All posts by CPNN Coordinator

About CPNN Coordinator

Dr David Adams is the coordinator of the Culture of Peace News Network. He retired in 2001 from UNESCO where he was the Director of the Unit for the International Year for the Culture of Peace, proclaimed for the Year 2000 by the United Nations General Assembly.

Sudan: top UN official demands cessation of violence and rape against civilians by security forces

…. HUMAN RIGHTS ….

An article from the United Nations

Following recent reports of attacks and rape by security forces and paramilitaries against the pro-democracy protesters in Sudan who have been holding a sit-in outside army headquarters in the capital, Khartoum, the United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, expressed  “grave concern” on Thursday [June 13] and called for an “immediate and complete” end to the violence.


Ahmed Bahhar/Masarib. Protesters take to streets in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. 11 April 2019.
(click on image to enlarge)

According to her Office, despite restrictions on communications in Sudan, reports of serious human rights violations have emerged since the beginning of the month.

These include reported rapes and gang rapes of protesters, women’s human rights defenders and women medical personnel working in hospitals near the sit-in perpetrated by the “Rapid Support Forces” or RSF – a paramilitary group run by the Sudanese Government, primarily composed of the Janjaweed, a party to the Darfur conflict – and other militias.

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Questions related to this article:

How effective are mass protest marches?

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“I demand the immediate and complete cessation of all violence against civilians including sexual violence,” stated Special Representative Patten, noting that the RSF have consistently been listed in the UN Secretary-General’s annual report on conflict-related sexual violence.

“[They] should take effective measures to prevent and punish sexual violence in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions, including resolution 2467,” she added.

After the three-decade autocratic rule of President Omar al-Bashir ended in a military takeover in April, talks faltered in May between protesters and the ruling Transitional Military Council over a timetable for civilian rule.

On 3 June, security forces and paramilitaries fired on pro-democracy protesters  holding a sit-in outside army headquarters in the capital Khartoum, leaving a number of people dead and many more injured. Three days later, the African Union suspended the participation of Sudan in all its activities until the effective establishment of a civilian-led transitional authority.

Pending verification of the alleged incidents by relevant UN bodies, Ms. Patten highlighted the fact that “the weakness of the rule of law and a general climate of impunity” is further compounding a highly-volatile context.

“I urge the prompt investigation of all credible allegations of sexual violence and accountability for those responsible,” said the Special Representative, adding that she strongly supports the rapid deployment of a United Nations human rights monitoring team to examine the situation on the ground.

She also called upon the international community, including members of the UN Security Council, to use “all possible diplomatic channels with leaders of Sudan to pave the way for a swift transition to a civilian administration and an end to all forms of violence and intimidation against civilians”.

On Tuesday, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), sounded the alarm over the  killing and injuring of dozens of minors  in the protests backlash.

Ivan Golunov case: Russian media mark victory over police

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

An article from Deutsche Welle

After an unprecedented public outcry, Russian police have dropped questionable drug charges against investigative journalist Ivan Golunov and freed him from house arrest. What caused authorities to back down?


Three top newspapers covering Ivan Golunov’s arrest were in total solidarity: “I am/We are Ivan Golunov,” they read

There is an unwritten rule in Russia that when someone is arrested, that person will also be tried and sentenced. But on Tuesday, this rule was broken when drug possession charges against 36-year-old investigative reporter Ivan Golunov were dropped. Golunov, who writes for the dissident Meduzaonline platform, had maintained that Russian police were trying to frame him. Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev has now announced that those responsible for the trial will be fired.

Exceptional display of solidarity

In an exceptional display of solidarity, three leading liberal Russian newspapers — Vedomosti, Kommersant and RBK —  ran identical front pages  on Monday [June 10] declaring: “I am/We are Ivan Golunov.” Even pro-Kremlin, state-run media outlets and major television stations demanded Golunov be treated fairly.

Last weekend, pro-Golunov rallies were also held outside Russia’s embassy in Berlin. A spokesperson for the German government on Tuesday told DW that it welcomes Golunov’s release, saying: “The government is carefully monitoring Russian developments and the treatment of journalists, opposition politicians and civil society.” After various smaller pro-Golunov rallies in Russia over the past days, thousands had planned to take to the streets on Wednesday in support of the journalist, even though authorities had not approved the protest.

Until recently, few Russians were familiar with Ivan Golunov’s name. Yet Meduza, the online platform for which he writes, is widely known and respected throughout the country. It was founded in 2014 by exiled dissident journalists in the Latvian capital, Riga, and grew to become one of the most widely read Russian-language media outlets in the world. The site is particularly popular among the urban middle class.

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Question(s) related to this article:

Free flow of information, How is it important for a culture of peace?

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Golunov mainly publishes investigative reports exposing corruption in the Russian capital, for example regarding the procurement of plants or New Year’s Eve decorations for a party. Recently, the journalist had been researching illicit practices within the funeral industry and reportedly received threats.

In past years, Russians have repeatedly showed solidarity with individuals suspected of being prosecuted on the basis of trumped-up charges, like star director Kirill Serebrennikovor respected Chechen human rights activist Oyub Titiyev. But the massive pro-Golunov rallies of recent times surpassed these displays of solidarity by far.

