|Issues||Spring 2005 Newsletter|
WEIRD PRIORITIES AND "SOFT THREATS"
In the wake of the devastating December tsunami, the Bush administration (which lauds American generosity) initially pledged $35 million, and then - in the face of worldwide criticism - $325 million to aid the millions of surviving victims of that disaster. Compare this sum with the $625 million bid, shortly thereafter, by an Arizona businessman to purchase the Minnesota Vikings football franchise. Better yet, compare it to the hundreds of billions of dollars being expended on our immoral and illegitimate war in Iraq. What do these numbers tell us about our priorities as a nation? How do they reflect our feelings for an understanding of our fellow human beings living in societies with which we do not closely identify?
Since 9/11/2001 our nation has had an understandable preoccupation with security. We now see our nation as the prime target of evil terrorists and cannot understand why that should be so. Is it really, as we are often told, because envious people hate us because we are free? Does that really make sense? Might not there be some deeper causes? Could our self-absorption and callous indifference to others be a factor?
Of course, we are not the only target of terrorists. Other nations, especially those whom we've enlisted in the global fight against terror (e.g., Spain and Australia) have also been hit. Not surprisingly then, our fear has seemingly become "globalized." More accurately, it has been diffused widely in nations containing the affluent fifth of the world's population. This is the part of the world whose corporate leaders exercise inordinately great influence in running the planetary show.
The other four fifths of the world carry on with another set of enduring fears: of hunger, disease, massive un/under-employment, economic collapse, "resource wars," ethnic strife, burgeoning urban slums, the erosion of folkways in the face of Western cultural influences and the concomitant social anomie, ravished and fouled environments, and an inability to respond adequately to large-scale natural disasters.
The preceding paragraphs provide a capsule version of much of the context for the recently completed work of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change appointed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in November 2003. The panel's task was to put forward a set of recommendations that would ensure the safety of the planet and enhance the relevance and legitimacy of the United Nations system. The panel consisted of sixteen eminent statespersons from all parts of the world and their report's 101 recommendations to the General Assembly in December 2004 are, for the most part, worthy of adoption.
But, in my reading of the report, there is a serious imbalance of emphasis. Most of the report deals with what one might designate as "hard threats," such as weapons of mass destruction, conventional wars, and terrorism, which mainly concern the world's wealthier nations. In seeking to counter those threats, the report's recommendations would, in effect, contribute to the emergence, at the global level of a gated community. Outside the gates would lie the wretched of the earth, those whose major concerns are the "soft threats" posed by poverty, disease, illiteracy, and the like. Only six pages (out of 97) deal explicitly with these concerns. The "soft threats" problem is finessed by the panel's endorsement of the UN Millenium Goals. These were adopted by the General Assembly in the year 2000; but the world is already hopelessly behind schedule in working toward its 2020 targets. And do the rich truly care? Another major concern is the report's failure to suggest imaginative and effective reforms in the decision-making processes within the General Assembly and the Security Council, both of which can be made much more just, realistic, inclusive and effective that they are at present. (This is a subject on which I have written extensively.)
The report's shortcomings in respect to proposals for meeting the essential needs of the worlds poor and the need to give them a more meaningful voice in UN decision-making is remarkably short-sighted. Failure to effectively address issues of justice and inclusiveness has a direct link to terrorism, the weapon or choice for many of the weak and the excluded. If we want to end terrorism, we must find ways to eliminate its root causes.Joe Schwartzberg, President, Minnesota Chapter
"RESOLVED: THE UNITED STATES SHOULD WITHDRAW FROM THE UNITED NATIONS"
On February 22, at the initiation of CGS Board member Bill McGaughey, two members of the UofM Young Republicans debated Mr. McGaughey and Arlen Erdahl on the above question. There was a good crowd to witness the debate at the University of Minnesota. Here is Bill's report on a very interesting evening.
