.The contested election in Iran highlights the need for international election monitors, and I am pushing for a UN General Assembly resolution to study the possibility of such a service (Nothing is ever done at the UN without a first "study" phase). Diplomats are now at work on the issues that will be presented when the General Assembly starts mid-September. Thus letters proposing the idea should be sent now. I propose two short letters which would be sent with my article below which sets out in more detail what such a service should be. One letter should go to the Mission of your country.. The second letter should go to the President of the General Assembly. The President must work by consensus so that he rarely takes any public initiative. However he likes to know what is going on, what new ideas may be around. Sometimes he can help informally. The President for this year is H.E. Mr Ali Abdussalam Treki, Mission of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya to the United Nations, 309-315 East 48th Street, New York, NY, 10017. He should be addressed as "Your Excellency"
I put below the sample letter addressed to the US Ambassador with the US Mission address. Normally, all ambassadors are addressed as "Your Excellency" with no "Dear" However US protocol uses "Dear Ambassador and the person's name". With your help, I think that the issue can come to the attention of many governments.
Best wishes, Rene Wadlow, Representative to the UN, Geneva, Association of World Citizens
H.E. Dr Susan Rice, Permanent Representative, US Mission to the UN, 799 UN Plaza, New York, NY 10017-3505:
Dear Ambassador Rice:
The contested election results in Iran reflect the need to have international election monitors. The presence of such monitors encourages free and fair elections. The election monitors of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have provided useful help in elections in States in transition toward democracy.
We believe that the United Nations should have a universal election-monitoring agency. A General Assembly resolution establishing a study of such an election monitoring service would be welcome. Therefore I am pleased to send you a recent article on the topic. We hope that the US will take a lead for such a resolution this fall. Sincerely yours (or Respectfully yours) XYZ
International Election Monitors:
Agents of Free Elections
The post-election demonstrations in Iran which have led to deaths and arrests indicate that a large number of Iranians believe that the election count has been the result of fraud. The regime had hoped to prevent a massive show of democratic stirring by a show of force and by cutting off means of communication — web sites and cellphones. However, the fact that hundreds of thousands came out on the avenues of Tehran and in less numbers in other cities indicates a failure of the repressive policies. Even if large protests do not continue, a ‘wind of change’ has blown over Iran.
The Iranian government had declined the offers of international monitoring of the elections, and thus the world community is left with only the word of the Iranian government that the election process was free and fair. The wide victory of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — 62.6 percent against some 34 percent for his main challenger, Mir Hussein Moussavi, goes against earlier opinion polls and an increasing popularity of Moussavi in the late stages of the election campaign. Mir Hussein Moussavi had been Prime Minister during the long and costly-in-life war with Iraq (1980-1988).
After four years of President Ahmadinejad’s weak economic policies as well as his confrontation with many other countries, many Iranians were looking for a change. For the elections, President Ahmadinejad tried to build his support in the rural areas with last moment rural development efforts which his opponents saw as transparent ‘bribes’. He had lost much support among educated Middle Class urban voters who wanted a better standard of living, employment opportunities for the young, and greater personal freedoms.
Thus, the election could have been close even if Ahmadinejad had won fairly, having the resources of the State at his control. Now, there is great scepticism concerning the outcome both in Iran and in the world community. The scepticism is so great that a promise by the Guide of the Iranian regime, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been made concerning a recount in certain contested areas. However, electoral fraud is rarely at the counting stage. One can recount a stuffed ballot box and come up with the same number of votes. This is why the whole electoral process needs to be monitored by independent election agents.
Citizens of the World have often called for international, basically UN supervision, of elections. The organization of elections remains a prerogative of the national – administrative sub-divisions of the State, and local governments. However, in cases where the election campaign can be tense and prone to violence as was the presidential election of Zimbabwe, or when there has been a past history of fraud, international, independent monitors are important agents of fair elections and help to protect human rights, to strengthen the rule of law and to ensure pluralistic democracy.
Election observation work is an important activity for the 56 member States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights housed in Warsaw, Poland. The Office for Democratic Institutions, originally called the Office for Free Elections, first played an important role in the democratic transition in post-communist countries. While its observation of elections is its most visible task, the Office also conducts a number of other useful election-related activities: reviewing electoral legislation, training observers, and publishing guidelines and handbooks about electoral issues.
