The Uneven Road to Negotiations in Good Faith to Resolve Armed Conflicts


René Wadlow – TRANSCEND Media Service

“We do not hold the vision of a world without conflict.  We do hold the vision of a world without war, and this inevitably requires an alternative system of dealing with conflict”.
— Adlai Stevenson, then U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.

10 Sep 2018 – In this period of world transformations, independent voices are needed to speak directly to the representatives of governments, what has been called “Speaking Truth to Power”.  I call “World Citizen Diplomacy” such proposals for the peaceful settlement of armed conflicts presented on behalf of the Association of World Citizens.

World Citizen Diplomacy is still a new field. As with any new field, there is a process of presenting ideas, of drawing upon different fields of thought, and of distilling experiences.  World Citizen Diplomats must learn from government policy-making procedures but must use them creatively, with more sympathy for the people of the country being analyzed and with a broader vision of the healing of the Planet rather than the national interest focus of government policy makers.

Many of the World Citizen proposals are based on developing appropriate forms of government through the creation of con-federal forms of government and trans-frontier cooperation.  The aim is to reduce violence and to create bridges between cultures.

Having been involved in proposing ways to resolve armed conflicts since the mid-1960s working on the war in Vietnam, I do not have illusions that well-prepared proposals will be acted upon, certainly not in the short run.  But I take as my guideline a quote from the University of Chicago economics professor Milton Friedman (even if I do not follow all his economic ideas) who said,

Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change.  When the crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.  That, I believe, is our basic functions: to develop alternatives to existing policies and to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.”

Current World Citizen Proposals, stressing con-federal forms of government, broadly-based administrations, and trans-frontier cooperation have focused on Yemen, Syria-Iraq-Kurdistan-Turkey, Libya, the Rohingya of Burma, the eastern areas of the Ukraine, and Cyprus. To stress the obvious, only in Cyprus are people not shooting at each other or being bombed or both.

As I write this on Friday 7 September, potential talks on Yemen at the Palais des Nations in Geneva are on hold as not all the invited delegations have arrived  and at this stage representatives of armed movements proposing that South Yemen (Aden) again become an independent State have not been invited.

The conflicts in Syria-Iraq-Kurdistan-Turkey are now focused on Idlib Provence which has a frontier with Turkey.  Turkey has closed its frontier which for the moment prevents people fleeing to Turkey. Idlib Provence already holds a good number of people displaced from other areas of Syria or transported there as part of cease fire agreements reached around other cities. Talks between representatives of Iran, Russia and Turkey are to be held this Friday.  The situation gets more complicated by the day.

People are not shooting each other as much in Libya as they once did, but there seems to be little motion toward developing stable governmental structures which recognize the regional and tribal differences of the country.

The 31 August assassination of Alexandre Zakhartchenko, a Donetsk leader of eastern Ukraine has highlighted the divisions in Ukraine, the instability of the country and more broadly the tense relations between NATO States and the Russian Federation.

It is not clear how much more of a crisis we need before governments start picking up ideas that are lying around.  I fear that in the words of the songwriter Paul Brady on Northern Ireland,

Still trying to reach a future through the past. Still trying to carve tomorrow from a tombstone”


René Wadlow is a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s Task Force on the Middle East, president and U.N. representative (Geneva) of the Association of World Citizens, and editor of Transnational Perspectives. He is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 10 Sep 2018.

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