[unable to retrieve full-text content]The pieces for a political deal to end the Syrian civil war are coming together — if Ankara will let them.
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[unable to retrieve full-text content]The pieces for a political deal to end the Syrian civil war are coming together — if Ankara will let them.
US, Canada & Ukraine vote against Russia’s anti-Nazism resolution at UN
By: RT on: 22.11.2014 [10:24 ] (217 reads)
Published time: November 22, 2014 07:59
Edited time: November 22, 2014 09:36
Reuters / Mike Segar
Canada, Hate crimes, Russia, UN, USA, Ukraine UN General Assembly’s Third Committee passed a Russia-proposed resolution condemning attempts to glorify Nazism ideology and denial of German Nazi war crimes. The US, Canada and Ukraine were the only countries to vote against it.
The resolution was passed on Friday by the committee, which is tasked with tackling social and humanitarian issues and human rights abuses, by 115 votes against three, with 55 nations abstaining, Tass news agency reported.
The document voiced concern over the rise of racism-driven crimes around the world and the influence that parties with extremist agendas are gaining.
It called for a universal adoption of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Many nations including the US, the UK, China and India, signed the convention but did not recognize a mechanism resolving individual complaints it establishes, which makes the convention unenforceable in their jurisdictions.
The convention also decries attempts to whitewash Nazi collaborators by depicting them as fighters of nationalist resistance movements and honoring them as such.
Azov battalion soldiers take an oath of allegiance to Ukraine in Kiev’s Sophia Square before being sent to the Donbass region. (RIA Novosti / Alexandr Maksimenko)
The resolution condemned any form of denial of Nazi war crimes, including the Jewish Holocaust.
Russia, which submitted the draft resolution, said it regretted that it could not be adopted anonymously.
Moscow proposes similar documents to the UN General Assembly annually, but the US and Canada have consistently voted against them. Ukraine is a new nation among the opponents, as in previous years it has abstained.
Kiev’s representative at the session, Andrey Tsymbalyuk, said that while Ukraine did condemn Nazism and neo-Nazism, it could not endorse the Russian resolution, because it suffered not only from Nazism, but also from Stalinism in the past.
“As long as Stalinism and neo-Stalinism are not condemned as strongly as Nazism, neo-Nazism and other forms of hatred, Ukraine would not be able to back this document,” the diplomat said.
The resolution is to be formally adopted by the UN General Assembly as a body in December.
If any country were in need of a national program of conflict resolution at every level of society, it would have been Germany after it reunified in 1990. East and West Germany were like a couple that had rushed into marriage with very little understanding of what it would be like to live together, merge finances, come to joint decisions, and make all the little adjustments that are necessary when two people with very different backgrounds are suddenly thrown together. Marriage counselors can help a new couple sort through all these challenges.
But Germany didn’t have a national agency of marriage counselors to mediate the conflicts that arose after reunification. It took a rather traditional approach. West Germany acted in many ways like the husband in a patriarchal family. West Germany was the primary breadwinner, the one that brought the lion’s share of the wealth to the union. And so West Germany made most of the decisions.
When I met Jamie Walker in 1990, she was a specialist in mediation and conflict resolution. She worked in this capacity from her home in West Berlin, becoming involved in the peace movement, doing violence-prevention work in the school system, and eventually pioneering efforts in mediating cross-border family conflicts.
As German reunification proceeded, she became involved in inter-German conflict resolution. But it was not a systematic program. “Mediation was hardly used in those days,” she told me in an interview at at a Kreuzberg restaurant in May 2013. “I can’t remember a special program for solving the conflicts. People from the East especially felt at a certain point that they were just being told, ‘Okay, this is the way it is now. You have our system now, so forget the old system and just get used to this.’ There wasn’t a lot of give and take. And people felt threatened because of losing their jobs. The whole system changed. I had friends who worked in the health system — family centers, psychological counseling centers, stuff like that — but they belonged to the Ministry of Health in the East. Then, all of a sudden it was the Ministry for Social Issues or something like that. But I don’t think there was any systematic way of handling conflict, although in the different organizations they must have had mechanisms.”
She conducted some trainings in the East, but it was often as part of workshops just for former East Germans, such as teachers who had to go through retraining to be recertified. “When we did them in the East a couple of times when it was all very fresh, they were not used to the informality,” she remembered. “They were used to the frontal approach. The teacher stands at the front, and the students address her as “Frau Doktor,” and they sit, and they’re the ones who are learning. Maybe they ask a question. But the teacher is the one who knows it all, and they are learning. And then we came in and said, ‘Oh no, let’s put the chairs in the circle. Of course we have something to say, otherwise we wouldn’t be here, but what you have to say is important too. We don’t know what it’s like to work in the schools everyday, you’re the experts on that.’”
It was a novel approach. But it also ran up against certain structural problems. “There was a lot of resentment from the teachers,” Walker added. “They had been working as teachers for 10 or 15 years. They’d been qualified under their system. And now they had to go get additional training. They really resented that.”
These sessions revealed something of what was happening under the surface in former East Germany, such as the growing rebelliousness of young people.
“From what the teachers told us in the East, things started to get more difficult because everything was changing in their society, and the kids stopped doing everything they were told,” Walker explained. “I’m sure they didn’t do everything they were asked before, but it kind of changed. And then the teachers didn’t know how to deal with it. The reason I became an adult educator is so that people would come to me voluntarily and wouldn’t be forced to. But after the Wall fell, people would be sent to some kind of training to add on to their hours of education. I’d want them to talk about their conflicts, and they would sit there and say, ‘I don’t have any conflicts. I’ve never had a conflict in my life.’”
She continued, “That was a little frustrating. I thought, ‘Okay, so now I see why the kids don’t have conflicts either.’ I’m not saying they were totally repressed before, but they did have a different level of behavior. And later they started acting out, which is normal. And the teachers didn’t think it was their problem, just the kids’ problem, of course. I just remember being totally shocked that anybody could claim they’d never had a conflict in their life. But, of course, they weren’t there voluntarily, so there’s a good explanation for it.”
