CCI representatives meeting with local government and NGO representatives in Simferopol, Crimea.
By Roger Kotila
DWF Vice President
National governments and the United Nations stumble along, generally unable to make the world a safer and better place to live. The Middle East, for example, has become a cauldron of war and chaos causing a refugee crisis in Europe, and bringing with it ever more terrorism.
US/NATO appears to be provoking Russia at its European border raising concerns that a military conflict might erupt, perhaps even nuclear war. Crimea and Ukraine are also geopolitical hotspots. The Western press appears to be adding fuel to the fire by demonizing Russia and its President, Vladimir Putin.
Private citizens have taken notice with a sense of alarm. One group of American citizens, Center for Citizen Initiatives (CCI) takes action to reduce tensions with Russia by directly meeting with ordinary citizens in Russia. Democratic World Federalists (DWF) goes to Brussels, capitol of the European Union, to discuss with European federalists a plan to instigate UN Charter review in order to fix the UN so it can do its job.
The San Francisco Promise now underway
With a vision for a peaceful, just and sustainable world, DWF based in San Francisco has launched a campaign to demand a review of the UN Charter and make good the promise that was made to the nations that signed the Charter in 1945, but was never honored.
The UN, although it does many good things, is unable to do one of its primary jobs–ending war and eliminating nuclear weapons. One reason for its failure is the Charter itself, written over 70 years ago but with fatal flaws, such as being profoundly undemocratic and lacking enforceable world law.
A contingent of world federalists from Canada and the US went to Brussels with a mission to develop support for a review of the UN Charter–dubbed “The San Francisco Promise.”
A number of meetings were arranged to discuss UN Charter Review with European federalists who work closely with the EU and the European Parliament.
Opening the door to a safe and secure world
Because the UN is not a democratic world federation and lacks a proper constitution, the UN could not prevent the regime change invasions that caused the wars in the first place. Europe and the US are now victims of their own making– vulnerable to the blowback from the military invasions in the Middle East which have resulted in the refugee crisis in Europe, and increased acts of terrorism in the West.
UN Charter review could be a key means to open the door to a safe and secure world for all. For example, because it lacks a proper governing structure, the UN has been unable to prevent the wars for regime change launched by US/NATO which have devastated Iraq, Syria, and Libya, and made Ukraine and Crimea targets of contention.
Our contingent meets with Mr. Ioan Bucuras, Secretary General of Young European Federalists. Left to right: Roger Kotila, Vivian Davidson, Bob Hanson, Ioan Bucuras, Shahr-Yar Sharei.
Citizen diplomats to Crimea and Russia
Nation to nation friendship exchanges between private citizen diplomats can be an important vehicle both to reduce tensions, and for fact-finding. CCI leads the way in this type of peace activism.
Twenty American citizen diplomats under the auspices of the Center for Citizen Initiatives traveled to Russia to meet with ordinary Russians in 5 different cities. The purpose? A friendship exchange to reduce tensions, and for fact-finding because Western mainstream media appears to paint a false picture of Russia, Crimea, and Russian leaders.
Rather than take establishment press at its word that Russia is bad and the “aggressor” in places like Crimea, CCI went to Crimea, a center of contention between the United States and Russia. Time and time again western media claims that Russia “took over” Crimea against its will–a Russian “land grab.”
Is Western media falsely making Russia an enemy?
But CCI President Sharon Tennison felt that the media’s negative portrait of Russia was wrong. Tennison is uniquely qualified when it comes to Russia, having made “hundreds of trips” to Russia over the last 33 years.
She is alarmed that Western media falsely labels Russia and President Vladimir Putin as “enemies” of America. Demonization leads to military build-ups, and could result in nuclear war.
As Tennison suspected, CCI’s findings in Crimea differed markedly from the negative picture presented by media. The majority of Crimeans themselves do not see Russia as the villain; they prefer Russia and want to stay out of the grasp of Ukraine.
For the world community nuclear war is not acceptable, and citizens are not waiting for the politicians to make the changes that will be required if the world is to be safe.
CCI’s website includes two insightful articles by retired U.S. Army Colonel Ann Wright who warns us about slanted media reporting, and who also describes how Russians compare themselves to Americans.
A new level of citizen diplomacy aims for a “new UN”
Democratic World Federalists are taking private citizen diplomacy to an entirely new level with a campaign whose goal it is to create a popular and political demand for fundamental changes to the UN itself.
While CCI’s citizen diplomacy works on a nation to nation level, DWF looks to impact all 193 nations by working towards global system change — a “new UN” which can benefit all nations and peoples.
History of “The San Francisco Promise”
It is well known by world federalists that the failed UN Charter has been holding back the UN from doing its primary job — ending war.
It is not well known that a number of nations objected to the undemocratic design of the Charter at the original time of its signing in 1945 in San Francisco, or that it was promised that a review would be held in ten years, a review that has never happened.
