Established 70 Years Ago: Is the UN myth or reality?
By Pierre-Edouard Deldique
Original article here.
June 26, 1945. San Francisco. Representatives of 50 countries signed the Charter of the United Nations after unanimously approving it the day before. On that day, American president Harry Truman declared, "The world can begin to look forward to the time when all worthy human beings may be permitted to live decently as free people." The UN: a nice dream or progress in international relations? The debate has been heated for 70 years, even more so since the end of the Cold War.
Does studying the UN mean writing a story about an illusion? Or a myth? Remember that 70 years ago, the Charter set superhuman, noble goals: "To maintain international peace and security, to develop friendly relations among nations, to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character." They were idealistic objectives that didn't carry much weight in the face of the Cold War, also known as "the balance of terror," shortly after the document was signed in California.
Hardly established, the UN actually entered a glacial period. The freeze is symbolized by the power of veto that Moscow and Washington used for decades, as a result halting all of the Security Council's decisions. While blocked in its mission to keep peace, the UN DID become a platform for new African countries after decolonization and a voice for countries labeled as third-world. At the time, the UN even proposed creating a New International Economic Order.
The Organization's Limits
On the contrary, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the agony and collapse of the USSR, and the end of the bipolar world, all shook the UN awake since the Security Council was no longer blocked by the two "super powers" using their veto. Consequentially, the individual countries of our planet discovered that they also form united nations. But, it was actually a rude awakening and misunderstanding. In 1990, George Bush senior really needed the organization in order to build a coalition against Saddam Hussein, which he was able to do. However, George Bush junior was unable to drag the UN into the war in Iraq in 2003.
Then, there were the conflicts in Somalia and Bosnia, genocide in Rwanda, war against terrorism begun in 2001, Darfur, jihadism, Syria, the Ukraine... Numerous crises revealed the organization's limits, particularly on the political level. And this, despite the efforts of certain Secretary-Generals like Boutros Boutros-Ghali or Kofi Annan to give it power on the world stage. These crises also showed the UN's incapacity to keep the peace. Even more so, to impose peace.
Yet, it must be noted that, in the UN’s 70 years of existence, even though its Charter's resolutions are far from being achieved, it HAS stepped into and intervened in the cracks and crevices left by its member states' diplomacy. It voted in texts (via the General Assembly) that were little appreciated by a good number of these members. These texts drew the world's attention to poverty and threats to the environment, developed international justice, and, more recently, brought into the spotlight the "responsibility to protect" the people. And, of course, they deployed the Blue Helmets for better (interposition) and for worse (inaction during massacres). The presence of these "peace-keepers" is not absolute security for victims of conflicts, but it is real. They have also included defense of cultural and human rights, come what may. Take, for example, the development of a world heritage.
A Necessary Reform
Finally, if the UN gives the impression of being a diplomatic pipe dream and a mediocre soldier for peace, it's because the member states (today there are 193) never wanted to respect its charter. Some of them wanted to wield it for their own profit. Truman fearfully predicted this, remarking on June 26, 1945, "If we try to utilize it selfishly, in the interest of one particular country or a small group of countries, we will be guilty of treason."
In reality, the UN will finally exist the day its members respect the letter and spirit of the Charter, and actually play the 'multilateral' card. In addition, they must agree to reform it in order to give it heavier political weight, including expansion of the Security Council in particular. Currently, the council represents the world of 1945, not 2015, even though its practices have greatly evolved. Diplomats must recognize that the threat to world security and peace no longer comes from one single state, but it also comes from arms traffickers or epidemics like the Ebola virus. Under these conditions, it will have to be a lot more than a means for the world to express its (good) conscience.
Henry Kissinger recalls this in his book Diplomacy. There is always a "conflict between Richelieu's concepts and Wilson's ideas, between foreign policy seen as a balancing of interest and diplomacy seen as an affirmation of natural harmony." Hobbes and his Leviathan or Kant and Perpetual Peace. Will the states finally surmount this antagonism? This is the price to pay for the UN's future. Otherwise, we will continue to witness "the inexorable decay of a big human dream," as Romain Gary believed, a man who worked with the organization and knew it well.
Khalida Jarrar's story has not been present in American headlines. Hence, I translated this article for l'Humanité. It is brief. It contains all of the highlights of her current situation. I hope that it sparks an English-speaker's interest to learn more about her. I hope that it brings to light the futility and injustice of Israel occupying Palestine.
It blows my mind that Palestinians are being forced to submit to an Israeli occupying force, that Israel is telling them what they can and can't do and where they can and can't go, then jailing them for disobeying. It is a human right to be able to travel and do what you wish (without harming others, IMO).
Under these circumstances, Khalida Jarrar stands up for her rights and the rights of all Palestinians.
