Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Nation-State Hypocrisy and the Nuclear Threat

By David Gallup

How can nuclear weapons states, like the United States of America, legitimately demand that other states, like North Korea, cease their research and production of nuclear weapons, when they themselves continue to maintain and upgrade their own arsenals?

Developing, producing and maintaining nuclear weapons are war crimes and crimes against the peace that could lead to the ultimate crime against humanity, omnicide -- the elimination of humanity and the extinction of most life on the planet.

Nuclear weapons development, production and maintenance violate both humanitarian law and human rights law. See the appendix below regarding how nuclear weapons violate the laws of war and the laws of peace.

Despite the international law against nuclear weapons and war, nation-states with nuclear weapons do not want to divest themselves of their nuclear arsenals. The nation-states’ highest court, the International Court of Justice, ruled in 1996 that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is illegal, with the exception of use for self-defense – a loophole that allows governments to maintain the nuclear option. North Korea could claim that its nuclear testing and arms development is for its own protection. What country doesn’t invoke self-defense, national security, or national sovereignty as a basis for its aggression?

Humanity finds itself in this quandary because of the nation-state principle of national sovereignty.

We must now turn to a new principle of sovereignty, if we are to transcend the control of nuclear weapons countries who make the false case that their best interests are aligned with the best interests of humanity and the earth.

The Supreme Leader of North Korea thinks he can win a nuclear war. So does the Commander-in-Chief of the United States. These national “leaders” are not rational actors. But neither are the other nuclear weapons heads of state.

These heads of state have no legitimate intention to dismantle all nuclear weaponry, nor to stop aggression generally. National governments want these tools of destruction at their disposal, even arguing that their existence prevents their use. What sane leader would start a nuclear war knowing that global annihilation could occur? Mutually assured destruction does not prevent national leaders from acting irrationally.

Nuclear weapons and nuclear war are not the only nuclear concern. Continued use of nuclear energy is poisoning the planet. The uranium and plutonium used by nuclear power plants has already led to environmental degradation in Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. Enriched plutonium from power plants continues to be made into nuclear weapons. Whether this material is in the hands of national governments, insurgents, or terrorists, its existence threatens our survival.

Outlawing nuclear war, nuclear weapons and nuclear power will begin to remove the threat. To solidify humanity’s future, we need to create global institutions of law and engender a global pride in being citizens of the world. We need to establish a consciousness of humanity and the earth as precious, to be protected.

Before the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, under the “old world order” rulers or governments had no compunction about waging war for unabashed self-interest. They considered it an acceptable tool of state-craft. After World War I, the League of Nations and the Kellogg-Briand Pact attempted to make war illegal. In particular after World War II, under the “new world order,” governments became reluctant to wage wars of conquest, couching most wars as defensive protection rather than for offensive gain. (See The Internationalists by Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro.)

The UN Charter attempted to establish the conditions in which member-states may use armed force, in particular for self-defense and common defense. Article 2(4) of the Charter states, “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” Because the Charter maintains national sovereignty as sacrosanct, however, warfare within a state (non-international) remains unchecked.

Both the old world order and the new world order are disorder. Continued lack of unity of the human race under one citizenship perpetuates chaos and is the breeding ground of war. A legitimate world order will arise with a global rule of law that world citizens create through democratic, non-hierarchical and participatory world institutions of law.

Sanity in governance requires higher level sovereignty with human and whole earth thinking. Sanity requires human government -- world citizens’ government. A future for humanity requires sanity, sincerity, and human-level sovereignty.

As sane and rational actors, we need to engage our idealism to deal with the realistic threat of nuclear weapons. We need realism to be tempered by idealism. We need to become real-dealists. Only if we implement our idealistic goals of a governed, and nuclear-free, world, will we be able to realistically survive as a species. It’s in our best interest to move beyond our self-interest. We must transcend the paradigm of nationalism to create a world that works for everyone. World citizenship can lead us to achieve an honest, holistic, and worldly consciousness.

One immediate step that each of us as world citizens can take is to sign the petition supporting the ratification of the “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.” To sign the petition online, click here https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/support-the-nuclear-weapons-ban-treaty?source=direct_link and to sign a handwritten petition, click here http://prop1.org/wilpf/2017/Petition.ban.treaty.pdf.

I have already signed the petition. Will you?


The threat or use of nuclear weapons violates the principles of international humanitarian law.

War crime:

The Geneva Conventions, the Nuremberg Principles, and the Statute of the International Criminal Court maintain the premise that war is supposed to be limited, affect civilians minimally, and be winnable in a short time frame. Fallout from a nuclear war cannot be limited. Many people, not just military combatants, will die. No one can win a nuclear war.

Crime against the peace:

The threat of using nuclear weapons not only destabilizes the regions where the threat is focused, but also the progression of humanity towards the global rule of law and the consequent peaceful world. Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) confirms that any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law; yet heads of state dangle the nuclear option like a plaything.

Crime against humanity:

Even a limited nuclear incident could cause immediate, dramatic devastation and long-term habitability concerns for the entire earth. Nuclear war would be genocide of humanity.

According to customary international law and international treaty law, national governments must not commit acts that violate human rights.

Article 30 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states, “Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.”

Article 5 (1) of the ICCPR states, “Nothing in the present Covenant may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms recognized herein or at their limitation to a greater extent than is provided for in the present Covenant.”

Continued development of nuclear weapons violates our human rights, in particular our right to live and our right to a world order that allows for the full and free exercise of all our innate and unalienable rights.

Right to live:

Article 3 of the UDHR states, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

Article 6 of the ICCPR states, “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”

World order:

Article 28 of the UDHR states, “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.”

