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,

D.G.
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.
___________________


*Footnote:

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.

UDHR:

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.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Displacedland

By David Gallup

More than 65 million people have become refugees (15 million), stateless (10 million), or forcibly displaced (40 Million) due to armed conflict, persecution and natural disasters.

This population figure is larger than that of more than 210 countries and dependent territories.  In other words, only 20 countries in the world have a population larger than 65 million people. As the UN High Commissioner for Refugees explains, “one out of every 113 people on the earth” are displaced from their homes and “24 people are forced to flee each minute.” The majority of refugees are fleeing from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Myanmar, Eritrea, and Columbia. These figures do not even account for the day-to-day oppression that millions, if not billions, face but who are unable or reluctant to leave to find a safe haven.

What if all of the displaced people of the world came together, like the Refugee Team who participated in the Olympics, to create their own country?

“Displaced People’s Country” or Displacedland would be an economic powerhouse with a gross domestic product similar to Indonesia, Switzerland or Turkey. Its diversity in cultures, languages, ethnicities, religions, etc. would ensure that acceptance of difference would be the norm.

From the arduous journey that the population faced to achieve their freedom from persecution and from their appreciation of their new-found liberties, the Displacedlanders would use their ingenuity, enthusiasm, and persistence to create a thriving and vibrant society.

Their desire for political, economic, environmental and social justice would be embedded in the legal fabric of the community. Displacedland would engender respect for each other as fellow citizens of struggle, respect for the land that they could call their own, and respect for the rule of law over the rule of the dictator. Initially, pride in their displacement would unite them. Later, recognition of their common humanity, would seal that bond.

Sounds like a great place to live!

But why should these fellow humans have to create their own new country to have their rights and basic needs upheld? Why are millions stuck in refugee camps with inadequate food, housing, healthcare, education and opportunity?

To have the kind of world in which the rights reaffirmed in various declarations and treaties such as the UDHR, the ICCPR and the ICESCR are fully met, we should all be able to claim, and then exercise, our rights no matter where we happen to live on the planet. Human rights and duties are not bound by territory; they are not dependent upon the nation-state in which one happens to be born.

If everyone had citizenship everywhere, statelessness would no longer exist and only natural disasters would forcibly displace people.  With world citizenship, if we do not like where we live, if we do not like the politics or the rulers, then we could live somewhere else.

Instead of creating a separate country for all displaced people, world citizenship, as a valid and legal citizenship beyond any other status that someone may carry, would ensure that everyone has at least one citizenship which, in its inclusiveness, upholds our concomitant rights and duties.

Affirming world citizenship as an official, legal and political status is one of the main functions of the World Service Authority.  Requiring all governments to respect world citizenship status legally is the next step – a step that will support millions of displaced persons, by ensuring that governments will fulfill their obligations to respect refugees, stateless and displaced persons’ innate and unalienable rights. To promote respect for this highest citizenship status, global institutions of law must be established. WSA’s project to develop a World Court of Human Rights is one such institution.

World citizenship, as the highest level of allegiance, empowers us to focus on equality, justice, unity, friendship, sustainability, and harmony with each other and the earth.

Humans need not search for refuge in Displacedland. The entire earth is a sanctuary of peace – when we respect each other, our rights and duties, as world citizens.

