Archive for March, 2014

The Group of 77 approaching fifty – congratulations!

By Johan Galtung

For one who has worked much on the theory and practice of change from systems of hierarchy to systems of equity, June 15 1964 will never be forgotten. Those at the bottom of the world system of states, fragmented away from each other by colonial and imperial structures, marginalized, exploited, came together, 77 of them, and formed–not a very revolutionary word–a Group. In 1967 the Group was confirmed by the Charter of Algiers. They used the UNCTAD-United Nations Conference on Trade and Development as their platform.

Then the follow-up in 1974: the New International Economic Order-NIEO, and the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States, passed by the UN General Assembly.

A trade union of states, or their governments, had been born; today 133-states strong. Not included are almost all states that are members of the Council of Europe (which includes the EU), OECD-Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, and CIS-Commonwealth of Independent States. A very clear North-South divide: temperate zone against the tropics.

Not only did they organize, they were even proactive. Read the rest of this entry »

Why do I persist?

By Richard Falk

I have been asked recently why do I persist in working hard for the things that I believe in, knowing that I will die in the next several years, and am almost certain not to be around for the catastrophic future that seems to cast its dark shadow across the road ahead, and can only be removed by a major transnational movement of the peoples of the world.

Similarly, why do I accept the defamation and related unpleasantness that accompanies my efforts to be a truthful witness of the sufferings endured by the Palestinian people in the course of their struggle for freedom and in violation of their fundamental rights? Some friends pointedly suggest ‘why don’t you just sit back, enjoy the pleasures of an easy life, and if still restless and alert enough, devote yourself to the narcissisms of producing a memoir?’

Or at least, why not at least indulge the self-exploratory pleasures of proving to myself that I am a decent poet or that I can still improve my chess or that, appearances to the contrary, I am still not too old to learn Turkish? At worst, I could continue to write barbed comments on the passing scene from the relative safety and comfort of the blogosphere, and to relieve the monotony of a virtual life, take occasional cruises to exotic destinations seeking out ‘ships of fools.’

Several prominent philosophers have attempted to answer such generic questions in a book recently published with the alluring title of Death and the Afterlife (Oxford University Press, 2013). It contains three lectures given by Samuel Scheffler, two at the Berkeley campus of the University of California and the third at the University of Utah, as well as a series of generally laudatory commentaries by four other distinguished philosophers and a response at the end by Scheffler.

The core argument developed by Scheffler is that human beings care more about the collective survival of humanity than they do about either their own personal immortality or even about the survival of those that they love and befriend, that is, those who are closest to us in our present life.

This rather novel line of inquiry investigates the implications of a thought experiment that supposes the extinction of the human species either due to ‘a doomsday scenario’ in which life on the planet is brought to an end or ‘an infertility scenario’ in which all women stop having the capacity to bear children. Read the rest of this entry »

Ukraine, Crimea, Georgia: The West and Russia

By Johan Galtung

This article was also published and sent out as TFF PressInfo in March 2014

There is much in a name. Ukraine means borderland.

The position of the extreme West–like US neocons–is clear: get all into NATO, encircling, containing, defeating Russia. Some in Ukraine and Georgia share that goal. The less extreme West would focus on EU membership, both being European countries. Some of them, in turn, might focus on loans as there is much money to be made. Thus, Bosnia-Hercegovina had $9 billion debt before the EU take-over as “high authority”; now $107 billion. “Austerity” around the corner.

The position of Russia as expressed by Putin and Lavrov: no way. Crimea will revert to Russia after it was given to Ukraine in 1954 by Khrushchev–himself born in Kalinovka, Ukraine in 1894, his wife a Ukrainian–possibly mainly for economic reasons as his son at Brown University R.I., USA argues.

However, Ukraine is not only a borderland but also two countries between Poland and Russia. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of 1569 and the Austria-Hungarian Empire once covered most of Ukraine; so did czarist Russia and Soviet Union in their heydays. More importantly, the dividing line of the Roman Empire from 395, confirmed by the schism between Catholic and Orthodox Christianity in 1054, is reflected in Ukraine’s extremely complex history. The result is unmistakable: moving east the Catholic attachment yield to the Orthodox and Ukrainian to Russian. When Poland became a member of EU and even of NATO, the handwriting for Ukraine was on the wall; bringing to mind Polish First Marshal Pilsudski’s Odessa-Black Sea ambitions after WW-I. Read the rest of this entry »

Breaking free: Choosing a better human future

By Richard Falk

I have long believed that prospects for a hopeful human future depend on radical and visionary feelings, thought, and action. Such an outlook reflects my view that the major challenges of our time cannot be met by thinking within the box, or implementing the realist agenda of doing what it is feasible while disregarding what is necessary and desirable. For instance, with respect to climate change such a conventional approach avoids asking what needs to be done to give future generations positive life prospects, but seeks, at best, to do what seems politically feasible at the moment, that is, far too little.

This means not putting a cap on energy or water use, not limiting carbon emissions or prohibiting fracking, continuing to encourage economic growth, and refusing to question consumerism. In effect, this conventional approach does not meet challenges, but at most seeks to defer and mitigate harmful effects to the extent possible. In effect, it opts for a worse human future, and remains in bondage to the deformities wrought by clearly deficient neoliberal prescriptions for human fulfillment.