Golunov’s case bears similarities to Titiyev’s, though the latter was sentenced for alleged drug possession. On Monday, however, word got out that the human rights activist would soon be released from jail. The announcement is seen as a move to ease tensions.

Further demonstrations loomed

There seem to be several explanations as to why Golunov’s case was thrown out. One is that those who had brought him to trial had not expected the tremendous show of solidarity in the media. When Russia’s three major liberal papers publicly sided with the investigative reporter, Golunov’s arrest transformed into a high-profile case. On the other hand, street clashes and anti-police violence could have followed, in particular due to Wednesday being Russia’s national holiday.

For months, pollsters have been documenting a growing willingness among Russians to protest. Russia’s government, which appears concerned by this development, has started giving in to the will of the people. Several weeks ago, for instance, Russian authorities surprisingly stopped the planned construction of a church in a popular Yekaterinburg park  after citizens protested against the move.

Appeasing Russians ahead of live Q & A?

The timing of Golunov’s release may also have to do with the Direct Line television show planned for June 20th, an annual live show during which Russians can phone in and ask President Vladimir Putin questions on air. Some media outlets had reported that the Kremlin had sought to sort out the Golunov case ahead of the live Q&A show, but Putin’s spokesperson denied this was so.
  
A further explanation for Golunov’s swift release may be that Putin plans to visit western Europe in early July and does not want the case to overshadow his trip. So far, it has been confirmed that the Russian leader will meet the Pope in Rome. And in spring, unconfirmed reports surfaced that Putin intends to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Petersburg Dialogue civil society summit near Bonn. Moreover, accusations of arbitrarily charging a dissident journalist would not cast Russia in a favorable light just as the country is set to rejoin the Council of Europe, the continent’s main human rights body.

Hong Kong protesters march demanding leader resign

…. HUMAN RIGHTS ….

An article from Deutsche Welle

Protesters, mostly in black, jammed the streets Sunday demanding that Hong Kong’s leader step down even after she suspended work on a controversial extradition bill.  

Leaders of the Civil Human Rights Front said they estimated that almost 2 million people had taken part. 


(click on image to enlarge)

The crowds, walking slowly and shouting “withdraw” and “resign,” spilled into the streets from downtown Victoria Park in the early afternoon and began marching toward the Central district, where the government headquarters is located. The rally continued until late on Sunday night.

“Our demands are simple. Carrie Lam must leave office, the extradition law must be withdrawn and the police must apologize for using extreme violence against their own people,” said bank worker John Chow as he marched with a group of his friends.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Saturday buckled under the pressure of sometimes violent protests over the past week and indefinitely shelved the bill in order to “maintain law and order and restore calm as soon as possible.” However, the proposals have not been completely withdrawn.

Lam apologizes

In response to Sunday’s renewed protests, the government apologized for its handling of the crisis.

“The chief executive acknowledged that the lack of government work has caused great contradictions and disputes in the community of Hong Kong,” it said in a statement. 

“Many members of the public are disappointed and saddened. The chief executive apologizes to the public and promises to accept it with the utmost sincerity and humility.”

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Questions related to this article:

How effective are mass protest marches?

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The bill proposed a legal mechanism to allow Hong Kong residents and Chinese or foreign nationals traveling through the city to be extradited to mainland China. Lam argued that it would prevent criminals from seeking to hide in the financial hub.
But critics believe it would tighten Beijing’s grip on the autonomous city, which is governed under a “one country, two systems” policy cemented during the British handover of Hong Kong in 1997.

While Lam said the bill had “laudable objectives” in combating international crime, protesters are concerned that an extradition agreement would allow Hong Kongers to be handed over to courts controlled by the Communist Party in mainland China, where a fair trial is not guaranteed.

Bill ‘must be withdrawn’

Some opponents of the extradition bill said that suspension was not enough.

“The bill’s legislative process is only suspended, but not completely withdrawn, which means there is a possibility that the government could restart the legislative process at some point in the future,” Ray Chan, a pro-democracy legislator in Hong Kong, told DW.

Lam avoided answering questions about whether she would yield to some protesters’ demands that she resign, requesting that citizens “give us another chance.”

The Beijing-appointed Lam added that she felt “deep sorrow and regret that the deficiencies in our work and various other factors have stirred up substantial controversies and disputes in society.”

Opposition to the extradition bill came from broad sectors of society, including the business community, professionals, teachers, students, pro-democracy figures and religious groups. 

Autonomy concerns

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China. Hong Kong’s constitution, known as the Hong Kong Basic Law, grants the city a high level of autonomy, including executive and legislative powers and an independent judiciary.

While speaking to reporters on Saturday, Lam addressed concerns that the territory’s chief executive was being steered by the Central Committee in Beijing, saying that such an assertion was based on a misunderstanding.

“That is a view that does not sit well with Basic Law, and is not in line with the constitutional role of chief executive,” said Lam, adding that the Hong Kong executive was responsible both to the PRC and Hong Kong.
“The central people’s government has confidence in my judgment and they support me,” she said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the government “expresses support, respect and understanding” for Lam’s decision.

