Tag Archives: global

The Second Level Geopolitical War in Ukraine Takes Over

DISARMAMENT & SECURITY .

A blog by Richard Falk reprinted by Transcend Media Service

. . . It has become increasingly clear to the world that there is not one, but two, actually three, distinct levels of conflict embedded in what the world’s media and political leadership deceptively insist on calling the ‘Ukraine War.’ The first level was initiated on February 24, 2022 when Russia launched an aggressive war against Ukraine imperiling the country’s most basic sovereign rights as well as its territorial integrity. The second level was difficult to discern in the first weeks of the war, but became soon evident as the NATO countries led by the United States placed an increasing emphasis on lending escalating support to Ukraine’s adopted goals of achieving an unexpected military victory. This support took various forms including the steady supply of heavy weaponry, robust financial assistance, punitive sanctions, and a drumbeat of ‘official’ demonization of Russia and its leadership. In the beginning it seemed appropriate to lend support to Ukraine as the target of aggression, and hail the resistance efforts led by President Volodymyr Zelensky, in defense of a relatively small country being overrun by a large neighbor.


Richard Falk

Even this widely endorsed narrative was deceptive and one-sided as it overlooked the provocative nature of NATO expansion, abetted in Ukraine’s case by American interference in the internal politics of the country to help turn the political tide against Russia. It is in this internal setting that on which the third level of the war persists as there is no doubt that anti-Russian elements in Western Ukraine were deeply abusive toward the majority Russian speaking population in Eastern Ukraine known as the Donbas region. The non-implementation of the Minsk Agreements negotiated in 2014-15 to protect the Ukrainians in the East and accept a high degree of autonomy led to oppressive policies by the Kyiv government giving added strength to separatist aspirations. It remains uncertain as whether the Russia/Ukraine level of combat can be resolved without serious addressing Russian and Donbas concerns at the core of this third level of conflict.

What has been apparent to critics for some time is that Western diplomacy has increasingly become primarily committed to the second level Geopolitical War even at the cost of greatly prolonging and aggravating the Ukrainian war on the ground and producing growing risks of a wider war. Only in the past few days has this priority been more or less acknowledged by high officials in the U.S. Government, most dramatically in the visit of Antony Blinken, Secretary of State, and Austin, Secretary of Defense to Ukraine and later in their meeting with NATO counterparts in Europe. What was revealed was that the number one policy goal of the U.S. was ‘the weakening of Russia’ made to military planners a credible undertaking by the unexpected resistance capabilities of Ukrainian armed forces bolstered by a show unified nationalist resolve. In keeping with this line of thinking, arms shipments to Ukraine were steadily increased in quantity and quality. More tellingly, so-called heavy armaments with offensive capabilities began to be supplied to Ukraine, with militarists in NATO countries even proposing attacking targets in Russia. As this dynamic unfolded, Germany joined in by dramatically reversed its proclaimed policy of not providing heavy weaponry. The whole tenor of assistance from NATO countries shifted from helping Ukraine resist to addressing the geopolitical agenda with its two goals: inflicting a humiliating defeat on Russia and signaling China not to indulge any doubts about Western resolve to defend Taiwan.

Despite this shift in emphasis, earlier concerns with escalating the Geopolitical War with Russia have not been entirely abandoned. Efforts continue to be made to ensure that U.S. and Russia to not engage in direct combat with opposing weapons system and to not produce situations that push Russian toward a reliance on nuclear weapons to avoid battlefield defeat. White House perceptions of what will cause such recourse to nuclear weaponry at this point seems dangerous divergent. It is widely reported that the Biden presidency continues to resist pressures to establish No Fly Zone in Ukraine because it would greatly heighten prospects for direct combat encounters between the NATO and Russia, and with it risks of this new species of cold war turning uncontrollably hot. But what of Biden’s demonization of Russia as guilty of genocide and Putin as a war criminal who should be driven from power? And what of the continuous increases of political, financial, and military assistance to Ukraine coupled with the absence of any hint that a diplomatic alternative exists that would stop the killing. This has been missing all along. There have been no indications by Washington of receptivity to a diplomacy emphasizing the primary humanitarian imperative of an immediate ceasefire and a political process of compromise and mutual security between Russia and Ukraine the overt international antagonists. It is missing because the U.S. on prosecuting the Geopolitical War as long as necessary, and this  takes precedence over the wellbeing of the Ukrainian people, or even the rationally conceived self-interest of the NATO powers.

Zelensky early in the war indicated receptivity to a ceasefire and political compromise, including an acceptance of permanent neutrality for Ukraine, signaled his willingness to meet with Putin to agree upon a process. As time passes, however, Zelensky has pulled back from this dual stance of armed resistance and peace diplomacy, and come to adopt a position that appears seamless with that of the U.S. as if his priority had also shifted to the level 2 Geopolitical War.

My conjecture is that Zelensky, although displaying great talents as a wartime resistance leader has very little sophistication about international relations in general, and seems susceptible to this more militarist line bolstered by promises of decisive support from Washington and possible pressures from his own supposedly hawkish general staff. After all, Zelensky’s background is in theater, until recently he was a performing comedian without any signs of awareness of the wider risks to Ukraine if it subordinates its national interests to the logic of going on with the Geopolitical War wherever it might lead.

As expected, Moscow has already reacted to this escalation of this second level war by warning that it will not back down, but will take all necessary steps to protect its national security interests, intimating if it comes to that, a readiness to have recourse to nuclear weapons. Such inflamed atmospherics can easily produce accidental or preemptive acts that accelerate escalation, which is especially serious in the current context that lacks crisis management links of the sort established between Moscow and Washington in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It took that close encounter back in 1962 with its apocalyptic war scenario that led these superpower antagonists to understand that they had averted a monumental mutual catastrophe by sheer luck, and must take steps to avoid future drifts toward nuclear war however great the crisis in their relationship.

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Questions related to this article:
 
Can the peace movement help stop the war in the Ukraine?

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While most attention is focused on the inter-governmental play of forces it is helpful to take account of other perspectives: civil society peace initiatives, the views of the Global South, and the initiatives of the UN Secretary General. These perspectives call attention to the startling fact that alternatives to aggressive war and geopolitical ambition exist. The Western media blithely hides the awkward fact that Russia is more globally supported in the Geopolitical War than is the United States, preferring the balances of multipolarity to the hegemonies of unipolarity. The Global North controls the discourse prevailing on the most influential media platforms, creating the misleading impression that the whole world, except the outliers, are content with U.S. leadership.

Civil Society Initiatives

Almost from the day the Russian attack began, peace activists and NGOs concerned in some way with peace, security, and humanitarianism urged an end to the killing by way of a ceasefire and some political process that dealt with the level 1 and 3 grievances. This is not to say there were not sharp tensions within civil society, especially surrounding how to interpret the pre-war NATO maneuvers  or the Russian manipulation of the strife in Donbas. By and large the liberal and left liberal mainstream supported outright condemnation of Russian aggression, but favored an immediate ceasefire and diplomacy to ending the war and mitigating the humanitarian emergency of death, devastation, and displacement. Those who can be crudely identified as the anti-imperial left tended to excuse or at least place major responsibility for the outbreak of war on the context largely fashioned by Western provocations (especially NATO expansion) and interference in Ukraine’s internal politics since 2014 as did some on the extreme right who identified with Putin’s authoritarianism as future wave of world politics.

What contrasted the civil society perspectives in spite of their diversity, with NATO/mainstream media postures, was their shared stress on stopping the killing, the relevance of diplomacy, and their implicit or explicit refusal to condone recourse to the Level 2 Geopolitical War. Typical examples of civil society proposals can be found in the Pugwash Peace Proposal and the Just World Education booklet distributed under the title “Ukraine: Stop the Carnage, Build the Peace”(available from Amazon or from www.justworldeducational.org, containing eight policy recommendations).

