advancing The Culture of Peace which aims at making peace and non-violence a part of our own self, our own personality – a part of our existence as a human being.

I believe The Culture of Peace is not a quick-fix. It is a movement, not a revolution!

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury is Founder of The Global Movement of The Culture of Peace (GMCoP); former Under-Secretary-General of the UN and the Chair of the negotiations which resulted in the consensus adoption of the UN Declaration and Programme of Action on The Culture of Peace in 1999. He was the Chair and Moderator of the virtual Panel Discussion at 2021 UN High Level Forum on The Culture of Peace on 7 September 2021.

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Biden’s Opportunity To End Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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Opinion

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University (NYU) and teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies

Time is running out fast. Thousands of jobs could be lost if the financial situation of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) doesn’t improve promptly, says Philippe Lazzarini, the organization’s commissioner-general. Credit: United Nations

NEW YORK, Dec 7 2020 (IPS) – Recently I had an opportunity to brief a group of European diplomats and journalists on a variety of conflicts, with a focus on the Middle East. During the Q&A I was asked which of the region’s conflicts Biden should tackle first.


Without much hesitation I said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not only because it is over seven decades old, but because it is an increasingly intractable, explosive, and destabilizing situation, which reverberates throughout the Mideast, and several regional powers are exploiting it to serve their own national interests, which sadly contributes to its endurance.

It is expected that Biden will support a two-state solution given his past position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, albeit a growing number of Israelis and Palestinians no longer believe that such an outcome remains viable.

I disagree with this belief: the Palestinians will never give up their right to establish an independent state of their own, and the one-state solution, which is being floated as an alternative, will never be accepted by the Israelis, because that would compromise the Jewish national identity of the state and undercut its democratic nature.

Due to the inter-dispersement of the Israeli and Palestinian populations, the two independent states, however, will have to fully collaborate in many areas, especially on security and economic development. This will lead to the establishment of the framework for a confederation, which will be the final outcome after several years of peace and reconciliation.

For Biden to succeed where his predecessors failed, he must repair the severe damage that Trump has inflicted on the entire peace process and restore the Palestinians’ confidence in a new negotiation that could, in fact, lead to a permanent solution.

To that end, he must take specific measures before the start of the talks and establish rules of engagements to which both sides must fully subscribe to demonstrate their commitment to reaching an agreement.

Preliminary Measures

Reestablish the PLO mission in DC: Biden should allow the Palestinian Authority (PA) to reestablish its mission in DC. This would immediately open a channel of communication which is central to the development of a dialogue between the US and the PA and to clear some of the initial hurdles before resuming the negotiations.

Resuming financial aid: It is essential that Biden restore the financial aid that the Palestinians had been receiving from the US. The Palestinian Authority is financially strapped and is in desperate need of assistance. The aid given should be monitored to ensure that the money is spent on specific program and projects.

Prohibiting territorial annexation: The Biden administration should inform the Israeli government that it will object to any further annexation of Palestinian territories. It will, however, keep the American embassy in Jerusalem and continue recognizing Jerusalem as its capital, leaving its final status to be negotiated.

Freezing settlement expansion: Given the intense controversy about the settlements and their adverse psychological and practical effect on the Palestinians, Biden should insist that Israel impose a temporary freeze on the expansion of settlements. This issue should top the negotiating agenda to allow for a later expansion of specific settlements in the context of land swaps.

Invite Hamas to participate: The Biden administration should invite Hamas to participate in the negotiations jointly with the PA or separately, provided they renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist. If they refuse, they should be left to their own devices and continue to bear the burden of the blockade.

Appoint professional and unbiased mediators: Unlike Trump’s envoys who openly supported the settlements and paid little or no heed to the Palestinians’ aspirations, Biden’s envoys should be known for their integrity, professionalism, and understanding of the intricacies of the conflict, and be committed to a two-state solution.

Invite Arab and European observers: The Arab states and the EU are extremely vested in a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Saudi and German officials will be ideal observers who can render significant help in their unique capacity as leading Arab and European powers.

