UN Secretary General: called for an historic global ceasefire – ‘a crucial window to build lasting political solutions’

In March, the UN Secretary General called for an historic global ceasefire, to allow war-torn countries the chance to focus on the threat of COVID-19. It would provide access for humanitarian aid, allow health workers the chance to prepare for the crisis, and offer a crucial window to build lasting political solutions.

Later that month, Physicians for Social Responsibility reported that the UN (@WHNSC) tweeted: “The United States hopes that all parties in #Afghanistan, #Syria, #Iraq, #Libya, #Yemen, and elsewhere will heed the call of @antonioguterres . Now is the time for peace and cooperation.”

On March 25, The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement about Covid-19 that included this: “We support the respective statement by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of March 23.”  On March 29, Pope Francis expressed support for the ceasefire.

The next day, 53 nations, including Canada, Mexico, Japan and 24 European nations, issued a joint statement of support for the Global Ceasefire. “We welcome and fully support the United Nations Secretary-General’s call for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic. We echo the Secretary-General that it is, ‘time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.’

The statement and list of 53 nations is available here, at the website of the Iceland diplomatic mission.

Several other countries have since piled on. On April 3, in a progress update, Guterres reported that over 70 UN member countries had endorsed  the global  ceasefire. But he urged all combatants to actually lay down their weapons, saying: “We need to do everything possible to find the peace and unity our world so desperately needs to battle COVID-19.”   World Beyond War is tracking the list of endorsing nations here.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ appeal for a worldwide cessation of hostilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic ends:

Let us take inspiration from coalitions and dialogue slowly taking shape among rival parties in some parts to enable joint approaches to COVID-19. But we need much more.

End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world. It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now. That is what our human family needs, now more than ever.

 

 

 

 

 

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Remember all killed and injured due to military action and many thousands daily living in fear

Link at the foot of In Memoriam.

As we enter the season of Remembrance, many will be thinking of those still being killed and injured due to military action and of thousands living in daily fear of attack.

Steve Sweeney draws attention to the march of Kurds calling for peace through the streets of Slemani in Iraqi Kurdistan on Tuesday night (November 4th)

Earlier this year this group of protestors stood on a road in Iraqi Kurdistan holding a banner in Kurdish that says, بە ئاشتی و تەبایی و یەکڕیزی پیلانی داگیرکاری لەسەر زینی وەرتێ تێکدەشکێنین (We will break down the invasion plot from Warte mountain with unity, harmony, and peace) They asked that all will:

  • pray for the residents of Zine Warte who are facing increased military tensions with the building of new KDP government and PKK guerrilla bases during the coronavirus lockdown;
  • pray for the public employees and pensioners of Iraqi Kurdistan who are not receiving full salaries from the government and
  • pray for the many refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) living in precarious conditions throughout Kurdistan and Iraq.

As one of the organisers said, “Kurds should not fight Kurds.”

They are hoping to stave off a looming intra-Kurdish war between rival factions as fears rise of a deadly conflict between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Will both sides hear and heed UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ appeal to end the sickness of war?

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Nobel’s will said that the peace award should go to ‘peace activists’ working for ‘the abolition or reduction of standing armies’

Feeling bemused by the award of the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, the writer asked Peter van den Dungen what he thought of it. He sent the following letter written by Fredrik Heffermehl, a Norwegian jurist, writer and peace activist – see footnote.

Heffermehl (left) is a staunch critic of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which, according to him, has failed to comply with the will of Alfred Nobel thereby making 45% of the awards after 1945 juridically illegal.

In the autumn of 2010 he published a critical study, The Nobel Peace Prize. What Nobel really wanted, and the following year Michael Nobel, a leader of the Nobel Family Association for 15 years, supported this criticism, warning that Norwegian politicians may lose their independent control of the peace prize. Fredrik Heffermehl writes:

Nobel Prize against hunger?

The announcement of this year’s Peace Prize was a major step forward. The award committee has long had a habit of sending a stray kiss to Nobel´s testament. This year, the Nobel Committee’s leader Berit Reiss-Andersen came so close to the Nobel’s purpose that she was only 3-4 words short of a true and full interpretation.

She started by mentioning “the need for international solidarity and multilateral cooperation” and praised the food program for creating “conditions for peace in conflict-prone areas, and for being a driving force in the work against the use of hunger as a weapon in war and conflict.”