The Voice of the Global South

Given little notice in the Global North was the refusal of the greater part of the Global South to support the mobilization of coercive and punitive sanctions diplomacy directed at Russia and its leader. This split from the West first became evident in the two votes on Ukraine in the UN General Assembly. The entire world including the most of the main countries in the Global South supported the condemnation of the Level 1 Russian aggression, but either abstained or opposed support for the Level 2 Geopolitical War Initiated by the U.S. against Russia in the early stages of the attack on Ukraine. As Trita Parti of the Washington-based think tank, Quincy Institute, pointed out much of the Global South actually supported Russia in the Geopolitical War context, which was interpreted as the U.S. commitment to extending the mandate contained in a unipolar world order of the sort it had acted upon since the Soviet collapse and the end of the Cold War. The Global South greatly preferred the dynamics of a multipolar world, and regarded Russia as seeking in Ukraine to reassert its traditional geopolitical suzerainty over its ‘near abroad,’ a stand against the U.S. as the unopposed guardian of security throughout the planet. It should be appreciated that the U.S. has 97% of overseas military bases and accounts for 40% of the world’s military expenditures, greater than that of the next 11 countries.

The U.S. position is no way renounces traditional geopolitics but seeks to monopolize its implementation. In that spirit it views the attempted reassertion by China and Russia of traditional spheres of influence as an intrusion on international law, while the U.S. at the same time defends its practice of managing the first global sphere of influence in world history. Blinken has said as much, declaring spheres of influence as contrary to international law ever since World War II while simultaneously upholding the sole prerogative of the U.S. when it comes to managing security throughout such a rule-governed world (not to be confused with international law, and its efforts at rule- governance). The UN or international law are marginalized with respect to peace and security in the face of this assumption of geopolitical dominance resting on a mixture of political ambition and military capabilities.

The UN Secretary General

Throughout the Ukraine crisis Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General, has articulated a point of view toward the Ukraine Crisis that contrasts in fundamental ways from the positions taken by the political actors on the three levels of conflict. His words and proposals are much closer in spirit to the calls emanating from civil society and the Global South. He expressed the spirit of his endeavors concisely shortly after Russia attacked: “End the hostilities now. Silence the guns now. Open the door to dialogue and diplomacy.” “The ticking clock is a time bomb.”

Traveling in Moscow to meet with Putin and the Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, the SG’s message was more in keeping with diplomatic style, yet similar in content: Focus on ways to end war, and desist from carrying the fight against Russia a day longer. He told Lavrov that “We are extremely interested in finding ways to create the conditions for effective dialogue, create conditions for a ceasefire as soon as possible, create conditions for a peaceful solution.” Putin in the one-on-one meeting with Guterres given the aggressiveness of his counterpart in Washington seemed guardedly receptive to allowing the UN and Red Cross to play a humanitarian role in Ukraine and seemed cautiously receptive to seeking a negotiated end to the conflict on the ground. Of course, it would be premature to have much confidence in any assessment until deeds follow words. At the same time we seem entitled to lament the failure to hear a comparable level of peace-mindedness in Biden’s public statements, which so far seem calculated to stir anti-Russian fury and war-mindedness rather than to set the stage for ending this frightening multi-level conflict.

The stark difference between the UN SG’s approach and that of the geopolitical leadership of the world, should make many persons dedicated to a better future initiate a campaign to set the UN free from its Charter framework that accords primacy explicit primacy to its geopolitical actors.

Concluding Observation

Unraveling the intertwined nature of these three levels of conflict bound up in the ambiguities of the Ukraine War is crucial for an understanding of its complexity and to analyze whether responses and proposals are of service to the general betterment of humanity. It also facilitates the identification of unresponsive policies and proposals that hearken back to the days when matters of war and peace could be left to the discretion of politicians guided by neither ethics nor prudence, but rather have risen to power because they serve the material interests of elites in the private sector. On this basis, I believe that two overriding assessments emerge from an examination of the current interplay of forces in these Ukraine wars: stop the killing by all means available and unconditionally repudiate the Geopolitical War.

Peace Train (Music Video of the Week)

EDUCATION FOR PEACE .

An article from TRANSCEND Media service

Music Video of the Week, 18 Apr 2022 : Yusuf/Cat Stevens | Playing For Change –

“Peace Train” – Yusuf/Cat Stevens’ timeless anthem of hope and unity was originally released in 1971. This Song Around The World version features more than 25 musicians from 12 countries, and Cat Stevens singing and playing a beautiful white piano in a tranquil open air setting in Istanbul, Turkey.


(Click on image to go to the video)

(Editor’s note: According to the Wikipedia article about Cat Stevens, he has publicly performed and/or recorded “Peace Train” on numerous occasions, including the first time in 1971 in the album “Teaser and the Firecat”, which reached number two and achieved gold record status within three weeks of its release in the United States

In October 2001, at the Concert for New York City, condemning the attacks of September he sang “Peace Train” for the first time in public in more than 20 years, as an a cappella version.

In 2003, he performed “peace train” in a compilation CD, which also included performances by David Bowie and Paul McCartney.

In December 2006, he performed “peace train” at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway, in honour of the prize winners, Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank.

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Question for this article:

What place does music have in the peace movement?


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In April 2007, BBC broadcast a concert that included “peace train”, his first live performance in London in 28 years.

In July 2007, he performed at a concert in Bochum, Germany, in benefit of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Peace Centre in South Africa, including “peace train.”

On 30 October 2010, Yusuf performed “peace train” at Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s spoof Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington, DC, singing alongside Ozzy Osbourne.

In 2014, he was selected into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame and was inducted by Art Garfunkel at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, where he performed “Father and Son”, “Wild World”, and “Peace Train”.

In New Zealand on 29 March 2019, he performed “Peace Train” at the National Remembrance Service for victims of the Christchurch mosque shootings.

And finally in 2021, as shown above, he teamed up with Playing for Change to record a new version of Peace Train with over 25 musicians from 12 countries.)

UN climate report: It’s ‘now or never’ to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article from the United Nations

A new flagship UN report on climate change out Monday (April 4) indicating that harmful carbon emissions from 2010-2019 have never been higher in human history, is proof that the world is on a “fast track” to disaster, António Guterres has warned, with scientists arguing that it’s ‘now or never’ to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.


© UNICEF/Sebastian Rich. A young boy collects what little water he can from a dried up river due to severe drought in Somalia.

Reacting to the latest findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN Secretary-General insisted that unless governments everywhere reassess their energy policies, the world will be uninhabitable.

His comments reflected the IPCC’s insistence that all countries must reduce their fossil fuel use substantially, extend access to electricity, improve energy efficiency and increase the use of alternative fuels, such as hydrogen.

Unless action is taken soon, some major cities will be under water, Mr. Guterres said in a video message, which also forecast “unprecedented heatwaves, terrifying storms, widespread water shortages and the extinction of a million species of plants and animals”.

Horror story

The UN chief added: “This is not fiction or exaggeration. It is what science tells us will result from our current energy policies. We are on a pathway to global warming of more than double the 1.5-degree (Celsius, or 2.7-degrees Fahreinheit) limit” that was agreed in Paris in 2015.

Providing the scientific proof to back up that damning assessment, the IPCC report – written by hundreds of leading scientists and agreed by 195 countries – noted that greenhouse gas emissions generated by human activity, have increased since 2010 “across all major sectors globally”.

In an op-ed article penned for the Washington Post, Mr. Guterres described the latest IPCC report as “a litany of broken climate promises”, which revealed a “yawning gap between climate pledges, and reality.”