The preamble of the ICCPR states, “The States Parties to the present Covenant, Considering that, in accordance with the principles proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world; Recognizing that these rights derive from the inherent dignity of the human person; Recognizing that, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ideal of free human beings enjoying civil and political freedom and freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his civil and political rights, as well as his economic, social and cultural rights; Considering the obligation of States under the Charter of the United Nations to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and freedoms” agree to uphold human rights.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Should Human Rights Be Decentralized?

By Noemie Broussoux-Coutard*, Guest Blogger

Activists assert the universality of human rights to demand that governments respect everyone’s rights and duties universally. Embodied by treaties, covenants and declarations, human rights enforcement appears to provide an antidote to ongoing violence and inequality in the world. Has the demand for respect of universal human rights principles led to greater respect of our rights?
In her book, Human Rights and Gender Violence: Translating International Law Into Local Justice, Sally Engle Merry, Professor of Anthropology, Law and Society, analyzes the current flaws in international human rights law creation and dissemination, and attempts to respond to these flaws by proposing that international law and human rights development should return to local community engagement.  Education and promotion of human rights standards, she maintains, should be in accordance with the culture of the local area.
Merry highlights the knowledge gap between the drafters of international law and the communities who are directly impacted by these laws. Localities are often excluded from crucial conversations and preparatory work during the drafting of human rights laws, as well as from what those laws will do and how they will be implemented. Merry posits that the lack of awareness of the law-making process creates an unwillingness to abide by the laws, as well as a perpetuation of human rights violations all over the globe.
Because law drafting tends to be an elitist process, lawmakers sometimes fail to acknowledge the concepts of culture and local identity, and how those concepts relate to human rights.  Local culture, to a significant amount of communities, represents the essence of their existence. Merry states that cultural considerations in human rights often are either overlooked by international standards, or used as a shield against laws, but instead should serve as a peaceful tool to benefit all parties. She writes, “Even as anthropologists and others have repudiated the idea of culture as a consensual, interconnected system of beliefs and values, the idea has taken on a new life on the public sphere.” Merry proceeds by explaining that culture can be used as a method of educating all parties: the international actors, by teaching them the intricate diversity of each community and how it ultimately relates to human rights, and the localities, by teaching them the essentiality of having human rights laws by giving local examples of human rights violations, stemming injustice in their communities.
Merry argues that the solution lies in the “vernacularization” of human rights, by bridging the gap between participants at the international and the local levels, utilizing resources such as NGOs and other activist groups who can translate and understand both parties in this dilemma. This solution is particularly useful in implementing crucial laws that are generally misunderstood by populations with little to no access to the human rights education. This misunderstanding is due in large part to the law-makers of the privileged world who take part in what Merry calls the “transnational culture of modernity.”
This term describes the general grouping of people who, by the simple fact that they all live in modern, organized states with high regards towards individual rights and protection from the state, fail to consider the differences between their world, and communities whose cultures largely differ from these standards. The people in this transnational culture of modernity are often the very people who compose human rights codes and promote human rights on a global scale. Through the assistance of NGOs and activists to bridge the gap of understanding between global standards and local cultures, various disadvantaged communities have come to understand how their governments are mistreating and oppressing them. They have begun to claim their rights utilizing the resources that international human rights treaties provide.
To achieve greater awareness and respect for human rights everywhere, we need to deal with how globalization of human rights has excluded many underprivileged communities from participating in the development of legal standards and legal processes. We need to provide human rights education to local communities, explaining how human rights law and human rights violations directly impact those communities. We also need to educate everyone involved in drafting and implementing international human rights laws that those laws will achieve greater recognition and support when local communities have a voice in the process.
*Noemie Broussoux-Coutard participated in the Summer 2017 Session of the World Law Internship Program in World Service Authority's Legal Department.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A New Year’s Chant

By David Gallup

I endeavor with this tale to raise the ghost of an idea, which shall not put my readers out of humor with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it raise your spirit pleasantly.