Monday, July 25, 2016

TEXit: A Nation-State Hypothetical
By David Gallup
What if the citizens of the state of Texas decide to leave the United States?
What if they have a referendum on whether to exit the Union, to once again become an independent Republic of Texas?
Forty-nine other states could easily maintain the Union, along with England as a quasi 50th state, or the District of Columbia finally taking up the mantle. Would Texas's departure be a boon to the citizens of Texas? Would it imperil the US Union?
Texas has enough human, oil, and land resources that it could go it alone. There would be many countries who would be delighted to work with an independent Texas and would quickly form treaty relationships.
What would this mean for the people living in Texas?
They would then need a Texas Passport and potentially a visa to travel to neighboring New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas or Louisiana. To work in the remaining 49 states, Texans would need to apply for a work authorization. Restrictions on the movement of personal property and import/export taxes would begin to burden them. Families would be separated by borders that for almost two centuries were only lines on a map. Now Texas would have to build a wall and post Texasland Security Officers every few miles to prevent "illegal" immigration.
Could Texas depart legally?
The United States Constitution requires that "No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance or Confederation..." (Article I, Section 10, Clause 1). One of the main considerations about whether a state is sovereign is its ability to establish treaties and relationships with other countries. Because the majority of powers of the government are vested in the Federal government (Congress, President and Courts), states are prevented from contracting with "foreign" governments.
Article IV of the US Constitution establishes admission into the United States by a new state with consent of the Congress, but does not deal with state secession. The remainder of the Constitution is silent on secession, neither denying nor confirming a right to secede.
In the US Supreme Court, the right of secession was rejected in Texas v. White in 1869. Chief Justice Chase considered the United States an inseparable union (a federation rather than a confederation). He wrote, "The Union was solemnly declared to be perpetual...The Constitution was ordained 'to form a more perfect Union.' It is difficult to convey the idea of indissoluble unity more clearly...When Texas became one of the United States, [it] entered into an indissoluble relation...More than a compact, it was the incorporation of a new member into the political body. And it was final."
Subsequent case law has upheld the precedent of this landmark case. Justice Chase concluded that there was no place for reconsideration "except through revolution, or through the consent of the States." Chase admitted that that the people of a state still retained the power to revolt. Although unlikely, the people could also peacefully approach the governments of the other states in the union or the federal government to request a legal withdrawal from the union. Neither of these options can be considered a legal right to secede -- as revolution is outside of the law and consent is a political decision of the remaining states.
Under national law, Texas cannot legally secede.
Under international law, however, Texans could potentially claim a right to secede. Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the US has ratified, states, "All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development." International law doctrine has affirmed secession as a basis for achieving the right to self-determination in cases of colonialism, subjugation, exploitation or lack of meaningful exercise of self-determination internally within a country.
Could Texas depart illegally?
Would this be considered an insurrection? Would the federal government exert its armed forces to stop Texas? Could this lead to another civil war?
Texans mounting an armed insurrection would undoubtedly be met by swift action by the FBI, the US Army and other federal government forces.
Texans could make a peaceful declaration of independence and find other governments to back them up. Countries such as Kosovo, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Crimea, formerly part of other nation-states, have all declared their independence in the last few years. They found backing by Russia or by rulings of the United Nations' International Court of Justice.
TEXit versus Brexit?
The difference between Texas trying to leave the US Union and Great Britain choosing to leave the European Union is that the EU was created by a treaty signed by its members, a treaty that, in Article 50, allows for "member-states" to withdraw. Because US states, such as Texas, are prohibited from independently entering into relations with nation-states, they lack one of the main qualifications under international law to be considered sovereign. The Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States affirms that an independent sovereign state is one that can enter into "foreign relations" as well as has a permanent population, a defined territory and a functioning government.
Furthermore, the EU has no constitution to bind the European states together into a new indissoluble entity, meaning that it is a confederation of sovereign states (an international organization), rather than a united political body.
On a social level, a small majority of British currently maintain a stronger feeling of belonging to their island country than to a feeling of "being European." This feeling of "being British" will not prevent Northern Ireland from reuniting with Ireland, or Scotland and Wales declaring their independence from England.
Only slightly more than 50% of the British voted to leave the European Union. And if the vote were taken again in a few years, it is quite likely that a vote to return to the Union would occur. At this point, Britain knows that the USA will come to its aid if it were threatened by war; so one of the main reasons for establishing the EU -- to prevent another war in Western Europe -- did not sway British voters.
Britain's exit from Europe and a hypothetical Texas exiting from the United States of America raise many concerns about identity and citizenship that the murky waters of nationalism obfuscate.
Will Great Britain's departure from the European Union precipitate the EU's demise?
What does this mean for European Citizenship? For the rights to travel, live and work freely throughout the region?
What does Britain's exit mean for the processes of nationalism and cosmopolitanism?
What is the purpose of a federation? Is it only to prevent war among its members? Or is it more than that? Can a federation provide a sense of belonging, a larger identity?
What does having a higher level allegiance beyond the state mean for identity and human interaction?
Even if Texas were to leave the Union, just as Britain has "left" the EU, it cannot leave earth. World Citizenship, the union of humans as humans, shall not perish from the earth.
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Thank you to Raman Maroz, Associate General Counsel and legal intern in World Service Authority's Legal Department, for conducting legal research for this TEXit blog. 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