Rules of engagement

Establishing the end game: No negotiations succeed unless the parties involved agree on the nature of their desired outcome. For the Palestinians it is establishing an independent Palestinian state, and for Israelis it is maintaining the security and independence of a democratic Jewish state. Before embarking on new negotiations, the Biden administration should insist that both sides unequivocally commit to a two-state outcome.

Acknowledging historical and psychological impediments: Both sides have paid little heed in the past to the need to understand each other’s historic experiences—the Holocaust for the Israelis and the Nakba (catastrophe) for the Palestinians—which they subconsciously use as protective shields. Acknowledging each other’s respective traumatic experiences would help mitigate the psychological impediments which continue to feed into the mutual distrust and hatred.

Ending public acrimony: No negotiations can be conducted in good faith in an atmosphere of mutual public acrimony, as had been the case in all prior peace talks. An integral part of any negotiating process is to build trust, which cannot be nurtured while denouncing each other publicly. Leaders on both sides must end acrimonious statements, as their respective publics will have no faith in negotiations under such an atmosphere.

Renouncing and preventing violence: Both sides must commit not only to renouncing violence but to doing everything in their power to prevent acts of violence against one another. To be sure, nothing is more disruptive to the negotiations than a wanton act of violence.

To that end, both sides need to fully collaborate on all security matters and send a clear massage, especially to extremists on both sides, that violence will not be tolerated and perpetrators will suffer severe consequences.

Delinking and “banking” agreed-upon issues: What will be necessary in future talks is to commit to “bank” any agreement reached on a specific issue, delink it from all others, and not subject it to renegotiations should the talks stall or collapse. This would prevent the resumption of negotiations from ground zero and allow for the building blocks that could eventually lead to an agreement.

In that regard, five critical issues—the settlements, Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugees, national security, and borders—have been hashed and rehashed ad nauseum in past negotiations. The Biden team should identify any common denominator on these issues to prevent renegotiating certain elements over which both sides have already agreed.

Establishing a process of reconciliation: The negotiating process must simultaneously be accompanied by a process of reconciliation. Both sides must initiate widespread people-to-people interactions to gradually mitigate the deep animosity and distrust between them which cannot simply be negotiated away.

Israelis and Palestinians should engage in many activities, including sports, performing arts, tourism, development projects, and student interactions, to foster trust and confidence that peaceful coexistence is possible.

Keeping the public informed: Given that both sides will be required to make significant concessions, it will be imperative to keep their respective publics informed about the progress being made in the negotiations to engender support.

Keeping the public in the dark, as was the practice in past, prevented the public from developing any vested interest in the negotiating process and its successful outcome.

The failure of both sides to agree in the past to establish and be governed by the above rules of engagement clearly suggests that neither side negotiated in good faith. The Biden administration must insist that Israelis and Palestinians accept the above rules if they want to resume the negotiations in earnest. Otherwise, the new talks will be nothing but an exercise in futility.

Sadly though, the current leaders in Israel and Palestine are not in a position to enter into serious negotiations, and must leave the political scene before Biden resumes new talks. Prime Minister Netanyahu is on record opposing the establishment of a Palestinian state; he is also facing three criminal charges of corruption, and in spite of his impressive accomplishments, he may well have outlived his usefulness.

President Abbas too has taken a hard position in connection with the settlements, Jerusalem, and the refugees, and it will be nearly impossible for him to make any significant concession and survive politically.

He is also “too comfortable” in his position and does not want to leave the political scene accused of having sold the Palestinian cause. In the interim, Biden should reiterate the US commitment to Israel’s national security and his support for the establishment of a Palestinian state, giving a clear signal that only moderation will win the day.

The US remains the indispensable power that can bring both sides to an enduring peace, because no other power can exert the kind of influence needed to reach a breakthrough.

For the Biden administration to bring this about, it must play an active role by advancing its own ideas and put its foot down when necessary because neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians can have it only their way, and certainly not without direct US involvement.

As president, Biden has a momentous opportunity to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and both sides will do well to grasp the moment.