Your faithful friend and fellow human,

December 2016

                The waning moon rises high above his skyscraper as Hugh puts his “Best regards” on his final email of the evening. A winter chill slinks up his fingers from the cold of the laptop keyboard.  The screen’s light flickers as he presses the power off and leans back in his large mahogany desk chair.
                What report to shareholders is due in the morning? How many conferences calls are scheduled for later that week? What is all the commotion coming from the street below, breaking his train of thought? He walks over to one of the windows of his 3rd story downtown condo and looks out.  “Oh,” he mutters to himself, “just some holiday partygoers singing a bit too loud after one too many drinks.”
                “Don’t they know I still have work to do?” he thinks. He opens the window a crack and yells, “Damn revelers. Keep it down!” In typical city fashion, the partygoers yell back, “No, you keep it down!” They all laugh in unison and keep on walking and singing.
                Hugh slams the window shut.  He tidies all the papers on his study desk, reviews his phone calendar, and jots a few more notes. “Well, that’s almost it for tonight,” Hugh furrows his brow. “Roberta can take care of the rest of the planning for this week’s meetings,” Hugh says aloud to the bookshelves and wood paneling that quietly keep him company. His voice slightly echoes.
                Though it is New Year’s Eve, Hugh picks up his cell phone and texts his personal assistant Roberta for the seventh time that evening, with directives, points for research, speech edits, etc. Always a polite return text from Roberta, “Yes, sir, Mr. Mann. Right away.”
                Immediately after he sends the text, a call comes in from a local charity requesting an end of the year donation.  “Absolutely, not!” Hugh shouts into the phone. “Disturbing me when I’ve told you every year prior that charity begins at home! Bug someone else.” He pokes the hang-up button forcefully.
                Head still down toward his cell, he paces from his study across the long hallway lined with empty rooms and perfect photos of his perfect vacations to Paris, Milan, London, Geneva, though most of his memories are the heated arguments in the boardrooms, not the magical waters of fountains or the mischievous gargoyles mocking cathedral visitors.
                Making his way into the dimly lit living room, he pulls out a Waterford glass from the wet bar and pours himself a finger of cognac to calm his mind and muddle his concerns. He sits in the oversized leather armchair, kicking off his hand-made Italian shoes and resting his feet on the ottoman. His voice command turns on the gas flames in the wall mounted fireplace. The cognac warms his tongue and burns his throat as he sips.
                The orange-blue flames are mesmerizing as they flicker, jump and crackle, now the only sounds in his otherwise silent condo. The cognac and the fire seem to mix as if he is sipping the flames.
                Hugh picks up the glass to take another sip. Staring at him from within the crystal is the face of Mr. Mortimer, his partner in his energy and armaments consulting firm, who had died seven years prior. Hugh squints at the glass, shuts his eyes, and slowly reopens them.  Only the viscous amber liquid clinging to the sides of the glass is now visible.
                He pulls the heavy down comforter off the side of the armchair and covers himself from head to foot. Must be all the figures in his head and the cognac making him see things. “I’ll just rest here a bit,” Hugh decides, retreating under the comforter with his glass of liquor rather than walking through the cold, empty condo to his master suite. Some repose from the long hours that have taken their toll would be welcome – a respite from checking his financials, making deals, and persuading business and government leaders to follow his advice.
                Yet the cognac, the fireplace and the heavy down comforter can’t seem to relieve him of the winter chill.  He buries himself further into the armchair and shuts his eyes, drifting off to sleep.
                From the fireplace, a clang, loud bangs and clanking of chains startle Hugh from his cognac-induced sleep.  The crystal glass slips from his hand over the armchair and shatters across the marble tile. Before him a bulking translucent body, wrapped in chains and in what was once a fancy suit, now tattered and stained, drifts out of the fireplace toward Hugh. It is the ghost of his former partner Mortimer.

                The Ghost of Tristan Mortimer

                A resounding deep voice from the ghost of Mortimer calls his name, “Mann!”

                Hugh is silent in astonishment.

                “Mann!” shouts the spirit.

                With no where to hide, Hugh squeaks out a “yes?”

                Hugh had spoken at Tristan Mortimer’s funeral. He lauded Mortimer for all his cunning in business. But he hadn’t thought of him hardly since. Why was he showing up now?
                The ghostly Mortimer rattles his chains, oily chains that Hugh can see are interspersed with yellowing spreadsheets, invoices, business cards, and a once glossy prospectus.

                The spirit groans, “You must listen to me, Hugh. It…is…important.”

                “Why are you so pained?” Hugh asks. “You never had a worry about another when you were alive.”

                “These chains weigh me down. My spirit is shackled,” Mortimer moans. “Don’t you recognize the links of this chain? Don’t you see the indifference, the ingratitude, the selfishness?”

                Hugh could not fathom what the phantom was implying. Hugh was proud to have his name engraved in gold next to Mortimer’s on their company’s signage: Mortimer & Mann. Mortimer, like Mann, was a business man’s business man. For Hugh, business, or rather, success in business is all that really matters.
                “If you don’t  want to end up like me, doomed to wander the earth as an apparition, unable to change anything I see, unable to interact with those in need, then I suggest you take heed about what will happen next.” Hugh knew Mortimer to be gruff, but the seven years since his passing had made him forget how much.
                The chains and tattered suit begin to flutter and rise as the ghost begins to drift back into the fireplace. Before he disappears, Mortimer wails to Hugh, “You will be visited by three spirits over the next three nights -- when the bell tolls one. You have no choice in this matter. Your money and influence cannot stop this journey. I suggest you listen closely, pay attention and heed their warnings….” With one loud whooping sound and a large flash of orange flames, the ghost completely disappears.
                Hugh jumps up out of the armchair with the comforter under his arms, bounds over the broken glass, down the hall to his bedroom, where he proceeds to lock the door, places a chair under the door knob, and climbs into bed. On his nightstand, he finds a sleeping pill and bottle of water which he has trouble opening with his trembling hands. He closes the bed curtains that block any stray light.
                “That cannot have been real. It must be the take-out food from dinner upsetting my stomach. Maybe too much cognac?” Hugh surmises to himself. Though still anxious, he cannot stop the feeling of overwhelming exhaustion. “I’m sure I’ll feel better in the morning. A good night’s sleep will make me forget this nightmare.” Hugh falls into a deep sleep.
                Twelve slow clangs from the church bell across from Hugh’s condo waken him for a moment. He opens the bed curtains and all is dark and quiet. Good! Now back to sleep. An hour later, or perhaps a day later, a long, deep clang, as if time has slowed to a crawl, reverberates from the church bell. Then comes a scraping at the window. It is an eerie, wind-howling sound like an axe scraping against the glass pane. Hugh, though still groggy, cannot ignore the scraping sound. “What could be scratching at my bedroom window three floors up and at this ungodly hour?”
                Hugh slowly opens the bed curtains a half inch and peaks out. A ghost, in what he recognizes as tribal clothing and kufi cap with only faint reminiscence of color remaining, swoops clear through the window and up to the bed curtain. The ghost is more a boy, not yet a man. In the face of the ghost, Hugh sees the faces of all of the tribespeople he had encountered many years ago. These are the people who were protesting the spoiling of their homeland by their government and the multinational oil company that Hugh’s firm represented.

