Jan. 2014 Newsletter: Peace/Justice & Issue of Mental Health

Welcome to the January 30, 2014 edition of this Peace&Justice action email!

After missing a few months, it will be good to get back to the regular action-oriented newsletters in a couple of weeks.  This newsletter, however, is the first in an occasional series to focus on a broader topic.  As promised well over a year ago, the first topic is the issue of mental health.

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This newsletter is primarily action-oriented.  But this section is the first topic in a new, occasional feature that will try to cover more in-depth or provide a broader perspective on a topic.  Given that stacks of books are written about any general topic, the goal of such a section is quite modest and can do no more than to expand slightly on a couple of topics within the fuller spectrum.  That was one reason why this feature was delayed until this newsletter had an accompanying blog (its address is at the top) – please consider using the blog to supplement or critique the ideas presented.

Our first focus deals with the issue of mental health and its far-reaching consequences. Mental health is not usually categorized directly as a peace and justice issue.  But individually people dealing with mental health problems are often marginalized or stigmatized, and thus as such it is becomes a peace and justice concern.  And as noted below, it is also a peace/justice concern in more standard ways.  This section will provide a few introductory comments and then highlight the current status and hopeful directions.



This section assumes that humans consist of incredibly complex layers that we have barely begun to understand.  This century holds great possibilities to unlock some of the chains that have held people in misery and have even brought about their death due to a primitive understanding of mental health. But noted below, it won’t come without much struggle, since concepts, framings and images will continue to be debated, refined and sometimes discarded.

This article assumes that attitudes are changing in the Western world, although we are in its early stages.  The above chains stem from an inherited worldview that either looked down upon those with mental health issues because they simply lacked the will to change, or worse, for other circumstances, relegated them to some incomprehensible deranged world, where they were locked away and out of sight.  Either way, if people were even aware of their (or their family’s) condition, it was kept hidden if possible, because it meant being ostracized and marginalized.  The shifts are occurring at two levels.  Within academia and the medical professions, there have been significant advances over the last 60 years, sketched below. As is often the case, it takes 10- 20 years for such changes to filter down to the general public.  Thus generally within society we are grappling with removing the stigma from these conditions (this is good), based on research from a decade or more ago.  Yet at the same time, due to the immediacy of the internet, we are also influenced by the current academic dynamics and its in-flux debates.  Due to this double level of dynamics, and the resulting bewildering array of attitudes that currently swirl around us, this article is structured around two anchoring affirmations (see further below).  They are meant to be the most basic and suitably affirming and empowering affirmations possible, given our current stage of progress.



Given that the ultimate touchstone of this newsletter is the notion of Well-Being, and thus also as preamble, I want to start by sketching the notion of a “well-adjusted person.”  I will use extremely broad brush strokes, given that this newsletter goes out to a few differing cultures, but then will hone in more specifically on Western society and North America in particular.

The well-adjusted person: This is no monotone, but includes the full diversity of people, from gregarious to quiet, wild risk-takers to cautious types, action-oriented to contemplative to research focused.  The common threads are that:

  • They have no desire or need to harm anyone including themselves;
  • They have a basic sense of dignity and self-respect;
  • They have a basic sense of fairness and compassion for others; and
  • They have a basic openness to life.

They will remain very human, with the failures, scars, and sadness that go along with times of joy, etc.   Wide diversity remains – any such person will exhibit either more, or less, of any of the above aspects, than someone else.  The chief point is that while carrying and at times exhibiting the lesser side of being human, such dynamics do not go beyond certain bounds nor impair basic functioning (and, as discussed below, to the extent “bounds” can be defined, for the past many decades that is traditionally the domain of the mental health professions).  In addition, to help keep clear all the shades of gray, many people along the continuums of various mental health dis-orders can fit quite well into the above extremely broad characterizations.  As framed within this article, well-being is the broadest category which includes aspects well outside any individual.  Within that, mental health informs a few of the aspects of well-being, as defined in the above link.



An informal definition of mental health is “the psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustment.”  Thus, in terms of the focus, here, on mental health, the key concept is in establishing those “bounds” on the one side of which something is a normal, though painful, condition of life; to the other side of which something becomes a clinical diagnosis.  More on this in a moment, but in the context of this article it is important to raise a crucial, anchoring affirmation.



People dealing with mental health issues should be given the same dignity and respect due everyone else, and specifically, given the same regard and support as anyone dealing with a physical illness.  There should be no stigma or marginalization; rather there should simply be an exploration of symptoms leading either to its resolution, or if such does not exist yet, to its management within the context of normal living.

This broad affirmation is meant to cover the full spectrum of those dealing with mental health issues. What follows are two refining affirmations within that broad umbrella – those dealing primarily with biochemical aspects, and those dealing primarily with traumatic circumstances.  Naturally life does not completely fit into two such neat compartments, but the key point here is that among all the layers that make us who we are at a given point, there are those who do fit within these two broad categories and for whom the following refining affirmations need to be clearly raised. [and please feel free to go to the Blog and add any other areas that you feel should be included in Part II of this article, should such ever be contemplated].



There are clinical diagnoses that have nothing to do with “choice” or “will”, but are the result of varying complex interactions of biochemical and other factors.

For example, could there ever be someone with stronger will, grit and determination than the only person in history to win multiple Olympic medals in both the Summer and then Winter Olympics?  Her name is Clara Hughes and a couple of years ago she revealed how she suffered from deep depression through much of her life.  If she couldn’t “will” herself out of it – and she couldn’t – then no one can.  Clinical depression is an illness not a choice or weakness.  The same can be said for many other conditions – bipolar, seasonal affective disorder, and so on.