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Mahatma’s Non-Violence: Essence of Culture of Peace for New Humanity

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Opinion

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations and Founder of The Global Movement for The Culture of Peace (GMCoP), was the keynote speaker at the observance of the International Day of Non-Violence on the 15th Mahatma Gandhi Day Celebration, organized virtually by the Gandhi International Institute for Peace (GIIP)

Credit: United Nations

HONOLULU, Hawaii, Oct 22 2020 (IPS) – I will begin by presenting to you excerpts from the message from UN Secretary-General António Guterres on the International Day of Non-Violence.


I quote: “In marking the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, this International Day highlights the remarkable power of non-violence and peaceful protest. It is also a timely reminder to strive to uphold values that Gandhi lived by: the promotion of dignity; equal protection for all; and communities living together in peace.

On this year’s observance, we have a special duty: stop the fighting to focus on our common enemy: COVID-19. There is only one winner of conflict during a pandemic: the virus itself. As the pandemic took hold, I called for a global ceasefire. Now is the time to intensify our efforts. Let us be inspired by the spirit of Gandhi and the enduring principles of the UN Charter.” End of quote

At the outset, let me thank the Gandhi International Institute for Peace (GIIP) and its dynamic President Mr. Raj Kumar for organizing the observance of the International Day of Non-Violence and of the 15th Mahatma Gandhi Day Celebration by the Institute.

The theme of my keynote speech today is “Mahatma’s Non-Violence: Essence of The Culture of Peace for New Humanity”

The Mahatma affirmed that he was not a visionary but a practical idealist. He affirmed that “Non- violence is the law of our species, as violence is the law of the brute. The spirit lies dormant in the brute and he knows no law but that of physical might. The dignity of man requires obedience to a higher law – to the strength of the spirit.”

It is said that “he was the first in human history to extend the principle of non-violence from the individual to the social and political plane.” He entered politics for the purpose of experimenting with non-violence and establishing its validity.

Ambassador Chowdhury

The Mahatma had said that “Nonviolence is the greatest and most active force in the world. One cannot be passively nonviolent … One person who can express ahimsa in life exercises a force superior to all the force of brutality.” I believe whole-heartedly that Mahatma Gandhi’s principle of nonviolence or Ahimsa has found true reflection in the life of a great son of the United States, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s own struggle for equality and justice.

Dr. King considered his Nobel Peace Prize as “a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the critical political and racial questions of our time – the need for man to overcome oppression without resorting to violence“. I reiterate this mainly to highlight the need for revisiting those words in view of what is happening in many parts of our world, including in this country.

As I have stated on many occasions, my life’s experience has taught me to value peace and non-violence as the essential components of our existence. Those unleash the positive forces of good that are so needed for human progress. Peace is integral to human existence — in everything we do, in everything we say and in every thought we have, there is a place for peace.

It is important to realize that the absence of peace takes away the opportunities that we need to prepare ourselves, to empower ourselves to face the challenges of our lives, individually and collectively. This intellectual and spiritual inspiration is implanted in me through the Mahatma’s life and his words.

The United Nations Charter emerged in 1945 out of the ashes of the Second World War. The UN Declaration and Programme of Action on Culture of Peace was born in 1999 in the aftermath of the Cold War. I was the chair of the nine-month-long negotiations from 1998 to 1999 that produced the Programme of Action on Culture of Peace.

For more than two decades, I have continued to devote considerable time, energy and effort to realizing the implementation of this landmark, norm-setting decision of the UN. For me, this has been a realization of my personal commitment to peace inspired by the Mahatma and my humble contribution to humanity.

My work took me to the farthest corners of the world and I have seen time and again how people – even the humblest and the weakest – have contributed to building the culture of peace in their personal lives, in their families, in their communities and in their countries – all these contributing to global peace one way or the other.

The focus of my work and advocacy has been on advancing the culture of peace which aims at making peace and non-violence a part of our own self, our own personality – a part of our existence as human beings. I believe this will empower ourselves to contribute more effectively to bring inner as well as outer peace.

In simple terms, the Culture of Peace as a concept means that every one of us needs to consciously make peace and nonviolence a part of our daily existence. We should know how to relate to one another without being aggressive, without being violent, without being disrespectful, without neglect, without prejudice.