Do you remember where you were and what you were thinking when you heard about the fall of the Berlin Wall?
I was in Berlin, very close to the wall. I was watching the news. They were talking about it like it couldn’t really be possible and yet it seemed to be happening. Then my boyfriend came home, and I said, “Keep your shoes on, we’re going down.” And that’s what we did. We stood there for hours.
We went to Checkpoint Charlie. There were more and more people gathered on the West side. We couldn’t see the East side. Then some people were taking the hats of the police. And there was a couple of times when I thought, “I don’t know what’s going to happen here.” It could’ve become violent. But at a certain point they started letting people from the East over, and then there were all these hurrahs. We ran into a friend of ours from West Berlin and into a friend of theirs from East Berlin. We went back to our apartment and stayed up all night. Yes, it was a party.
Did you have any expectations that that would happen?
In Berlin there were a lot of signs that things were really changing, starting maybe in 1987 or 1988. Things were starting to slowly open up. It was getting a little bit easier for people from the East to come over. They would have to have a relative in the West. At first it needed to be a very close relative, and then it could be a relative a little further away, and then you could invent a relative. I know someone who invented their relative. Then there was a huge demonstration in East Berlin on November 4 right before the Wall opened. Friends of mine said, “You should come over to the demonstration.”
I said, “I’m afraid.” But things were happening that had been unthinkable with all the protests. But you still didn’t dare think, “Oh, so, when is the Wall going to finally open?” So it was a surprise, and it wasn’t totally a surprise.
Why were you afraid to go over to the demonstration? What did you think might happen?
I thought it might get violent and that the East German police might try to prevent it from happening. I thought I might have problems getting back over the border. You know what, I was really afraid in those days. I had friends in the East, and I thought that they would stop giving me a visa to go to the East. That’s why I was careful.
Did you go over to Quaker meetings in the East?
A couple of times, not regularly. I knew the office in East Berlin: I had been to it.
What brought you to Germany in the first place?
I came to Germany in 1977 after I finished college. I stayed to learn German and to discover the world and be somewhere else. I had been to Germany once for two months on study abroad the year before, and I just fell in love with everything because it was so different. I thought that it was great. I needed to get away from my mother who was breathing down my neck. We didn’t have all these magical ways of communicating at that time.
And you stayed?
I went back after three years. I went back to Philadelphia for a year. And then after that year I decided to return to Berlin and stay.
When did you start doing the conflict resolution work you’re doing now?
When I was in Germany, the first three years I was doing youth work in a church, so that’s what politicized me. And then an American friend of mine in the same program wanted to do conflict resolution training for the kids in her church where she was working. So I did that, and that got me interested. Then I went to Philadelphia and worked in the Life Center at the Movement for New Society from 1980-1981. I took part in a training course, and then I became a trainer all within that year. I came back to Berlin in 1981, and that’s when I started to get really involved in the peace movement and doing conflict resolution training.
Tell me a little bit about the trainings and the peace movement. Was that exclusively with West Germans?
We did a couple of seminars in the East without calling it that. One time was with some friends who were involved in the church, and we basically did a non-violence training in someone’s apartment over the weekend. The other time was with some families who were most of them involved in the church. That was a training on non-violence that included children. We were there for Easter or some kind of vacation. I knew people in the peace movement in the East. In 1983, the peace movement got really very popular. I was in a group called Non-Violent Action Berlin, in the training group. All of a sudden what we did was super popular. We did all kinds of weekend trainings for people to go to demonstrations and civil disobedience. I was training people to do this, but I wasn’t doing the civil disobedience itself because I didn’t want to get run out of the country. Then, after the Pershings and Cruise missiles were stationed in West Germany, it went way downhill.
What would you say were the major differences between doing trainings in the East and the West? Obviously you couldn’t advertise the ones in the East. But just in terms of the interactions or how people dealt with issues?
I only did a couple of trainings in the East. But you always knew there was probably the Stasi listening in. And it was newer to people, especially when we did the family training with a friend of mine who came from Amsterdam.
Obviously the peace movement in East Germany was non-violent up through 1989. What do you think that came from? As you said, you were afraid that there might have been violence…
Yes, but from the state not from the protestors. I think the commitment to non-violence came from their hearts. It may sound really stupid. They knew that if they became violent they would have been slaughtered in absolutely no time. Nobody knew what would happen then. Probably the West would protest, but big deal. The West certainly wasn’t going to invade just because they beat up or even slaughtered some protesters. They probably felt like that was the only choice they had. There wasn’t a big discussion about “should we become violent?” And there wasn’t the tradition we always had in West Berlin of the “Black Block,” the demonstrators who at the end of the demonstration would often become violent. They have them in the East now, but that didn’t exist in the East back then.
You said that after the cruise missile issue faded, the peace movement in the West declined.
The peace movement declined and the need for the non-violence training dropped.
So you shifted to different kinds of training.
That’s when I got involved with non-violence training and teaching social skills to children. In the mid-1980s, I did my Master’s thesis about that. I was studying adult education. That was a totally new thing in Germany. The problem of violence in schools – and the approach of violence prevention — was just beginning. I thought, “Okay, if they don’t want to be trained in the peace movement anymore, I’ll look for somebody else who does want to be trained.” Because there was also a Quaker program of trainings in prisons, I thought: either schools or prisons. But the schools were easier to get into.
Do you still do those programs today?
Not those kind. I was involved in violence-prevention work in schools for about 17 years. It was one of the main things I did. I taught at a university later, but it continued to grow. I did school mediation for a long time, and I did tons of seminars. I wrote books about it, I wrote brochures about it. But I like to do the pioneering work. So when it’s really going, and there are lots of books already, I say, “Okay, this is getting boring.” So I look for the next thing. From 1999-2008, I had a mediation practice with a colleague. Teaching those 200-hour mediation courses was pioneering. This wasn’t what I was doing in the peace movement. It was more for professionals who wanted to learn mediation in different fields. We also did community mediation programs. That didn’t catch on as well as the school stuff did. The school stuff became really established — not in all schools, of course, but in most schools. The community mediation I found more difficult because when you work with teachers in schools, social workers, and psychologists, they’re all professional. And when you work with neighborhoods, it’s not.