Arlen Erdahl and I did not have too great a challenge in arguing against the proposition that the United States ought to withdraw from the United Nations. I doubt if many people in the audience were persuaded to that extreme point of view. But really the purpose in having the debate was not to bowl people over with our arguments; it was to overcome the so-called 'red state, blue state' mentality where liberals and conservatives are so deeply divided that they seldom discuss or debate anything. Each side demonizes the other while refusing to talk. In that sense, the campus Republicans, in agreeing to debate us, were actually on the same side as we, for our debate focused on real issues instead of how bad our opponents were or how unreasonable their position. We parted on relatively friendly terms.
I prepared for the debate in supposing that our opponents would bring up the Oil-for-Food Program or accuse the UN of being a large, expensive bureaucracy. We had a fact sheet which was not necessary to use. Instead, our opponents stressed the idea that the UN was ineffective, that it consisted of evil nations such as Syria or the Sudan, and that an effective world order could not exist until the world was fully democratized.
We tried to point out that effective action does not always consist of sending in troops to defeat 'evil' governments and forcibly convert their nations to democracy or humane treatment of their citizens. The UN is primarily an instrument for peace. We gave half a dozen examples of where the UN had negotiated successful peace agreements or, in the case of the Cuban missile crisis, helped to avert nuclear catastrophe.
Arlen Erdahl and I stressed the intangibles of building a more peaceful world; the fact that the UN strives for universal membership, honoring the dignity of all peoples, and that it provides a forum for talking rather than fighting. We also pointed out how such problems as health pandemics and refugee populations had to be addressed by an international organization such as the UN. We also made it clear that the UN needs certain internal reforms to become more effective as a political body.
Our moderator, Jim Moore, state chair of Minnesota' Independence Party, did a good job of focusing the discussion and improvising so as to allow more time for questions from the audience and exchanges between the two sides. When, for example, China came in for criticism of its human-rights record, a Chinese woman in the back of the room stood up to respond to certain points. I later thought that democracy will not come to undemocratic nations by Iraq-style invasions but through future leaders who have experienced a variety of political systems; perhaps some of them are current students at the University of Minnesota.
My thanks, then, to Marty Andrade and Anthony Reel, our campus Republican opponents, as well as to Arlen Erdahl who was eloquent on our behalf, and, of course, the Minnesota chapter of Citizens for Global Solutions who felt so strongly about dialoguing with our opponents that they were willing to sponsor a debate on such an unpalatable proposition as pulling out of the UN.Bill McGaughey, CGS-MN Board
CALENDARMarch 17, 2005
WHAT TO DO ABOUT TORTURE?
7:00-9:00 p.m. Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, 511 Groveland Avenue, Minneapolis (at Lyndale and Hennepin). Abundant parking in church parking lot. Free and open to the public. Part of the Third Thursday Global Issues Forum series.
The following questions will be considered: What do the Geneva Conventions say about torture? Who uses torture and why? Is it ever justified? To what extent and in what ways has the US resorted to torture since 9/11? Does torture yield useful information? What are the implications of US use of torture for US troops and civilians who may be captured by opponents of the US? What can be done about the problem?
Presenter: DOUG JOHNSON, founder and Executive Director of the Center for Victims of Torture, which provides counseling and rehabilitation for torture victims from many countries. It was the first organization of its kind in the United States. Doug has just testified before the US Senate on the hearings on the confirmation of Alberto Gonzalez as US Attorney General. Among Doug's many accomplishments was organizing the INFACT (Infant Formula Action Coalition), a worldwide movement that led to WHO condemnation of Nestle's marketing practices in much of the developing world and corrective action by the company.
April 19, 2005
Peace One Day is the powerful documentary of Englishman Jeremy Gilley's three-year quest to bring his impossible dream to reality. Those who have seen this BBC produced 80 minute film agree that it is a powerful testimonial to the fruits of persistence. See www.peaceoneday.org for more information.
One day, Gilley, a young English actor, had an idea: wouldn't it be nice if the United Nations would set aside the same day, September 21 each year, for an International Day of Peace. In 1999 he began his pursuit of his dream. Gilley is an uncommonly tenacious young man, and on September 7, 2001, just days before 9-11, the United Nations General Assembly adopted just such a resolution, to be effective in 2002 and thereafter. Appearances in this film include Kofi Annan, the Dalai Lama, and many others.