Court Orders Khalida Jarrar to be Freed
By Patrick Le Hyaric
Original article here
Patrick Le Hyaric, director of l’Humanité, declares: "Everything that can be done in the following hours to demand liberty for the Palestinian deputy must be done. (Telegrams, letters, messages; phone calls to the Israeli Embassy...) Enough of this impunity that Israeli leaders enjoy. More support for Khalida! Free all of the Palestinian political prisoners."
Deputy to the PFLP, feminist, elected representative of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Khalida specializes in defending Palestinian prisoners from her position in the Addameer network. She is also a militant that the occupying forces are trying to silence by all possible means. Already, in August-September 2014, an international campaign was launched to support Khalida. It demands that they cancel the "special supervision order" and her forced transfer from Ramallah to Jericho. But, Khalida refused to be expelled from Jericho. Instead, she set up a tent in front of the Palestinian Legislative Council’s building until the order was lifted on September 16, 2014.
Khalida was violently arrested by the Israeli Army at dawn on April 2, 2015 at her home. The court reproached her for belonging to the PFLP and participating in demonstrations where she had allegedly "incited violence and the removal of Israeli soldiers."
* * * * *
May 21, 2015, our friend, Palestinian deputy Khalida Jarrar was judged in front of a military court. She was arrested by the Israeli army early on April 2 at her home. The court reproached her for participating in popular demonstrations and for her membership in the PFLP. It intervened after the deputy to the Palestinian Legislative Council was put under a "special supervision order" in August 2014. The order said she must leave Ramallah for Jericho. She was correct to refuse being expelled like that (i.e. deported). Thus, Khalida was leading a fight to free Palestinian political prisoners. Silencing her is equivalent to trying to stifle the protests and work of movements that campaign to free Palestinian prisoners from the occupying power.
Today, even after the court order that supports her freedom, Khalida is still in prison for three days in order to give the prosecution time to appeal this decision.
Everything that can be done in the following hours to demand liberty for Khalida must be done. (Telegrams, letters, messages; phone calls to the Israeli Embassy...) Enough of this impunity that Israeli leaders enjoy. More support for Khalida! Free all of the Palestinian political prisoners.
Khalida announced to journalists that this detention was meant to silence her, but that "we will continue our fight until the occupation is over!" Her lawyer condemned a political trial.
I chose to translate the below article for a couple of reasons. One, it relates to Guadeloupe, an archipelago that I love very much. And I will do anything to bring it into American's geographic vocabulary. Two, I wanted to ensure the ACTe Memorial gets some attention. It's an ambitious project, meant to use the past as a springboard to the future. With history, we should never forget, but, rather, learn from it and grow and make changes. And the ACTe Memorial addresses the history of slavery and the slave trade with this objective.
Slavery: Remembering It Unshackles the Future
By ADRIEN ROUCHALEOU
Original article here.
The ACTe Memorial opened yesterday in Guadeloupe. Far from putting an end to debates, this exhibition and research center is intended to promote them.
Pointe-à-Pitre (Guadeloupe), special report. For a long time, they didn't want to talk about slavery in the Lesser Antilles. The shame of being a victim set the precedent and kept their lips sealed. Yet, when they decided to open the plantations' registers, then their mouths and everything else moved quickly. To the point that today, the Guadeloupean people want to take a big step to build their pride and identity on this history, as well as their connection to the world. They are opening the ambitious Caribbean Center on the Expression and Memory of Slavery and the Slave Trade, the ACTe Memorial in Point-à-Pitre. It was inaugurated yesterday with great fanfare by President François Hollande and in the presence of most of the Caribbean heads of state and many others from Africa.
Sharing the point of view of victims of slavery
The French president may have inaugurated it and Victorin Lurel, the president of the Regional Council of Guadeloupe, may have advanced the project. But the ACTe Memorial originated in civil society in 1998. It was instigated by Guadeloupean personalities from the International Committee of Black People (CIPN) when 40,000 people marched silently in the streets of Paris to commemorate 150 years since slavery was abolished in the French colonies. The momentum continued when the mission of announcing a national center for the memory of slavery and the slave trade was entrusted by Jacques Chirac to Edouard Glissant, a great writer from Martinique. Glissant wanted to build it in the center of Paris. The project was aborted, though, when Nicolas Sarkozy took power, declaring widely his hatred for "repentance." It became a concrete project when Guadeloupe expressed the desire to build it on the same grounds where the crime took place. The idea was put forth that, if the Republic had been celebrating abolitionists for a long time (Victor Schoelcher especially), it was now time to share the point of view of the victims of slavery.