The Spirit of New Year’s Past

                “Can a whole day have passed?” Hugh wonders more to himself than to the ghost. “Did I forget to turn in the financial report to investors?” But his musings are quickly halted by the child-ghost who takes hold of Hugh’s hand.
                At that moment, they are no longer in his bedroom, they are in a lively village with people going about their daily, happy lives, not knowing that a few miles away bulldozers, trucks, drill riggings, cranes, workmen, and armed guards are approaching.
                “Are you one of the spirits that Mortimer foretold to me?” Hugh whispers.

                “Yes. I am the ghost of New Year’s past.”

                “Long past?” asks Hugh.

                “No,” says the child sadly, “Your past.” “Take a look around. See all these happy people going about their daily lives?” The child-ghost leads Hugh through the village. It is a village he had visited many years before, as a young adult. It had oil-rich deposits, a place that the then-new firm of Mortimer & Mann could easily exploit, lobbying and convincing the government to continue to allow drilling for their powerful client. Hugh recalls that he had had a youthful twinge of guilt for selling out tribal resources without consulting the tribespeople, themselves. Mortimer had convinced him to ignore this feeling, and focus only on unemotional thoughts of what was best for business.
                In one home, Hugh can see the family gathering for lunch, family members singing and setting the table. In another, a mother swaddles her child and puts him the bassinet for a nap while the baby’s older siblings play games during the lunch break from school. Having a laugh or two while tending to crops and herding animals, the adults seem content, self-sufficient and without want. In the village square, the elders discuss their plans for their community over the next few years.
                Hugh does not know how these contented people have anything to do with him.
                The ghost takes hold of Hugh’s hand, more forcefully than before. And again, they are transported, though not in place, but in time. “Twenty years have passed,” the child-ghost explains. “Look around and what do you see?”
                The fields lay barren of crops. Most of the homes are empty and in disrepair.

                “Where is everyone?” asks Hugh with trepidation.

                “If they are not dead, they have gone.” The ghost child shakes his head and wipes away tears. “Your work, or those for whom you lobbied, poisoned our land and drinking water. We protested but the government arrested us, tortured us, and hanged us. Even if they hadn’t, we would have died of cancer from the oil spills and waste discharged without thought of us who lived here.”
                “These people are, were, my family, my tribe. This was my home. But your work destroyed it, destroyed me.”
                Hugh cannot help but feel remorse for this child. But what is worse for Hugh is that the child feels remorse for him. “I bring you here for your welfare, Mr. Mann,” admonishes the ghost-child. “Your wealth and power is no use to you or anyone if you don’t do anything good with it…”
                “Spirit,” Hugh beseeches, “Remove me from this place…Please no more. Why do you torture me like this?” Hugh begs the ghost-child to bring him back home.
                The spirit of New Year’s past replies, “I show you what you have accomplished. These are shadows of what has been. Do not blame me for what has passed.”
                Now, Hugh grabs the spirit’s hand, thinking that he can force him, being only a child, to listen to his plea. Upon touching the ghost’s hand, Hugh is thrown into darkness. As his eyes adjust, he finds himself clinging to the fringe of the bed curtain in his apartment.
                Hugh is overwhelmed with drowsiness, whether due to the journey to his past or the sleeping pill, he cannot be sure. He falls fast asleep, until the slow clang of the 1 a.m. church bell wakes him with a start. He looks around his room with the flash light from his cell phone, but sees and hears nothing.
                No sooner does he fasten the bed curtains closed then he feels clammy hands reaching in through the curtains and pulling him out of bed by his wrists. He does not immediately get a look at the apparition as he is whisked away.

The Spirit of New Year’s Present

                Hugh finds himself in a low-rise apartment building staring at a family who is scurrying to collect personal belongings. He is standing next to the ghost of a young woman, perhaps 17 or 18, wearing a disheveled head scarf, with specks of ash and blood on her dress.
                “Who are you? Where are we?” Hugh does not recall ever having visited this locale.
                “This is my family. You must look!”
                She proceeds to show him her family, her apartment, as mortars and rapid gunfire explode near by. Hugh covers his ears and ducks.  “Why do you crouch? These bombs cannot hurt you. This is your present, but you are not presently here, not really. You are not here when the bombs fall from the sky, are you? But see, they do affect my family.”
                The ghost’s mother, father, two sisters and brother gather a few pairs of clothes, some food, whatever they can fit into back packs, even the four-year old brother carries one. The family stares blankly, frowning as they take one last look at their apartment for any important item they might need. The children sob softly as they needlessly shut the apartment door and make their way down the back stairs into the hidden alley.
                The ghost takes Hugh by the collar, dragging him along behind the family as they make a long trek at dusk to the outskirts of the city where they plan to meet another family and leave the country. All the while, to avoid stray bullets, they stop intermittently to hide behind whatever concrete walls remain of neighboring buildings.
                A moment later, the ghost pulls Hugh through the back of a delivery truck. Inside, Hugh sees the families hidden under tarps, quietly whispering. One mother sings softly to calm her baby. The road is bumpy with debris from bombed out buildings. Through the truck window, Hugh sees bodies strewn on the ground and attempts to turn his head away, but the spirit grabs his head by each ear and forces him to look at the destruction.
                “This is what you are doing to my family and to my city,” the spirit says to Hugh, pointing to those in the truck and the devastation outside the window.
                “I did not cause this,” Hugh retorts. “This has nothing to do with me…”
                The spirit puts her hands to her hips, then lifts her left arm with hand extended gesturing to everything around her. “You think that your lobbying has nothing to do with this?” the spirit raises her voice incredulously.
                “Your work allows the rebels and the government alike to be armed, to have an unending supply of artillery, guns, bombs, and war planes.”
                “It’s not my fault,” Hugh protests, “that there’s an arms industry. This is just part of the business.”
                “Well, your business,” the spirit scoffs, “and one of its bombs got me killed.”