It’s not their job.
Yes. People just didn’t come to the mediation. We ran out of funding. So now I’m specialized in cross-border family mediation training for cross-border family conflicts, including parental child abduction. I’ve got a leaflet with me if you’re interested. It’s a very specialized area. But to me it’s all part of the continuum since I was active in the peace movement. It’s just refined for different people. And what I like to do the most is trainings in other countries. I like working with people from different countries, the more the merrier. That’s why I gave up the mediation center in 2008, so I could do more stuff abroad. It’s just hard to earn a living that way because it’s a very small niche. But it’s extremely interesting. We did a new project that trained people from 26 of the 27 EU countries.
And it was a training of cross-border mediation within families? Or specifically around questions of abduction?
Not only abduction but including abduction because as soon as you have an abduction the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction comes into force. People often go to courts, the judge recommends mediation, and that’s how they end up in mediation. But we’re getting more and more cases of people who don’t go to court first, they go to mediation first, which is, of course, an excellent idea because then it doesn’t escalate.
I’m familiar with these cases because they’re big around Japan.
Right, and Japan is right now joining the Hague Convention. One of the groups I work with is called Mediation in International Conflicts Concerning Parents and Children, and one of my colleagues was invited to Japan just in January to talk about this subject. They’re signing the papers now to join the Convention.
There are a lot of cases where the husband or the wife just takes the child and goes to Japan, and they basically disappear.
Yes, they disappear, exactly. What I like about mediating in these cases is that they’re extremely challenging. They almost always involve really high conflict. But it’s not the peace movement.
I want to go back to 1989 for a moment. The Berlin Wall falls. Tell me what it was like in those first few months for you, in terms of contacts in former East Germany, in terms of how life changed.
Maybe the city got fuller. And we saw a lot of Trabis driving around. My friends from the East could visit me, and I didn’t have to go and visit them. And we didn’t have to pay money when we crossed the border. We could go on vacations in the East because we didn’t have to apply for a visa anymore.
For a couple of months it was a great deal when they still had East German money. They had their Marks and we had our Marks, and you could take a taxi in the East anywhere for their Marks, and that was a great deal. It was a super exciting time. It was like waking up. Aufbruch, we say in German.
Yes. It was just wonderful. A lot of things were happening, and it was exciting because you never knew what the next thing was going to be. Obviously there were all these political things going on. When Reagan came and said, “Gorbachev, tear this wall down,” I thought, “Oh, what a naive idiot.” But here we were. Things were happening so fast, and here was a great place to be experiencing it.
In summer 1990, after the Wall had fallen, we started a group called the Network for Conflict Resolution. It was actually what later became the Bundesverband Mediation, which is one of the established mediation associations in Germany. Of course, it was possible then to have people from the East and the West. We were sitting at this meeting and talking about mediation, and one of my friends from the East said, “If somebody doesn’t tell me right this minute what ‘mediation’ is, I’m leaving.” It was a coming together of ideas.
There were obviously some conflicts between East and West. How were those handled? You mentioned the creation of this network. But was there an initiative, for instance, by the government to handle these in an organized way: conflicts in the workplace, between the new governmental organizations? Or did people just deal with it informally?
Mediation was hardly used in those days. I can’t remember a special program for solving the conflicts. People from the East especially felt at a certain point that they were just being told, “Okay, this is the way it is now. You have our system now, so forget the old system and just get used to this.” There wasn’t a lot of give and take. And people felt threatened because of losing their jobs. The whole system changed. I had friends who worked in the health system — family centers, psychological counseling centers, stuff like that — but they belonged to the Ministry of Health in the East. Then, all of a sudden it was the Ministry for Social Issues or something like that. But I don’t think there was any systematic way of handling conflict, although in the different organizations they must have had mechanisms. I mean, how long did it take for the German Quakers, East and West, to join up together? At least three years? It was really kind of funny.
Why did it take so long?
Because the Quakers take their time with these processes. They wait until everything is right, and then they do it. There was still a yearly meeting of the German Democratic Republic a couple of years after the GDR didn’t exist anymore.
Were you involved in any trainings in educational settings in former East Germany?
In 1991, we did the first training in school mediation. And in the early 1990s we were doing some trainings in the East. And they were super surprised. There was one training center for the further education of teachers, so it was a mixed group of teachers. But when we did them in the East a couple of times when it was all very fresh, they were not used to the informality. They were used to the frontal approach. The teacher stands at the front, and the students address her as “Frau Doktor,” and they sit, and they’re the ones who are learning. Maybe they ask a question. But the teacher is the one who knows it all, and they are learning. And then we came in and said, “Oh no, let’s put the chairs in the circle. Of course we have something to say, otherwise we wouldn’t be here, but what you have to say is important too. We don’t know what it’s like to work in the schools everyday, you’re the experts on that.” It didn’t always have something to do with East or West. You’d have people in a seminar who only looked at me when I was doing the seminar. They didn’t look at the other participants. I’d do all kinds of tricks to try to get them to look at everybody else.
There was a lot of resentment from the teachers. They had been working as teachers for 10 or 15 years. They’d been qualified under their system. And now they had to go get additional training. They really resented that.
And the additional training was on a variety of things?
Of course, certainly not just my seminars.
Was violence a serious problem either in the classroom or the school setting?
In the East? No. In fact, I remember these friends of mine who were psychologists and family counselors in the East asking me, when we still had the Wall, “Why do all the children in the West have so much self-confidence?” That’s what struck them. And what struck me and maybe other people was that the children in the East were so well behaved. Not in a repressed kind of way. But they would go up to you and shake your hand every time.
I’m only familiar with kind of the trainings that take place in the United States, which often are around prevention of violence, peer mediation in the schools, encouraging students to resolve the problems and such.