I INTERVIEW TIME

By David Gallup
In the style of Garry Davis' blogs in which he "interviewed" water, space and sleep, for this New Year's blog, I interview time.
Me: Hey, Time, wait up! Slow down! (running out of breath)
Time: Sorry, no can do. There's no time like the present. (keeping a steady pace)
Me: I guess I have to catch up.
Time: You're already here!
Me: Where?
Time: Now!
Me: Oh. (dumbfounded)
Time: I'm all around you and everyone else. We're all in the same actuality. (smiling and looking beyond the horizon)
Me: I never thought about you that way. Could I talk to the past?
Time: No, that's prologue.
Me: How about the future?
Time: You are what you make of it.
Me: Stop using trite expressions!
Time: Sorry, I think that's what you humans most easily understand.
Me: What's so important about the present, anyway?
Time: That is all you've got. The here and now. This is what most humans forget. You're always thinking about the future, how you will make your life better, or succeed over others. Or, you lament the past -- what you could have done differently, how you failed.
It's as if you purposefully close your eyes to sleep through what's happening in the space-time around you. Awareness is now. Ignorance is holding on to past regrets and obsessing over future resolutions.
Now's the me (Time, of course!) that you had better focus on, if you want to have more of me later. The ways that you humans interact, tells me that you are running out of me! I am of the essence -- for you to imagine and build the world that works for everyone.
Don't be armchair activists, saying that you are for world peace and global justice in some utopian future, and hoping that others will act on your dreams. Claim your world peacemaker status right now. You make peace, you create the tools to help each other live together harmoniously, but only if you choose this path below your feet, recognizing the one earth on which you are currently standing.
Me: I'm getting it. Now is where we are and what we must keep our mind focused on. We're all in the now. We share it. We share responsibility for it, for you. We're our own historians in every action that we take or every refusal to act that we allow.
Time: You're catching on, in the nick of me!
Me: We need to focus on each other, on our earthly home to make it work now, not in some distant future, not based upon some nostalgic past, not watching the clock, but by being and doing. I am a Nowist. We all are. We don't need any time to realize that.
Time: Carpe diem! Time to go!
Me: Are you going?
Time: Aren't you listening to me? I'm not going anywhere. But you get going! There's none of me to waste.
Me: Thank you for all that timely advice. And, see ya later!
Time: No . . . Now! (exasperated)
______________________________
According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the earth's Doomsday Clock is hovering at 3 minutes to midnight. This figurative late hour is the scientists' way of explaining that in a 24 hour clock of earthly existence, humans are living on borrowed time. Global warming, oceans rising, violence, uncontrolled technology, and potential nuclear devastation have imperiled our chances of survival, leaving us with only a final few minutes before the end of time. The last time that humanity was this close to extinction was in 1952 when the United States and the Soviet Union created and tested the first hydrogen bombs.
According to the physicists and other scientists who compose the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin, "Despite some modestly positive developments in the climate change arena, current efforts are entirely insufficient to prevent a catastrophic warming of Earth. Meanwhile, the United States and Russia have embarked on massive programs to modernize their nuclear triads -- thereby undermining existing nuclear weapons treaties. The clock ticks now at just three minutes to midnight because international leaders are failing to perform their most important duty -- ensuring and preserving the health and vitality of human civilization."
The fact that these scientists address their statement to "Leaders and Citizens of the World" confirms their understanding of the importance of world citizenship as it relates to the preservation of human civilization.
When scientists around the world warn us of global warming and the threat of nuclear winter, we should listen to them and not to those politicians who ignore the facts, figures, mathematics and the undeniable rules of the natural world.
The atomic scientists conclude that "The probability of global catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon."
Time would tell us that action needs to be taken, not just "very soon," but now. Tick tock.