Awareness of this affirmation is essential, firstly to those who suffer such conditions, so that they recognize they are not at fault and are not alone but should simply seek the clinical help as they would for any medical condition.  Secondly, it is necessary for friends and family, so that they recognize and provide support for this reality.  Thirdly it is crucial for society at large to come to this awareness – in North America a shift is slowing occurring but much too slowly – so that the marginalization and stigma disappear.  Until you have seen or experienced it, it is hard to imagine the power of “shame”.to immobilize and silence oneself, feeling so unworthy or ashamed, cued by the seemingly unattainable “normal” world around oneself.  This backdrop of an utterly misplaced sense of “choice” or “will” arises from our inherited medieval views, and for the sake of all, we must ensure this affirmation overwhelms such antiquated and harmful notions.

The second part of the affirmation is further below.



With this basic affirmation to anchor us, it is also important to raise up the much murkier context within which we find ourselves as we go through the 21st century.  The mental health profession – for instance in the U.S. it would include the American Psychiatric and also Psychological Associations – is mandated with determining what constitutes a clinical diagnosis.  It is a field that holds enormous promise – many insights have already been of great benefit.  But it is also fraught with much controversy.  The U.S. profession’s basic touchstone or “bible” is the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).  The first one – DSM-1 – came out in 1952. [It should be noted that the DSM is not the only “bible”; the World Health Organization system of diagnosing mental health conditions is called ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases)].

Firstly, insights do not simply happen – they are part of a process that starts with an awareness of the inadequacy of current paradigms, the grappling for better explanations, the testing of them, refining them, and so on.  An example of this would be the mental health profession’s history of grappling with the topic of homosexuality.  Officially classified as a mental disorder in 1952 (DSM-1: a “sociopathic personality disturbance”), by 1973 and then 1986 the profession had dramatically changed to viewing it as a normal variant of human sexuality (see Sketch of DSM Views of Sexuality [PDF]). Thus it took 21 plus another 13 years to settle the status of this issue.

Secondly, this essential back-and-forth process to gain insight has become vastly more complex over the last several years as science has greatly expanded its repertoire of tools available for exploration.  From neuroscience to epigenetics, it has expanded both the possibilities for greater insight and further blurred lines that had been distinct.



The current state – continuing to use the U.S. as a touchstone – is well illustrated by the newly revised Manual (DSM-5), released earlier this year.  It has been so controversial that it has resulted in numerous petitions and calls for boycotts (for example: Concerns from author of DSM-IV; and also: Concern/petition from U.K.).  The basic issue, oversimplified, is whether the more granular view that can be seen, should lead one toward seeing things as more, for instance, biochemically derived, or whether these reductionist tendencies are going too far, leading to lower thresholds for a diagnosis, more categories, and overall in many cases to over-medication.   Here is a quote to give a flavour of the debate:

The problem . . . {is the concept that} . . . mental illness is neurobiological, and that psychosocial factors are not that important.  This . . . has led to a serious over-prescription of medications.
Here, I think of a friend who went to see a psychiatrist during his divorce, and emerged from his first session with a diagnosis for “soft bipolar” disorder and prescription for anti-psychotics. Love, loss, guilt, thwarted dreams, sudden shocks, mounting pressures, these are slings and arrows, not chronic disease. [Globe and Mail, April 2, 2013]


To be clear, most everyone acknowledges that there are conditions that are created by biochemical imbalances and best addressed through medications that attempt to rebalance things (and hence the anchoring affirmation).  The main controversies lie beyond that.  This article will raise several aspects (and not directly linked to DSM-5).

1. Early stages of discourse, and guideline: there is simply the fact that we are in the early stages of this next level of discovery and discourse.  As noted it can take years or decades for a hypothesis to emerge as a clear insight.  Within that, the mental health / medical / scientific communities must grapple with the relationships around root cause(s), symptoms, diagnoses, treatments and results.

For those caught in such circumstances during this back-and-forth phase, a good guideline would be to work with your mental health professional, etc.  That is, on the one hand, their expertise should be recognized.  On the other hand, one should not be afraid to probe the bigger picture and current possible paths, questioning where a path is quite solid versus simply being the best hypothesis at the moment.  Some mental health practitioners are glad and even relieved to acknowledge areas where insight is not yet well-grounded, etc.  The internet, when used well via responsible websites, can be a source of seeing where the edges of an issue currently are, though one must guard against irresponsible sites which can post misleading, false and even harmful information.  One must also guard against the difference between being well-informed and being an expert (though, as noted below in the “20,000 word essay”, even “expert” can be a controversial term).

2. Issue of power:  There is the role of power, particularly Big Pharma (that is, the dynamics that form around the intersection of the giant multi-national pharmaceutical companies, political manipulation, corporate espionage and consumerist media and PR dynamics), a topic unto itself.  Insight occurs most often after years of research, which requires funding.  Fortunately some funding and support come without strings attached.  But the chief Big Pharma contours are: (a) that some research becomes determined by the funder’s priorities. This can skew the direction that research goes; (b) Big Pharma is large enough to sponsor its own research people, which at times can have an intended motivation to distort emerging insights; (c) As the stakes get higher, political dynamics can kick-in such as influence peddling, which can delay or distort regulatory policies as well as combining with PR efforts to deliberately distort facts. By analogy, the tobacco industry is a good example of such tendencies.    Insight will eventually emerge – tobacco does cause lung cancer – but when Big “Industry” uses its resources to fund pseudo-science plus joins that with political influence, the valuable insight can be delayed for years, causing terrible suffering.