He wrote that high-emitting governments and corporations, were not just turning a blind eye, “they are adding fuel to the flames by continuing to invest in climate-choking industries. Scientists warn that we are already perilously close to tipping points that could lead to cascading and irreversible climate effects.”

Urban issue

An increasing share of emissions can be attributed to towns and cities, the report’s authors continued, adding just as worryingly, that emissions reductions clawed back in the last decade or so “have been less than emissions increases, from rising global activity levels in industry, energy supply, transport, agriculture and buildings”.

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Question for this article:
 
Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

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Striking a more positive note – and insisting that it is still possible to halve emissions by 2030 – the IPCC urged governments to ramp up action to curb emissions.

The UN body also welcomed the significant decrease in the cost of renewable energy sources since 2010, by as much as 85 per cent for solar and wind energy, and batteries.

Encouraging climate action

“We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can secure a liveable future,” said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee. “I am encouraged by climate action being taken in many countries. There are policies, regulations and market instruments that are proving effective. If these are scaled up and applied more widely and equitably, they can support deep emissions reductions and stimulate innovation.”

To limit global warming to around 1.5C (2.7°F), the IPCC report insisted that global greenhouse gas emissions would have to peak “before 2025 at the latest, and be reduced by 43 per cent by 2030”.

Methane would also need to be reduced by about a third, the report’s authors continued, adding that even if this was achieved, it was “almost inevitable that we will temporarily exceed this temperature threshold”, although the world “could  return to below it by the end of the century”.
Now or never

“It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F); without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible,” said Jim Skea, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III, which released the latest report.

Global temperatures will stabilise when carbon dioxide emissions reach net zero. For 1.5C (2.7F), this means achieving net zero carbon dioxide emissions globally in the early 2050s; for 2C (3.6°F), it is in the early 2070s, the IPCC report states.

“This assessment shows that limiting warming to around 2C (3.6F) still requires global greenhouse gas emissions to peak before 2025 at the latest, and be reduced by a quarter by 2030.”

Policy base

A great deal of importance is attached to IPCC assessments because they provide governments with scientific information that they can use to develop climate policies.

They also play a key role in international negotiations to tackle climate change.

Among the sustainable and emissions-busting solutions that are available to governments, the IPCC report emphasised that rethinking how cities and other urban areas function in future could help significantly in mitigating the worst effects of climate change.

“These (reductions) can be achieved through lower energy consumption (such as by creating compact, walkable cities), electrification of transport in combination with low-emission energy sources, and enhanced carbon uptake and storage using nature,” the report suggested. “There are options for established, rapidly growing and new cities,” it said.

Echoing that message, IPCC Working Group III Co-Chair, Priyadarshi Shukla, insisted that “the right policies, infrastructure and technology…to enable changes to our lifestyles and behaviour, can result in a 40 to 70 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. “The evidence also shows that these lifestyle changes can improve our health and wellbeing.”

Glenn Greenwald: The Censorship Campaign Against Western Criticism of NATO’s Ukraine Policy Is Extreme

. HUMAN RIGHTS . .

An article by Glenn Greenwald in Scheerpost

If one wishes to be exposed to news, information or perspective that contravenes the prevailing US/NATO view on the war in Ukraine, a rigorous search is required. And there is no guarantee that search will succeed. That is because the state/corporate censorship regime that has been imposed in the West with regard to this war is stunningly aggressive, rapid and comprehensive.


[Alisdare Hickson / CC BY-SA 2.0]

On a virtually daily basis, any off-key news agency, independent platform or individual citizen is liable to be banished from the internet. In early March, barely a week after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the twenty-seven nation European Union — citing “disinformation” and “public order and security” — officially banned  the Russian state-news outlets RT and Sputnik from being heard anywhere in Europe. In what Reuters called “an unprecedented move,” all television and online platforms were barred by force of law from airing content from those two outlets. Even prior to that censorship order from the state, Facebook and Google were already banning those outlets, and Twitter immediately announced they would as well, in compliance with the new EU law.

But what was “unprecedented” just six weeks ago has now become commonplace, even normalized. Any platform devoted to offering inconvenient-to-NATO news or alternative perspectives is guaranteed a very short lifespan. Less than two weeks after the EU’s decree, Google announced  that it was voluntarily banning all Russian-affiliated media worldwide, meaning Americans and all other non-Europeans were now blocked from viewing those channels on YouTube if they wished to. As so often happens with Big Tech censorship, much of the pressure on Google to more aggressively censor content about the war in Ukraine came from its own workforce: “Workers across Google had been urging YouTube to take additional punitive measures against Russian channels.”

So prolific and fast-moving is this censorship regime that it is virtually impossible to count how many platforms, agencies and individuals have been banished for the crime of expressing views deemed “pro-Russian.” On Tuesday, Twitter, with no explanation as usual, suddenly banned one of the most informative, reliable and careful dissident accounts, named “Russians With Attitude.” Created in late 2020 by two English-speaking Russians, the account exploded in popularity  since the start of the war, from roughly 20,000 followers before the invasion to more than 125,000 followers at the time Twitter banned it. An accompanying podcast with the same name also exploded in popularity and, at least as of now, can still be heard on Patreon.

What makes this outburst of Western censorship so notable — and what is at least partially driving it — is that there is a clear, demonstrable hunger in the West for news and information that is banished by Western news sources, ones which loyally and unquestioningly mimic claims from the U.S. government, NATO, and Ukrainian officials. As The Washington Post acknowledged  when reporting Big Tech’s “unprecedented” banning of RT, Sputnik and other Russian sources of news: “In the first four days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, viewership of more than a dozen Russian state-backed propaganda channels on YouTube spiked to unusually high levels.”

Note that this censorship regime is completely one-sided and, as usual, entirely aligned with U.S. foreign policy. Western news outlets and social media platforms have been flooded with pro-Ukrainian propaganda and outright lies  from the start of the war. A New York Times article from early March  put it very delicately in its headline: “Fact and Mythmaking Blend in Ukraine’s Information War.” Axios was similarly understated in recognizing this fact: “Ukraine misinformation is spreading — and not just from Russia.” Members of the U.S. Congress  have gleefully spread  fabrications that went viral to millions of people, with no action from censorship-happy Silicon Valley corporations. That is not a surprise: all participants in war use disinformation and propaganda to manipulate public opinion in their favor, and that certainly includes all direct and proxy-war belligerents in the war in Ukraine.

Yet there is little to no censorship — either by Western states or by Silicon Valley monopolies — of pro-Ukrainian disinformation, propaganda and lies. The censorship goes only in one direction: to silence any voices deemed “pro-Russian,” regardless of whether they spread disinformation. The “Russians With Attitude” Twitter account became popular in part because they sometimes criticized Russia, in part because they were more careful with facts and viral claims that most U.S. corporate media outlets, and in part because there is such a paucity of outlets that are willing to offer any information that undercuts what the U.S. Government and NATO want you to believe about the war.

Their crime, like the crime of so many other banished accounts, was not disinformation but skepticism about the US/NATO propaganda campaign. Put another way, it is not “disinformation” but rather viewpoint-error that is targeted for silencing. One can spread as many lies and as much disinformation as one wants provided that it is designed to advance the NATO agenda in Ukraine (just as one is free to spread disinformation provided  that its purpose is to strengthen the Democratic Party, which wields its majoritarian power in Washington to demand greater censorship  and commands the support of most of Silicon Valley). But what one cannot do is question the NATO/Ukrainian propaganda framework without running a very substantial risk of banishment.

It is unsurprising that Silicon Valley monopolies exercise their censorship power in full alignment with the foreign policy interests of the U.S. Government. Many of the key tech monopolies — such as Google and Amazon — routinely seek and obtain highly lucrative contracts  with the U.S. security state , including both the CIA and NSA. Their top executives enjoy very close relationships  with top Democratic Party officials. And Congressional Democrats have repeatedly hauled tech executives before their various Committees to explicitly threaten them  with legal and regulatory reprisals if they do not censor more in accordance with the policy goals and political interests of that party.