The Office for Democratic Institutions is concerned with a wholistic approach to election monitoring including the following:
- Respect for basic fundamental freedoms such as the freedom of assembly, of association, and expression;
- Respect for the civil and political rights of the candidates and voters;
- Compilation of accurate voter lists;
- Equal opportunities to campaign in a free environment;
- Equitable access to the media;
- Impartial election administrative bodies;
- Unhindered access for international and domestic election observers;
- Effective representation and participation of women:
- Effective representation of national minorities;
- Access for disabled voters;
- Honest and transparent counting and tabulation of the votes;
- Effective complaints and appeals process with an independent judiciary.
The United Nations has no comparable permanent election monitoring office, but on an ad hoc basis the UN played an important monitoring role in the first multi-racial elections in South Africa, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has provided election aid and monitoring in countries such as Nepal as that country was coming out of a decade of armed violence.
The Iranian government would have been wise to request international monitoring for its presidential elections. Now it is too late. It is unlikely that a new election will be held to replace the contested one. The Iranian elections have indicated a wide current of support for change. The hesitations of the ruling circle concerning post-election manifestations have highlighted division of views within this ruling circle. The demonstrations have also indicated to the world community as a whole the need for independent election monitoring. Steps should be taken quickly for the UN to provide such services drawing on the rich experience of the OSCE.
*Rene Wadlow, Representative to the UN, Geneva, Association of World Citizens
The meeting in London on 2 April of Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev is placed under the sign of needed cooperation to deal with the world-wide financial and economic crisis. There is also a need to deal with a number of on-going tension areas such as the Russia-Georgia-Abkhazia-South Ossetia conflict where negotiations in Geneva are making slow progress. However, it is in the nuclear-weapon field where quick bilateral agreements can be reached. An agreement to reduce nuclear arsenals on both sides and to take weapons off hair-trigger alert would signify to the world that major agreements can be reached to provide common security.
There have always been at least two major aspects of nuclear issues — one is to prevent the proliferation to new states such as Iran or North Korea, the other is to reduce the number of warheads among existing nuclear-weapon states. The reduction of the number of warheads seems to be on the table for new USA-Russia negotiations. The number of 1000 each seems to be a common goal. Speedy negotiations can be encouraged by the Obama-Medvedev discussions.
The USA and Russia have reduced strategic nuclear weapons by more than two-thirds since the 1991 end of the Cold War, but neither country has begun planning for the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons. Much strategic thinking in both countries remains bound to the Cold War past and is at best vague on what use nuclear weapons have in the new world society. While strategic frameworks have historical, cultural and economic roots, they must also evolve to meet new realities.
A new willingness to strengthen cooperative political relationships between the USA and Russia is an essential requirement for creating an atmosphere of political confidence that will draw other nuclear-weapon states into the process of weapon reduction. There is a world-wide danger of continued reliance on nuclear weapons with outdated strategic thinking. The USA and Russia can show the way to eliminate those sources of instability that are driving other states to develop nuclear weapons. A common US-Russian commitment to work for a Nuclear-weapon Free Zone in the Middle East would be a sign of a renewed willingness to deal seriously with the security issues of the Middle East.
An easily-achieved mutual confidence-building measure would be to lower the operational status of nuclear arsenals, basically to take nuclear weapons off ‘hair trigger’ alert. Such a measure would enhance confidence and transparency. The lowering of operational readiness of nuclear-weapon systems has been urged by United Nations General Assembly resolutions starting in 2007. Such a change of status by the USA and Russia would be an important mark of respect for world opinion in the lead up to the 2010 review conference on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
The last few years have been years of drift in US-Russian relations. A quick agreement on nuclear issues would be a sure sign of a willingness to put relations back on track.