Because of the above reductionist aspects, we find almost anything can be medicated.  But that doesn’t mean everything should be.   and we have Big Pharma that loves to find revenue avenues.  Thus we find ourselves in the swirl of modern medicine.  I am so thankful we have attained the level we have but I still call it primitive, and the process should be approached with clear eyes.  The responsible side of the drug business has produced many wonderful and live-saving medicines, but the enormous scope and power of the huge complex called Big Pharma requires watchdogs and vigilance.

Other sources of power that play into this controversy are the institutions themselves.  In this case that includes both the American Psychiatric and Psychological Associations, as well as all the pressures within academia itself.  The “20,000 word essay”, below, gives a little sense of the buffeting that can occur within and among the associations and also academia.  In addition, insurance companies have a stake in these dynamics, although that is not explored here.

3. The issue of alternative therapies:  Meditation or yoga may be more effective at reducing anxiety for some people.  Substituting “natural” ingredients for synthetic ones may work for a fraction of the cost and with less side-effects in dealing with some mental health issues.  Acupuncture may play a positive role in some cases.  This broad category of “Alternative therapies” is a spectrum that ranges from sensible solutions (in contrast to some unneeded and costly items that Big Pharma might push) to utterly outlandish and potentially harmful claims.  There is a swirl of ideas around the boundary between the body and mind. In the same way that we remain in early stages of understanding the biochemical side, we also have a poor understanding of how the mind or other seemingly non-reductionist dynamics play into our mental health.  And thus while there is promise there must also be caution, especially for those for whom the Basic Affirmation holds.  If something is truly biochemical in origin, there can be great danger in thinking the power of one’s mind can dramatically alter things – it becomes a variation of thinking one can “will” oneself out of something that is bio-chemical in nature.

4. Meta View:  There does exist the notion that anyone who is “well-adjusted” to a Western (or globalized), highly dysfunctional, meta-power manipulated, and destructive system, can hardly be considered to be in a healthy mental state.  At first blush this notion may seem to have no overlap, dealing with the grand dynamics of sociology, political philosophy, etc.  But the point does have some merit if the comparative microcosm of one’s own personal mental health might be influenced by the environment (both the physical one of the quality of the air, water, land; and the dynamics of a society’s worldview and ethos)   This newsletter’s anchoring around Well-Being leans heavily in that direction, although this form of dysfunction is largely in a realm beyond the scope of this essay to pursue.

5. Universal; and role of poverty:  As this essay now moves from the biologically-based mental health issues, above, to mental health issues that arise from circumstances, below, it should be noted that these are universal conditions.  Specifically, both forms occur in both developed and developing countries.  What varies are the ratios.  For instance, as indicated in the following link, the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that a much higher percentage of people with severe mental disorders will receive treatment in developed countries (50–65 percent compared to 15-25 percent in less developed countries).  However, poverty, even in developed countries, reduces the percentage who receive treatment.
Rethinking Mental Health In Africa  [IRIN]

For example, it is estimated that 18,000 Indonesians are still shackled (’pasung’), largely in remote areas with no mental health services, even though it has been illegal since 1977.  About 19 million suffer from various mental health disorders (in a population of 242 million), and another million from severe psychoses.  The Indonesian government is trying to rectify this situation, given there is a much better understanding of the mental health field.  The prime obstacle is trained professionals, although societal stigma also plays a large role.
Mental Health & Shackling in Indonesia  [IRIN]





The Basic Affirmation contains many general guidelines for action. In addition, within that is the phrase “given the same regard and support”:

Same Regard: This is the domain of a society’s ethos.  Action to change a worldview is best framed within the many stages and layers of the Process of Change model.  Awareness is the first stage, and as mentioned, there has been much movement, depending on location.  Regardless, while many brave people have publically made their illness known, the tipping point has not been reached where anyone would feel safe to disclose their status.  Writing articles, letters to editors and sharing with others remain a vital element to bolster this aspect.

Same Support: While this can and must include family and friend support, this is primarily the domain of politics – actions that invest in structures and policies that strengthen the support for mental health.  Many jurisdictions, when feeling fiscal pressure, decide mental health expenditures are a low priority and thus first to be cut.  Reversal of such wrong-headed calculus requires creation of or financial support for advocacy organizations, as well as such action as writing to one’s representatives, creating or supporting petitions in one’s area, or writing to media.  More actions are given at the end.


Related Articles:
[With such an enormous topic, I decided to keep this list minimal.  It simply gives a classic mainstream-critical view (New Internationalist) and also raises the role of media, which helps shape one’s worldview.  Beyond that it is more productive for one to do one’s own web search, within the above guidelines.]
DSM-5 Website
Mental Health & Social Views [New Internationalist]
Mental Health Facts (single page)  [New Internationalist]
Role of Media in Portraying Mental Illness [openDemocracy]

[The following 20,000 word essay is from Dr. Simon Sobo.  Schooled at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine, he started as a Freudian, but quickly became highly critical of that approach, at least until the overall pendulum swung so far away, that he felt “the baby being thrown out with the bathwater” and reversed his own path, advocating for at least some nuanced place for Freud.  Retired now, he spent his whole career grappling with DSM-III and then the transition to DSM-IV. This newsletter is in no position to assess his professional stance.  The purpose is solely to illustrate, in longitudinal form, the dynamics he saw and felt, which include the back-and-forth of ideas; many of the above power issues, some of which he had the honesty to admit he had either fallen for or been part of; and even questioning whether anyone should be called an “expert.”]
One Assessment of DSM-IV [20,000 words]





There is a largely different form of mental dis-order that can arise within the peace/justice domain.  As opposed to the above situation, people here have no unusual biochemical or other factors that are responsible for the condition. This is the realm of the deeply traumatized victim  It is the world, for instance, of victims forced into being child soldiers; or victims of rape (often used as a weapon of war to demoralize a people); or as a witness to the slaughter of one’s family.  It is also the realm of being a soldier and being traumatized as a result.  Thus, as an example, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has entered our vocabulary, although its full impact is far from fully recognized.  Also, while PTSD is generally associated with war it is finding application within a much wider range of the human condition, such as domestic violence.