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Question(s) related to this article:

Is Internet Freedom a Basic Human Right?

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

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But one question lingers: why is there so much urgency about silencing the small pockets of dissenting voices about the war in Ukraine? This war has united the establishment wings of both parties and virtually the entire corporate media with a lockstep consensus not seen since the days and weeks after the 9/11 attack. One can count on both hands the number of prominent political and media figures who have been willing to dissent even minimally from that bipartisan Washington consensus — dissent that instantly provokes vilification in the form of attacks on one’s patriotism and loyalties. Why is there such fear of allowing these isolated and demonized voices to be heard at all?

The answer seems clear. The benefits from this war for multiple key Washington power centers cannot be overstated. The billions of dollars in aid and weapons being sent by the U.S. to Ukraine are flying so fast and with such seeming randomness that it is difficult to track. “Biden approves $350 million in military aid for Ukraine,” Reuters  said  on February 26; “Biden announces $800 million in military aid for Ukraine,” announced  The New York Times on March 16; on March 30, NBC’s headline  read: “Ukraine to receive additional $500 million in aid from U.S., Biden announces”; on Tuesday, Reuters announced: “U.S. to announce $750 million more in weapons for Ukraine, officials say.” By design, these gigantic numbers have long ago lost any meaning and provoke barely a peep of questioning let alone objection.

It is not a mystery who is benefiting from this orgy of military spending. On Tuesday, Reuters reported that  “the Pentagon will host leaders from the top eight U.S. weapons manufacturers on Wednesday to discuss the industry’s capacity to meet Ukraine’s weapons needs if the war with Russia lasts years.” Among those participating in this meeting about the need to increase weapons manufacturing to feed the proxy war in Ukraine is Raytheon, which is fortunate to have retired General Lloyd Austin as Defense Secretary, a position to which he ascended from the Raytheon Board of Directors. It is virtually impossible to imagine an event more favorable to the weapons manufacturer industry than this war in Ukraine:

Demand for weapons has shot up after Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24 spurred U.S. and allied weapons transfers to Ukraine. Resupplying as well as planning for a longer war is expected to be discussed at the meeting, the sources told Reuters on condition of anonymity. . .

Resupplying as well as planning for a longer war is expected to be discussed at the meeting. . . . The White House said last week that it has provided more than $1.7 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the invasion, including over 5,000 Javelins and more than 1,400 Stingers.

This permanent power faction is far from the only one to be reaping benefits from the war in Ukraine and to have its fortunes depend upon prolonging the war as long as possible. The union of the U.S. security state, Democratic Party neocons, and their media allies has not been riding this high since the glory days of 2002. One of MSNBC’s most vocal DNC boosters, Chris Hayes, gushed that the war in Ukraine has revitalized faith and trust in the CIA and intelligence community more than any event in recent memory — deservedly so, he said: “The last few weeks have been like the Iraq War in reverse for US intelligence.” One can barely read a mainstream newspaper or watch a corporate news outlet without seeing the nation’s most bloodthirsty warmongering band of neocons — David Frum, Bill Kristol, Liz Cheney, Wesley Clark, Anne Applebaum, Adam Kinzinger — being celebrated as wise experts and heroic warriors for freedom.

This war has been very good indeed for the permanent Washington political and media class. And although it was taboo for weeks to say so, it is now beyond clear that the only goal that the U.S. and its allies have  when it comes to the war in Ukraine is to keep it dragging on for as long as possible. Not only are there no serious American diplomatic efforts to end the war, but the goal is to ensure that does not happen. They are now saying that explicitly, and it is not hard to understand why.

The benefits from endless quagmire in Ukraine are as immense as they are obvious. The military budget skyrockets. Punishment is imposed on the arch-nemesis of the Democratic Party — Russia and Putin — while they are bogged down in a war from which Ukrainians suffer most. The citizenry unites behind their leaders and is distracted from their collective deprivations. The emotions provoked by the horrors of this war — unprecedentedly shown to the public by the Western media which typically ignores carnage and victims of wars waged by Western countries and their allies — is a very potent tool to maintain unity and demonize domestic adversaries. The pundit class finds strength, purpose and resolve, able to feign a Churchillian posture without any of the risks. Prior sins and crimes of American elites are absolved and forgotten at the altar of maximalist claims about Putin’s unprecedented evils — just as they were absolved and forgotten through the script which maintained that the U.S. had never encountered a threat as grave or malignant as Trump. After all, if Putin and Trump are Hitler or even worse, then anyone who opposes them is heroic and noble regardless of all their prior malignant acts.

And that is why even small pockets of dissent cannot be tolerated. It is vital that Americans and Europeans remain entrapped inside a completely closed system of propaganda about the war, just as Russians are kept entrapped inside their own. Keeping these populations united in support of fighting a proxy war against Russia is far too valuable on too many levels to permit any questioning or alternative perspectives. Preventing people from asking who this war benefits, and who is paying the price for it, is paramount.

Big Tech has long proven to be a reliable instrument of censorship and dissent-quashing for the U.S. Government (much to the chagrin of corporate media employees, Russian outlets still remain available on free speech alternatives  such as Rumble and Telegram, which is why so much ire is now directed at them). A rapid series of ostensible “crises” — Russiagate, 1/6, the COVID pandemic — were all exploited to condition Westerners to believe that censorship was not only justified but necessary for their own good. In the West, censorship now provokes not anger but gratitude. All of that laid the perfect foundation for this new escalation of a censorship regime in which dissent, on a virtually daily basis, is increasingly more difficult to locate.

No matter one’s views on Russia, Ukraine, the U.S. and the war, it should be deeply alarming to watch such a concerted, united campaign on the part of the most powerful public and private entities to stomp out any and all dissent, while so aggressively demonizing what little manages to slip by. No matter how smart or critically minded or sophisticated we fancy ourselves to be, none of us is immune to official propaganda campaigns, studied and perfected over decades. Nor is any of us immune to the pressures of group-think and herd behavior and hive minds: these are embedded in our psyches and thus easily exploitable.

That is precisely the objective of restricting and closing the information system available to us. It makes it extremely difficult to remain skeptical or critical of the bombardment of approved messaging we receive every day from every direction in every form. And that is precisely the reason to oppose such censorship regimes. An opinion or belief adopted due to propaganda and reflex rather than autonomy and critical evaluation has no value.

(Editor’s note: Thank you to Transcent Media Service for calling our attention to this article.)

From Mosul to Raqqa to Mariupol, Killing Civilians is a Crime

FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION

An article by by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies in Codepink

Americans have been shocked by the death and destruction of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, filling our screens with bombed buildings and dead bodies lying in the street. But the United States and its allies have waged war in country after country for decades, carving swathes of destruction through cities, towns and villages on a far greater scale than has so far disfigured Ukraine. 


Bombed homes in Mosul  Credit: Amnesty International

As we recently reported, the U.S. and its allies have dropped over 337,000 bombs and missiles, or 46 per day, on nine countries since 2001 alone. Senior U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency officers told Newsweek that the first 24 days  of Russia’s bombing of Ukraine was less destructive than the first day of U.S. bombing in Iraq in 2003.

The U.S.-led campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria bombarded those countries with over 120,000 bombs and missiles, the heaviest bombing anywhere in decades. U.S. military officers  told Amnesty International that the U.S. assault on Raqqa in Syria was also the heaviest artillery bombardment since the Vietnam War. 

Mosul in Iraq was the largest city that the United States and its allies reduced to rubble  in that campaign, with a pre-assault population of 1.5 million. About 138,000 houses  were damaged or destroyed by bombing and artillery, and an Iraqi Kurdish intelligence report counted at least 40,000 civilians  killed.