The door to the possibility of a “new UN” has opened by the findings of a former DWF Board member Shahr-Yar Sharei whose doctoral research in international law uncovered the fact that a Charter review is legally required by the UN.
Making good on “The San Francisco Promise”
Through The San Francisco Promise, concerned citizens from the Bay Area and nationwide are invited to become members of DWF.
The citizen demand for Charter review may spark an uprising in the UN General Assembly which has long played second fiddle at the UN — treated as second class citizens without a meaningful vote in global affairs.
Citizen diplomats are calling for a World Parliament. Earth Federation activists are lobbying for the outdated and fatally flawed UN Charter to be replaced by the Earth Constitution (aka, Constitution for the Federation of Earth).
It is time for the UN General Assembly to step up, the undemocratic UN Security Council to step down, and for a “new UN” to emerge, one that is capable of meeting the needs for which the UN was originally established.
by Bob Hanson
DWF Board Member
This year, the United Nations celebrates its 70th anniversary, but with a very mixed record of accomplishments. It has done much good by bringing together representatives of the world’s nations, but it has never lived up to its potential to—as the preamble to the United Nation Charter states—“save future generations from the scourge of war.” A key reason for the UN’s impotence, of course, is the veto power of the five original members of the Security Council. But few people know that this provision was never meant to be a permanent feature of the United Nations. I have begun to experiment with a petition to change this and other crippling features of the UN’s operation through what is know as a formal Charter Review. Read on to find out more about it.
History records that the majority of nations who were in attendance at the original charter discussions in San Francisco objected when the veto was first proposed by the winners of World War II. According to dissertation research by our former Board member, Shahriar Sharei, the delegates were told that, if they okayed the veto for now, this issue could be addressed by a formal Charter Review, which would happen no later than ten years from the founding of the UN. This guarantee was included as Sections 108 and 109 of the charter. It’s known as “the San Francisco Promise”—a promise that was never fulfilled because the veto-wielding members of the Security Council have managed to keep a charter review from ever happening.
The U.S., Russia, the UK, and the other favored-five like having a situation where nothing will happen in the world unless they approve. This makes as much sense as enabling the Governor of Texas to veto any actions of the United States Congress. The veto is profoundly unfair and undemocratic, in that it enables the holders to prevent any actions against themselves or their friends. While the veto has only been used a couple of dozen times—primarily by the U.S. and the Soviet Union—the threat of using it has time and time again kept the Security Council from taking much needed action to prevent conflict.
The composition of the Security Council itself is also the subject of much complaint. Why should France and Great Britain have permanent seats, while large and populous nations like Brazil, Japan, and India only occasionally get to sit on the body and don’t have a veto when they are on it?
Some of the other actions which need to be considered through a formal Charter Review include: 1) formation of a world parliament which could enact world law; (2) enabling the World Court of Justice to have the power of enforcement; (3) developing a volunteer rapid deployment force which could put out brushfire wars and do effective peacekeeping instead of relying on national armies—as recommended by all Secretary Generals from Trygve Lie to Kofi Annan; (4) creating better mechanisms capable of dealing with problems such as climate change or radioactive fallout, which recognize no national boundaries.
To strengthen the U.N.’s capacity to act, the idea of a United Nations parliamentary assembly is currently being promoted. It is based upon the idea that ordinary citizens and non-governmental organizations should have a voice in global
While we already have an International Court of Justice, it has little authority. The U.S. withdrew from compulsory jurisdiction in 1986, after the court ruled that we were in violation of international law for our actions in Nicaragua. Other countries have also refused to accept the rulings of the court, which can only be enforced by the Security Council. You can imagine how well that works if the nation ruled against is one of the veto-holding members of the council or a friend of one of them. An example is when the court ruled that Israel’s infamous wall of separation that was built on occupied Palestinian soil was illegal according to international law. Israel thumbed its nose at the court, knowing full well that the U.S. would make sure the ruling wasn’t enforced.
Another obvious shortcoming of the present U.N. is that in the General Assembly, India with over a billion citizens has the same one vote as Monaco, which has a population just slightly larger than Walnut Creek, CA, the town in which I live.
When the U.N. Charter was adapted at San Francisco in 1945, no one expected it to remain unchanged forever. The world has transformed in these 70 years and the United Nations must change if it is to be relevant in the 21st Century. Giving up a bit of our national sovereignty is a small price to pay for finally achieving a world capable of settling differences short of war. The world has gotten steadily smaller and we are all global citizens, whether we want to recognize it or not.
Bob Hanson can be contacted at: [email protected]
NOTE: The Democratic World Federalists are committed to expressing a wide range of views on the vision of creating a peaceful, just, and sustainable world through a democratic World Federation. The views expressed in this article represents that commitment and not necessarily our official position.