Brazil: general strike highlights Bolsonaro’s weakness

…. HUMAN RIGHTS ….

An article by Jorge Martin in from Marxist.com

Millions participated in the general strike in Brazil on 14 June, with demonstrations in 380 cities across the country. The strike had been called to reject the proposed counter-reform of the pension system by the Bolsonaro government, but also reflected opposition to education cuts, which had already brought millions onto the streets on 15 and 30 May.


Image: Fora Bolsonaro
(click on image to enlarge)

The Bolsonaro government, already riddled with internal contradictions and rapidly losing support, was hit by revelations published this week of collusion between the judge and the prosecution in the trial against former president Lula. The judge involved was then awarded the Ministry of Justice by Bolsonaro. Far from being faced with the prospect of fascism, the government could be brought down by the mass movement, but for that to happen, more than a one-day general strike is required.

The general strike had been originally called by the trade union confederations on 1 May and was part of a very weak strategy centred around “putting pressure on the members of parliament” not to approve the law, rather than to defeat it with sustained mass pressure on the streets. The decision by the Bolsonaro government to introduce cuts in universities’ budgets and the provocative way in which it was done provoked a tsunami of indignation on the national day of strike in the education sector on 15 June, when 2 million participated in demonstrations against the government across the country. The movement of the students and teachers provided the necessary momentum for the general strike. A further national day of demonstrations, called on 30 May by the National Union of Students, saw hundreds of thousands march again against education cuts.

Meanwhile, the attempt by government supporters to call counter-demonstrations in defence of Bolsonaro on 26 May was a complete flop. In Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, they barely managed to gather 10,000 each. On 15 May, anti-government protesters brought 250,000 to the streets of Sao Paulo and 400,000 in Rio. Not only were the 26 May demonstrations smaller, but their mood was not one of enthusiasm but rather of being on the defensive and in shock at the militancy shown by the youth on 15 May. The 26 May demonstrations had the aim of strengthening the government and Bolsonaro personally, in an attempt to appeal to “the people” directly above the heads of the parties and the parliament. They failed. The stage was set for the general strike.

According to the CUT trade union confederation, about 45 million workers participated in strike action. The strike was particularly strong in the education and the public sector, but also amongst bank workers, oil workers at Petrobras, public transport workers in the main cities, etc. In the industrial heartland of the Sao Paulo ABC, the metal workers’ union announced that over 98 percent of workers had struck, paralysing the main assembly plants of Volks and Mercedes and the auto-parts sector. 10 out of the country’s 12 refineries were paralysed, with workers not replacing their colleagues at the end of the night shift. The underground and bus services were either partially or completely paralysed in the main cities, despite the fact that there had been some court decisions banning some sections from going out on strike. The governor of Sao Paulo, João Dória, threatened to sack underground workers if they went on strike.

During the day, there were demonstrations and rallies outside the main workplaces as well as pickets. In the afternoon, hundreds of thousands came onto the streets in over 300 demonstrations across the whole country, including 50,000 in Sao Paulo, the same number in Porto Alegre and 100,000 in Rio de Janeiro, according to the organisers. The mood was very militant and the slogan “Fora Bolsonaro” (Bolsonaro Out!) caught on, despite attempts by the leaders of the left and the trade unions to limit themselves to demand the resignation of Justice Minister Moro. The demonstrations could have been bigger had it not been for the role played by the trade union leaders, which did their best to prevent militant demonstrations in the streets. The CUT’s president Vagner Freitas openly called on workers “to stay home” as part of the general strike.

Masses react against attacks

The strike was preceded by revelations published by The Intercept of improper conduct by the judge and state prosecutors during the trial of PT leader for corruption, with the aim of preventing him, first from being a candidate in the presidential election when he was first in the opinion polls; and then from giving any public interviews from jail, which could have influenced the election result.

This is a major scandal, which puts into question not only the validity of Lula’s trial, in which he was sentenced to jail for corruption without any evidence, but also questions the legitimacy of the presidential election itself. Had Lula been allowed to stand, it is likely that he would have gone on to win the presidency. Furthermore, the scandal affects Judge Moro, who presided over the trial against Lula and was then rewarded with the Ministry of Justice in Bolsonaro’s government, as well as being promised a seat in the Supreme Court. The latest revelations in this scandal show how Judge Moro, who was supposed to be neutral and impartial, told the prosecution to issue a press statement to rebut the arguments of Lula’s defence team. Despite the fact that he is still the most-popular member of the government, the number of people who have a positive opinion of him has fallen sharply from 60 to 50 percent over these recent leaks, adding to the ailments of the Bolsonaro government, which has just seen another of its ministers being sacked.

The pensions counter-reform is a major part of the anti-working class offensive, which the ruling class needs to implement and is being spearheaded by ultra-liberal Finance Minister Paulo Guedes. If implemented, it would be a major setback, increasing the retirement age for both men and women, as well as increasing the necessary contributions. It would have a particularly negative impact on public sector workers. The counter-reform has become very unpopular, including amongst many who voted for Bolsonaro. Furthermore, it faces a number of important hurdles in its parliamentary procedure before it can be approved. Let us remember that Bolsonaro’s party does not command a majority in the lower house, which despite being dominated by bourgeois parties, is not to keen to bear the responsibility for such a brutal attack.