Raqqa, which had a population of 300,000, was  gutted even more. A  UN assessment mission  reported that 70-80% of buildings were destroyed or damaged. Syrian and Kurdish forces in Raqqacounting 4,118 civilian bodies. Many more deaths remain uncounted in the rubble of Mosul and Raqqa. Without comprehensive mortality surveys, we may never know what fraction of the actual death toll these numbers represent.

The Pentagon promised to review its policies on civilian casualties in the wake of these massacres, and commissioned the Rand Corporation to conduct  a study  titled, “Understanding Civilian Harm in Raqqa and Its Implications For Future Conflicts,” which has now been made public. 

Even as the world recoils from the shocking violence in Ukraine, the premise of the Rand Corp study is that U.S. forces will continue to wage wars that involve devastating bombardments of cities and populated areas, and that they must therefore try to understand how they can do so without killing quite so many civilians.

The study runs over 100 pages, but it never comes to grips with the central problem, which is the inevitably devastating and deadly impacts of firing explosive weapons into inhabited urban areas like Mosul in Iraq, Raqqa in Syria, Mariupol in Ukraine, Sanaa in Yemen or Gaza in Palestine.  

The development of “precision weapons” has demonstrably failed to prevent these massacres. The United States unveiled its new “smart bombs” during the First Gulf War in 1990-1991. But they in fact comprised  only 7%  of the 88,000 tons of bombs it dropped on Iraq, reducing “a rather highly urbanized and mechanized society” to “a pre-industrial age nation” according to a UN survey

Instead of publishing actual data on the accuracy of these weapons, the Pentagon has maintained a sophisticated propaganda campaign to convey the impression that they are 100% accurate and can strike a target like a house or apartment building without harming civilians in the surrounding area. 

However, during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Rob Hewson, the editor of an arms trade journal that reviews the performance of air-launched weapons, estimated that 20 to 25%  of U.S. “precision” weapons missed their targets. 

Even when they do hit their target, these weapons do not perform like space weapons in a video game. The most commonly used bombs in the U.S. arsenal are 500 lb bombs, with an explosive charge of 89 kilos of Tritonal. According to UN safety data, the blast alone from that explosive charge is 100% lethal up to a radius of 10 meters, and will break every window within 100 meters. 

That is just the blast effect. Deaths and horrific injuries are also caused by collapsing buildings and flying shrapnel and debris – concrete, metal, glass, wood etc. 

A strike is considered accurate if it lands within a “circular error probable,” usually 10 meters around the object being targeted. So in an urban area, if you take into account the “circular error probable,” the blast radius, flying debris and collapsing buildings, even a strike assessed as “accurate” is very likely to kill and injure civilians. 

U.S. officials draw a moral distinction between this “unintentional” killing and the “deliberate” killing of civilians by terrorists. But the late historian Howard Zinn challenged this distinction in letter  to the New York Times in 2007. He wrote,

“These words are misleading because they assume an action is either ‘deliberate’ or ‘unintentional.’ There is something in between, for which the word is ‘inevitable.’ If you engage in an action, like aerial bombing, in which you cannot possibly distinguish between combatants and civilians (as a former Air Force bombardier, I will attest to that), the deaths of civilians are inevitable, even if not ‘intentional.’ 

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Question related to this article:
 
Free flow of information, How is it important for a culture of peace?

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Does that difference exonerate you morally? The terrorism of the suicide bomber and the terrorism of aerial bombardment are indeed morally equivalent. To say otherwise (as either side might) is to give one moral superiority over the other, and thus serve to perpetuate the horrors of our time.”

Americans are rightfully horrified when they see civilians killed by Russian bombardment in Ukraine, but they are generally not quite so horrified, and more likely to accept official justifications, when they hear that civilians are killed by U.S. forces or American weapons in Iraq, Syria, Yemen or Gaza. The Western corporate media play a key role in this, by showing us corpses in Ukraine and the wails of their loved ones, but shielding us from equally disturbing images of people killed by U.S. or allied forces.

While Western leaders are demanding that Russia be held accountable for war crimes, they have raised no such clamor to prosecute U.S. officials. Yet during the U.S. military occupation of Iraq, both the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) documented persistent and systematic violations of the Geneva Conventions by U.S. forces, including of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention that protects civilians from the impacts of war and military occupation.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and human rights groups  documented systematic abuse and torture of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, including cases in which U.S. troops tortured prisoners to death. 

Although torture was approved by U.S. officials all the way up to the White House, no officer above the rank of major was ever held accountable for a torture death in Afghanistan or Iraq. The harshest punishment handed down for torturing a prisoner to death was a five-month jail sentence, although that is a capital offense under the U.S. War Crimes Act.  

In a 2007 human rights report  that described widespread killing of civilians by U.S. occupation forces, UNAMI wrote, “Customary international humanitarian law demands that, as much as possible, military objectives must not be located within areas densely populated by civilians. The presence of individual combatants among a great number of civilians does not alter the civilian character of an area.” 

The report demanded “that all credible allegations of unlawful killings be thoroughly, promptly and impartially investigated, and appropriate action taken against military personnel found to have used excessive or indiscriminate force.”

Instead of investigating, the U.S. has actively covered up its war crimes. A tragic example  is the 2019 massacre in the Syrian town of Baghuz, where a special U.S. military operations unit dropped massive bombs on a group of mainly women and children, killing about 70. The military not only failed to acknowledge the botched attack but even bulldozed the blast site to cover it up. Only after a New York Times exposé  years later did the military even admit that the strike took place.  

So it is ironic to hear President Biden call for President Putin to face a war crimes trial, when the United States covers up its own crimes, fails to hold its own senior officials accountable for war crimes and still rejects the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC). In 2020, Donald Trump went so far as to impose U.S. sanctions on the most senior ICC prosecutors for investigating U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan.

The Rand study repeatedly claims that U.S. forces have “a deeply ingrained commitment to the law of war.” But the destruction of Mosul, Raqqa and other cities and the history of U.S. disdain for the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions and international courts tell a very different story.

We agree with the Rand report’s conclusion that, “DoD’s weak institutional learning for civilian harm issues meant that past lessons went unheeded, increasing the risks to civilians in Raqqa.” However, we take issue with the study’s failure to recognize that many of the glaring contradictions it documents are consequences of the fundamentally criminal nature of this entire operation, under the Fourth Geneva Convention and the existing laws of war. 

We reject the whole premise of this study, that U.S. forces should continue to conduct urban bombardments that inevitably kill thousands of civilians, and must therefore learn from this experience so that they will kill and maim fewer civilians the next time they destroy a city like Raqqa or Mosul.

The ugly truth behind these U.S. massacres is that the impunity senior U.S. military and civilian officials have enjoyed for past war crimes encouraged them to believe they could get away with bombing cities in Iraq and Syria to rubble, inevitably killing tens of thousands of civilians. 

They have so far been proven right, but U.S. contempt for international law and the failure of the global community to hold the United States to account are destroying the very “rules-based order” of international law that U.S. and Western leaders claim to cherish. 

As we call urgently for a ceasefire, for peace and for accountability for war crimes in Ukraine, we should say “Never Again!” to the bombardment of cities and civilian areas, whether they are in Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, Iran or anywhere else, and whether the aggressor is Russia, the United States, Israel or Saudi Arabia.

And we should never forget that the supreme war crime is war itself, the crime of aggression, because, as the judges declared at Nuremberg, it “contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” It is easy to point fingers at others, but we will not stop war until we force our own leaders to live up to the principle spelled out  by Supreme Court Justice and Nuremberg prosecutor Robert Jackson:

“If certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace, and author of several books, including Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Nicolas J. S. Davies is an independent journalist, a researcher with CODEPINK and the author of Blood on Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.  