Thanks to CGS Board member and St. Thomas University student Jesse Felix-Elleson, Peace One Day will be featured at St. Thomas' Multicultural Film Fest.
April 21, 2005
Although we hear much these days about daunting environmental and social challenges, mainstream media tell us little about the large and growing grassroots movement toward sustainability and the creation of a society that is ecologically sound, economically viable, and socially just. We'll examine some of the profound shifts that movement is bring about through such successful efforts as the "Natural Step," developed in Sweden and now used worldwide in many areas of life. We will also consider how to use our power at many levels to bring about fundamental change.
Presenter: TERRY GIPS, Ecologist, economist, teacher and author (Breaking the Pesticide Habit and The Humane Consumer and Producer Guide), Terry is a President of the nonprofit Alliance for Sustainability at the U. of M.'s Hillel Center and head of Sustainability Associates, a Minneapolis-based consulting firm. He holds an MS in Agricultural and Applied Economics from the Univ. of California, Davis and an MBA from the Yale University School of Management. He is much in demand as an independent Natural Step Framework instructor. Formerly, he served as a Congressional and White House aide and as Director of Ecological Affairs and sustainability for the Aveda Corporation.
May 19, 2005
Beginning in the 1990s, the UN began to experiment with "peace-building," which is building states by another name. Events in Iraq and Afghanistan have not put a damper on these experiments; indeed, the UN is trying to learn from these experiences as it intensifies its commitment to helping populations build legitimate states that can provide public goods and keep the peace. Is this possible? Is it desirable?
Presenter: MICHAEL BARNETT, Harold Stassen Chair of International Relations at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. Michael formerly taught at the University of Wisconsin, Macalester College, Wellesley College and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His doctoral dissertation (completed in Minnesota) won the 1991 Almond Award for the best thesis in Comparative Politics and the resultant book, Confronting the Costs of War: Military Power, State and Society in Egypt and Israel, won the ISA's Quincy Wright Award. Four other major books and numerous articles in leading journals followed. Michael was a Council on Foreign Relations Fellow at the US Mission to the UN.
September 21, 2005
CGS-MN PRESIDENT JOE SCHWARTZBERG NOMINATED FOR MAJOR AWARD
Emeritus University of Minnesota Professor and CGS-MN President Joseph E. Schwartzberg was nominated by Michael Andregg for the 2005 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas for Improving World Order this January. According to Michael, Joe certainly deserves the award; whether they will agree is of course uncertain at this time. An important reason for making this announcement here is that most peace people are not aware of this annual $200,000 award which is administered by the University of Louisville in Kentucky. Their website is www.grawemeyer.org and their deadlines the last few years have been around mid-January. The primary requirement is publication of original ideas that could improve world order if better disseminated.
On January 3, I nominated Joe for the Grawemeyer Award for his long and detailed work on reforming UN voting procedures. His core ideas on that item have been published in distinguished journals since the spring of 2000. But publication of the full-color and detailed exposition of his ideas in 2004 under the title Revitalizing the United Nations Reform Through Weighted Voting made his great work easier to understand for busy committee people who must weigh and evaluate all the submissions. CGS people are probably quite familiar with Joe's concepts, but many political scientists will not be even though they are well aware of the gridlock and other problems at the United Nations that frustrate full success there. If the Grawemeyer people recognize the value of Joe's ideas their award would bring additional publicity to those ideas, which I'm sure is more important to Joe than any monetary recognition. So I say, keep your fingers crossed, because UN Reform is an idea whose time has come, and Dr. Schwartzberg has done more than anyone else I know to work out the key details of fixing UN voting systems to bring them into the 21st century.
Michael Andregg, Justice and Peace Studies Program, University of St. Thomas.
My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.
--Archbishop Desmond Tutu
|Citizens for Global Solutions
Citizens for Global Solutions-Minnesota Chapter
5145 16th Ave. South
Minneapolis, MN 55417
info at globalsolutionsmn.org