Archive for October, 2015

TFF PressInfo # 348 – After 70 years: The UN falls short, and yet…

By Richard Falk

The United Nations turns 70 today. It isn’t “we, the peoples” – it is “we, the governments”. It’s in need of reform but we must also remember that its first Secretary-General Trygve Lie said in 1948 – that it will never be stronger or better than the member states want to make it.

Whatever you think of it, we certainly can’t do without it, nor without its Charter that is still the most Gandhian document, all governments have ever signed.

If its member governments were not so navel-gazing, it would be the best vehicle for global governance – for globalising democracy in a world where the economy and the military as well as communication and culture are all globalizing while politics is still anchored in parliaments in increasingly irrelevant nation-states.

And why not set up a People’s Assembly? Establish UN Embassies in each member state and let people vote for who shall represent their country in the UN?

All doable with a little creativity and good will – for the common good, the common future.

Below, please find the thoughts at the UN’s 70th Anniversary of one of the finest international law and peace experts we have who has also worked with the UN for many years.

– Jan Oberg

Prefatory note

A shorter somewhat modified version of this post was published in Al Jazeera Turka, but only in Turkish translation. The thesis set forth is that the UN has disappointed the expectations of those who took seriously its original promise of war prevention, but that it has over its lifetime done many things that need doing in the world.

It also provided a meeting place for all governments, and has developed the best networking sites for all those concerned with the state of the world and what can be done by way of improvement. The UN System faces an important test in the upcoming Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris at the end of November. The event is billed as the make or break session for the governments of the world to agree finally on a strong enough framework of constraint governing the release of greenhouse gasses to satisfy the scientific consensus.

If Paris is generally regarded as successful, the UN stock will rise steeply, but if it should fail, then its stature and role of the Organization could become even more marginalized. Either way, the UN as of 2015 is a very different kind of political actor than when it was founded in 1945, disappointing to those that hoped for permanent peace and some justice, while pleasing to those that sought from the outset a wider global agenda for the Organization and felt that its best contributions would likely be in a wide range of practical concerns where the interests of major political actors more or less overlap.

After 70 Years: The UN Falls Short, and Yet..

When the UN was established in the aftermath of the Second World War hopes were high that this new world organization would be a major force in world politics, and fulfill its Preamble pledge to prevent future wars. Seventy years later the UN disappoints many, and bores even more, appearing to be nothing more that a gathering place for the politically powerful.

I think such a negative image has taken hold because the UN these days seems more than ever like a spectator than a political actor in the several crises that dominate the current agenda of global politics. This impression of paralysis and impotence has risen to new heights in recent years.

When we consider the waves of migrants fleeing war-torn countries in the Middle East and Africa or four years of devastating civil war in Syria or 68 years of failure to find a solution for the Israel/Palestine conflict or the inability to shape a treaty to rid the world of nuclear weapons, and on and on, it becomes clear that the UN is not Read the rest of this entry »

Good economic news amid the gloom

By Jonathan Power

Monday’s news was that China’s annual growth rate has dropped below the red line of 7%. It is 6.9% and probably falling.

These figures were published shortly after the IMF said that sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing “solid growth”. Last week the World Bank released its new average annual growth estimates for black Africa. It was 4.5% last year but this year it is going up to 4.6% and by 2017 it will be 5.1%. This is less than the 5.3% before the great recession (precipitated by American banks), but considering all its recent knocks, not least China buying less raw materials, Africa is holding up pretty well.

In fact what we used to call the “Third World” is a mixed bag of good and bad news. Which would you like to read about first?

More bad news? Here it is:

Emerging markets for the sixth consecutive year face falling growth rates. Currencies have hit 15-year lows. Stocks, once soaring ahead of developed countries, have been flat for the last 6 years. Private sector debt has been increasing fast. The outflow of funds has accelerated and in the last year was over one trillion US dollars. Stock market and currency turbulence have raised questions about where China is going. The late president of France, Charles de Gaulle, once quipped about Brazil, “Brazil has a great future, and always will”. Maybe he should have said that about China.

In Brazil a big corruption scandal, including allegations that the government has illegally manipulated its fiscal accounts, has helped stall the economy.

In India, despite many campaign promises, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not succeeded in opening the economic spigot. In fact the present day rise in growth owes itself largely to measures put in place by the previous government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

In Indonesia, the economy Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 346 – Ten articles on the nuclear treaty with Iran

By Farhang Jahanpour

Lund, Sweden, October 21, 2015

It is with pleasure we send you ten recent articles about Iran, the West and the background to the treaty concluded about Iran’s nuclear technology. They are written by Dr. Farhang Jahanpour, Oxford University, who is also a member of TFF’s board.

Given the generally insufficient and/or biased knowledge in media and politics about Iran and this cluster of issues, TFF is proud to have a world renowned expert with Iranian roots sharing his knowledge.