                The family begins to say prayers and hold hands. Despite the artillery fire outside, the mother, father and children gain a resolve in their expressions.  They muster the will to press on and find a new home elsewhere in the world.
                For Hugh, though, the spirit jerks him from the truck and drops him back at the city’s center. Hugh instinctively runs for cover behind a concrete wall. He is not alone. Two trembling children, or rather the ghosts of two children, are crouched by his side.
                “Those are my cousins” the spirit starts, then continues with emphasis, “and your cousins.”
                “The boy is named Selfishness and the girl is named Oppression,” the spirit states. “And although these two are dead, they have many twins amongst the living.”
                Hugh asks, “They could not find refuge or resource?”
                The spirit replies, “Are there no camps, no jungles for the persecuted and the displaced? Are there no factories of hard labor? No prisons for dissidents?”
                The ear-piercing shelling intensifies, and a bomb explodes next to Hugh. Then, complete silence. He slowly opens his eyes to find himself in his bed, covered with sweat on his brow and above his lip. He shivers and pulls the covers over himself. Could this be a delusion from fever? Before he can think further, the church bell rings 1 a.m. once more.
                Before the bell completes its ring, Hugh is no longer in his bed. He is clinging with all his might to a large piece of plastic in a rough sea. Hugh’s ears are deafened by the thundering waves crashing and thrashing all around him.

The Spirit of New Year’s Future

                “What are we doing here? There is no land as far as the eye can see,” Hugh attempts to shout at the ghost floating in the air above the waves. The ghost of New Year’s future has withered, wrinkled and burnt skin with boils oozing a putrid green liquid. Its bloodshot eyes have no lids to protect Hugh from the phantom’s fixed gaze. Its only clothing is red flames that rise from its body in rings around its legs, midsection and chest.
                As Hugh pulls the plastic sheet closer to his chest, the ghost hovers above the waves whose waters only seem to stoke the fires on the ghost’s skin.
                “Our world is no longer livable. This is the future that you are creating.”
                A tsunami approaches in the distance. Hugh is swept away, carried atop the waves where all he can see is water for miles. The salty, oily water burns his eyes, and he gags as some water forces its way into his nostrils. He shuts his eyes tight, and the next thing he notices is a feeling of extreme heat as he lands upon a sand dune in a desert.
                The spirit howls, “This used to be the northern plains. Look what your handiwork has done! Men think that they can control nature. We don’t own the earth. We belong to the earth.”
                Hugh considers all he has seen from the three spirits. He thinks aloud, “One’s actions will foreshadow certain ends, to which if persevered, they must lead. But if one departs from those actions, the ends will change.”
                “Please, say that it is thus with what you show me,” Hugh implores the ghost.
                Hugh begins to sink as a sand storm piles fine grains all around him.
                Hugh cries, “I will honor the new year in my heart and will try to make each day of the year a new beginning. I will live the past, present and future now with the spirits of all three in me. I welcome the lessons they teach. Please remove me from this desert.”
                Reaching up for the hand of the ghost, despite the flames all around it, Hugh attempts to pull himself free of this desert grave. The ghost floats away, out of Hugh’s reach. But Hugh holds up his right arm as if to make an oath before a judge that he will change.
                Suddenly, the winds stop and the sand transforms into his comforter on his bed. Light shines through the bed curtains. He runs over to the window, swings it open and yells down to a kid on the street. “Hey, what day is it?”
                The kid shouts, “New Year’s day, of course.”
                Hugh jumps for joy, not having missed New Year’s Day, for the spirits visited him all in one night. He throws on some clothes and runs out of his apartment building down to the street. With the bright sun above, he does not notice the chill in the air. Grinning, he hops on the subway. When he exits the subway, he looks around at the city, with a new sense of appreciation. On the subway ride, he thought about what he could do and what he would do. Having a little lunch first couldn’t hurt.
                As he walks down the street a bit more, he finds himself at the doorway to the apartment where his assistant Roberta lives. He rings the buzzer.
                “Who is it?” asks Roberta.
                “It’s me… Mr. Mann… Uh…Hugh. Sorry to bother you on this day off, but I brought a little lunch, actually a big lunch and I have some good tidings I’d like to share.”
                Roberta sighs to herself; but surprised by her boss’s energetic enthusiasm, and, well, the offer of a hearty lunch, it would be impolite to refuse. She and her young son Tim would not have to trudge out to the grocery. She buzzes him in.
                Hugh hands bags of warm and savory food to Roberta as she opens the door to her modest apartment. Seeing the big smile on his mother’s boss’s face, Tim, who usually hides behind his mother’s legs whenever he sees Mr. Mann, gives a little wave and a soft hello.
                They sit at the kitchen table and begin to eat. Hugh tells Roberta that he wants, needs, to draft an entirely new business plan for the firm. Fossil fuels and armaments will be phased out. Solar and renewables, repurposing weapons factories, and manufacturing for infrastructure would be their new focus. Between bites of sandwich, Roberta expresses her surprise and delight.
                Hugh continues, “Tomorrow, I am calling the local refugee agency and will sponsor a family to stay with me. My condo is plenty big and I could use some company. And while I’m at it (he looks at his cell phone), I’ve got to call that fellow back from the charity and send in my annual donation.”
                Roberta’s jaw just about drops. If it hadn’t been for the yummy food in her mouth, it would have.

