The Role of Global Civil Society in Achieving & Supporting Global Peace and Security

What role(s) must global civil society play in promoting and sustaining global peace and security?

  • Approximately 1 hour per discussion (up to 2 hours)
relevant sections of “a global security system: an alternative to war”
  • The Role of Global Civil Society and International NGOs
  • The Unprecedented Peace Revolution of Modern Times
  • Planetary Citizenship: One People, One Planet, One Peace
  • The Earth Federation & The Earth Constitution
  • Proposal for a Global Emergency Assembly
  • Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigns
  • Align Early with Indigenous Nonviolent Movements
  • The Role of Women in Peace and Security
  • *The sections on Civilian Peacekeeping Forces nd Civilian-Based Defense are relevant to this discussion, but are taken up in detail in the discussion on Nonviolent Civilian-Based Defense / Civilian Peacekeeping Forces
  • Become familiar with effective global civil society efforts that have impacted peace & security discourse and policy
  • Consider ways of increasing the role of civil society in international peace and security decision-making and peacebuilding efforts
  • Explore the assumptions, problems, and ineffectiveness of the nation-state system in assuring human security
introducing study and action partner: Cora weiss

Study and Action Partner Cora Weiss has spent her life in the movements for human rights, civil rights, women’s empowerment and peace. She is President of the Hague Appeal for Peace that brought 10,000 people together, in May 1999, for the largest civil society peace conference in history.  She was also one of the organizers of the June 12, 1982 nuclear disarmament rally that gathered more than 1,000,000 people in NYC’s Central Park.  You can read Cora’s complete bio here.

Discussion Guides

Two discussion topics/guides are presented below. Each discussion should take approximately 1 hour. You are invited to do both and follow any sequence relevant to your purposes. If you are to choose one discussion we strongly encourage you start with “Discussion 1 (Essential).”

Discussion 1 (Essential): No Peace without Civil Society!

In preparation for this discussion watch the featured video (above), read the corresponding sections of AGSS, and review the additional resources provided below.   (Total 60 min)

Global civil society plays a critical role in the maintenance of peace and security.  Nation states often make decisions based upon the self-interests of economic elites.  There are many examples of global civil society effectively challenging the state and stepping in when states fail to act to protect the human dignity and rights of citizens, and the sustainability of the planet.  The civil rights movement in the USA, nonviolent challenges to dictatorships around the world, the landmine ban treaty, Security Council Resolution 1325, and the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, are but a few examples of civil society initiated change.

“Governments won’t move unless people push.  There’s nothing more important than well organized public opinion from global civil society.” – Cora Weiss

“Civil society has to guarantee the maintenance and sustainability of democracy, human rights, and peace.” – Cora Weiss

  • Identify and discuss examples of global civil society having an impact on global peace and security policy and practice.  How did these efforts materialize?  What made them effective?
  • More than 10,000 people gathered at the Hague Appeal for Peace Conference in 1999.  An outcome of that conference was the Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice (see resources below).  How might global civil society organize more effectively to manifest the changes outlined in the Agenda?  (You may wish to refer to the section in AGSS exploring “Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigns” – see pp. 131-132).
Additional Resources

Discussion 2 (Going Deeper): Rethinking the role of Civil Society in Global Governance

In preparation for this discussion watch excerpts of the video below featuring Azeezah Kanji, and review the relevant readings from AGSS.

In global governance, civil society very rarely has a direct influence.  However, some mechanisms exist, and opportunities are often presented for civil society to have a voice.  At the United Nations, NGOs from around the world consult with the UN on a regular basis.  Civil society brings perspectives and experience from the front lines that states can’t offer.  Another example is the Arria-formula Meeting of the Security Council, a little known mechanism that permits the Security Council to hear directly from civil society and other actors.  One such meeting took place that led to the eventual adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 that now assures women have a voice in peace and security decision-making and peacebuilding efforts.  While we can refer to these successes, they are still few and far between.  The assumptions and sovereignty of nation-states, upon which our current systems of global governance rest (the UN, international law), are impediments to the effective implementation of human security.  AGSS explores a few bold proposals for reforming global governance or starting fresh.  In both proposals presented, global civil society is elevated to the same level as the nation-state.

Azeezah Kanji: challenging the structure and assumptions of the nation-state

Azeezah Kanji (JD, LLM) is a legal academic and writer, whose work focuses on issues related to racism, colonialism, and social justice.   As a speaker at WBW’s NoWar2018 conference, she challenged the roots of our international system as based in the institution of the nation-state.  Watch the two clips below:

(watch from 1:17:40 to 1:19:25)

(watch from 43:37 to 47:10)

  • According to Azeezah Kanji, what are some of the problems of aligning our political systems with structure the nation-state? What are some strategies we might use to counter-balance or confront the problems associated with these structural assumptions in the international system?
  • Another way of looking at this problem is that national sovereignty constrains the effectiveness of international law and global governance. How might we, as civil society, overcome these hurdles of the nation state system and sovereignty?  What changes could be made?  What actions might be taken?
  • Why should efforts be made to align with indigenous movements?
  • Review the two alternative proposals for global governance outline in AGSS (The Earth Federation & The Earth Constitution; A Global Emergency Assembly).  How have each incorporated civil society?  What proposals might you make for a more effective means of global governance?
  • Get involved in local, indigenous movements that challenge the colonial legacies of the nation-state.
  • Host discussions on alternative forms of global governance that more effectively incorporate civil society. Share with WBW your ideas and proposals!
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