We did that, too.
Were the East German kids open to doing that?
Yes, but actually I worked a lot with the teachers, and they were setting up the programs, so I didn’t do the peer mediation training much myself. From what the teachers told us in the East, things started to get more difficult because everything was changing in their society, and the kids stopped doing everything they were told. I’m sure they didn’t do everything they were asked before, but it kind of changed. And then the teachers didn’t know how to deal with it. The reason I became an adult educator is so that people would come to me voluntarily and wouldn’t be forced to. But after the Wall fell, people would be sent to some kind of training to add on to their hours of education. I’d want them to talk about their conflicts, and they would sit there and say, “I don’t have any conflicts. I’ve never had a conflict in my life.” That was a little frustrating. I thought, “Okay, so now I see why the kids don’t have conflicts either.” I’m not saying they were totally repressed before, but they did have a different level of behavior. And later they started acting out, which is normal. And the teachers didn’t think it was their problem, just the kids’ problem, of course. I just remember being totally shocked that anybody could claim they’d never had a conflict in their life. But, of course, they weren’t there voluntarily, so there’s a good explanation for it.
What other kind of experience did you have during those kind of trainings and mediations in former East Germany?
I didn’t do that many trainings. They weren’t used to an egalitarian learning context. But they were extremely curious, really open to new things. I guess it just took some getting used to, this different way of working. They kept saying, “But not everything was bad.” They really needed to be recognized for all the good work they had been doing all those years. They didn’t expect that everything would have to change.
In your opinion, have things changed tremendously?
East Germany has changed a lot. But I wouldn’t say that everything has changed. In those days you could look at people and tell by their clothing where they were from. You can’t do that anymore, of course. And you know that thing about the way the people from the East greeted each other? In the West if you come to this big table, and everybody’s sitting around, and you come to a party or something, then you say “hi” to everybody. In the East, they went and shook everybody’s hand. Things like that have changed.
But sometimes you still see things that are the same. You know Berlinerisch, the Berlin dialect? People from the East are more likely to speak with a dialect, even if they’re educated. At least that was the case years ago. The East it was the workers’ state, and they wanted the workers to go to university and get educated. They weren’t ashamed of speaking in dialect, and they didn’t feel like they had to speak High German all the time. And in the West, if you were educated you were expected to speak High German.
So this was a dialect that previously everyone in Berlin had spoken?
Yes, and then when it was divided, more the lower class in the West spoke it, and in the East, not everybody obviously, but a lot more people than in the West. And, of course, those people who were talking with that dialect 20 years ago have not usually changed the way they talk now.
What else is different? Sometimes something will happen to you and you think, “Oh, typical East.” Like people being unfriendly sometimes. I hate to say it, but…
Then there’s people’s attitudes towards women. Women were always very independent and always worked in the East. The attitude was that it’s normal for a woman to have children and keep working. That’s still there, to a certain extent. To tell you the truth, that’s much better than in the West. But of course, it all depends on the region, at least in the West. For a while I used to spend time out in Mecklenburg, between here and the Baltic Sea in East Germany. And there were a lot of people in the villages who never left these villages. If they came to Berlin, they’d say, “Ah, yes, I went to Berlin once. I went to IKEA.” But there are people in the West who live like that, too. It has to do with level of education.
I was told that a surprisingly large number of people in West Berlin and East Berlin don’t actually go to the other side of the city. They’ve always been in West Berlin, and they stay in West Berlin.
I live in Zehlendorf. Kleinmachnow is just down the street in Brandenburg, close to Potsdam. It was cut off by the Wall, and we couldn’t go through. It was an enclave where a lot of artists and writers lived. It’s a beautiful suburb. And now tons of people from the West have moved in. There’s still animosity between people from the East and people from the West because the people from the East got kicked out. Maybe they were living in a house that belonged to somebody in the West who was never there, and they were living there for practically nothing. Then, all of a sudden, they had to leave because that person decided to sell it or move into it themselves or whatever.
If you go to some place like Thuringia, a lot of people there went to the West only once or twice. They went to look, and that was good enough. With the young people, they go wherever – to university, to get a job. Young people are moving around.
You’ve talked a little bit about how things have changed for folks in the East. Have folks in the West changed at all as a result of 1989?
Not much. Everybody from the West went over to the East a couple of times. A lot of people go on short vacations. If you live in Berlin, it’s much closer to go to Spreewald or the Baltic Sea. Some places like Weimar and Erfurt have really been fixed up. They’re really beautiful cities, and people tend to go there. But they maybe go there once and that’s it.
What about their attitudes?
People from the West have a reputation for being arrogant and know-it-alls. And maybe some people still think they do know better. In the West, the system we’re living under is the system that people here were brought up in. But if you’re from the East, it’s not the system you were brought up in. There’s a different attitude toward job security. There are a lot of people in the West who would not want to go free-lance. But in general people in the West can deal with insecurity better than some people in the east — because they were used to things being taken care of. If people grew up with these attitudes and lived 40 years of their lives this way, then not everything changes. And sometimes you can even tell in the second generation.
Someone told me that what they think ultimately will happen is already happening: that the notion of “East” and “West” will basically disappear. People will still be interested in where you came from, but it will be more regional – such as Bavaria, Saarland, or Thuringia.
Maybe now we’re at the point when we say, “Ah, you’re from Thuringia ’in the east.’” But to tell you the truth, I feel much closer to the east than I do to the west. If you lived in Berlin, even with the Wall, you were in the East. And once the Wall opened up you went to all these places. They’re just plain closer.
It sounded like you meant more than just geography, though.
Yes, I think so, too. But that’s all regional, too. I mean, I’m sorry to say it, but I’m not big on Bavarians. And when I go to a lot of places in the east or in the west, it seems like the provinces to me. Okay, Munich is not the provinces. But even Bonn feels provincial.
I would think that the reunification of Germany would have a kind of cosmopolitan effect so that these parts of west Germany that previously had been somewhat provincial became more worldly.