The End of the Chant
                Hugh was better than his word. He did it all and became a good friend and mentor to Roberta and Tim, as good a person as the good city knew, or any other good city in the whole world.
                Some people laughed at Hugh to see the alterations he had made in his life, in his work, in his life’s work. But he did not mind this laughter for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened in this world, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter at the outset.
                Knowing that people such as these would think his moral advocacy to be nothing more than utopian folly, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle their eyes in grins, than try to dissuade him in unattractive ways.

                His own heart laughed. And that was quite enough for him…and for the world.

Friday, December 9, 2016

68th Anniversary of the UDHR

By David Gallup

As the number of refugees, stateless and displaced persons has increased to the highest percentage on record, the world’s failure to deal with this plight has come to the forefront of national and global politics. Besides the 22 million refugees, 41 million internally displaced within their “home” country, and 3 million asylum seekers, more than 10 million people are considered “stateless.” Almost 1 in 100 people in the world are displaced from their homes.

As we consider our universal rights on this 68th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10th, we should consider how more than 75 million of us do not receive universal respect for our rights.

On September 19th of this year, governments, UN agencies, NGOs, business leaders, and representatives of refugees and migrants met to draft another declaration, one that pertains to large movements of refugees and migrants who face serious human rights violations. This new political statement is called “The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants” (UN Resolution A/RES/71/1 and GA/11820).

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and national governments have realized that the present framework and international legal protections* for dealing with refugees, stateless and displaced persons cannot handle the strain of massive displacement or resolve its underlying causes.  Yet this new Declaration and a potential “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration” that is planned for 2018 will neither alter the current framework nor improve legal protections. The New York Declaration and Compact are just a wish list, not rising to the level of enforceable law.

This new Declaration and the future Compact have three main failures:

1)  Neither the Declaration nor the potential Compact can be considered binding law that national governments would be obliged to follow. “Principles, commitments and understandings among Member States regarding international migration” are not treaties or conventions. Although the New York Declaration suggests some potential “Durable Solutions” to assist refugees, stateless and displaced, these solutions rely on national governments through “international cooperation” to agree and then take action to implement them. Governments that have signed current international laws frequently violate them, discriminating against refugees and stateless persons, or forsaking them such as those stuck in Aleppo, Syria.

2) The Declaration and Compact do not call for a change in the legal definition of refugee to meet the circumstances of displaced people today. The basis for determination of “refugee” status needs to be overhauled.  The definition of refugee needs to be expanded beyond persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion against a government, and social group.  Anyone facing environmental devastation, economic oppression, perpetual war, and structural violence, among other newly-recognized factors of persecution, should be considered as having a legal basis for asylum or refugee status.

3) The Declaration and future Compact refer to the causes of the plight of refugees but do not develop a system that deals with the root causes of displacement and refugee flows. The New York Declaration mentions the term “root cause(s)” six times, such as, “We are determined to address the root causes of large movements of refugees and migrants, including through increased efforts aimed at early prevention of crisis situations based on preventive diplomacy.” It is unlikely that the negotiations among UN member-states in 2017 and the migration conference in 2018 will devise a comprehensive plan and supra-national system to deal with the causes of displacement. National governments generally ignore that it is in their best interest to be concerned about others outside their so-called borders.

We don’t want a compact to which national governments can give lip service but take no action. Even if all the talk about displacement leads to a new convention or compact, until we unite as one human family under one human law, governments will continue to be able to ignore and mistreat others coming to their shores to seek a new life, safety, freedom and peace.

Like the inadequate New York Declaration and Compact, the UNHCR’s “I Belong” campaign cannot effectively deal with “statelessness” -- with the millions of persons who do not have national citizenship despite their birth or parents’ status in a particular country. The UNHCR’s campaign seeks to eliminate statelessness in the next ten years by ensuring that the right to a nationality is respected by all national governments.

The UNHCR assumes that if everyone has a nationality, then everyone’s rights will be respected, and that displaced persons who have a nationality will not suffer discrimination. The concern should not be to make sure that everyone has a nationality; it should be to make sure that everyone’s rights and duties are respected. Everyone should have a valid citizenship status no matter who they are or where they find themselves on planet earth.  Such a status is world citizenship.

For example, if a country finds itself completely under water due to climate change, it will not matter whether a person has that country’s nationality because they will be displaced. Those people will be forced to find another place to live, and it might be difficult to find other countries that will agree to let them in and not discriminate against them. Other countries’ governments may feel no obligation to assist those people without a country. Their nationality will not ensure that their rights and duties are met.  Rights and duties must be linked to the individual, not to a nationality. Only a holistic citizenship can ensure that everyone’s rights and duties are upheld. And that citizenship is world citizenship.

Countries could also renege on their agreement, meaning that an entire group of people could overnight be stripped of their nationality and consequently their citizenship rights.

As world citizens, in one united world, everyone could travel everywhere just as many people are able to do within a country. There are still regulations to follow, such as obtaining a new identification card to show local affiliation, to register to vote, etc. Natural limits by capacity of transportation methods and of local infrastructures, etc. will prevent the floodgates of too many people coming to one place over another.

We want a system to support world citizenship as a valid citizenship, in addition to any other status that one may carry. If “statelessness is inhumane” (according to the UNHCR’s Open Letter to End Statelessness), having a nationality does not make one “humane.” The nation-state still separates humans from one another. World citizenship affirms our link, each one of us, to humanity.

On this 68th anniversary of the Universal Declaration, let’s work toward a world in which everyone’s rights and duties are met, not because of where we are born or who our parents are, but solely because we are human. Let’s each declare that “I Belong” to humanity and the earth as World Citizens.


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Conventions on refugees and stateless persons provide a modicum of protections to refugees, displaced and stateless persons, under current international law.