A little later she also said “We will never achieve the goal of a world free of hunger if we do not also manage to put an end to war and armed conflict.” The words in italics are Nobel’s goal She should have said so. Had there been a few words about this, she would have announced the goal precisely. But still it is kept a secret that co-operation on global disarmament was his foremost tool for peace.

In addition one must ask how suitable the food program is for promoting Nobel’s intention, a demilitarization of world affairs. The peace award in 2020 sounds to me like an echo of what happened in the presidency when the Storting in 1897 undertook to appoint the committee of five to hand out the award. Norway was in the middle of a struggle for freedom (from union with Sweden) and badly wanted its own relations with other countries. To manage the Nobel award was a very welcome opportunity to establish relations with other nations, as I write in my new book, “Behind the medals”.

But one word in the will did not match well when the nation was preparing for a military confrontation with Sweden. In the area of ​​peace, Nobel was inspired by Bertha von Suttner and her successful novel “Down with the Weapons” (1889), but all indications are that the presidency quietly agreed to “forget” that disarmament was the will’s central tool for peace. (Bertha von Suttner pictured opposite)

War preparations and wars consume enormous resources. Crops are destroyed, land becomes uncultivable, we get grotesque famines. Reduced military spending could really mean something in the fight against hunger and poverty. The world spent a total of $1.917 billion for military purposes in 2019 (SIPRI). By freeing up 1% of this money, 19 billion dollars, the World Food Program could have almost quadrupled its budget, while the job would have become much easier. The committee should start respecting the legal right of the antimilitarist “peace activists” Nobel described in the will”.-

Footnote

Fredrik S. Heffermehl formerly worked as a lawyer and civil servant from 1965 to 1982 and was the first secretary-general of the Norwegian Humanist Association from 1980 to 1982. He later made his mark as a writer and activist for peace and against nuclear arms. He is the honorary president, and former president, of the Norwegian Peace Council, a former vice president of the International Peace Bureau, and a former vice president of the International Association of Lawyers against Nuclear Arms. 

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STOP PRESS:

Fredrik Heffermehl has just published the end result of 13 years of study. It is a book in Norwegian on what the Nobel Peace Prize awarders actually have done and how they have suppressed the peace ideas that Nobel wished to support for 120 years. The deeper purpose of the work is to inform a wide circle of readers of a taboo area in the official debate – that there is an alternative to arms races and confrontation – and show what that alternative is by portraying the 115 who were cheated of the Nobel PPs they actually deserved. The book is being translated into English (with a fabulous, incredible linguistic and historic check by Peter van den Dungen and is seeking a publisher. Tentative title: Behind the Medals.

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Somali government mediators help to secure kidnapped doctors’ release

This site has reported the work of neutral Switzerland and non-governmental mediators, including the late Adam Curle, Paul Ingram, Pope Francis, US Senator Dennis Kucinich and mediation by peacemakers in Mozambique, the Philippines and Aceh, recorded by Dr Katia Papagianni from the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.

Now comes cheering news of a Somali government initiative.

In April 2019 two Cuban doctors, surgeon Landy Rodriguez and general practitioner Assel Herera, were ambushed in Kenya, kidnapped and held captive by the al-Shabab group in neighbouring Somalia.

The doctors had been working for a Cuban medical mission as part of a bilateral agreement with the Kenyan government that saw Kenyans sent to Cuba to train as doctors.

Somali intelligence has now negotiated their release. No details of the terms were disclosed, though the group had been demanding a $1.5 million (£1.15m) ransom.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez on Monday thanked his Somali counterpart, Ahmed Isse Awad, for the Somali government’s help in securing the doctors’ release.

Since April, more than 3,700 Cuban doctors, nurses and technicians have volunteered alongside health workers in 39 countries to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. They are members of Cuba’s Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade which has saved more than 80,000 lives worldwide since its formation in 2005.

There is a proposal for the Nobel Peace Prize to be awarded to these Cuban health workers.

 

 

 

 

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Some young Palestinians seek a new way forward: Ziad Abu Zayyad

‘It is not only the end of the road that matters, but also the journey itself’

Daniel Levy, president of the US Middle East Project and a former peace negotiator after Oslo, has reflected: “Israelis may, over time, discover that the alternative to ‘land for peace’ with the Palestinians is not ‘peace for peace’ but ‘equality for peace’.”