Transformative Peace Initiatives through TOCfE Tools

… EDUCATION FOR PEACE …

Special to CPNN from Nancy Oley

Community leaders from the United States, Singapore, Myanmar and Somalia reported on their ongoing peace projects in a session entitled “Transformative Peace Initiatives through TOCfE Tools” at the virtual TOCfE International Symposium on February 26, 2022. Presentations of the four speakers are summarized below.

Kathy Suerken is a Rotarian, President of Theory of Constraints for Education, Inc. (TOCfE) and organizer of the TOCfE International Symposium. Founded by the late Israeli physicist Eliyahu Goldratt, TOCfE is dedicated to the application of the Theory of Constraints (TOC) to education. Suerken argues that peace is not a zero-sum game in which “I win, and you lose;” it is a process. The tools and strategies of TOC are the means by which we develop a “win-win” mindset and find “win-win” solutions to conflicts, assuring that no one is harmed. Even young children have used the simple TOC thinking and communication tools to resolve conflicts and become peacemakers on the playground and in their classrooms. TOCfE is currently active in 23 countries and six continents.

The Rotary Peace Fellowship Program is a program designed for community leaders who have experience in and are committed to international peace and development. Fellows are offered financial support and are trained at international Rotary Peace Centers to carry out projects promoting peace around the world as they pursue a master’s degree or Professional Development Certificate. There are currently 1,300 Fellows working in 115 countries. Fellowships are awarded through local Rotary Clubs.

Two Peace fellows whose work is described below are using the graphical tools of TOC to prevent and resolve conflicts (win-win solutions), to logically analyze cause-effect relationships, to analyze and sequence the steps needed to achieve a goal, and to create systemic change.


Christina Cheng, Singapore Director of TOC for Education and a Rotary Peace Fellow, noted that the cost of conflict and violence is 10% of the world’s GDP or about $5 per person. Given that 9% of the world lives on less than $1.90 per day, a 3% reduction in conflict spending could fund the entire global food aid fund. Countries that ranked high on the 2021 Global Peace Index based on their safety and security, domestic and international conflict, and militarization, also ranked high on the World Happiness Report (2021) that measures life evaluations, as well as positive and negative emotions. Happiness is correlated with a sense of security, and security is correlated with physical peace. However, countries ranking high on happiness are also among the highest users of anti-depressants, suggesting that the absence of physical conflict/ war or “negative peace” is not sufficient. For a society to have “positive peace” – to be free from stress, anxiety, depression, and unresolved personal conflicts – mindsets, attitudes, systems and structures must be changed. Studies show that training in the areas of conflict resolution and problem-solving can reduce the incidence of depression in youth. So why, then, is so little time and money spent on teaching these skills in school? TOCfE provides the tools for people of all ages, races, religions, genders and cultures to analyze problems and to resolve conflicts logically without blame or anger, producing more harmonious and peaceful individuals, families and communities.

In this regard, an important application of TOC tools has been with repeat offenders. TOCfE training helps inmates recognize their negative thinking patterns by identifying the root cause of their behavior and uncovering mistaken assumptions that have led them into a downward spiral. Simple TOC peace tools have also been taught to men and women in halfway houses, military prisons, and drug rehabilitation centers.
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Question for this article:

Mediation as a tool for nonviolence and culture of peace

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Pastor Fidy Sung lang Len is Head of the Women’s Department and Christian Education Department of the Olive Baptist Church, a Committee Member in the Hakha Baptist Association (HBA) Women’s Division, a Committee Member in the HBA CE Department, and a Committee Member in the Cultural Department of Chin Association for Christian Communication.  Collectively, these groups touch roughly 35, 000 women/girls and 15, 000 children from the Hakha Chin community. According to Len, the Chin people are the smallest, poorest, and least educated minority group in war-torn Myanmar, with gender inequality, violence and abuse deeply rooted in their culture and identity.

Len has used TOC thinking process tools to help empower Chin women, despite the cultural, religious, and political obstacles to doing so. The cloud  tool was used to resolve conflicts. In Len’s work there is a conflict between the desire/want to speak out against gender inequality and the desire/want to not speak out. Each of these alternative “wants” is necessary to fulfill its associated “need”— to help others and improve the situation on the one hand, and to avoid further conflict and unhappiness on the other. The overarching goal, to have a happy and satisfying life, can be achieved by fulfilling both needs. By logically examining the assumptions underlying the suggested causal connections between wants and needs, one can find ways to satisfy the needs and provide a “win-win” solution to the conflict. Len’s analysis suggested a number of steps to be taken, among them: partner with international non-governmental organizations with knowledge of how to reduce gender inequality, work for equal education, introduce concepts of gender equity into the early curriculum, work with church leaders to correct misunderstanding of biblical teachings about gender, always include men’s voices in the discussion, speak to men with respect and sensitivity to their fears, work with respected male leaders to champion women’s equity, and emphasize that gender equity benefits both women and men.


Sharmarke Yusuf, Rotary Peace Fellow, Certified TOC Facilitator and TOC Country Director, noted that Somalia’s two-decades long armed conflict and civil war has had a psychological impact on the population, and that to be successful, any educational approach must promote inclusivity, peace, respect, non-violence and avoid blaming others. Toward this end, local teachers learned TOC critical thinking and communication tools to empower youth with coping and decision-making skills, self-understanding, and the psychological support they need to resist being manipulated by others.

As one example, Yusuf noted that early marriage prevents young Somalis, especially women, from attaining their educational goals. Using the graphical TOC cloud tool, a young couple came to understand their common goal (a happy family together), what each person needed (not to lose the relationship/continue in school), and how their wants conflicted (marry now vs. not marry now). By critically examining the assumptions underlying their conflict, they came to recognize that their common goal would be easily met if they both continued their education, a “win-win” solution.

Yusuf also outlined his efforts to prevent the radicalization of incarcerated youth using TOC tools to change the systemic factors contributing to incarceration and destructive post-release behaviors. He analyzed “what to change,” “what to change to,” and “how to cause the change.” His ongoing study includes 10 female and 10 male youth 18-32 who are school dropouts, unemployed and/or involved in conflict—- a population very vulnerable to being used for fueling conflicts, radicalization and extremist violence. The goal of the project is to engage and empower the participants to be a positive force for transformation and peace through: training in TOC communication, thinking and conflict resolution tools; “positive peace” education; employment skill building; and community volunteer activities. The number of young people participating in the interventions and their attitudes before and after the interventions are being measured. At the end of the study, he will assess participants’ integration into their community, their ability to think critically, and their success at making changes in their lives, i.e., to be agents of peace and productive community members.

(Comments on this topic may be sent to coordinator. Please indicate if you wish them to be published with this article and/or forwarded to its author.)

World Theatre Day March 27

… EDUCATION FOR PEACE …

From the website of the International Theatre Institute

World Theatre Day (WTD) was created by the International Theatre Institute (ITI) and was celebrated for the first time on 27 March 1962, the date of the opening of the “Theatre of Nations” season in Paris. Ever since, each year on that date, World Theatre Day is celebrated on a global scale.

The goals of World Theatre Day, as with International Dance Day are

° To promote the art form across the world.

° To make people aware of the value of the art form.

° To enable the dance and theatre communities to promote their work on a broad scale so that opinion leaders are aware of the value of these forms and support them.

° To enjoy the art form for its own sake.

One of the most important actions for the WTD is the circulation of the World Theatre Day International Message through which, at the invitation of the ITI, a figure of world stature shares her or his reflections on the theme of Theatre and a Culture of Peace. The first World Theatre Day International Message was written by Jean Cocteau. The message is translated into different languages and distributed widely. See www.world-theatre-day.org for more information and ideas about how to mark World Theatre Day.