Personal trauma, whether clearly identified or not, can produce clinical diagnoses that exhibit themselves in various ways (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is the best known but not the only possible resulting disorder).

Similar to the first affirmation, awareness of such conditions is essential, firstly to those who suffer such disorders, so that they recognize they are not at fault and are not alone but should simply seek the clinical help as they would for any medical condition.  Likewise, it is necessary for the layers of friends and family, and of society at large, to recognize and provide support for this reality, and reduce the stigma around the issue.



Like the first affirmation, the notion of formal mental illness diagnoses arising from personal trauma, forms a spectrum, from clear cases through to increasingly controversial ones.  For instance, one dimension of the complexity is that people react differently to the same traumatic event.  The issue of resilience is but one aspect of the full picture about which we have an incomplete understanding.  Not every soldier develops PTSD.  That has been part of the difficulty of those who suffer with it – it can appear as though they are the weak ones.  Sadly, statistics such as those in the links below indicate how ravaging such a disconnected societal bravado can be, upon the individuals who commit suicide, and upon the soldiers’ families for the personality upheavals it can wreak on a family, even if it does not lead to suicide.  To reinforce our society’s abysmal lag in adequately responding to this, a few hours after I typed the previous sentence, the CBC indicated how three Canadian soldiers (who had fought in Afghanistan) had committed suicide that past week.

The term PTSD originated in the 1970s following the Vietnam war and was originally called post-Vietnam syndrome, though precursors to that would be “shell shock”, etc.  The broad contours are that following a traumatic event (which include feelings of intense fear, horror or helplessness) there are recurring flashbacks, avoidance or numbing memories of the event, and high levels of anxiety that last more than a month.  PTSD can also have a delayed onset, with symptoms not showing up until long after the precipitating cause.

Basic Clusters: Currently PTSD refers to a broader spectrum than simply the military domain, roughly forming three clusters, showing its expanded usage; those suffering from PTSD who are: (a) in the military; (b) in other professions who face traumatic scenes (for example, first-responders or disaster-relief workers); and (c) victims of violence, which includes victims within the dynamics involved in (a) or (b) [how many would that include among the millions in refugee or IDP camps which are sometimes still targeted, hiding in caves, surviving in temporary, dilapidated shelters and so on?], but also those who remain in the shadows, such as victims of domestic abuse.  Domestic abuse itself has barely emerged from being a taboo topic itself, depending on the culture, let alone acknowledging the spouses or children suffering PTSD as a result.

Child Soldiers: Child soldiers deserves special mention (UNICEF estimates up to 300,000 in 30 conflicts).  They end up doubly traumatized.  Firstly in most cases they are abducted.  They either simply disappear or a militia will come through the village, and the child will be taken often after having watched his family killed, raped or tortured. Secondly they are traumatized again as the leaders force them either to be sex slaves or to kill others, the latter sometimes initiated by killing either family members, best friends, or villagers (so they feel there is no way to return home).  The overall topic is beyond the scope of this essay, other than to say that effort is being made on the ensuing mental health issues which are part of the DDR (demobilization, disarmament and reintegration into society) process.  For an overview, see Child Soldiers [IRIN];  and Strategies & Measures  [childrenandwar.org],  Psycho-social work [child-solider.org].  While youth are more resilient, far too few make it into good DDR programs, and even if successful, the broader environment that they graduate into (few jobs, ongoing civil strife) can ensnare them.

Mass Internal Targeting.: Finally, while all trauma is ultimately personal, there is the additional level of dynamics that occurs when an entire group is victimized, such as occurred with Pol Pot in Cambodia, the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and so on.  There are layers of dynamics, from the deliberate perpetrators, to the willing participants, to the participants who knew they otherwise would be killed themselves, to the purely innocent, etc.  While this horrific type of trauma individually will share the above issues, it has the additional problem that because it can tear an entire society apart, there is a less resilient normal societal network to support oneself.  As well, the perpetrator may still live down the street.  Thus Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRCs) were created, the best known being South Africa’s TRC, created in 1995 by Nelson Mandela and chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  In modern memory one might go as far back as the end of World War II, with its combination of the Marshall Plan and the Nuremberg Trials, as an early attempt to grapple with both restoration and justice, even given the multiple agendas at work.  Regardless, TRCs must be left as another huge future topic, except to make a couple of comments.  Firstly, in terms of the mental health of people, TRCs can help thousands of people, mottled as the outcome will be with such a blunt instrument.  But it is better for the world to be grappling and refining these processes, than not to hold them, if for no other reason than it reduces the historical revisionism that can occur.  Secondly, TRCs are almost always caught in the tension among truth, peace and justice.




Preventive – the foundation:

One must start with the proper perspective.  Human-based circumstances have brought about the trauma, pain and even death alluded to in this section.  Being human-based, the goal must be the elimination of all such circumstances.  This should not be interpreted as naiveté, but as clarifying the heart of the problem.  Yes it resides in our humanness, something we can never eliminate.  But we are more than our baser instincts and also deeper than any self-serving, groundless idealism.