I don’t think they really change. I don’t live there, but I don’t really think so. People go where the jobs are, and there are more jobs in the west. It’s less and less a matter of principle. It’s going to take a while.
Did you notice any difference in attitudes towards you, as an American, before 1989 and after 1989?
Well, not everybody I talk to knows that I’m American. But in old West Berlin people never asked me for a work permit or anything. They just assumed that we were the allies and we were still occupying and we had all the rights. People don’t need to ask anymore — that’s all gone. Otherwise, I don’t think they care. Maybe when I used to go to the east when it was still the East, people were certainly fascinated because they probably had never met any Americans before, and of course that’s worn off. The West was much more oriented toward other countries, and they had much more exposure to other countries. The East wasn’t. I know people in the east now who also send their kids off to England for high school, but it’s not as ingrained in them as maybe in the west.
You’ve been to Eastern Europe before and after 1989….
Yes. I went to a conference in Bulgaria last year. And I thought, “Oh my god, they’ve gotten stuck in Eastern times.” Because it was still just listening, listening, listening. It was a solid day in which every ten minutes a new person spoke. It was in a big university theater. There were about 150-200 people listening. And there was no small groups, no even talking to your neighbor. There was nothing interactive. Nothing. I said to the people, “Why are you organizing like this?” They said that audience was all from Bulgaria and didn’t have a chance to get out of the country much to be exposed to what’s going on in other places. That’s just the traditional way of doing it, and it just drives me crazy. That’s not how people learn, not really.
Tell me a little bit about your cross-border work, especially within Europe.
There are now 87 countries in this 1980 Hague Convention, and that includes all of the EU and most of the Western world. If your child has been abducted, if the child is under 16 and both parents have custody, then you can apply to have the child returned. The idea is have the child returned and then let the court decide what’s going to happen. Young people are moving around the world a lot more than when I was a young adult. They fall in love; they’re of marrying age; so there’s more and more potential for children born to parents from different countries. According to the law, the parents have joint custody. One parent can’t just go back to their home country and decide to change the status. The court will only decide return or no return. It’s all very dramatic. People are terrified of losing their children. You can guess who usually abducts the children.
In the Japanese situation, it turned out to be mostly the women.
But in the European case?
It’s 70% women. Because it’s usually small children, and it’s usually the primary care giver. A lot of times the couple got married, and the wife moved to the husband’s country because of him. They had a crisis, they split up, or she wants to split up. She goes back home on vacation and thinks, “Oh, isn’t it great, here I can get my old job back!” Or she finds an old boyfriend. And she concludes that it’s much better for the child there anyway. The husband goes into a panic, even if he doesn’t want the kid back. He goes to court because he thinks, “Maybe I’ll never see the child again.” If it’s within Europe, it’s a lot easier to organize visits. With mediation, which even the judges support, you can decide a lot more things such as where is the child going to live and where are the parents going to live and what are the visiting arrangements going to be? Sometimes the wife agrees to return to the husband’s country but doesn’t want to live with him any more. Perhaps he even agrees to pay for a new apartment. So you can get way more settled through mediation.
Has there been any resistance or challenges or difficulties for any of the new EU member states with these regulations?
In some countries, like in Germany, there are specialized courts that do the Hague Convention cases. So the judges know how to deal with the cases. In other countries, for instance in the United States, there are no specialized courts. According to the Hague Convention, they have to deal with the case within a year. And it’s supposed to be decided within six weeks. But there are countries that don’t keep to the six-week deadline. They drag it out and out and out. That’s not only new countries to the Convention. Italy, for instance, has a bad record. Every country has to have a central authority to help the left-behind parent to find the child. Sometimes in Germany they even fly the father, if he can’t afford it, to the States or Australia or wherever. So it’s a challenge to new countries to the Convention – and that includes new EU countries — because they have to create all this stuff. And that’s what they’re doing right now in Japan and in Russia. Russia is joining too. But there are controversial decisions, even in Germany. Of course, you can go one step higher up if the judge doesn’t decide the way you think they should.
One last question: when you think back to how you looked at the world in 1990 and everything that has changed, has there been a change in your perspective, your Weltanschauung?
I changed a lot, of course, because I got older and raised a child. I’m still idealistic. But even in 1990 I decided that once I finished my degree here I had to go out there and start earning money at some point. My goal was to combine my ideals with earning money. I would say that it has worked out 100%. But I don’t go to demonstrations anymore. I was very proud when my son – I shouldn’t say “went through that phase” – was a lot more radical. That’s when I noticed that I was getting a little bit not as radical. I’m more pragmatic. I don’t vote, not yet, but I’m applying for German citizenship. If I could vote I’d vote for the Greens. But the Greens have really changed, of course. They’ve become a lot more assimilated.
So, I’m more pragmatic. I voted for Obama, of course. He’s certainly a lot better than what we had before. For eight years I was only embarrassed. But my son said he couldn’t vote for Obama because of the drones. And that’s a responsible thing to do, to stick to his principles. I don’t do it as much as I used to. Because I think I’d rather have Obama than some person who’s worse.
If anything I’ve become more interested in international matters. My international perspective used to be U.S.-Germany and then a little bit in the East. I worked in Brussels for the Quakers also for a year in the 1980s. And now it’s all opened up. We’ve done mediation in child protection conflicts in Australia. I’ve seen more of other countries, and I keep thinking it’s not enough. I want to do more trainings in other countries. That has widened my perspective.
Berlin, May 29, 2013
New Security Council Resolution 2178 Particularly Encouraging for Iraq, SRSG Mladenov says
The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General today welcomed the unanimous adoption by the Security Council of Resolution 2178 (2014), condemning violent extremism and requiring States to work together by implementing laws and policies to prevent travel, and support for foreign terrorist fighters.
“This historic resolution is particularly encouraging for Iraq in its fight against terrorism and armed groups like ISIL and those foreign elements who are joining them”, Mr. Mladenov said.