Letter to the Members and Friends of ITI – a Statement for Peace and a Constructive Dialogue

Dear members and friends of the International Theatre Institute, dear fellow human beings

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Question for this article:

The theatre, How can it contribute to the culture of peace?

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In 1948, with much of Europe and the wider world in ruins at the aftermath of World War II, it was the great cultural institutions of the time that pulled the civilization out of the mire. The ITI has been founded for using the performing arts for mutual understanding and peace.

Now, the world is upside again and the International Theatre Institute must stand again as a beacon of peace and unity for its members, the performing arts, and the world as a whole.

This letter sets forth the ITI’s stance on the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the ensuing humanitarian crisis.

First, we wish all the members and friends of ITI, and the people who suffer, are safe. We ardently hope for a speedy ceasefire, and for the guns to fall silent. We wish that governments, the artists and the people are building up a respectful dialogue to solve the situation.

The Preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO declares that “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.” Since its inception, ITI has followed this tenet of UNESCO,and uses education and culture to inform, inspire and engage people everywhere to foster understanding and respect for each other. Through the international exchange of knowledge and practice in the performing arts, ITI intends to deepen mutual understanding and increase creative cooperation between all people of the performing arts.

ITI is a global alliance of people from all ethnicities, nationalities, and religious backgrounds; the commitment to the humanitarian path must always be fostered. Our extension of friendship and cultural understanding through the performing arts is needed now, more than ever. We must double our efforts to make sure all are included in our alliance, regardless of the country they hail from.

In times of war and political upheaval, it is the people who suffer most. We must work to alleviate this. As such, ITI will never punish or exclude members based on the decisions of their government. Our purpose is to overcome divisions, and to keep the lines of communication wide open between all peoples of the world.

We stand for peace and freedom!!!

Mohamed Saif Al-Afklam, President of International Theatre Institute

Tobias Biancone, Director General of ITI

3 March 2022

UN Women Executive Director re-ignites ambition for Generation Equality by sharing her bold vision for the future at CSW66

. WOMEN’S EQUALITY .

An article from Forum Generation Equality

On 16 March, at a high-level dialogue against the backdrop of the 66th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66), UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous gathered with Action Coalition Leaders and global Generation Equality actors to reflect on the concrete progress made since the Generation Equality Forum in Paris and to share her bold vision to ensure future success.


UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous

“It is time to look towards the future and the journey ahead of us to translate the promises of Generation Equality into implementation and impact in the lives of women and girls in all their diversity around the world. We must not lose focus and the sense of urgency and partnerships that characterized the Generation Equality Forum,” said Ms. Bahous.

“You can count on my full engagement and UN Women’s leadership and support as we march forward together,” she added, re-iterating her firm commitment to prioritize action on the key next steps of the Generation Equality journey. Ms. Bahous outlined three priorities for the way forward: accountability for existing commitments and support for implementation; generating new commitments; and continuing to promote the multistakeholder and intergenerational nature of the Generation Equality, as an example of inclusive multilateralism.

The flagship event marked the culmination of a 24-hour-long Generation Equality mobilization at CSW66, filled with over thirty events led by partners around the world. The diverse events convened under the 24-hour umbrella – including dynamic sessions on the Action Coalitions, Global Alliance for Care, and the Compact on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action as well as events on strengthening partner engagement in Generation Equality co-convened by the adolescent girl groups together with Member States and others – demonstrated that the momentum of the Generation Equality agenda continues to build globally and become increasingly rooted locally.

Building ambition for Generation Equality

For the flagship event culminating the 24-hour arc, actors who have been heavily involved throughout the Generation Equality process joined Executive Director Sima Bahous in reflecting on the vision for the future, sharing their ambition for the coming years.

Acknowledging Ms. Bahous’s commitment to supporting the continuous and meaningful engagement of young people and adolescent girls, Anika Jane Dorothy, member of the former Generation Equality Youth Task Force, emphasized that the youth will continue “to mobilize, to organize and to challenge the status quo” throughout the Generation Equality journey ahead.

Monica Aleman, Senior Programme Officer at the Ford Foundation pointed to the timeliness of Generation Equality, explaining that in the current global landscape, global engagement and cooperation on gender equality action through UN structures is critical. “We cannot do this work on our own. We have to find ways to coordinate and work with others,” Aleman emphasized.

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Questions for this article

Does the UN advance equality for women?

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“We have a long voyage ahead of us to ensure a strong and permanent change,” added Élisabeth Moreno, Minister for Gender Equality, Diversity and Equal Opportunities for the Government of France. “We must continue working in a collaborative manner; only then will we achieve real progress. I strongly believe that together, we all can.”

Innovation and action

Shifting focus from the future vision to concrete progress on the ground, Action Coalition Leaders gave positive updates on the implementation of commitments made at the Generation Equality Forum in Paris.

Sofia Sprechmann Sineiro, Secretary-General of CARE International, outlined CARE’s strategy to support at least an additional 10 million women and girls to gain control over their finances and access opportunities through either creating or strengthening existing savings and loans associations. The initiative is currently being implemented across 10 African countries as a core component of CARE’s commitment as a Leader of the Action Coalition on Economic Justice and Rights.

Over 95 partners have stepped up as Leaders of the Action Coalitions and are in the process of implementing bold commitments for women and girls. Together with the Commitment Makers they have made over 2,000 commitments to drive concrete results by 2026, with 1,000 of these commitments having been made since the Forum in Paris.

Launching tools to drive accountability and progress

Ensuring transparency and mutual accountability for commitments is essential for achieving and measuring progress. The online Action Coalitions Commitments Dashboard that was unveiled at the event will play a key role in establishing this.

The Dashboard makes all commitments accessible, searchable, and visible to all. It therefore represents a key building block of the Accountability Framework that will monitor and measure progress for the next 5-years.

“If we are to truly achieve transformative change it means not only giving a seat at the table, but placing the right tools and resources in the hands of women, girls and gender-diverse people,” said Jeevika Shiv, National Youth Gender Activist for UN Women in India and MAKAAM Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch, as she outlined the progress made on the Accountability Framework to date.

The Framework is being developed collaboratively with a group of Action Coalition leaders and will be formally launched at the upcoming UN General Assembly in September.

“Onwards, together!”

The energizing dialogue highlighted the opportunities that the Generation Equality 5-year journey holds as an accelerator for fulfilling the promises of SDG-5 and the overall 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through strengthened partnerships and multilateral cooperation.

In her closing remarks, Executive Director Sima Bahous reflected on the shared sense of urgency to drive progress that clearly emerged throughout the discussion and underscored the imperative of fully leveraging the Generation Equality platform as a vehicle to do so.

Rounding off the event with a message of solidarity, Moderator Maria Fernanda Espinosa, Member of the GWL Voices for Change and Inclusion, said, “for those of you that have been part of this journey, and for all of those joining us now – onwards, together!”

March 17: The struggle for free flow of information about the Russian war against Ukraine

FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION

An article by CPNN

Information sources about the Russian war against Ukraine are being blocked by both Russia and the West which makes the situation quite complicated. This is illustrated by many events today (March 17).


Photo of girl arrested for demonstrating in Russia against the war. Copyright Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto/picture alliance as published by Deutsche Welle

As of today, many of the sources are no longer available about opposition to the war in Russia as listed in the Google Doc of March 13. We may assume they have been blocked or withdrawn under threats by Russian authorities. We have been able to find alternative sources for 13 of them, including backup copies of sources that were blocked after March 13. The Statement of Russian peace supporters and the open letter of Russian cultural figures continue to be republished by CPNN but are no longer available from the source, Echo of Moscow, because the website has been blocked by the Russian authorities. Open letters from Russian scientists and from Russian mathematicians are republished in CPNN but no longer available from the source, TRV-Science, presumably withdrawn because of legal pressure.