Insight – defined not simply as the knowledge to shape a more decent world for all, but the actual movement in that direction – remains possible.  Eliminating the circumstances, whether war or oppressive aspects of an inherited worldview, remain as complex and layered as the issues above. But the stance here is that some basic insight has occurred and more will continue (though, for instance, I would gauge at least another century would be needed before we might say we have moved “beyond war”;  Sample controversy: Trends Indicate Less War [Foreign Policy] versus Bad Methods In Thinking Less War [U.Chicago Conference paper]).

The scope is enormous.  When citizens of developed countries (such as Australia, Canada, U.K. and the U.S.) think of PTSD and/or the effects of war the first image is usually that of their soldiers.  That image is apt – they suffer and this article is about ending such suffering. But this newsletter also wants to raise up the remaining victims in war that remain in a target country, images that are less likely to emerge, due to a convoluted mix of physical and emotional distance, inability to get journalists in and stories out, desires of governments to move on (and hence not learn crucial lessons), and so on.  A sample: How do you heal an entire country suffering from shell shock?  [ForeignPolicy].

The same complexity is involved regarding other issues in this section, such as domestic abuse.  It involves changing a nation’s ethos.  The WHO estimates that 30% of women have suffered domestic abuse, physical or sexual; in North America the estimates are 23%.

While the scope is enormous, insight continues even as it did for the sea-changes needed to end slavery (with exceptions), or to give women status as humans and then voting rights and someday equal treatment everywhere.

Because the full scope of this issue is so huge, this newsletter frames a two-level approach, outlined below, whereby at one level we do address the overall issues via preventive actions, while at the same time speaking about the more immediate remedial actions needed for those suffering now.

Finally, to reinforce this notion of complexity, over the last month yet another four Canadians from the military committed suicide.  A suicide here, another there, especially separated by over 2000 miles – they seem like tragic yet isolated events.  It can take time before people recognize a pattern.  Sometimes those patterns are recognized in the associated institutions but are ignored (and sometimes they do their best but lack adequate funding), and it is only when the pattern is brought to light, that proper remedial action occurs.  That said, at least in the developed countries the patterns are known, inadequate political and institutional action is an outrage, and an informed citizenry is the basic level to shift the direction toward more promising outcomes (recognizing that the “process of change” requires many layers to line up for success).


Preventive – the specifics:

  1. While basic conflict will always be part of what it is to be human, it does not follow that war is inevitable.  While many of our current structures and dynamics are set up to feed conflict and even war, we are also gradually developing a more adequate repertoire to resolve conflict before it turns to war, to create more suitable structures, to detect the early signs of genocidal tendencies, etc.  Support is needed for impetus in all layers: strengthening good governance, engendering nonviolent conflict resolution, alleviating poverty / empowering people, promoting independent media and watchdogs, and so on.
    [An example, related to the early warning signs of genocide, is occurring right now.  The conflict has deteriorated for months; the early signs were detected and reported.  Peacekeeping troops were sent in (by France and then Rwanda).  Things have somewhat stabilized.  The UN is considering further efforts, though it remains uncertain what will happen next.   See: Central African Republic and ‘Seeds of Genocide  ’[Reuters] ].

    While it needs another article to explore this avenue, it is important to raise the prevention of war in conjunction with eliminating the mental health issues that result.  Of course, war should be eliminated for its own numerous intrinsic values.  The above statement is meant to push mental concerns (PTSD, child soldiers, rape as a weapon of war, etc.) to their logical conclusion.  Without that, the cycle never ends.

    A basic corollary is that the significant mental issues arising from war indicate that we simply aren’t meant to harm one another.  Complex creatures that we are, it also indicates that we are good at doing harm and that the veneer of civilization remains far too thin.  A final note in the context of war and mental health is the article below on resilience training and the moral quandary that such work raises.

  2. Broad work is desperately needed to eliminate other domains where trauma occurs, such as domestic abuse.  This area, as was noted, is even farther behind, still emerging as a topic that had been taboo to talk about. The same process applies: raising awareness that a person’s basic safety is a universal right; providing programs that in the best case can keep families together, abused person(s) safe, while the dynamics fall in line with that universal right; and in the worst case, ensure the abused person’s safety while still trying to get any perpetrator to change or at least be prevented from harming others.
  3. The WHO has indicated 5 key barriers to increasing mental health services availability.  One needs to examine their own country as well as advocate for adequate and consistent global polices in the following areas:
    1. the absence of mental health from the public health agenda and the implications for funding;
    2. the current organization of mental health services;
    3. lack of integration within primary care;
    4. inadequate human resources for mental health;
    5. lack of public mental health leadership;
  4. Point (3) involves visionary leadership and financial support.  These are “common goods” issues and thus the domain of government.  Many countries are currently living under economic scripts that give low priority to mental health funding or off-load many responsibilities. Whether funding via taxes or some other mechanism, these mechanisms must be seen as a sacred trust, implying transparency, checks and balances and overall good governance (efficient, effective, robust). Pressed further, in today’s economic script, oversimplified, taxes are bad.  The more solid footing is that taxes are bad used badly.  But when used as above, they are a necessary and life-freeing strengthening of the social fabric.