* Rene Wadlow, Representative to the UN, Geneva, Association of World Citizens
growing up in the shadow of the birthday of the Savior.... and feeling as though my birthday was, in essence, anti-climactic.... I coined a name for my birthday:
Brucemas..... it's caught on with my family after 20 years.... and I, jokingly, have high hopes that it will one day become a national holiday.... :o)
I am pleased to send you an article on the need for reconciliation bridge-builders in areas of tensions and conflicts as in eastern Congo. Just as world citizens had pushed in the 1950s for the creation of UN Forces with soldiers specially prepared for peace-keeping service, so now we are again pushing for a new type of world civil servant. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal have all contributed actively to military-peacekeeping forces. Perhaps these same countries can take a lead in forming reconciliation teams. Your support and advice would be most appreciated. With best wishes, Rene Wadlow
East Congo — Need for Reconciliation Bridge-Builders
On bridges are stated the limits in tons
of the loads they can bear.
But I’ve never yet found one that can bear more
than we do.
Although we are not made of roman freestone,
nor of steel, nor of concrete.
From “Bridges” – Ondra Lysohorsky
Translated from the Lachian by Davis Gill.
Violence is growing in the eastern areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo, basically the administrative provinces of North and South Kivu. The violence could spread to the rest of the country as Angolan troops may come to the aid of the Central Government as they have in the past while Rwandan and Ugandan troops are said to be helping the opposing militia led by Laurent Nkunda. While Nkunda and his Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) say that they are only protecting the ethnic Tutsi living in Congo, Nkunda could emerge as a national opposition figure to President Joseph Kabila, who has little progress to show from his years in power.
There is high-level recognition that violence in Congo could spread, having a destabilizing impact on the whole region. UN diplomats, led by Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, have stressed that a political solution — not a military one — is the only way to end the violence, and they are urging the presidents of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Kenya and Tanzania to work together to restore stability. The instability, along with Congo’s vast mineral and timber riches have drawn in neighboring armies who have joined local insurgencies as well as local commanders of the national army to exploit the mines and to keep mine workers in near-slavery conditions.
The United Nations has some 17,000 peacemakers in Congo (MONUC), the UN’s largest peacekeeping mission, but their capacity is stretched to the limit. Recently, the General in command of the UN forces, Lieutenant General Vicent Diaz de Villegas of Spain resigned his post after seven weeks — an impossible task. Their mission is to protect civilians, some 250,000 of which have been driven from their homes since the fighting intensified in late August 2008. The camps where displaced persons have been living have been attacked both by government and rebel forces — looting, raping, and burning. UN under-secretary general for peacekeeping, Alain Le Roy, is asking for an additional 3,000 soldiers, but it is not clear which states may propose troops for a very difficult mission. While MONUC has proven effective at securing peace in the Ituri district in north-eastern Congo, it has been much less successful in the two Kivu provinces.
The eastern area of Congo is the scene of fighting at least since 1998 — in part as a result of the genocide in neighboring Rwanda in 1994. In mid-1994, more than one million Rwandan Hutu refugees poured into the Kivus, fleeing the advance of the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front, now become the government of Rwanda. Many of these Hutu were still armed, among them, the “genocidaire” who a couple of months before had led the killings of some 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu in Rwanda. They continued to kill Tutsi living in the Congo, many of whom had migrated there in the 18th century.
The people in eastern Congo have lived together for many centuries and had developed techniques of conflict resolution, especially between the two chief agricultural lifestyles: that of agriculture and cattle herding. However, the influx of a large number of Hutu, local political considerations, a desire to control the wealth of the area — rich in gold, tin and tropical timber — all these factors have overburdened the local techniques of conflict resolution and have opened the door to new, negative forces interested only in making money and gaining political power.
UN peace-keeping troops are effective when there is peace to keep. What is required today in eastern Congo is not so much more soldiers under UN command, than reconciliation bridge-builders, persons who are able to restore relations among the ethnic groups of the area. The United Nations, national governments, and non-governmental organizations need to develop bridge-building teams who can help to strengthen local efforts at conflict resolution and re-establishing community relations. In the Kivus, many of the problems arise from land tenure issues. With the large number of people displaced and villages destroyed, it may be possible to review completely land tenure and land use issues.
World citizens were among those in the early 1950s who stressed the need to create UN peace-keeping forces with soldiers especially trained for such a task. Today, a new type of world civil servant is needed — those who in areas of tension and conflict can undertake the slow but important task of restoring confidence among peoples in conflict, establishing contacts and looking for ways to build upon common interests.
Rene Wadlow, Representative to the United Nations, Geneva, Association of World Citizens