“Terrorism must be defeated in a way that avoids further radicalization and civilian deaths”, he added, cautioning that preventing and eradicating further threats must be consistent with international human rights and humanitarian law, as well as the Charter of the United Nations.
Referring to paragraph 16 of the Resolution, Mr. Mladenov further stated:
“I strongly encourage the Government of Iraq to engage relevant local communities and non-governmental actors in developing strategies to counter the violent extremist narrative that can incite terrorist acts, and to address the conditions conducive to the spread of violent extremism”
“The United Nations is working closely with the Government of Iraq and its international partners to develop programmes and policies that will assist Iraq in confronting terrorism, and support the care and protection of its many victims, in full compliance with Iraq’s international obligations.”
(UN image via Shutterstock)
The world awaits with bated breath to see if the interim truce negotiated by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will lead to a long-term ceasefire. But if U.S. mediation is to be sincere and effective, the United States government needs to take Hamas off its terrorist list and allow Hamas to be fully represented at the table.
For the past month, Secretary Kerry has been traveling around the the Middle East trying to negotiate an end to the violence. He has had ongoing discussions with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. He consults regularly with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He’s convened with the governments of influential countries in the region, such as Egypt, Turkey, and Qatar.
But there’s one glaring omission in his efforts as mediator: he doesn’t talk directly to Hamas, which has been on the U.S. terrorist list since 1997.
Conflict Resolution 101 says “negotiate with all relevant parties.” Senator George Mitchell, who successfully brokered the Good Friday Accord in Northern Ireland, said that serious negotiations were only possible once the British stopped treating the Irish Republican Army as a terrorist organization and began dealing with it as a political entity. The Turkish government learned this lesson more recently. After decades of fighting the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided to remove the PKK from the terrorist list and began direct negotiations with imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan—a move that has given new life to the peace process.
You can’t presume to be a mediator and then exclude one key party because you don’t like them. That lesson surely applies to Gaza. If the position of Hamas is only heard through intermediaries, Hamas is much more likely to refuse the outcome. Look at Kerry’s July 15 ceasefire proposal. It was negotiated with the Israeli government, and Netanyahu boasted about Israel’s willingness to accept the proposal. But Hamas was never consulted and actually heard about the “take it or leave it” proposal via the media. Little wonder they rejected it. Former UN rapporteur Richard Falk called Kerry’s efforts “a diplomatic analogue to the theater of the absurd.”
The military wing of Hamas, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has certainly been involved in terrorist activities—from suicide bombings in the 1990s to launching rockets into civilian areas in Israel. But Hamas has a social welfare wing that has long provided social services oftentimes not provided by the Palestinian Authority. And after it won the elections in 2006, its political wing had to start functioning as a government, overseeing not only security but more mundane institutions such as the Ministries of Health, Education, Commerce, and Transportation. The more moderate members of Hamas tend to run the government agencies, oftentimes at odds with the more militant members.
On one of the CODEPINK humanitarian delegations to Gaza, soon after the horrific 2009 Israeli incursion that left over 1,400 Palestinians dead, I had firsthand experience with some of these government officials when they asked for a meeting with three members of our delegation, including two of us who had identified ourselves explicitly as Jewish Americans.
I expected the meeting to be tense, with rancor expressed toward us as Americans—after all, our government had been funding the recent operations—and as Jews. We were not only warmly welcomed by the group of about a dozen men, but told repeatedly: “We have no problems with the Jewish religion; in fact, we find it very close to Islam. Our problem is with Israeli policies, not Jews.”
I realized that Hamas, like any political organization, is made up of a variety of individuals with different political perspectives. Some are hard-line Islamists, antagonistic toward the West and bent on the destruction of Israel. Others, like the ones we met with, had earned university degrees in Western universities, appreciated many aspects of American and European culture, and believed they could negotiate with the Israelis.
The following day, the Hamas leaders we met with gave me a letter to take back to President Obama asking for his help. It was signed by Dr. Ahmed Yousef, Deputy Foreign Minister and senior advisor to Gaza’s Prime Minister Ismael Haniya. The language was free of anti-Israel rhetoric and instead infused with references to international law and human rights. It called for a lifting of the siege on Gaza, a halt to all settlement building and a U.S. policy shift that would show evenhandedness based on international law and norms. It stated that Hamas was willing to talk to all parties, obviously including Israel, “on the basis of mutual respect and without preconditions.”
I found it astonishing that these representatives of a government that had been subject to a recent and brutal assault, financed in large part with U.S. tax dollars, were reaching out to President Obama with such a well-reasoned plea to intervene. Even more astonishing is the fact that they gave the letter to me—a feminist, Jewish, American woman—to try to deliver to the administration.
Back in Washington DC, I delivered the letter. But despite my insistence, the Obama administration refused to even acknowledge its receipt, much less send a reply. It was yet another loss for the Hamas moderates and a win for those who saw armed resistance as the only way to win concessions from Israel.
Like the letter I received in 2009, the counterproposals Hamas has put forth in the last month have been very reasonable, including the following:
- Withdrawal of Israeli tanks from the Gaza border
- Freeing the prisoners arrested after the killing of the three youths
- Lifting the siege and opening the border crossings to commerce and people, under UN supervision
- Establishing an international seaport and airport under U.N. supervision
- Increasing the permitted fishing zone to comply with international norms
- Reestablishing an industrial zone and improvements in further economic development in the Gaza Strip
Not only are these conditions reasonable, they form the basis of a long-lasting truce that gets at the underlying, systemic problems. The only way this will happen is if Hamas is taken off the U.S. terrorist list and given the opportunity—and responsibility—to negotiate these systemic changes the Palestinians so desperately need and deserve.
(AINA) — A resolution in the United States House of Representatives calling for the protection of minorities was passed today. The resolution was introduced by Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA-51) on July 24, 2014. The resolution expresses “the sense of the House of Representatives on the current situation in Iraq and the urgent need to protect religious minorities from persecution from the Sunni Islamist insurgent and terrorist group the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) as it expands its control over areas in northwestern Iraq.”