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Questions related to this article:

How effective are mass protest marches?

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The congressional committee report on the pensions proposal included a number of minor concessions, for instance regarding the basic state pension, the pension system for workers in rural areas and even put into question one of the central ideas of Guedes proposal such as the move to individual private savings accounts. The idea behind this move by the “centre” bourgeois parties in parliament is to make some minor amendments to Guedes’ plan in order to bring the PT governors from the north-eastern states on board in accepting the basic principle of the need for a “reform” of the pension system. These governors, from the PT and the PCdoB, had issued a letter asking to be included in the negotiations of the pensions “reform”. According to some calculations, the congressional plan would reduce the amount of cuts involved from R$1.2 billion to “just” R$850 million. Nevertheless, the central aspects of the counter-reform remain, increasing the retirement age, as well as the amount of contributions workers will have to pay. The manoeuvre by Congress was also aimed at dividing the workers and weakening the impact of the general strike. Guedes reacted angrily to these proposals and threatened to resign if his original plan was not approved. The pension counter-reform law is supposed to be put to a final vote before the parliamentary recess at the end of July.

Bolsonaro government weakening

The Bolsonaro government is riddled with all sorts of internal splits and divisions, with at least three major factions fighting each other publicly. The struggle against education cuts and the attacks on pensions have provoked a steep decline in its popularity. Those who think that the government is bad or very bad have increased from 22.5 percent in February to 37.4 percent now, while those who think the government is good or excellent have declined from 38.7 percent to 30.4 percent.

Any hope that an economic recovery would prop up Bolsonaro has quickly evaporated. Figures for the first quarter of 2019 reveal an economic contraction of -0.2 percent, the first one since the end of the recession in 2016. As well as the international slowdown hitting Brazil’s extractive sector (-6.3 percent), the country’s car industry has been hit by the recession in neighbouring Argentina. Overall, industry fell by 2 percent in the first quarter. Unemployment has barely decreased and remains at 12.7 percent (30 percent amongst the youth), a total of over 13 million unemployed.

All indicators are down. Capitalists are no longer happy with the government, which is proving unable to move fast in implementing the policies the ruling class demands and risks provoking a social explosion on the lines of the 2013 June days. A survey of “money managers, economists and traders” carried out by XP Investimentos  showed how approval of the Bolsonaro government had fallen to 14 percent in May, from a high of 86 percent in January, while those rating it as bad or awful had risen to 43 percent, from 1 percent!

At a certain point, if Bolsonaro becomes too unpopular and is unable to implement the programme the capitalists need, they might consider the option of replacing him with the more “moderate” and “reasonable” figure of his vice-president Hamilton Mourão, from the government’s “military wing”.

Faced with such a weak and divided government it would be perfectly feasible to defeat the pensions counter-reform and also bring the government down. That would require a fighting leadership, which neither the leaders of the left organisations nor those of the trade unions are providing.

Fora Bolsonaro!

They were in shock when Bolsonaro won the second round of the presidential election, an outcome they were unable to understand. The leaders of the PT and the CUT reacted by raising a hue and cry about “fascism” having come to power. This was completely false and only served to cover their own cowardice in organising the struggle against the government. Bolsonaro’s government is reactionary and he is a dangerous, far-right demagogue with Bonapartist aspirations. But what we have in Brazil is not fascism, which would imply a reactionary government able to mobilise mass support amongst the petty bourgeoisie in order to physically suppress the workers’ organisations. On the contrary, what we have seen on 15 and 30 May, and above all yesterday during the general strike, is a powerful mobilisation of the working class and the youth and Bolsonaro’s failure to counter it with a mass movement on the streets on 26 May.

From this wrong political appraisal, the leaders of the PT and the CUT draw the conclusion that the situation is bad, Bolsonaro has mass support and therefore the slogan “Bolsonaro Out” is out of order. In this they are joined, unfortunately, by the leaders of the PSOL and the majority of the ultra-left sects. While the PT and CUT leaders argue that Bolsonaro was democratically elected (!!) and should be allowed to finish his term of office, the ultra-left sectarians argue that the slogan is premature and pointedly refuse to raise it. Both reformists and ultra-lefts are united in their lack of confidence in the working class.

Leaders of 10 different parties met on 20 May  in an attempt to organise a “cross-party front” against Bolsonaro. The meeting included bourgeois parties, as well as representatives from the PT, PCdoB and PSOL. As is always the case in these popular fronts, the programme was watered down so much as to mean almost nothing. There was no agreement in opposing the pensions counter-reform, which the bourgeois parties support. The demand therefore was dropped from the common front. There was no agreement on a basic, simple, democratic demand “Lula Livre”, so this was dropped.

One thing they all agreed on was… to reject the slogan “Fora Bolsonaro”. This was also the line coming from Lula, who is still in jail. The arguments are surreal. Some say that the slogan could be interpreted as a slogan in favour of Vice-President Mourao! Others argue that there should be legal grounds for demanding the impeachment of Bolsonaro, but the mass demonstrations in the streets don’t want to impeach him, they want to overthrow him!