Russian authorities have not (yet) blocked the opposition comments republished in CPNN from Lukoil, the largest private company in Russia, or from the leading Russian chess players republished in CPNN from championat, the Russian chess website.

An article published recently by CPNN describes how Russians are getting around censorship by using social networks, encrypted messaging and VPN servers.  For those of us not yet familiar with VPN, it stands for Virtual Private Networks. As described on the website of cybernews, while there are many ways that authorities can block VPNs, there are even more ways to bypass their blocking.

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Questions related to this article:
 
Can the peace movement help stop the war in the Ukraine?

How can we be sure to get news about peace demonstrations?

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

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An article yesterday in Deutsche Welle describes how Russians are taking risks to express their opposition in the face of police action that is sometimes even ridiculous. A video went viral on social media last week, showing a woman being arrested by the Russian police for holding up a small piece of paper that reads “two words.” The phrase “two words” (“два слова” in Russian) seems to hint at the forbidden slogan “no to war” (or “нет войне” in Russian). And Russian police have arrested demonstrators who protest with blank signs. A video that receive millions of views on social media, showed a woman holding a blank sign among a group of people before police officers approached her and escorted her away from the crowd. In another case, the pilot on an internal Russian flight made the following announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, here is your captain speaking. Welcome to Antalya. Thank you for flying with “Pobeda”. Also, from me personally: the war with Ukraine is a crime…”.

Two women in Canada have launched a initiative for people to telephone friends in Russia to tell them the news that is being blocked from their television reports. They are even furnished telephone numbers if someone can speak Russian and wants to call Russians whose telephone numbers have been randomly selected.

An event that reminds one of the Black Panthers who said they fought on the wrong side in Vietnam, CNN has published information from videos of interviews with Russian soldiers captured (or perhaps in some cases deserted?) in Ukraine and who go so far as to say they will return to Russia and struggle against Putin.

Finally, with regard to Russia, we recommend a very valuable analysis from the Financial Times that describes the small circle of Putin’s advisors that influence his information and decisions.

While the above information is concentrated on Russian censureship, we should not forget, as described in CPNN on January 18, that the details of Putin’s proposals for peace treaties with the West that could have prevented the war were suppressed by the Western media and only available after diligent research.

What we are seeing is really a case of cyber-warfare, as it may be said that the control of information becomes more and more an arm of the culture of war.

Historic day in the campaign to beat plastic pollution: Nations commit to develop a legally binding agreement

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

A press release from the United Nations Environment Program

Nairobi, 02 March 2022 – Heads of State, Ministers of environment and other representatives from 175 nations endorsed a historic resolution at the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) today in Nairobi to End Plastic Pollution and forge an international legally binding agreement by 2024. The resolution addresses the full lifecycle of plastic, including its production, design and disposal.


Scene from video of UNEP meeting

“Against the backdrop of geopolitical turmoil, the UN Environment Assembly shows multilateral cooperation at its best,” said the President of UNEA-5 and Norway’s Minister for Climate and the Environment, Espen Barth Eide. “Plastic pollution has grown into an epidemic. With today’s resolution we are officially on track for a cure.” 

The resolution, based on three initial draft resolutions from various nations, establishes an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC), which will begin its work in 2022, with the ambition of completing a draft global legally binding agreement by the end of 2024. It is expected to present a legally binding instrument, which would reflect diverse alternatives to address the full lifecycle of plastics, the design of reusable and recyclable products and materials, and the need for enhanced international collaboration to facilitate access to technology, capacity building and scientific and technical cooperation.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) will convene a forum by the end of 2022 that is open to all stakeholders in conjunction with the first session of the INC, to share knowledge and best practices in different parts of the world. It will facilitate open discussions and ensure they are informed by science, reporting on progress throughout the next two years. Finally, upon completion of the INC’s work, UNEP will convene a diplomatic conference to adopt its outcome and open it for signatures.

“Today marks a triumph by planet earth over single-use plastics. This is the most significant environmental multilateral deal since the Paris accord. It is an insurance policy for this generation and future ones, so they may live with plastic and not be doomed by it.” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.

“Let it be clear that the INC’s mandate does not grant any stakeholder a two-year pause. In parallel to negotiations over an international binding agreement, UNEP will work with any willing government and business across the value chain to shift away from single-use plastics, as well as to mobilise private finance and remove barriers to investments in research and in a new circular economy,” Andersen added.

Plastic production soared from 2 million tonnes in 1950 to 348 million tonnes in 2017, becoming a global industry valued at US$522.6 billion, and it is expected to double in capacity by 2040. The impacts of plastic production and pollution on the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature loss and pollution are a catastrophe in the making:

Exposure to plastics can harm human health, potentially affecting fertility, hormonal, metabolic and neurological activity , and open burning of plastics contributes to air pollution .

By 2050 greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastic production, use and disposal would account for 15 per cent of allowed emissions, under the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C (34.7°F).

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Question for this article:

If we can connect up the planet through Internet, can’t we agree to preserve the planet?

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More than 800 marine and coastal species are affected by this pollution through ingestion, entanglement, and other dangers.

Some 11 million tonnes of plastic waste flow annually into oceans. This may triple by 2040.

A shift to a circular economy can reduce the volume of plastics entering oceans by over 80 per cent by 2040; reduce virgin plastic production by 55 per cent; save governments US$70 billion by 2040; reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent; and create 700,000 additional jobs – mainly in the global south.

The historic resolution, titled “End Plastic Pollution: Towards an internationally legally binding instrument” was adopted with the conclusion of the three-day UNEA-5.2  meeting, attended by more than 3,400 in-person and 1,500 online participants from 175 UN Member States, including 79 ministers and 17 high-level officials.

The Assembly will be followed by “UNEP@50,” a two-day Special Session of the Assembly marking UNEP’s 50th anniversary where Member States are expected to address how to build a resilient and inclusive post-pandemic world.

NOTES TO EDITORS

Quote from the Government of Japan: “The resolution will clearly take us towards a future with no plastic pollution, including in the marine environment,” said Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, Japan’s Environment Minister, whose draft resolution contributed to the final resolution. “United, we can make it happen. Together, let us go forward as we start the negotiations towards a better future with no plastic pollution.”

Quote from the Government of Peru: “We appreciate the support received from the various countries during this negotiation process,” said Modesto Montoya, Peru’s Minister of Environment, whose draft resolution, proposed with the Government of Rwanda, contributed to the final resolution. “Peru will promote a new agreement that prevents and reduces plastic pollution, promotes a circular economy and addresses the full life cycle of plastics.”

Quote from the Government of Rwanda: “The world has come together act against plastic pollution – a serious threat to our planet. International partnerships will be crucial in tackling a problem that affects all of us, and the progress made at UNEA reflects this spirit of collaboration,” said Dr Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, Rwanda’s Minister of Environment. “We look forward to working with the INC and are optimistic about the opportunity to create a legally binding treaty as a framework for national ambition-setting, monitoring, investment, and knowledge transfer to end plastic pollution.”

The full text of the adopted resolution

UNEP@50: A time to reflect on the past and envision the future

The 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden, was the first-ever UN conference with the word “environment” in its title. The creation of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) was one of the most visible outcomes of this conference of many firsts. UNEP was created quite simply to be the environmental conscience of the UN and the world. Activities taking place through 2022 will look at significant progress made as well as what’s ahead in decades to come.

About the UN Environment Programme (UNEP )

UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

For more information, please contact:

Keisha Rukikaire, Head of News & Media, UN Environment Programme – rukikaire@un.org/


Moses Osani, Media Officer, UN Environment Programme – moses.osani@un.org/