We should not isolate peace as something separate or distant. More so, in today’s world so full of negativity, tension, poverty and suffering, the culture of peace should be seen as the essence of a new humanity, a new global civilization based on inner oneness and outer diversity.

In my keynote address on “Human Security – an Essential Element for Creating the Culture of Peace” at the Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, in August 2007, inspired by Mahatma’s eternal words “Be the change that you want to see in the world,” I underscored that “Peace is a prerequisite for human development.… We all must undertake efforts to inculcate the culture of peace in ourselves. We cannot expect the world to change if we do not start first and foremost with changing ourselves – at the individual levels.”

The objective of the culture of peace is the empowerment of people, as has been underscored by the global leader for peace and Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda. As we say “Peace does not mean just to stop wars, but also to stop oppression, injustice and neglect”. The culture of peace can be a powerful tool in promoting a global consciousness that serves the best interests of a just and sustainable peace.

I am encouraged that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the UN in 2015 includes, among others, the culture of peace and non-violence as well as global citizenship as essential components of today’s education.

This realization has now become more pertinent in the midst of the ever-increasing militarism and militarization that is destroying both our planet and our people. The Mahatma asserted that “One thing is certain. If the mad race for armaments continues, it is bound to result in a slaughter such as has never occurred in history. If there is a victor left, the very victory will be a living death for the nation that emerges victorious. There is no escape from the impending doom save through a bold and unconditional acceptance of the nonviolent method with all its glorious implications.”

Dr. King had advised us rightly, “… I suggest that the philosophy and strategy of nonviolence become immediately a subject for study and for serious experimentation in every field of human conflict, by no means excluding the relations between nations.”

The last decades of violence and human insecurity should lead to a growing realization in the world of education today that children should be educated in the art of peaceful, non-violent, non-aggressive living.

Never has it been more important for the next generation to learn about the world and understand and respect its diversity. I want to underscore one particular aspect in this context. In the culture of peace movement, we are focusing more attention on children because that contributes in a major way to the sustainable and long-lasting impact on our societies. As the Mahatma’s words highlight, “Real education consists in drawing the best out of yourself.”

An essential message that I have experienced from my work for the culture of peace is that we should never forget that when women – half of world’s seven plus billion people – are marginalized, there is no chance for our world to get sustainable peace in the real sense.

Women bring a new breadth, quality and balance of vision to a common effort of moving away from the cult of war towards the culture of peace. “Without peace, development cannot be realized, without development, peace is not achievable, but without women, neither peace nor development is possible.”

I believe the culture of peace is not a quick-fix. It is a movement, not a revolution.

Let us remember that the work for peace is a continuous process. Each one of us can make a difference in that process. The culture of peace cannot be imposed from outside; it must be realized from within.

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Modern Tools, Age-old Wisdom: on India-Sri Lanka Relations

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Opinion

Prasad Kariyawasam was Sri Lanka’s one-time Foreign Secretary and High Commissioner to India

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Credit: V.V. Krishnan, the Hindu

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Jul 31 2020 (IPS) – The unique India-Sri Lanka relationship, de jure, is between equals as sovereign nations. But it’s asymmetric in terms of geographic size, population, military and economic power, on the one hand, and social indicators and geographical location, on the other. It is steeped in myth and legend, and influenced by religious, cultural and social affinities.


This is an opportune time for Sri Lanka and India to nourish the roots of the relationship using modern toolkits, but leveraging age-old wisdom and experience.

Historical ties

History reveals that the advent of Buddhism to Sri Lanka during the time of Emperor Ashoka was the result of cross-border discourse. For many centuries in the first millennia, the ancient capital city of Anuradhapura housed an international community which included traders from India, China, Rome, Arabia and Persia.

Later, Buddhist monks from Sri Lanka travelled to India, China, Cambodia and Java leaving behind inscriptions. Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka, to this day, contain shrines for Hindu deities. The colonial expansion of European maritime nations reshaped the Sri Lankan economy. Labour from south India was brought to Sri Lanka to work in plantations.

The Indian freedom struggle had its influence on Sri Lanka as well. There was cross-border support for the revival of culture, tradition, local languages, spiritual practices and philosophies, and education. Both countries transformed into modern nations with constitutional and institutionalised governance under colonial rule.