Against this background, it was a personal breakthrough to meet Jeff Wilson who is, Read the rest of this entry »

Report to UN Human Rights Council on Occupied Palestine

By Richard Falk

This is my last report as Special Rapporteur on Occupied Palestine as my term is coming to an end after six years.

The mandate is important as a source of information pertaining to the realities of occupation from the perspective of international humanitarian law and international criminal law. My hope is that this mandate can be brought to an end as early as possible, but not earlier than when Palestinians can live in equality with the Israelis either in a single bi-national state or in separate states. It is a matter that need to be decided by the two peoples in accordance with respective rights. No solution can be imposed or negotiated in a setting that is not premised on the equality of the peoples.

Read Falk’s report here as well as follow the debate on his blog.

Iran nuclear negotiations almost in the bag

By Jonathan Power

It was the Americans, back in the time of the deposed Shah, who encouraged Iran to develop a nuclear bomb-making capacity. Now it is the Americans, along with the Europeans, who are desperately trying to undo their folly.

They are nearer the goal than they think- or, rather, let on. Perhaps they are playing their cards too close to their chest? Is this what is necessary for the Administration to position itself to assuage Congressional opinion?

As long as both Iran and the US make sure, as the saying goes, they don’t “miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity” they should get home and dry well before the end of the six months allowed to complete final negotiations.

A word on the Iranian side: The Supreme Leader, Ayotallah Ali Khameini, who is ultimately the deciding figure, has long ago made his position clear. He has said on more than one occasion, indeed has issued a fatwa to this effect, that to possess nuclear weapons goes against God. Iran is a highly religious nation and these words of his cannot be taken lightly. He cannot put them on one side, even if the Americans prove difficult. Moreover, we have the statements of US intelligence of 2007 and repeated twice since that Iran has abandoned its nuclear weapons program.

If all this be true why don’t the delegates go home and put their feet up? Read the rest of this entry »

Pakistan – What Now?

By Johan Galtung

Islamabad, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 28 Feb 2014

Your Excellencies,

The basic point is that Pakistan will not get that commodity called “peace” in Kashmir, Afghanistan and Central Asia by pursuing the ends and means of Washington and some local elites only. For peace to blossom the goals of other parties also have to be considered; and they are many. The logic of the political games pursued today presupposes some kind of victory or domination of “our side”: neither feasible nor desirable for peace. Hence, the need for some visions for peace politics is Kashmir, Afghanistan and Central Asia for tomorrow or the day after, with the hope that they can be useful when you have come to the end of the road with current policies. Nothing of this is easy; and without visions even impossible.

The fairly detailed, non-dogmatic vision appended (below) was my acceptance speech of the 2011 Abdul Ghaffar Khan International Peace-Builder Award by the Pakistan-American Muslim Association.

However, why do present policies so often seem to be non-starters?

The British empire drew three lines with disastrous effects for Pakistan: the Durand line in 1893, a 1,600-mile wound defining the border with Afghanistan, dividing the Pashtun nation – the biggest nation in the world without a state – into two parts; the McMahon line of 1914 defining the border with China in ways unacceptable to the Chinese; and the Mountbatten line of 1947 leading to the catastrophic violence of the partition. These lines have to be negated, liberating Pakistan from that past. Read the rest of this entry »

60 years of nuclear pain – and not a word in the media

By David Krieger

As the trustee of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, the United States had an obligation to protect the health and welfare of the Marshallese Islanders. Instead, the U.S. conducted 67 nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958. These 67 nuclear tests had an explosive power equivalent to 1.6 Hiroshima bombs daily for 12 years. In short, the U.S. used these islands shamefully, and the Marshallese people continue to suffer today as a result.

Continue reading here

Syria: What to do now?

By Richard Falk

There is a new mood of moral desperation associated with the ongoing strife in Syria that has resulted in at least 135,000 deaths, 9.3 millions Syrians displaced, countless atrocities, Palestinian refugee communities attacked, blockaded, and dispersed, and urban sieges designed to starve civilians perceived to be hostile.

As the second round of negotiations in Geneva-2 ended as fruitlessly as the earlier round, there is a sense that diplomacy is a performance ritual without any serious intent to engage in conflict-resolving negotiations. Expectations couldn’t be lower for the as yet unscheduled, but still planned, third round of this Geneva-2 process.

The Damascus regime wants an end to armed opposition, while the insurgency insists upon setting up a transition process that is independently administered and committed to the election of a new political leadership. The gap between the parties is too big, and getting bigger, especially as the Damascus government correctly perceives the combat tide as turning in its favor, leading the main opposition forces seemingly to seek to achieve politically and diplomatically what they appear unable to do militarily. Also, it is unclear whether the opposition presence in Geneva has the authority to speak on behalf of several opposition groups in the field in Syria.

In light of these frustrations it is not surprising to observe an acrimonious debate unfolding between American interventionists who believe that only force, or at least its threat, can thread the needle of hope. Read the rest of this entry »

Repression, paranoia increases in Egypt

By Stephen Zunes

Since the military coup in Egypt against the unpopular but democratically elected government of Mohammed Morsi last July, more than 1,000 regime opponents have been killed, thousands more have been hauled before military courts on political charges, and a repressive anti-protest law has been enacted, severely limiting the right of peaceful assembly. The targets of this crackdown have not just been supporters of the ousted Muslim Brotherhood government, but liberal secular activists whose calls for democracy and social justice have put them at odds with both the Islamists and the military leadership. Continue here…


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