Reaffirms the commitments of the House of Representatives to promoting and protecting religious freedom around the world and providing relief to minority groups facing persecution.
Calls on the Department of State to work with the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Iraqi central government, neighboring countries, the diaspora community in the United States, the United Nations (U.N.) High Commissioner for Refugees, and other key stakeholders to help secure safe havens for those claiming amnesty in Iraq.
Requests the addition of a Special Representative for Religious Minorities to be included in Prime Minister al-Maliki’s newly reconstructed government.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
July 24, 2014
Mr. Vargas submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs
Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives on the current situation in Iraq and the urgent need to protect religious minorities from persecution from the Sunni Islamist insurgent and terrorist group the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) as it expands its control over areas in northwestern Iraq.
Whereas Iraq is currently embroiled in a political and religious insurrection stemming from an Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL)-led offensive that began in the Anbar province and has spread to key locations such as Mosul, Tikrit, and Samarra and continues to engulf the region in violence and instability;
Whereas ISIL is a transnational Sunni insurgency whose ideological and organizational roots lie in both al Qaeda in Iraq and the Syria-based Jabhat al Nursa and has a stated mission of establishing an Islamic state and a caliphate across the Levant through violence against Shiites, non-Muslims, and unsupportive Sunnis;
Whereas Iraq’s population is approximately 31,300,000 with 97 percent identifying themselves as Muslim and the approximately 3 percent of religious minorities groups comprising of Christians, Yezidis, Sabean-Mandaeans, Bahais, Shabaks, Kakais, and Jews;
Whereas the Iraqi Christian population is estimated to be between 400,000 and 850,000 with two-thirds being Chaldean, one-fifth Assyrian, and the remainder consisting of Syriacs, Protestants, Armenians, and Anglicans;
Whereas the Iraqi constitution provides for religious freedom by stating–
(1) “no law may be enacted that contradicts the principles of democracy”;
(2) “no law may be enacted that contradicts the rights and basic freedoms stipulated in this Constitution”; and
(3) “[This Constitution] guarantees the full religious rights to freedom of religious belief and practice of all individuals such as Christians, Yazidis, and Mandean Sabeans”;
Whereas over 500,000 people have been displaced by the current situation in Iraq and reports have surfaced of targeted harassment, persecution, and killings of Iraqi religious minorities by ISIL with little to no protection from the Iraqi Government and other security forces;
Whereas the fall of Mosul in particular has sparked enough anxiety among the Christian population that for the first time in 1,600 years there was no Mass in the city;
Whereas over 50 percent of Iraq’s Christian population has fled since the fall of Saddam Hussein, 1,100,000 people of diverse religious backgrounds remain internally displaced and the government under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has not upheld its commitment to protect the rights of religious minorities;
Whereas the United States has provided over $ 73,000,000 of cumulative assistance to Iraq’s minority populations since 2003 through economic development, humanitarian services, and capacity development;
Whereas 84,902 Iraqis have resettled to the United States between 2007 and 2013 and over 300,000 Chaldean and Assyrians currently reside throughout the country, particularly in Michigan, California, Arizona, Illinois, and Ohio; and
Whereas President Barack Obama recently declared on Religious Freedom Day, “Foremost among the rights Americans hold sacred is the freedom to worship as we choose … we also remember that religious liberty is not just an American right; it is a universal human right to be protected here at home and across the globe. This freedom is an essential part of human dignity, and without it our world cannot know lasting peace”: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives–
(1) reaffirms its commitments to promoting and protecting religious freedom around the world and providing relief to minority groups facing persecution;
(2) calls on the United States Department of State to work with the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Iraqi central government, neighboring countries, the diaspora community in the United States, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and other key stakeholders to help secure safe havens for those claiming amnesty in Iraq; and
(3) respectfully requests the addition of a Special Representative for Religious Minorities to be included in Prime Minister al-Maliki’s newly reconstructed government.
Russia submits draft Ukraine resolution at UN
By: afp on: 14.06.2014 [09:01 ] (66 reads)
UNITED NATIONS: Russia submitted a draft resolution on Ukraine at the Security Council on Thursday demanding that the United Nations play a greater role in resolving the crisis, and accused Kiev of using white phosphorus.
Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin said he introduced the draft at closed-door consultations that focused on Iraq, adding that it had been met with “some support” and “some suggestions.”
He said it “updated” a June 2 measure — that received a cool response from the Security Council — and called for an immediate end to the violence, a sustained ceasefire and greater UN involvement in efforts to broker a solution.
Currently chaired by Swiss President Didier Burkhalter, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe has been at the forefront of attempts to try to resolve the crisis.
In May, the OSCE drew up a plan to help bring the pro-Western Kiev authorities and pro-Moscow militants in the southeast to the negotiating table but no progress has been made in several rounds of dialogue that excluded the armed separatists.
Russia wants UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to support OSCE efforts to implement the road map and launch dialogue “involving all political forces and regions of the country,” Churkin said.
It is “important for the Security Council to play a role and for the United Nations to increase its role in trying to settle the situation in Ukraine and to stop violence,” he said.
Diplomats say Russia’s earlier Ukraine draft was at least partly partly a bargaining chip as the West scrambles to avoid Moscow vetoing a resolution on enforcing humanitarian access in Syria.
Churkin denied there was any relation when questioned on Thursday.
Moscow has accused Kiev of using prohibited munitions, but Churkin said there were “reports” for the first time that Ukraine was using white phosphorus munition in the fighting.
“We are very disturbed about it,” he said.
Russian news agencies quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying there had been attempts from Ukraine to depart from the principles stipulated in the roadmap.
“The lack of any progress whatsoever in efforts to stop the violence and halt military operations… is causing increasing concern,” he told reporters.
Lavrov also called for a probe into allegations that the ex-Soviet country was using banned weapons.
“Reports about the use by Ukraine’s armed forces of incendiary bombs and other banned non-selective weapons are a cause for special concern,” he added. “These reports should be verified as soon as possible.”