1. Iran and the Non-Proliferation Treaty

2. Nuclear states do not comply with the Non-Proliferation Treaty

3. The early history of Iran’s nuclear programme

4. The recent stages of Iran’s nuclear programme

5. Iran and nuclear weapons, a dangerous delusion

6. The Rubicons that have been crossed

7. Iran’s commitments under the Nuclear Treaty are just short of surrender

8. Israel’s opposition to the Nuclear Treaty with Iran

9. Iran’s nuclear deal and the regional countries

10. The nuclear deal’s impact on Iranian domestic and foreign policy

PressInfo # 347 – The world beyond global disorder

By Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung turns 85 on UN Day 2015

The global nation-state based system is in deep crisis. The West’s relative decline is obvious, except to the West itself. This multi-dimensional crisis will, of course, give way to something new – but what?

Lack of vision – sometimes even of knowledge and empathy – among those in power seems a defining characteristics of our times.

Individually as well as nationally, we are living in iTimes, not weTimes. Add to that blowbacks from history and Western knee-jerk militarist responses – and the next few years will be tough.

The creativity and innovation we find in commercial and social entrepreneurship and in the arts, seem frighteningly absent in the world of politics.

Who would get elected anywhere on having an exciting vision for the the world the next 25 or 40 years? No, you must know about national affairs and economy – while, by the way, national economy doesn’t exist anymore.

Few young people, including students or young scholars, find it attractive to join party politics.

But can humanity survive with only criticism, negative energy, bad news and no vision?

Will we work for a better world if we can’t see it?

Dr. Johan Galtung has devoted his life to the vision of a less violent, more peaceful world – from the local to the civilisational level – implementing the norm of the Charter of the UN – turning 70 on October 24, 2015 – that peace shall be established by peaceful means.

Galtung – one of a handful of peace visionaries with a macro perspective – himself turns 85 on UN Day. He has mediated in more than 100 conflicts since 1957 and published 164 books. And he still travels the world speaking and writing. More about him here by Antonio. C. S. Rosa.

He is one of the youngest and most innovative minds in world affairs, always asking the essential, healing question: What can be done?

That’s what the good doctor does – helps conflicting parties address their problems, reduce their violence and develop a vision of a better future – together or side-by-side with respect.

Making the seemingly incompatible more compatible through creativity, dialogue, vision.

Here is his latest column – which TFF publishes every week. It synthesizes where we stand and ought to go.

As humanity.

And with humanity.

– Jan Oberg

And now Galtung himself…

Keynote, 13th Session World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations” – Rhodes, Greece, 9 Oct 2015

The strength of this forum is its civilization focus; let us use it for analysis and remedies. Major forms of disorder use violence; war is state organized violence. The most belligerent states are the United States of America and Israel, both with civilization roots.

National Evangelism, the US Protestant Christian civilization – more national than evangelical – justifies US warfare as exceptionalism of a people chosen by God, with a manifest destiny to run the world. Orthodox Judaism justifies Israeli warfare to conquer and expand from Nile to Euphrates as a religious right and duty to the Eternal One.

The third most belligerent country, the UK, no longer believes it is God-chosen but chosen by the USA; not quite the same but something.

The root causes – and soften the ideas

But the root cause of global disorder lies in the Occident – with Islam – seeing itself as the single, universal civilization valid for all at all times, all others being mistakes. Missionary activity, slavery, colonialism, exploitative trade, robbery capitalism, follow.

The USA got from Judaism the idea of Chosen People-Promised Land. Yet Israel is Read the rest of this entry »

Regime change in Saudi Arabia?

By Jonathan Power

October 13th 2015

Is Saudi Arabia a house built on sand? If so are the sands shifting? Even Hillary Clinton, the candidate for US president, until recently a staunch ally of the House of Saud, has publicly criticized the appalling human rights record of Saudi Arabia. Mrs. Clinton also made the point that over the years it wasn’t just rich Saudi individuals who had sent donations to Islamist militant fighting groups it was also the government itself.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia’s current military intervention in Yemen appears to have led to thousands of unnecessary civilian deaths, and done with a motivation that seems questionable – that its rival, Iran, is supporting the Houthi rebels.

There has been outrage in Britain when The Guardian reported recently how leaked documents reveal that the UK conducted secret vote-trading deals with Saudi Arabia to ensure both states were elected to the UN Human Rights Council.

In the time of the last Labour government Prime Minister Tony Blair used his office to halt a Serious Fraud Squad investigation into bribes paid to high-ranking Saudis to smooth the sale of British fighter jets. The reason given was that a prosecution would harm the UK’s security interests. Saudi Arabia is Britain’s largest arms market by far.