Most aspects of today’s globalisation existed in a different form in the pre-colonial era with free exchange of ideas, trade and intellectual discourse. However, process engineering by colonial powers for identification and categorisation of people was a factor in the emergence of separatist ideologies based on ethnicity, language and religion.

This mindset is now ingrained and accentuated in politics. Episodic instances of communal hostility are referenced often to suit tactical political gain. Around the world today, and not just in South Asia, policies and thinking are becoming communally exclusive, localised and inward-looking.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the world against this backdrop, allowing some leaders an opportunity to double down on insular thinking, ostensibly for providing local communities with better economic and social prospects, and security.

Meanwhile, governance models favoured by nations keep vacillating between fundamental freedoms-based democratic systems and quasi democratic, socialist authoritarian systems.

In this regard, the people of Sri Lanka and India have been served well by long years of uninterrupted democratic governance. This has provided long-term stability for both countries and must not be vitiated.

Sri Lanka’s strategic location makes it apparent that not only economic fortunes but the security of both countries are inextricably linked. Therefore, it is heartening that India and Sri Lanka constantly strive for excellence in neighbourly relations, recognising that a calamity in one country can adversely impact the other.

Though robust partnerships with other countries must be sought in line with the non-alliance foreign policies of both countries, such efforts must be bounded by an atmosphere needed for peace, prosperity and stability.

Among others, freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific together with a rules-based international order and peaceful settlement of disputes are of common interest. While avoiding advocacy of zero-sum solutions on crucial issues, both countries must seek to harmonise strategic and other interests in line with common values and socioeconomic compulsions.

Addressing issues and imbalances

The socioeconomic development of Sri Lanka has remained linked to India. But there are many options available to address issues of imbalance and asymmetries. For instance, Sri Lanka can encourage Indian entrepreneurs to make Colombo another business hub for them, as logistical capacities and facilities for rest and recreation keep improving in Sri Lanka.

Integrating the two economies but with special and differential treatment for Sri Lanka due to economic asymmetries can be fast-tracked for this purpose. There is immense potential to accentuate or create complementariness, using locational and human resource potential, for harnessing benefits in the modern value chains.

Robust partnerships across the economic and social spectrum can promote people-to-people bonhomie. And engagement of legislatures is essential for promoting multiparty support.

With many countries receding into cocoons due to the pandemic, this is an opportunity for both countries to focus on the renewal and revitalisation of partnerships.

This article was originally published in the Hindu, the English-language daily owned by The Hindu Group and headquartered in Chennai, Tamil Nadu
https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/modern-tools-age-old-wisdom/article32206425.ece

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Are We Going from San Francisco?

Armed Conflicts, Conferences, Democracy, Economy & Trade, Featured, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, Peace, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Jun 30 2020 (IPS) – Seventy-five years ago, on 26 June 1945, before the Japanese surrender ending the Second World War, fifty nations gathered at San Francisco’s Opera House to sign the United Nations (UN) Charter.


UN Charter
Nations pledged “to practice tolerance and live together in peace …, and to ensure … that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples”.

Anis Chowdhury

They sought “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, … and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to … promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom”.

The Charter’s contents reflected some contradictions inherent in framing an international organization recognizing national sovereignty as its organizing principle, and various other compromises, often influenced by the convening host nation.

Although the conduct of Member States often falls short of the UN’s lofty goals, its Charter was nonetheless a monumental achievement, providing the foundation for a rules-based international order.

San Francisco Conference
Forty-six Allied countries, including the four sponsors – the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and China – were originally invited to the San Francisco Conference.

The conference itself invited four other States – the Byelorussian and Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republics, newly-liberated Denmark and Argentina. Poland did not send a representative as its new government was still uncertain.

Of the fifty participating states, only four were African and nine Asian. Latin American countries, independent since the mid-19th century, were present and active in deliberations.

The Conference was not only one of the most significant international gatherings in history, but perhaps the longest ever. The two month long Conference was attended by 3,500 people, including 850 delegates, their advisers, staff and the secretariat, plus more than 2,500 from the media and other observers.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

The Conference opened on April 25, 1945 with great fanfare, despite the sudden death of its principal architect and presumed host, US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, on 12 April. The task of carrying on fell to his Vice-President Harry Truman who had become President.