At the meeting, PT leader Haddad insisted that the opposition agreement should be broadened in order to get the support of the centre and the “liberal centre-right”. The leader of the PCdoB parliamentary group was very pleased with the meeting and said that “we must fight against sectarianism in Brazilian politics”! At a separate meeting of left parties, involving the PT, PSB, PCdoB, PDT and PSOL on 22 May, they agreed not to raise the demand Fora Bolsonaro, despite the pressure coming from the 15 May demonstrations.

The comrades of the Esquerda Marxista  (Brazilian section of the International Marxist Tendency) have intervened since the beginning of the movement raising precisely the idea that the government can be defeated by a mass united movement of the working class. This idea can be summarised in the slogan “Fora Bolsonaro”. Defeating Bolsonaro, they argue correctly, would require not just a 24-hour general strike, but the preparation of indefinite strike action with the aim not only of defeating the pension counter-reform but of bringing down the government.

The general strike on 14 June showed the willingness to struggle by workers and the youth. If they had a leadership up to the task, the Bolsonaro government would be counting its days.

Celebrating arrests, but still pushing for change, protesters rally in Algeria

…. HUMAN RIGHTS ….

An article by Ulf Laessing in Reuters

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in the Algerian capital for the 17th consecutive Friday, demanding the removal of the ruling elite and prosecution of former officials linked to former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.


Demonstrators carry banners and flags during a protest demanding the removal of the ruling elite and prosecution of former officials linked to former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in Algiers, Algeria June 14, 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina
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After 20 years in power, Bouteflika quit on April 2 under pressure from protesters and the army, but protests have continued.

The demonstrators are pushing for radical change and seeking the departure of senior figures, including politicians and businessmen, who have governed the North African country since independence from France in 1962.

There was no official count, but a Reuters correspondent estimated that the number of people protesting was higher than last Friday. It was still smaller than in the weeks before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in May, however.

At this week’s rally they celebrated the arrest of several former officials and business people linked to Bouteflika on anti-graft charges, demanding more action.

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Questions related to this article:

How effective are mass protest marches?

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“You have built prisons, you will be imprisoned there all,” read one banner held up by protesters marching through central Algiers, scene of mass dissent since February.

On Thursday, the supreme court remanded ex-prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal in custody over graft allegations.

State media also said police had arrested Mourad Eulmi, head of the private firm SOVAC, a partner of Germany’s Volkswagen AG, at a car assembly plant in the western province of Relizane in connection with “corruption cases”. It did not elaborate. Volkswagen declined to comment.

On Wednesday, the supreme court ordered the detention of another former prime minister, Ahmed Ouyahia, for alleged involvement in corruption.

Bouteflika’s youngest brother, Said, and two former intelligence chiefs have also been placed in custody by a military judge for “harming the army’s authority and plotting against state authority”.

Protesters rejected an offer from interim President Abdelkader Bensalah to hold a dialogue with all parties after authorities postponed a presidential election previously planned for July 4. No new date has been set for the vote.

“We need real dialogue”, read one protest banner. Protesters have rejected Bensalah as too close to Bouteflika.

Armed forces chief Lieutenant-General Ahmed Gaed Salah, who has been managing the transition, has called on parties and protesters to meet among themselves to discuss a way out of the crisis.

He also called for the prosecution of officials accused of being corrupt, after which the wave of arrests started.

Friendship – a Pathway to Peace

.. DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION ..

By Irene Kai and David Wick, co-founders of the Ashland Culture of Peace Commission

A foreign language professor at the Southern Oregon College (currently SOU) took a group of students on a bus trip to Guanajuato Mexico to learn immersion Spanish and the Mexican culture every year in the 1960s. In 1969, Señora Chela established a sister school relationship with the Southern Oregon College and the University of Guanajuato. She also established the sister city relationship with the Mayors of Guanajuato and Ashland. The Amigo Club was born. During the fifty years Ashland has formed a wonderful and close relationship with Guanajuato. Students flow between the two universities, faculty and city officials visit both cities, there are marriages between students, and some of Señora Chela’s students from Guanajuato went on to become a Governor, Minister of Economics and officers of the Mexican Government.


World Peace Flame ceremony in Plaza de la Paz, the Peace Plaza
(click on image to enlarge)

In April of this year, a delegation of fifty people from Guanajuato with their Mayor, City Council members, faculty from the university and the president of the Peace Commission visited Ashland. During their stay, they visited the World Peace Flame Monument at the Thalden Pavilion. The Mayor from Guanajuato was so inspired by this iconic symbol of Peace in Ashland that he asked if Ashland Culture of Peace Commission (ACPC) would assist him to install a World Peace Flame in Guanajuato. This would be the first World Peace Flame in Latin America. He invited us to visit Guanajuato with the Ashland delegation the following month to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Sister City relationship.

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Questions for this article:

How can culture of peace be developed at the municipal level?