Turkey Condemns Armenian Genocide Resolution in U.S. Senate
(Reuters) — Turkey condemned on Friday a U.S. Senate committee resolution branding the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces during World War One as genocide and warned Congress against taking steps that would harm Turkish-American ties.
The nature and scale of the killings remain highly contentious nearly a century after they took place. Turkey accepts that many Armenians died in partisan fighting beginning in 1915, but denies that up to 1.5 million were killed and that this constituted an act of genocide — a term used by many Western historians and foreign parliaments.
The resolution, adopted by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on Thursday, called “to remember and observe the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide on April 24, 2014?.
“The President should work toward an equitable, constructive, stable, and durable Armenian-Turkish relationship that includes the full acknowledgment by … Turkey of the facts about the Armenian Genocide,” the text of the resolution said.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said the committee had acted beyond its position, competence and responsibility by adopting a “hastily and ineptly prepared” draft resolution.
“We reject this attempt at political exploitation that distorts history and law and we condemn those who led this prejudiced initiative,” the ministry said in a statement.
It said Turks and Armenians could reach a “just memory of the tragic 1915 events” and that an earlier proposal from Ankara to set up a joint historical commission remained on the agenda.
Armenia did not take up the Turkish offer because it regards the genocide as an established historic fact and believes Turkey would use such a commission to press its own version of events.
“It is essential that the U.S. Congress engages in efforts aimed at strengthening our historic alliance … instead of damaging Turkish-American bilateral ties,” it added.
Last December, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu made Turkey’s first high-level visit to Armenia in nearly five years, raising the prospect of a revival in peace efforts between the historical rivals which stalled in 2010.
The legacy of the killings has remained a major obstacle to reviving frozen relations between Turkey and its small former Soviet eastern neighbour.
Armenia accuses the Ottoman authorities at the time of systematically massacring large numbers of Armenians, then deporting many more, including women, children and the elderly and infirm in terrible conditions on so-called death marches.
The issue has long been a source of tension between Turkey and several Western countries, especially the United States and France, both home to large ethnic Armenian diasporas.
Draft resolution on Ukraine’s entry into NATO and EU submitted to Verkhovna Rada
By: Voice of Russia on: 22.03.2014 [14:51 ] (150 reads)
21 March 2014, 19:13
Draft resolution on Ukraine’s entry into NATO and EU submitted to Verkhovna Rada
© Collage: Voice of Russia
A draft resolution “On Ukraine’s gaining membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union” was submitted today to the Verkhovna Rada by radical Deputy Oleg Lyashko. It is registered at the Secretariat of the Ukrainian Parliament and sent to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Committee on the Issues of European Integration and other committees of the Verkhovna Rada.
Political section of EU-Ukraine Association Agreement signed in Brussels
The heads of state and government of the European Union’s 28 member countries and EU leaders signed the political section of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement in Brussels on Friday in the presence of Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The document carries the signatures of Yatsenyuk, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and the heads of the union’s 28 nations
It was signed during the working session of the European Council, which discussed the situation in Ukraine on Thursday. The EU summit will continue after the signing ceremony.
All things considered, Kiev is building a Western-oriented policy, though, at the same time trying to keep a foot in both camps. However, the new Ukrainian government did not respond to the concerns of experts, who insist that there is the second side of the coin in Ukraine’s potential accession to the EU. The experts fear that there is a high risk of recurrence of the situation with Greece, Romania or Bulgaria, where such actions have led to a further weakening of the economies of these countries. Given the current poor state of the economy in Ukraine, such a policy could lead to an exacerbation of disturbances among the population.
EU summit participants promise Moldova, Georgia to sign association agreement by June
The European Union summit participants have promised Moldova and Georgia to sing agreements on association by June, it is said in the final statement of the summit on Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the document says nothing about the prospects for the EU membership of Ukraine, Moldova or Georgia.
The document says that the European Union confirms its goal to further strengthen political association and economic integration with Georgia and Moldova. It confirmed the EU goal to sign with them agreements on association and on a free trade zone no later than June 2014.
Ukraine to sign political association deal with EU
Ukraine’s interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is due Friday to sign parts of a highly symbolic deal on closer political ties with the European Union.
The signing of the political chapters of the association agreement is a “concrete sign of the EU’s solidarity with Ukraine,” EU President Herman Van Rompuy said, adding that it would give Ukrainians “a prospect of a European way of life they deserve.”
Voice of Russia, Interfax, dpa, TASS
Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_03_21/Draft-resolution-on-Ukraines-entry-into-NATO-and-EU-submitted-to-Verkhovna-Rada-2245/
Russia vetoes US-sponsored UN resolution declaring Crimea vote invalid
By: RT on: 15.03.2014 [15:28 ] (127 reads)
Published time: March 15, 2014 15:20
Russia has vetoed a UN Security Council’s resolution declaring the upcoming referendum on the future status of autonomous republic of Crimea invalid and urges all states not to recognize its results.
China abstained as 13 council members supported the resolution and Russia voted against.
The draft resolution noted that the Ukrainian government in Kiev has not authorized the referendum and said that it cannot be valid.
“This referendum can have no validity, and cannot form the basis for any alteration of the status of Crimea; and calls upon all States, international organizations and specialized agencies not to recognize any alteration of the status of Crimea on the basis of this referendum and to refrain from any action or dealing that might be interpreted as recognizing any such altered status,” the documents reads.
Moscow has a veto right as one of five permanent members of the Security Council. It was “no secret that Russia would vote against the US draft resolution,” Russia’s envoy at the UN Vitaly Churkin said ahead of the voting. He added that Moscow would respect the choice of Crimeans.
On Sunday, the Crimeans are going to decide if they want the republic to remain a part of Ukraine or join the Russian Federation.
European nations and the US said earlier they would not recognize the outcome of the referendum and warned Russia of sanctions over its stance on Ukraine.
DETAILS TO FOLLOW