Articles 14 and 15 of the Universal Declaration provide a partial framework to deal with displacement of people and statelessness.  Article 14, Section 1 states, “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” Article 15 states, “Everyone has a rights to a nationality” and “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.”

With regard to displacement not caused by governmental treatment (such as environmental degradation), Articles 3 and 13 affirm the rights to secure one’s safety and to find another place to live. Article 3 states, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person.” Article 13 states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State” and “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”

The 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness provide the treaty law framework for who is considered a refugee or stateless person, establish “a minimum set of rights” for people with these statuses, and attempt to reduce the likelihood that someone would be without a citizenship. Three-quarters of all governments have legally agreed to be bound by the Refugee Convention and Protocol. About one-half have agreed to the Stateless Convention, and only about one-third of all governments have agreed to the Reduction of Statelessness Convention.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

How do we stop war?

By David Gallup

War is state-sponsored terrorism. Or if not "terrorism," then legally condoned killing. War-time killing is not considered to be a crime of "murder" because states claim a power (currently considered legal) to wage war. Under humanitarian law, war is meant to be used for self-defense. More often than not, however, governments initiate internal and international wars as a tool of aggression – to maintain power and control over people, land, resources and ideology.

Is humanitarian law meant to stop war?

Why do national governments allow the carnage and barbarism to continue in Syria and elsewhere? Because international humanitarian law (the “Laws of War”) allows tanks, war planes, battleships, and missiles to be built, and to be bought and sold as if they are fruits and vegetables in the produce section of a grocery.

Humanitarian law starts with the premise that war can be controlled and have a useful purpose. Humanitarian law posits that killing in war is okay as long as the killing distinguishes between civilians and combatants, the killing is limited in scope and time, and the war is winnable. The nation-state system’s attempt to apply rules to war, rather than outlawing war entirely, is morally bankrupt, especially in the nuclear age.

Nation-states want to maintain their exclusive identity, usually at the expense of others outside their putative borders. Because they must then protect those borders, they will not give up their power – at least under the current international law system – to build weapons for themselves and to sell weapons to their allies or to various governments for strategic advantage.

Has there ever been any international law attempt to stop war?

The 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact (“General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy”) attempted to outlaw wars of aggression between nations. Sixty-two of the seventy-three independent nations at the time had signed the treaty.  However, the treaty did not address the issue of nations engaging in warfare as a measure of self-defense.

The treaty failed because it did not limit the tools of warfare, and it did not create an enforcement mechanism to ensure that all disputes would be resolved peacefully. The nations continued to expand their weapons arsenals, and they did not cede power to an external governing authority to handle disputes.  A treaty between equally sovereign states, such as the Kellogg-Briand Pact, does not prevent those states from choosing to wage wars, rather than go to court, as a final resolution to conflict. The governments did not establish common world law.

Can existing international law or current treaties prevent war?

UN Charter:

The purpose of the United Nations as outlined in Article 1 of the Charter is to “maintain international peace and security,” to prevent and remove threats to peace by peaceful means, affirm equal rights and self-determination, and to achieve international cooperation to solve international problems.

The problem with the UN Charter is that it encourages countries to interact peacefully but cannot require them to do so. The first President of the UN General Assembly, Dr. Herbert Evatt, elaborated, “The United Nations was not set up to make peace,” he wrote in a letter to Garry Davis in 1948, “but only to maintain it once it was made by the Great Powers...”

Furthermore, the Charter upholds the “sovereign quality” of each of its members, barring intervention in “domestic” matters. Because we have separated ourselves into exclusive nations, we do not act as a unified whole to resolve conflict.


Articles 28 and 30 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) affirm that a war-free world requires the protection of fundamental rights. Article 28 states that a “social and international order,” i.e., peaceful human interactions, is necessary for the rights in the Declaration to be realized. Article 30 states that no state, group or individual has a right to participate in any activity (e.g., aggression) “aimed at the destruction of any of the rights” affirmed by the Declaration.

The problem with the UDHR is that its customary law status means that governments have not agreed unequivocally to be bound by it. The will to enforce it has been ineffective. Even with the ICCPR and the ICESCR, which are binding treaties, governments are still able to violate rights with impunity – the breeding ground for war.

Geneva Conventions:

The 1949 Geneva Conventions and subsequent Protocols were created to limit the barbarity of war by restricting conflict to military combatants, protecting the injured and prisoners of war, ensuring the safe passage of medical and aid workers, and prohibiting torture, rape and other war tactics that impose severe suffering. As previously mentioned, these laws do not attempt to eliminate war, only to reduce its impact on certain combatants and upon the civilian population.

Nuremberg Principles:

The principles recognized in the 1950 Charter and Judgment of the Nuremberg Tribunal affirm that individuals can be held responsible under international law for war crimes, crimes against the peace and crimes against humanity even if acting upon orders of a superior.  These principles have become the basis for ad hoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Lebanon, Cambodia, East Timor and for the permanent war crimes tribunal that now exists as the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Although these principles attempt to hold individuals accountable, because of political stalemates and an unwillingness to pierce the veil of national sovereignty, individuals and governments are able to continue the war game. More than 200 armed conflicts have been waged around the world since 1950.

Can international courts intervene to stop war?

Why do we have international courts if not to help us to resolve our differences peacefully, with and by law?

In 2010, Garry Davis submitted a petition to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on the threat and use of nuclear weapons, because a nuclear war would be the actual war to end all wars, the ultimate crime against humanity.