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When we arrived in Guanajuato, we were embraced as if we were family members. The instant warmth, open heartedness was immediate. During our stay, we learned so much about the beauty, history, art and the culture of the people and the city, especially the heartfelt closeness of the 50-year relationship everyone held dear. Wherever we went, we were serenaded by music and showered with genuine affection. The week-long celebration was packed with programs from 8am to 11pm daily. One of the programs that was requested by the Mayor of Guanajuato was having a peace ceremony conducted by ACPC at the Plaza de la Paz, the Peace Plaza in the center of the city, in order to set the intention to bring the World Peace Flame to Guanajuato in the very near future. Irene brought the candle she lit from the original World Peace Flame in Wales and gifted it to their city. The mayor lit the candle with a young school girl, a symbolic gesture of passing peace to the next generation. Most nation’s history is recorded by periods of war, at this gathering, we were writing history for our next generation, our commitment to peace. Ashland proclaimed itself a City of Peace on 5/16/2017. We also guided Guanajuato to join the International Cities of Peace after the ceremony.

Why is friendship important? As we know, long term friendship builds a strong bond, especially one for 50 years. We see each other face to face, share our joy and challenges of our children, grandchildren and life in general. Inspire and lift each other up when times are tough and go out having a grand time just enjoying each other as well. There is no difference between personal friendship and a sister cities relationship, it’s only in a different scale. As with most things of value, this is an investment with a Return On Investment on many levels. Strong bonds between cities may become a saving grace in the world.

The University of Guanajuato and SOU share knowledge and encourage students to immerse in different cultures. When they are exposed to something new, they tend to be open to learning in a safe environment instead of being fearful and lash out. They will become better global citizens with a bigger capacity of tolerance. When city officials share ideas on how to manage and govern, through open dialogue of friendship, the conversations become instructive and valued.

At this time, there is such a lack of civility in our daily interactions on all levels, personal attacks become the normal course of dialogue. The deep friendship between Guanajuato and Ashland deserves to be nurtured and cherished, like in any family, we are teaching our children how to build good relationships.

When Guanajuato installs the World Peace Flame, Ashland and Guanajuato will be the first Sister Cities in the world with sister World Peace Flames.

Agroecology and peasant agriculture to preserve biodiversity

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article from AVSF, Agronomes & Vétérinaires Sans Frontières

On May 6, 2019, in its report on biodiversity, the IPBES [Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services] alerted us about the short-term threat of extinction of nearly 1 million animal and plant species. Agricultural and livestock farming are partly responsible for this disaster, while agroecology and peasant agriculture represent an urgent alternative to preserve biodiversity.

In 2017, we warned of the worrying erosion of agricultural biodiversity: 75% of edible varieties have disappeared in 100 years (FAO). The bulk of human nutrition is based on only 12 plant species and 14 animal species! In the past 10 years, at least one domestic animal breed has disappeared each month (and its genetic characteristics with it), and 20% of the world’s cattle, goats, swine, equine and poultry breeds are at risk of extinction. At cause: the promotion of a productivist agriculture with high capital investment and synthetic inputs, looking for very high yields in the short term. Agroecology under peasant farming conditions is a solution: it relies on agricultural biodiversity, values ​​it while protecting it, and in doing so contributes to the maintenance of biodiversity as a whole.

Agricultural biodiversity is a part of biodiversity that, through agricultural production, contributes to the food of populations as well as the preservation of ecosystems. It is particularly important for maintaining the productivity and resilience of cropping and farming systems in precarious and vulnerable environments. It is this great diversity of plant species and animal breeds adapted to the local environment that guarantees the survival of many peasants from Africa, Asia or Latin America on their farms and pastures, even in difficult climatic conditions and on fragile soils.

In countries of the southern hemisphere, initiatives have multiplied in recent years to upgrade local species and sustainably preserve agricultural biodiversity. These initiatives, often developed at the family farm level, have highlighted the close relationship between food security and biodiversity.

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(Click here for the original French version.)

Question for this article:

What is the relation between movements for food sovereignty and the global movement for a culture of peace?

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Two projects that preserve agricultural biodiversity

In the north of Haiti, small producers are processing quality cocoa, made from old varieties, criollo and trinitario, typical of the Caribbean. Renowned for their finesse and powerful aromas, these beans are mainly intended for high-end chocolate, like the criollo which represents only 5% of world production, and is therefore a sought-after variety. Although chocolatiers are highly demanding, these beans have so far been poorly valued on the world market. Why ? Because these Haitian beans were not fermented, a primordial step that releases the “precursors” of aromas. AVSF has therefore trained producers of FECCANO farmers’ cooperatives in the fermentation techniques of these ancient varieties. Several fermentation, collection and packaging centers were installed for the producers of the 8 cooperatives. A cocoa that is today highly paid on the organic, fair and quality markets in Europe, for the benefit of both producers and biodiversity: grown in the heart of woodland gardens in association with many shade and fruit trees and other crops , cocoa plays an important role not only in food security, but also in maintaining fertility and biodiversity in general.

Throughout West Africa, peasant farming is characterized by the diversity of livestock breeds that it values. These breeds have exceptional adaptive capacities that have earned their durability, as well as resistance to certain parasitic diseases, such as trypanosomiasis, transmitted by tsetse fly and endemic throughout the region. Nowadays, this sustainability is threatened by the disturbing erosion of the diversity of local breeds, increasingly squeezed by introduced breeds for their higher productivity in milk and meat.