Though some young Palestinians still believe that force of arms is the only way to achieve their goals, after two intifadas since 1980, statehood seems as far off now as it was then.

Reuters interviewed Ziad Abu Zayyad (33), who, like the rest of his generation, has vivid childhood memories of violence during the years of the intifada, followed by sporadic. bomb and rocket attacks on Israeli cities, and Israeli air strikes and tank raids on Palestinian towns.

Despite this and recent political setbacks, Abu Zayyad (left, on the Mount of Olives), who has sought statehood all his life, said:

“I do believe the Palestinian people need to be smart and think wisely before they choose the path that they want to go into. It is not only the end of the road that matters, but also the journey itself that history will remember.

“Intifada can be made in different shapes. It may be made by using a pen and writing, by opening a blog and reaching out to the people and by having a diplomatic effort – even though it has proved to be useless these days.”

24 year old Palestinian engineer Leen Anabtawi can see Jerusalem from one side of her balcony, and an Israeli settlement from the other. Growing up in Jenin, studying in Nablus and now working in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinians’ limited self-rule administration, Anabtawi has watched her generation evolve since the “scary” intifada years.

Leen, in front of the Israeli barrier near Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank Sept.24, 2020

She said: “My friends started focusing on different things. It’s hard to take action when you have so much to care about… your children, your school, your future, your life, your loans”.

Her own focus is now personal – to compete with Israeli engineers as an equal. She ends:

“Existing as a Palestinian is resisting. Growing up to be a strong, powerful intellectual person who has a (voice), who has an idea and an aim, is resisting these days.”

Basil al-Adra, 24, set up tourist routes around his village near Hebron to teach Palestinians what it is like to live in a rural area among fortified Israeli settlements. At a recent awards ceremony to recognise his family’s project he said:

“The most important thing in life to have my own legitimate rights like any other person in the world. The best way of resistance for me is national peaceful resistance.

In his book, ‘How the Cure a Fanatic’ – after describing the suffering of both peoples – Amos Oz offered “some sensational news . . . there is no essential misunderstanding between Palestinian Arab and Israeli Jew”:

“The Palestinians want the land they call Palestine. They have very strong reasons to want it. The Israeli Jews want exactly the same land for exactly the same reasons, which provides for a perfect understanding between the parties, and for a terrible tragedy . . . The Israelis are in Israel because they have nowhere else to go. The Palestinians are in Palestine because they have nowhere else to go. This is a conflict between victims, and between people who both have a just claim to the land.”

The Times of Israel reported in 2017 that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said, “If the two-state solution fails, Palestinians will back a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with full rights for all citizens”.

Jonathan Cook, a British Nazareth-based writer, reports the latest views of  American Jewish professor of journalism and political science, Peter Beinart (below right). He has for many years supported the two-state solution, though increasingly turning his attention to Israel’s behaviour towards its large Palestinian minority, one in five of the population. He says:

“The painful truth is that the project to which liberal Zionists like myself have devoted ourselves for decades — a state for Palestinians separated from a state for Jews —has failed. The traditional two-state solution no longer offers a compelling alternative to Israel’s current path. It risks becoming, instead, a way of camouflaging and enabling that path. It is time for liberal Zionists to abandon the goal of Jewish–Palestinian separation and embrace the goal of Jewish–Palestinian equality”.

Over the last 15 years, largely because of Palestinian security cooperation with Israel, the number of Israelis killed by Palestinians has decreased dramatically: from more than 450 in 2002, at the height of the Second Intifada, to an average of less than 30 per year since the Second Intifada ended in 2005. (The number of Palestinians killed by Israel is far higher.)

In 2019, according to Shikaki, Palestinians aged 18–22 preferred one state by a 5% margin

As the prospect of a viable Palestinian state has receded, growing numbers of Palestinians have embraced the idea of one state in which they enjoy equal rights. In 2011, according to data shared with Jonathan Cook by the Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki, twice as many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza preferred two states to one state. This year, the two options were virtually tied. The prospect of one equal state is particularly popular among younger Palestinians. In 2019, according to Shikaki, Palestinians aged 18–22 preferred one state by a 5% margin. One state is the preference of Abbas’s own son.

Peter Beinart ends, “It’s time to envision a Jewish home that is a Palestinian home, too”.

 

 

 

 

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NATO applauds the start of intra-Afghan peace negotiations

Ian Davis, founding director of NATO Watch,  sent this mailing today. He and his associates “are the eyes and ears for monitoring developments across an Alliance that directly affects over 20% of the global population”.