In the US it has not been forgotten that in the hours after 9/11 when all US aircraft were grounded there was a significant exception – a group of top Saudis were given permission to use their own plane to fly home, even though there was already evidence emerging that the majority of the 9/11 culprits were Saudi. The Bush family, in particular its two presidents, has long had more than friendly relations – one might call them intimate – with the Saudi royal family.

How long do we have to wait for regime change in Saudi Arabia? Read the rest of this entry »

School shootings in the USA: 10 points

By Johan Galtung

The Oregon community college was “the 45th school shooting this year in America; the 142nd school shooting since the Newton massacre in 2012”, Matthew Albracht–Peace Alliance–who adds: 25% of women experience domestic violence, 6 million children witness it every year, 28% of children are bullied during the year and they are 2 to 9 times more likely to commit suicide.

What can be done? Here 10 points:

Gun control, of course.
But the point is not only sales control but possession control with very strict laws for possession and making illegal possession a federal crime. With an average of at least one lethal weapon per citizen, there are enough arms to continue shootings; sales control is insufficient. States and municipalities can endorse this ahead of time for Weapons Free Zones in America, as places where life is safer. There will still be armed police around.

Less violent foreign policy, of course.
Believing that serious change in domestic violence is possible without serious change from violent to solution-oriented foreign policy is unspeakably naive. “If my government can kill whoever stands in our way so can I; if we think we are exceptional, above the law, so am I, as a US citizen” is a psycho-mechanism that can only be beaten by destroying the premise. A government solving problems instead of bombing their way through will have an equally strong effect on the citizens, but this time positive.

Less violent media, of course.
The point is not only less violence, with copycat danger. The point is deeper: media that focus on solutions; journalists who systematically ask politicians “what is Read the rest of this entry »

The ugly American?

By Jonathan Power

October 6, 2015

American foreign policy makers often wonder aloud why it is that much of the world has such an anti-American reflex. Why the “Ugly American”? Graham Greene would never have written a novel entitled the “Ugly Russian” or even the “Ugly German”. It is not just Iran that considers the US as the “Great Satan”. Remember that day at the UN General Assembly when the late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, accused President George W. Bush of belching sulphureous fumes, and most of the chamber chuckled.

When the Russian government denies that they switched their publicly announced mission of deploying planes to Syria to fight ISIS and have instead concentrated on bombing the redoubts of groups engaged in the civil war against the government of President Bashar al-Assad a majority of the world’s governments seemingly accepts the denial, despite the contrary evidence.

When the US bombs a hospital in Afghanistan killing many staff members of “Doctors Without Borders” this confirms the opinion of those who are always convinced that America does things like this on purpose after careful planning and will do it again as soon as the opportunity offers itself.

There are two reasons, I think, for the image of the Ugly American. The first is America’s standing as the world’s number one economic and military power. The second is the CIA, the notorious Central Intelligence Agency. The British have their MI6 and its special agent, the glamorous James Bond. But the CIA only has its reputation as the master of the black arts of corruption, torture and assassination.

Tragically for America its bad reputation is largely deserved. Read the rest of this entry »

PlayforRights Celebration on International Artists Day

By Elías Abraham-Foscolo with Jan Oberg

We would like to count on your presence as well as people you may know interested in our activities.

PlayforRights Celebration on International Artists Day

PlayforRights organizes this event (see poster below) to raise awareness and consciousness about the following statement: “The arts contribute to the field of human rights by making visible the human dimension”.

Why do we do this in a celebrative way? 25th of October can be seen as any other ordinary day but for members of PlayforRights it is not. This date is very important moment of the year where we all, the civil society, shall meet together and raise awareness about the potential of the art expressions within processes of social change.

For this, we need to recognise that the arts are ways of nurturing love, that art is Read the rest of this entry »

The Columbia Peace Accords

By Johan Galtung

Bogotá, 30 Sep 2015

The accords were signed a week ago with still much work to do this coming half a year. 23 March 2016 is the deadline.

However, are they peace accords? Or absence of violence eliminating “that other army”, for Weber’s state monopoly on ultima ratio regis, even strengthening the government’s army? That Western concept of peace practiced recently in Sri Lanka and Nepal, against LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) and Maoists? Leaving untouched the problems that brought them into being unsolved?

And the word “peace” violated, as “conflict”, saying “post-conflict”, as if nothing more to solve. Words matter; handle them with care.

In all the Colombian conflict complexity, the focus is on only one conflict, between the violent parties: Read the rest of this entry »

NATO’s huge exercise – war on European soil?

Interview by PressTV on October 19, 2015 on the occasion of the largest NATO+ military exercise since 2002, clearly directed at Russia and, presumably, Iran (planned as it was years ago).

This sort of exercise stands in the way of better policies, including confidence-building and solving the Ukraine quagmire.


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