In Senegal, AVSF is supporting breeders’ organizations to improve the value of endemic ruminant livestock (the Ndama breed for example) and to demonstrate its competitiveness both in the markets and for the resilience of populations in the face of climatic or economic shocks. This breed is of small size, with good fecundity. Its speed of growth and its satisfactory qualities confer to it undeniable butchery qualities. This valorization is done through the organization of competitions, exhibitions and fairs specific to these species and races.

Through its numerous projects, AVSF has been working with farmers in the South for 40 years to preserve and reclaim agricultural and animal biodiversity and thus ensure their food security and that of the urban populations they feed.

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(Thank you to Kiki Chauvin, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

PAYNCoP Gabon organizes a conference on the challenges of building peace in Africa

… EDUCATION FOR PEACE …

Sent to CPNN by Jerry Bibang, Coordinator of PAYNCoP Gabon (translation by CPNN)

As part of the celebrations for the 10th anniversary of the death of President Omar Bongo Ondimba, the National Coordination of the Pan-African Youth Network for Peace Culture (PAYNCoP Gabon) organized, on Saturday, June 8, at the House of the United Nations, a conference on the theme: “The new challenges of building peace in Africa.”


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The meeting which brought together mainly the leaders of youth organizations was punctuated by three communications. The first, led by Jerry Bibang, National Coordinator of PAYNCoP Gabon, focused on youth involvement in peace and security issues.

According to the speaker, young people are the most important age group in Africa and Gabon. As a result, they are the main artisans and victims of conflicts and wars. Therefore, it is important for them to be involved at all levels in peace and security issues. For the Coordinator of PAYNCoP Gabon, it is simply a question of implementing Resolution 2250, adopted since 2015 by the United Nations Security Council. This resolution recommends that states involve young people at all levels in matters of peace and security, particularly during prevention, mediation, conflict resolution and post-conflict activities. The involvement of young people is one of the challenges in peacebuilding, concluded the National Coordinator of PAYNCoP Gabon.

(click here for the French version)

Question for this article:

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Mediation as a tool for nonviolence and culture of peace

For Dr. Jean Delors Biyoghe, the new challenges of peace-building are many and varied. They can be summed up in the good faith of mediators, the fragility of the states, the problem of bad governance, the securisation of cyber-space and many others.
 
Indeed, according to this political scientist, the actors in charge of mediations often have a conflict of interest when resolving crises or conflicts. How can you convince a Head of State to leave power peacefully and democratically if you yourself are undemocratic? the speaker asked. The obsolescence of conflict resolution strategies is also one of the challenges. Instead of building peace, we are witnessing the imposition of peace, the speaker noted. This is the case, for example, in Mali and the Central African Republic.

In addition, the rise of multinationals, coupled with the proliferation of fragile states, is another challenge to peacebuilding. According to the speaker, building peace requires that the social and economic needs of citizens are met. We can not really build peace if the vital needs of the people remain dissatisfied.

The third communication, provided by Theophane Nzame-Biyoghe, focused on the political and diplomatic action of Omar Bongo Ondimba as a champion of peace. The speaker reviewed the various crises and conflicts resolved by the former Head of State, particularly in Angola, the Central African Republic and the Congo … a commitment to peace that has earned him several international awards including the prize “Golden Laurel of Peace”, awarded by the International Peace Trophies Jury, the MANAHAE Peace Prize, awarded by South Korea in recognition of these efforts for the restoration of stability and the resolution of armed conflicts in the Central African subregion. For Theophane Nzame, Omar Bongo Ondimba leaves a legacy that all Gabonese should appropriate, even if peace remains an ideal in perpetual construction.

PAYNCoP Gabon Advocates for Youth Involvement in Peace and Security Issues

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

Sent to CPNN by Jerry Bibang, coordinator of PAYNCoP Gabon (translation by CPNN)

The National Coordination of the Pan-African Youth Network for the Culture of Peace (PAYNCoP Gabon) recently met with a UN delegation, sent by the UN Secretary-General, as part of the strategic review of the UN Regional Office for Peace in Central Africa (UNOCA).

The multidisciplinary team, led by the former Special Representative of the SG of the United Nations, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, came to assess the work done by UNOCA in the sub-region. Among several civil society organizations invited to take part in the assessment, the National Coordinator of the Panafrican Youth Network for Peace Culture took advantage of the opportunity to advocate for youth involvement in peace and security issues.

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( Click here for the French original..)

 

Question related to this article.

Youth initiatives for a culture of peace, How can we ensure they get the attention and funding they deserve?

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For Jerry Bibang, youth is the largest and most important social category in the subregion and in the world. Young people are therefore the main artisans and the victims of conflicts and wars. It is therefore necessary to involve these young people, at all levels of process in issues of peace and security, particularly in prevention, mediation, post-conflict activities, etc.

According to the National Coordinator of PAYNCoP Gabon, it is simply a question of implementing Resolution 2250 (youth, peace and security) in accordance with the recommendations of the UN Security Council. Also, the first person in charge of PAYNCoP Gabon invited the UN team to support activities and projects related to the prevention and promotion of the culture of peace. Despite our commitment, our goodwill and our ideas, if we are not supported, our action will remain limited, he said.