Although the petition was received, the court neither acknowledged the petition nor rejected it.  They simply ignored it.  The ICC is beholden for its existence to the very states that perpetuate war and maintain the threat of nuclear weapons. Because the ICC depends upon acceptance by states and upon the states’ financial support, the ICC does not have autonomy.

If the court had rejected Davis’s petition, then they would be violating the principle of their own existence to adjudicate crimes against humanity of which nuclear war is the utmost crime. If they had accepted the petition and adjudged the case, then they would have had to reject the use of nuclear weapons in all circumstances. The ICC was unwilling to set a new precedent because, in 1996, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) established that nations could use nuclear weapons for self-defense.

It seems that the ICJ and the ICC can only attempt to adjudicate conflicts between states or crimes of war after the fact, once a dispute or aggression has started and oftentimes after it has ended.  As courts, unlike a parliament or congress, they cannot make law. They have no independent Marshal’s Service to arrest suspects, having to rely upon the nations to conduct this policing.

Existing international law and tribunals have only been mildly successful in limiting the impact of wars; they have not been successful in preventing or outlawing war.

So, how do we stop war?

Because nations have waged war with increasing frequency over the past hundred years, it seems impossible to stop war. Governments can easily wage wars because the production, sale, distribution, and use of weapons is legal.

We now need to outlaw weaponization. We need to make the production of weapons not only illegal, but unprofitable.  We need to prevent governments and corporations from profiting off of death and destruction. We need to make it economically, socially, and politically untenable. Politics and government must be ethicized.

World laws against war would establish financial and criminal penalties against individuals, companies and governments that make weapons. This would require not simply an embargo on arms, but a halt to the production of all new weapons and the dismantling of current weapons.  We can repurpose the weapons manufacturing industry to provide tools of construction, instead of tools of destruction – to provide machines and products that help people live safer, healthier, happier and more productively. We can recalibrate the global economy to produce goods, services and infrastructures that help, not hurt, people. Countries should be exporting life, not death.

The principle, ideology, strategy and tactics of governments must be humanized and earth-ized.

So if governments won’t or can’t outlaw war, itself, what about outlawing the tools that make mass aggression possible?

We have compliance programs to stop terrorist funding. Why don't we have compliance programs to stop the sale of guns, tanks, warplanes, bombs, etc.? Why don’t we illegalize the manufacture, sale, transfer and use of all forms of weaponry – conventional, bio, chemical, psychological and cyber?

Cut off access to weaponry, cut off its supply, and governments no longer have the capacity to engage in warfare.

Aggression among people who carry a knife or a bat or a broom may still occur. But that kind of aggression would be much easier to stop with a peace or police force than aggression that involves using weapons of mass killing and destruction. Machine guns, tanks and bombs can only kill; they have no benevolent purpose. Although we can cut up our dinner salad with a knife, we cannot prepare our dinner with a nuclear bomb.

Where do we go from here?

The national governments themselves cause the atrocities of war. Under existing international law, national government leaders can continue to prepare for and wage wars, especially internal conflicts. The veil of national sovereignty and the weakness of international enforcement allow them to act aggressively.

National governments could outlaw war and its preparations in their national constitutions, like Japan (in Article 9) and Costa Rica (in Article 12) have done. In those two countries, governmental leaders cannot weaponize the state and commandeer armed forces. It’s unlikely, however, that many other nations, and certainly not the permanent members of the United Nations “Security Council,” would voluntarily reject war as a tool of national policy.

Nations cannot or will not stop war.  As Garry Davis once shouted from the public balcony at the United Nations, “If the nation-states won't stop war, then they should step aside and let us, the people, create the institutions that will.” War becomes perpetual only if we choose it as the principal mode of interaction during conflict.

We the people must create new governmental institutions beyond the nation.

If we want to have an effective compliance program to prevent the sale, transfer and use of arms, some independent body or institution outside the nation-states is going to have to take charge. In other words, we need a system in place that will maintain the restrictions of illegality on the war preparation process.

A World Congress would create common world law that outlaws violent force everywhere as well as the sale, distribution and use of weapons.  Aggression of war and violent conflict must be made illegal. Just like shooting someone or fighting with someone in a local setting can be considered assault and battery or murder, fighting or using weapons between groups of people in different places around the world must also be considered illegal. So no matter one’s location or whether one is wearing a uniform, killing would be outlawed. Killing anywhere would be considered murder everywhere.

A World Court of Human Rights (WCHR) would adjudicate violations of the law, with a World Marshals Service to apprehend violators. A WCHR will shed light on violations by governments that oppress the many and maintain benefits for only a select few, affirming that governments must be transparent and act in service to the people. A WCHR will provide a legal and peaceful forum for victims to air their grievances and to obtain justice against the sponsors of war.  Everyone should be able to sue for the violence they have faced. 

Even if lawmakers and courts establish the illegality of war, how will we protect ourselves from rogue actors?

This is what a volunteer peace or police force is for.  A World Peace/Police Guards Force would implement and enforce the law – acting as roving ombudspeople to prevent conflicts and intervene in conflicts before they become violent. World Peace Guards would provide mediation and collaborative strategies and processes.

War is the biggest waster of human and natural resources.

People in the green movement must unite with people in the peace and collaborative development movements to stop war and its preparations for the sake of humanity and the earth. We need to work together to dismantle the structural violence that has been built into the nation-state system.  We need to alleviate the economic, political, technological, and social factors of humiliation – the underlying inequalities and oppression – that cause people to seek vengeance against and to hate, oppress, and control others. As citizens of one world, we must fulfill human and environmental needs, rights and duties. We need to eliminate the anarchy, the lack of unified law, between nation-states that is the breeding ground of war. World peace, as well as human and environmental sustainability, will depend upon the advancement of common world law.