  1. As noted, there are two organizations – the military and also the First Responders groups – that have or should have responsibility for helping identify and assist those with mental health issues arising from their profession.  Their priorities, funding and resources come from government.  Using the military as an example, the government is clearly far behind in adequately addressing these issues.  Pressure must be continued to rectify what in some sense is a betrayal – people heeding a government’s call (setting aside that whole issue itself) and afterward finding themselves insufficiently cared for.
  2. People with mental health issues (all types) are found in disproportionately high numbers on the streets and in prisons.  This calls for adequate mental health programs to prevent people from ending up there, and also once on the street, to having access to the proper treatment.  It further illustrates how primitive it is to have a punitive style justice system for mental health-based incidents.  Restorative justice must be the goal (& thus cross-cuts into both remedial and preventive sections).
  3. Child soldiers / Victims of rape: More support needs to be given to the organizations involved in this aspect of DDR programs (while sometimes this can be individuals donating to an organization, it is largely part of a nation’s foreign aid portfolio).  In countries suffering from child soldiers or victims of rape used as a weapon of war, there is little comprehensive work done on the extent of this victimization nor effectiveness of organizations trying to reintegrate such people back into society.  In overall mental health issues, the World Health Organization estimates that 75% to 85% of severe cases go untreated.
  4. Truth and Reconciliation Commissions: Their goal is that “the past no longer invades the present but informs the future.” Funding is needed for more research and efforts.  As noted above they have value but it is such a delicate balance.  The article below explores both the cathartic and re-traumatization effects on victims during the TRC effort in Cambodia, specifically pertaining to Duch, who was on trial as an instrumental person behind the Khmer Rouge atrocities.
    Cambodia: Study of Promise and Pitfalls of Truth-seeking  [IRIN]


Related articles:

US Soldiers: At Least 30% Suffer PTSD [Daily Beast]
US Soldiers: A Suicide every 65 Minutes [Forbes]
More US Soldiers Die From Suicide Than War [Project Censored]
Cambodia: One in Seven Suffer Some Form of PTSD [Al Jazeera]

Muddying the waters further, there have been attempts to try to prevent war trauma (called “resilience training”). The treatment is called “Positive Psychology” and has been written about in the American Psychologist Journal.  However one watchdog organization ponders whether the relationship between the APJ and the military may be too cozy:
Does American Psychologist Journal have too cozy a relationship with the US Military? {Project Censored]




Hopefully anyone who is dealing with a mental health issue will find one of the three affirmations to be supportive.  Everyone should feel free to comment on the blog about any aspect of this article, in particular what one would want to see as Part II, if such might ever occur.

Raising the issue of mental health as a peace/justice issue is important in at least two ways.  Firstly, marginalization is a peace/justice issue. Thus it becomes a prime focus to stand with, provide support for, and advocate on behalf of those who suffer from the various forms of mental illness, whether an individual who is dealing with biochemical imbalances or an entire nation and the repercussions of war.

Secondly, a decent fair society – one in which all achieve well-being – is one which recognizes the interrelated nature of all these issues.  Foremost, freeing people from the entangled webs of mental health issues is good-in-itself.  Specifically it frees people, allowing their gifts and abilities to be expressed – wonderful goodness.  But it also, pragmatically, frees up the resources that were needed to help such people, and allows that energy to address other dimensions of global well-being.  For we still have a long way to go.

July 2013 Newsletter

Welcome to the July 31, 2013, issue of this Peace&Justice action email.

This issue is a brief summer version of the newsletter, much more sparse than usual due to time constraints. The most glaring omission, in terms of big news stories, is Egypt; there are always plenty of little-known conflicts that get missed.  Please accept my apologies.

Pour la traduction française: cliqueter ici; et cliqueter alors le bouton de traduction sur la page Web.
Para la traducción española: clic aquí; y entonces hace clic en el botón de traducción en la página web.







Tunisia was the start of the “Arab Spring.”  Recently, an 18 year old woman was alarmed by a Salafist (conservative Islamic) group who were opposing the equality of women.  She wrote a single word (“Femen”, the name of an international women’s movement) on a wall surrounding a cemetery, for which she has been jailed.  The charges and possible lengthy sentences are considered politically motivated and are deemed an infringement her right to freedom of expression.

Tell Tunisia to release Activist:





As with many of the recent popular protests, the one in Turkey started with a dispute over the use of a park, in this case Gezi Park, in Istanbul, Turkey.  Prime Minister Erdogan dug in his heels and has tried to quell the protests with violence, rather than listening to the demands.  Of course behind the park issue, are complex dynamics, including a long-simmering distrust of the conservative leanings of the Prime Minister.

Tell Turkey to Stop Using excessive Force:





If you use Twitter or Facebook, you may want to mobilize your social media skills to spread this report about stopping extra-juridical killings in Syria.  Basically, as has been part of the brutal campaign, some areas are being targeted to terrorize the civilian population as a means of reducing support for the rebels, as documented in the following Amnesty briefing:

Take Social Media Action:







Darfur: Sill Mired in Problems

Darfur is our longitudinal study.  There is no action for this month, but you can see a sketch of the latest events at www.UntilAll.org/darfur.htm.


Guatemala Genocide Trial a Landmark . . . Then Scrapped . . . Then Conviction . . . Then Overturned

The last newsletter indicated that the landmark trial had been derailed by a separate court ruling but was holding out hope for an appeal.  So it is both a relief and a triumph of justice and vindication of those who testified that Efraín Ríos Montt, former leader of Guatemala, has been found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity:

However that relief was short-lived sine the verdict was then overturned [The Guardian (May 21)] . . . though as of June 4, in yet another twist, the Guatemalan Supreme Court rejected a motion to quash proceedings, and has set a new trial date of April 2014.