The problem of legal recognition of civil society organizations was also highlighted. All the organizations present, in particular, the women’s press network for peace, the Gabon Group Resolution 1325 platform, the Center for Democracy and Human Rights (CDDH-Gabon), the NGO Brainforest and PAYNCoP Gabon unanimously acknowledged that the difficulty of obtaining legal recognition is an obstacle to the mobilization of funds for associations and NGOs. Hence they requested advocacy with the government to make efforts on this issue.

United Nations: More Unified, Early Action Key for Preventing Conflict, Reducing Human Suffering, Speakers Tell Security Council

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An article from the United Nations

The United Nations should explore greater use of conflict prevention and mediation tools enshrined in its founding Charter, speakers told the Security Council today [June 12], as it examined the Organization’s long-standing culture of spending billions of dollars on addressing crises after failing to contain them before they fester.

“When we act early, and are united, we can successfully prevent crises from escalating, saving lives and reducing suffering – fulfilling the most fundamental mandate of the United Nations, as set out in the Preamble to the Charter,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

Along with successful constitutional transfers of power in Mali and Madagascar, the rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea and the revitalized agreement in South Sudan have created a sense of renewed hope, he said.  Elsewhere, however, such as Yemen, Syria and Libya, serious challenges remain.  Governments must make full use of the broad range of conflict prevention and resolution tools set out in Chapter VI of the Charter and the Council should use its authority to call on parties to pursue them.

Citing examples of his good offices and those of his envoys to help parties peacefully resolve differences, he said members of his High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation have given discreet counsel to him and his representatives on various political processes.  Mediation advisers on the Standby Team have supported processes in Afghanistan, South Sudan, Papua New Guinea and Syria.  The United Nations has also deepened its strategic and operational partnerships with regional and subregional organizations, with a special focus on Africa.  However, prevention and mediation will not work without broader, more unified political efforts by all States.  “That is the only way to meet our responsibilities to the people we serve,” he emphasized.

Mr. Guterres’ predecessor, Ban Ki-Moon, who is now Deputy Chair of The Elders – a group founded by Nelson Mandela of independent global leaders that promotes peace, justice and human rights – warned that the risk of nuclear conflict is at its highest in decades.  Deeply concerned about the United States’ decision to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal, he said there is a very real risk that the global arms control and nuclear non-proliferation architecture is in danger of collapse through neglect, hubris and ill-founded threat analysis.  That issue goes to the heart of the Council, whose five permanent members are all nuclear armed States with a unique and heavy responsibility.

Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and Chair of The Elders, said the Council should be seen as an instrument of deliverance, a defender of rights and a provider of protection.  “But too often over the decades the Council – and, particularly, its five permanent members – has failed to live up to its responsibilities and has favoured realpolitik or short-term power stratagems rather than meeting the solemn commitments outlined in the United Nations Charter,” she said.  Moreover, insufficient attention has been paid to the role and voice of women on the ground in preventing conflict.

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Question(s) related to this article:

What is the United Nations doing for a culture of peace?

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Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kuwait and Council President for June, speaking in his national capacity, said conflicts today are increasingly complex and intertwined, but they could have been prevented through effective use of such Council tools as Chapter VI, which reaffirms the Council’s preventative role, and Chapter VIII, which encourages the peaceful resolution of local conflicts through regional mechanisms, as well as Article 99 which refers to the Secretary-General’s good offices.  Mediation can save a lot of trouble, sorrow and pain, as well as the billions of dollars spent on peacekeeping operations and humanitarian action.

The representative of the United States, supporting that view, said mediation is an “underappreciated tool” that can save billions of dollars and many lives.  More women should participate, he said, pointing to a study that showed peace agreements are 35 per cent more likely to last for 15 years when women are involved. His own country has been a leader in mediation efforts, he said, citing successes in Northern Ireland and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Indonesia’s delegate said the Organization should focus on helping national and regional efforts to peacefully settle disputes, noting that his country and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have relied fundamentally on dialogue and consultation.  Regional entities enjoy unique bonds of history and knowledge, he said, adding that “neighbours know best” and urging the Council to engage such entities from the earliest signs of potential conflict.  Greater funding and more reliable support from the United Nations regular budget should underpin prevention and mediation efforts.

France’s delegate said that greater investment is also needed in post-conflict peacebuilding, including reconciliation, transitional justice and reconstruction to prevent conflict from reoccurring.

The speaker for the Russian Federation warned that conflict prevention is not a panacea and should not be used as a shield for interfering in States’ internal affairs.  The situations in Iraq, Libya and Syria are examples of the consequences of shameless outside intervention, he said, adding that the most successful mediation in Venezuela is being conducted by States that are not taking sides there.  United Nations mediators should be selected on the basis of objective criteria and with respect for regional balance, he stressed.

Also speaking today were representatives of China, United Kingdom, Dominican Republic, Germany, South Africa, Peru, Equatorial Guinea, Poland, Côte d’Ivoire and Belgium.

(Thank you to Phyllis Kotite, the CPNN reporter for this article.)