14 September 2020

On 12 September 2020, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke via video link at the opening ceremony of intra-Afghan negotiations held in Doha, under the chairmanship of the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “With the start of intra-Afghan negotiations, we are entering a new phase of the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process,” the NATO Secretary General said. “Afghans want peace and so does the international community, which has supported Afghanistan on this long, hard road,” he added.

In a statement the North Atlantic Council urged the Afghan government and the Taliban to “fulfil their commitments to the peace process initiated by the US-Taliban agreement and the US-Afghanistan Joint Declaration” and called on “the Taliban to take decisive steps toward ending violence” and to build “on the progress of the last 19 years to safeguard the human rights of all Afghans, particularly women, children, and minorities, uphold the rule of law, and ensure that Afghanistan never again serves as a safe haven for terrorists”.

The statement also reaffirmed the alliance’s “longstanding commitment to Afghanistan, the Afghan people, and the Afghan security forces”. “We went into Afghanistan together, we are adjusting together, and when the conditions are right, we will leave together”, it said.

The start of the talks were also welcomed by the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the talks are a “major opportunity to achieve the long-held aspirations of the people of Afghanistan for peace” and called for a complete cease-fire “to protect civilians and to de-escalate the conflict in order to save lives and to create a conducive environment”. Guterres stressed the need for participation of women in the peace process and the future development of Afghanistan, for which he said the UN will extend its full support. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, secretary general of the OIC, commended the countries who played a key role in making the talks possible, while urging all parties to ensure that the negotiations prove to be constructive, help resolve differences, and lead to comprehensive reconciliation. “Dialogue is the only option that leads to peace, security, and stability for the people of Afghanistan and their country,” he said.

The peace talks became possible after Afghan officials and the Taliban reached a compromise over the release of prisoners at the beginning of the month. The Taliban demanded the release of 5000 prisoners as a precondition for negotiations, a request that initially stalled talks between the parties for months. The Afghan government has since complied and freed all but seven prisoners on the list. The Trump administration is hoping that the negotiations will lead to a further withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan; the US troop level is already down to around 8,600 from around 12,000. The NATO mission is also in the process of reducing troop numbers from about 16,000 troops to roughly 12,000 troops and is also preparing to make further reductions.

 

 

 

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Hopes for a more peaceful Afghanistan

Peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government are to start.

Yesterday the New York Times – ahead of the field – reported that officials announced this on Thursday after nearly two decades of  war.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban’s top political leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar signing the peace agreement, Doha

The release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners held by the government opened the way for the breakthrough agreed with the Taliban in a February deal brokered in Doha by the United States, at which the Afghan government was not present.

The Americans promised a phased withdrawal of their remaining troops in exchange for guarantees that there would be a cease-fire and their forces are leaving Afghanistan on schedule. The chief of the U.S. Central Command, said on Wednesday that by November the American military presence in Afghanistan will be reduced to 4,500.

Causes for concern include:

  • deciding the shape of a future power-sharing government,
  • negotiations about women’s rights,
  • the process of integrating Taliban fighters into the security forces,
  • a report from the United Nations Security Council this month which notes that there are a large number of foreign fighters affiliated with Al Qaeda and other regional militant groups in the country,
  • The killing of more than 3,500 Afghan troops, with nearly 6,800 others wounded in the five months since the U.S. and Taliban signed their deal.

Mujib Mashal, the reporter writing from Kabul, described in detail the members of the negotiating team of the Afghan republic. The monitoring of the agreement terms will be done in a joint office in Doha.

The earlier post on this site quoted the Times war correspondent Anthony Loyd in June last year, who reported the words of a Pashtun tribal elder from Wardak, Haji Abdul Mannan:

“Our nation is like a wounded man struck repeatedly on one side by the government and on the other by the Taliban,” one, said: “The people are exhausted. Peace is desperately desired.”

Loyd ends by saying that the Afghan president, supported by the US, seems determined to pursue peace and the people of Afghanistan, on whose support the government and Taliban rely, appear desperate for an end to the fighting. Hope has soared across Afghanistan that the end of the war might be in sight.