Bees:  Good News, Bad News:

A previous action called for the ban of a certain pesticide in the European Union.  The good news is that it has been banned, so thank you for all who took action.  As has been reviewed previously, such web actions seldom bring change on the own, but can help provide crucial support and backing as part of an overall strategy to bring change.  The following link provides a window into the pieces that were involved to getting the ban passed:

But in the U.S., the EPA just allowed a different but also toxic pesticide, sulfoxaflor, to be used on several crops, even while acknowledging it is highly toxic to honey bees.  It added an advisory for honey bees, but one which sounds quite unworkable, such as having to notify beekeepers before and after usage, advising them to keep their bees in the hive, etc.  This is not a precautionary approach to protecting such a vital link in the food chain:

Finally – recently in – researchers have discovered that the application of fungicides may be behind some of the rapid decline in bees.  Thus it is looking like a more complicated cocktail of interactions:


Burma & the Rohingya: Violent Buddhists, a silent Aung San Suu Kyi, and maybe an Al-Qaeda link?

Burma was noted in an earlier newsletter for its surprising, puzzling (and world-hesitant to acknowledge) overtures to open up its previously iron-clad country.  Recently there have been several articles highlighting the recent problems with two minority groups.  There is a long history behind it all, and on its face one sees the contradictions of, for example, supposedly nonviolent Buddhists being extremely violent (although other Buddhists did come to protect the victims), the world acclaimed human rights defender Aung San Suu Kyi being silent about the repugnant human rights violations, and even a possible Al-Qaeda thread in among there.  Again deeper analysis is needed, but the following are just a couple of articles trying to sketch the terrain.
TIME Magazine article
Toronto Star article


DRC: Searching For An Internal Solution For The Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been enmeshed in one of the world’s longest and deadliest conflicts (most often given as over 5 million deaths as a result of the conflict), stunningly for the most part off the mainstream news radar.  This newsletter has highlighted some of the initiatives that have been made.  Here is another analysis
Towards internal solutions to the DRC crisis [IRIN]







Brazil Protests:

Given the above actions on popular protests, and while there are many more than simply Brazil, there is an essay on openDemocracy that gives an interesting sketch of the basic issues and challenges facing the country and protestors.  Sparked initialling by student demand for better transportation given a hike in rates, the protest has spread, becoming neither anti-Brazil nor anti-football, but very broadly a call to implement a higher vision for Brazil.  It covers many areas and includes the broad dissatisfaction found within a rising country that now has a sufficiently large middle-class.  They have joined the protest over government policies that have led to hosting the Confederation Cup then the FIFA Cup then the Olympics – “first-world football stadiums and third-world hospitals, schools, and sewage facilities.”


Yemen: A Life on Hold

For those who prefer short videos, the following helps give some sense of the millions of people living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps.  This video is about family who has been living for three years in IDP camp in Yemen, noting that many IDPs end up in such camps for 10 or 20 years.  The broader question about the value and perils of such videos must await another newsletter.

April Newsletter

Welcome to the April 29, 2013 edition of this Peace&Justice action email!

This issue provides two actions related to Darfur as well as one related to media distortion and an action concerning life patents and the giant multinational Monsanto.  I have decided to have a separate email for the Mental Health issue, which should be sent in two weeks.

Pour la traduction française: cliqueter ici; et cliqueter alors le bouton de traduction sur la page Web.
Para la traducción española: clic aquí; y entonces hace clic en el botón de traducción en la página web.




The overall situation in Darfur has not changed significantly.  While a recent Doha Conference resulted in over $3 billion pledged for Darfur reconstruction, it is partly a charade given Sudan itself pledged over $2 billion while bombing Darfur citizens.  Apart from that, little can be done until peace and stability exists, something that is no closer.  On the broader scene the Nuba region of Sudan continues to be bombarded and starved.  And within the last couple of days a new rebel offensive has started in a previously relatively untouched area of Northern Kordofan, and also closer to Khartoum.  For more details see Darfur Current Status (UntilAll).

There are two actions in this newsletter.  The first one calls on the U.S. to fill the position of Special Envoy for Sudan which has been vacant since the end of 2012.  As noted in a background article, some groups are critical of the rumored front runner, on the basis that his policies are likely to resemble too closely perceived past failed policies.  While the eventual solution for Sudan must be a political solution embraced by all of Sudan’s stakeholders, and while some feel U.S. involvement primarily skews results in U.S. favour, the stance of this newsletter is that a Special Envoy under Sudan’s current dynamics is a better option than not having one, at least if the second action below (Sudan Peace and Accountability Act), becomes more clearly some of the guiding principles (this newsletter and the above link have previously outlined some of the complexities and conflicting U.S. priorities).

Tell Obama to Fill Position for Special Envoy to Sudan (open to all):

Genocide scholars’ questions go unanswered; then Envoy resigns
Front Runner for Envoy Position Criticized






The second Darfur / Sudan action involves U.S. citizens, who can tell their members of Congress to support the Sudan Peace, Security and Accountability Act, introduced with bipartisan support.

Take action (U.S citizens only):

Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act of 2013





The Boston Marathon bombings were a terrible tragedy.  And while it did bring out wonderful acts of courage and humanity, it also brought out a repulsive act.  Fox News commentator Erik Rush tweeted the words “Yes, they’re evil. Let’s kill them all.” In his tweet, “them” referred to Muslims, and it was tweeted to his nearly 40,000 followers.  If you find this going well beyond the line of any journalist licence, then please consider taking the following action:

Tell FOX News to Drop Erik Rush: (You can edit the message depending on your TV habits):





One of the disturbing but largely hidden trends being tested over the last few years relates to companies trying to obtain patents, oversimplified, to what are in essence life building blocks, whether genes or seeds.  It is yet another area where ethics and laws are struggling to catch-up to technology, and more importantly to the influence that such large multi-nationals can exert on politics.  In this instance companies like Monsanto have found loopholes in European law to have exclusive rights over conventional seeds (such as everyday vegetables and fruits like cucumber, broccoli and melons).  Such loopholes need to be shut before they set a dangerous global precedent.