Truman often quoted English poet Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Locksley Hall, carried in his wallet, bewildering colleagues, senators and staffers who doubted his commitment to international peace. Tennyson foresaw that nations, realizing they could destroy one another, might agree to form “the Parliament of Man”, to resolve disputes peacefully.

Clashes and compromises
Many serious differences of opinion triggered crises, even at the preparatory stage. For example, the Soviet Union proposed that all 16 Soviet republics should have UN membership to balance the influence of US allies: the US countered by proposing membership for all its 50 states!

A compromise was struck, allowing membership for the Soviet republics of Belarus and Ukraine; the Soviet Union then withdrew its opposition to Argentina, which had supported the Axis powers.

The most important deliberations concerned the UN Security Council (UNSC), initially composed of five permanent members (US, UK, USSR, China, France) and six elected members. The P5’s right to veto provoked a long and heated debate.

Others feared that when one of the P5 threatens the peace, the UNSC would be ineffectual. But the P5 collectively insisted that as the main responsibility for maintaining world peace would fall most heavily on them, the veto provision was vital.

Australia proposed that no permanent member should be allowed to veto when involved in a Chapter VII dispute over threats to peace. The US delegation blocked this and a Soviet proposal allowing P5 vetoes on procedural matters, e.g., discussion of disputes in which it may be involved.

While US officials saw the UN General Assembly (UNGA) primarily as a ‘talk shop’, the USSR tried to limit it from discussing sensitive political matters. However, recognizing its importance for legitimacy, the compromise reached permits the UNGA to discuss any issues “within the scope of the Charter”.

Colonialism was not supposed to be discussed at the Conference to avoid alienating the European imperial powers, whom the US needed to isolate the Soviet Union. But the handful of Asian and African countries attending wanted countries still under the colonial yoke to attain freedom and independence as soon as possible.

Although not on the original Conference agenda, after much debate, Chapters XI, XII and XIII provided some norms for colonial administration and pathways for decolonization. Nonetheless, these ambiguous, at best, pronouncements greatly disappointed anti-colonialists around the world.

US hegemonic from outset
Despite some compromises inherent in framing such an agreement, the UN Charter favoured the US. It promised to protect freedom of action and national sovereignty, as desired by the US, but contained no open-ended commitment to preserve other countries’ territorial integrity, like the League of Nations Covenant’s Article 10.

Article 2(7) placated American sovereigntists and nationalists, declaring: “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.”

The US and the UK also got what they wanted for existing and new regional and plurilateral arrangements, including defence and mutual assistance organizations.

Some US officials were concerned the UN might threaten the Monroe Doctrine privileging the US in the Western hemisphere, while limiting its ability to intervene elsewhere. Some clever drafting of Chapter VIII provided blanket endorsement to regional organizations, also seen as reflecting the principle of subsidiarity.

Article 51 enshrined the principle of “self-defense against armed attack, either individual or collective”. Although not fully appreciated in 1945, such provisions later helped legitimize various US and other post-colonial security pacts in Europe, Asia and the Americas against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Conference participants also considered a proposal for compulsory jurisdiction for a World Court, but the US Secretary of State recognized this would jeopardize Senate ratification. Delegates compromised, agreeing to let countries decide whether to accept the International Court of Justice (ICJ)’s jurisdiction.

Unsurprisingly, the US has had an uneasy relationship with the ICJ from the outset, never submitting to its authority, and reacting negatively to Court decisions seen as adverse to the US.

From Truman to Trump
Presiding at the closing ceremony, Truman cautioned that the success of the new world body would depend on collective self-restraint. “We all have to recognize – no matter how great our strength – that we must deny ourselves the license to do as we please. This is the price each nation will have to pay for world peace.”

Truman is probably turning in his grave watching Trump’s jingoist ‘America First’ policy undermine the UN and multilateralism. Are multilateralism and the UN now doomed as Trump belies Tennyson’s hope and leads the US to up-end the Roosevelt-Truman legacy?