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Geoff Tansey: It’s time to turn swords into ploughshares, bombs into bread, and soldiers into good Samaritans*

Geoff Tansey’s work first came to my attention in the ’80s when the World Development Movement published his paper, Disarm or develop. He then worked with Paul Rogers, Prof of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford and they co-edited a book, A World Divided.  He has now published a blog entitled It’s time to turn swords into ploughshares, bombs into bread, and soldiers into good Samaritans’. 

It is blatantly obvious that there is no military response that can defeat the COVID-19 virus. It should be equally obvious that military spending can’t deal with the other two great long-term, slower-acting pandemics – climate change and biodiversity loss. It is also clear that the way we run the world and today’s global “leaders” are far from adequate to address these challenges . . . 

At their best the world’s governments can come up with clear and sensible goals, such as the Sustainable Development Goals the first of which is to end poverty and the second to end hunger. But to achieve this we need to put our resources to work in the right direction. And for this to happen we need to see a worldwide commitment from every country to redirect its military spending away from mechanisms and technologies to better kill each other with into life-enhancing and environment sustaining activities. It is only by doing this that we will achieve the sustainable development goals, conquer hunger and poverty and make a fairer, healthy and sustainable world for this and future generations.

Now it is unrealistic to expect a complete redeployment of military spending to occur over night, it needs to be done in stages. So from 1 January 2021 every government in the world should shift 10% of its military spending into other areas that address the food, health, environment and climate destabilisation challenges that we face, that address the growing inequity in the world and aim to reduce it. These redirected resources must support new forms of business and productive activities which enhance our ability to mitigate and adapt to the climate disruption that is already underway. This annual 10% reduction should continue until world military spending is negligible. The valuable logistical and organisational skills found in the military should be redirected into international and national rescue services, peacekeeping and peacemaking. This redeployment of the brainpower and resources is aimed at achieving and going beyond the sustainable development goals.

This requires vision, leadership of the kind that we have not currently seen, and a groundswell from the bottom up, building on the kind of help and support we have seen being given throughout the world in many countries to those affected by COVID-19. The United Nations Charter begins “We the peoples” and it is we the peoples of the world demanding this change, and to be part of it. We need to see every different means of calling on our governments and businesses to do this, including through the online types of petition such as 38Degrees, SomeofUs, WeMove, AVAAZ, and others. If governments and businesses can take unprecedented steps in acting to fight COVID-19 they can do this.

On April 16, 1953, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower said “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense.” It is time to stop that theft. Let us begin a better way of life and save millions from the consequences of the two great long-term, slower-acting pandemics – climate change and biodiversity loss.

* Geoff writes: I come from a background in which Biblical stories permeated my childhood and this refers to a story of a man from a different and despised group (a Samaritan) from the dominant one but who helped a stranger in trouble when those you might have expected to do so from the religious and dominant group did not.”

 

 

 

 

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NATO Watch Essay 2020: China and the USA are now involved in a complex and multifaceted Cold War

A thought-provoking new addition to the articles section

Conclusions

Rather than going global and setting its sights on a confrontation with China, NATO should seek to work with China to create a more stable and secure world. China must be engaged, not contained.

Despite the reality of a hardening of Chinese policy domestically and externally, especially in an East Asian context, this does not amount to a challenge to the global order.

By exaggerating the Chinese ‘threat’ and casting the country as an ‘enemy’, the United States and NATO are likely to encourage an even harder line from Beijing. Given the undoubted mutual antagonism between Washington and Beijing, Europe’s role should be to act as a diplomatic bridge between the two sides, as happened to limited extent during the first Cold War.

This does not preclude European politicians speaking out and taking action over Chinese human rights abuses. And they should also continue to promote liberal democracy, humanism and internationalism in engaging with China.

As the British journalist Jonathan Freedland notes, perhaps the answer begins in finding allies and taking on the undramatic, often unglamorous work of diplomacy, and then “advancing bit by bit towards something better”.

Read the full article here.

 

 

 

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Propose full world multilateral disarmament in five years at the United Nations

 Proposal to the UN for all states to:

1. cut defence by 20% a year for five years,
2. stop all arms production. Firms have falling subsidies while they convert,
3. require world-wide open inspection, UN policing, punishment for infringement,
4. exterminate terrorist weapons and
5. move disputes to UN.

185 signatures to date

Shown on this map

 

At 10,000 signatures…

At 10,000 signatures, government will respond to this petition

 

At 100,000 signatures…

At 100,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament

 

Petition presented by Alan James Storkey 

To sign this petition click here

 

 

 

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