It is located in Point-à-Pitre's heart, on the former site of the huge Darboussier sugar cane factory. It overlooks the city and the ocean where immense cruise ships come to port, visible on all sides from streams as well as the famous Victory Plaza. The memorial is imposing like the new horizon, an immense building of black granite, covered in silver latticework that imitates the strong aerial roots of a constricting fig tree. It reflects the forbidden fig tree from the Bible. It is said that imprisoned slaves threw down its seeds in hopes of seeing them destroy the dungeon walls. A specimen is visible atop the dungeons of the industrial site's former vinegar plant. Its style of construction clashes with the Pointois architecture, due to Pascal Berthelot's Guadeloupean architecture design studio. The project planners want to make it a symbol comparable to the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Opera House in Sydney.
But the outside is surely not as important as its contents. So, what is a "Caribbean Center on the Expression and Memory of Slavery and the Slave Trade?" The question of its classification "will be perpetual," says Victorin Lurel, but "it shouldn't be seen as a museum." To use the expression of Thierry L'Etang, the head of the project, "the marrow of the project" is still a permanent exposition, in concrete terms. But very different from what already exists. It is organized into about 40 "islands" among six themed "archipelagos," the Americas, Towards Slavery and the Black Slave Trade, the Slavery Period, the Abolition Period, the Follow-up Period, and Today. It includes a succession of exhibitions of potentially evocative objects (Caribbean Indian artifacts, conquistador’s armor and helmets, the chains of Benin slaves...), high quality, contemporary creations, and scenes that immerse you in a Caribbean street during Carnival or in the hold of a slave ship where the walls close in... The visual, experiential, and spatial composition is strong and impressive thanks to Swiss museum specialist François Confino's design studio. It's sure to profoundly touch numerous visitors, short of making them specialists in the history of slavery and the slave trade (but the exposition's aim goes far beyond this subject).
"We are looking at these things with lucidity."
The ACTe Memorial is also a space for temporary exhibits dedicated to contemporary creations, making it a great outlet for the Caribbean arts scene which desperately needs one at present. It will also be a center for research, more specifically, for genealogy, and a place for debates, which is great of course, since the ACTe Memorial isn't putting an end to any of them. Victorin Lurel believes that "the ACTe Memorial would be perfect if it addresses two questions: one about forgiveness and the other about atonement." These are extremely sensitive questions that have narrowly avoided starting wildfires in the past. They are current questions, incidentally, as demonstrated with the Representative Council of Black Associations of France (CRAN) announcing that it is going to sue Ernest-Antoine Seillière, the former president of MEDEF. The Council has already done so with the Deposits and Consignments Fund and Spie Batignolles company. All of the aforementioned have been accused of building their fortunes on the exploitation of human beings. Elie Domoto, a trade unionist, asked on Sunday for "the repeal of those texts from 1848 and 1849 which indemnified the colonists, since they don't conform to the French Constitution." "The ACTe Memorial might rekindle these tensions, but we are looking at things with lucidity," Lurel assured, adopting the project's motto. "Memory inspires the future."
Another inspiring article that I felt compelled to translate. These women are strong and not afraid to speak their minds. They know that they deserve to be treated better and they won't back down until they get what they deserve.
Cleaning ladies still camped out at Syntagma
by Rosa Moussaoui
Original article here
Syriza promised to reinstate these women, symbols of the fight against the troika.
They acclaimed Yanis Varoufakis when he took his position as finance minister. But, under the new minister’s windows, a few steps from Plaza Syntagma, in Athens’ center, they didn’t break camp. The cleaning ladies for public institutions have been fighting back for 16 months against 595 layoffs in their midst. They promise to continue occupying the street until they are reinstated as Syriza promised while campaigning. Yet, Thursday, their faces appeared relaxed and bursts of laughter could be heard among the tents. For these campers who rotated shifts night and day, there was abundant support. “I am very happy. This political change represents the hope of getting back to our jobs, but also the hope of a future for our children and better days ahead for Greeks,” said Magdalena Sokoli, smiling. Along with her companions in misery, she experienced all of the backlash from this long combat. She pestered the troika representatives each time they visited, took part in legal battles, participated in all of the anti-austerity marches, where the cleaning ladies took the lead, becoming symbols of resistance.
“We are afraid of nothing, and have nothing to lose.”
In June 2014, Antonis Samaras’ government pulled out all the stops trying to get rid of them and sent in riot police. Without warning, the women became the targets of a savage repression, being kicked and beaten with clubs and shields. Several women ended up in the hospital, with broken bones and head and neck injuries. Journalists covering the brutal police raid were also hit and injured. “We came back. We didn’t give in. We are afraid of nothing and have nothing to lose. Through rain or wind, we will stay here until our jobs are given back to us. We are, for the most part, around 50 years old - too far from retirement and too old to hope to find work elsewhere. Alexis Tsipras supported us since the beginning. We now expect him to keep his promise,” insisted Magdalena, her fellow combatants nodding in approval.
Behind them, the famous poster showing a raised fist wrapped in a pink rubber glove changed - the same hand now flashing a “V” for Victory.
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