The action below is from Avaaz, and is close to reaching 2 million signatures. Such broad implication issues like this one require a giant outcry to help support the needed outcomes.  So please consider signing the petition and try to get it over 2 million:

Tell the EU Patent Organization to Fix Patent Laws:







UN (and US) Approves Arms Trade Treaty; Plus Further on NRA Dialogue

On April 2, the US joined 153 other nations in approving the Global Arms Trade Treaty. That said, for the U.S. to ratify it, it must be passed by its Senate by a super majority.   This is deemed unlikely due to the influence the NRA has on the Senate.  So for US citizens, stay tuned for the rhetoric to heat up again.

You may recall my attempt in a previous newsletter to try to understand the opposition of the NRA to the Treaty (see: http://untilall.org/uwaa-120.htm).  I did it primarily out of my core principle of dialogue (bumbling as I am at it) – to truly attempt to engage with the stance that seemed so utterly foreign.  And I did find a thin “sliver” of contact – that a person could genuinely connect the dots in a moral way according to all their underlying framings, that would indicate that signing the Treaty was wrong.  It centered around the need to track items.

And before going farther, I would love to continue the personal exploration with anyone via the blog link at the top, unwieldy as blogs are.

But as it currently stands for me, I find that the NRA has shut off dialogue.  It has entered a harmful world of self-righteousness, where its answers and framing are the only true ones, and under no circumstances can it yield even one inch.  Every counter view is a slippery slope, which is part of cascading slippery slopes which always lead to a single family left defenceless in the face of an armed crazed person, or armed tyrannical government or oppressive UN world force.  I find that logic incredulous.  Again I do remain open to mistaken perceptions on my part, but until persuaded otherwise I must be clear the danger and harm I see in the current NRA dynamics.

Somewhat  aside, the following link shows 12 NRA ads over time, showing it going from a government-friendly organization primarily for hunters (actually simply suggesting that belonging to a rifle club is a good way to gain a skill and have fun), to a complete fear-based stance – a fear not only of who lurks in society but to a government and its institutions (FBI, etc.) who you leave open to coming after you if the NRA is not supported, for only it is the true guardian of the Second Amendment.  Now I did find a bit of a sleight of hand going on – for instance from 1920 until now there is a higher proportion of people who lock their doors.  That is, times do change and there is more fear than before at that level.  Plus the rapid changes of today are very loosely linked to a rise in fear.  But neither of those examples fully explains the dramatic shift of the ads.
NRA Ads from 1920 to the present


Tunisia: Latest Trend in country that started Arab Spring

Michael Ayari talks to RTCI about the rise of Salafism in the country and the “challenges of the new Tunisia”.
ICG Report: Salafism in Tunisia (YouTube clip)







Guatemala Genocide Trial a Landmark . . . And Then Was Scrapped

The trial of former de facto head of Guatemala, Efraín Ríos Montt, on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, is a landmark achievement in the fight for justice in Guatemala and is a testament to the courage and tenacity of Guatemala’s victims and human rights groups.

However, the trial had been in process for a month when on April 18, a separate court annulled the entire case.  Seen as “beyond logic and due process” one can only hope that for the sake of all those who testified and all for whom they represent, as well as for any sense of justice, that a successful appeal will occur.  Here is a short and longer version of the current situation:
Amnesty International article
LA Times more in-depth article


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Missed an action email?  An archive is kept at: www.UntilAll.org/archives.htm.

February 2013 newsletter

Welcome to the Thursday February 28, 2013 issue of this Peace&Justice action email

This issue provides a single brief focus – the disheartening tenth anniversary of the Darfur crisis.  It had to wait until today for the related actions on Darfur.  Due to this tight timing the issue of Mental Health will become the focus of next month’s edition.




The start of the Darfur crisis is usually either associated with February 26 when rebel forces made their first public appearance, in an attack on a Golu garrison.  or it is anchored to April 25, when the rebels achieved a victory never seen before, even during the unrelated 20year plus 20 year North-South war – they overran the El Fasher airport, destroying several aircraft and capturing the Air Force commander.  The latter event is what caused Sudan’s President Bashir to unleash the Janjaweed in combination with government ground and air forces. That said, the build-up to this eruption was years and even decades of neglect and also targeted campaigns against the people of Darfur.

Darfur has been the longitudinal study of this newsletter for several years, although at the time it was an utterly disheartening thought that the crisis not only would last this long, but would remain in such an unresolved state.  All of my Darfuri contacts that I have recently talked to, remain quite pessimistic about Darfur’s near-term future.  Readers who have been following this newsletter will know that while Darfur has slipped off the news radar screen, that within Darfur things have changed in many ways but almost none for the better.  Bombing and attacks have continued; at least two million people remain displaced in camps of which many are getting restricted aid in attempts to force them back home where often homes no longer exist or are occupied by foreigners sympathetic to the government.  And much more: see Darfur Current Status (UntilAll).

Today, February 28, 2013, was the start of a push to reignite diplomatic efforts on Darfur which also means on Sudan as a whole.  The U.S., U.K and Australia have called for renewed focus and action (see: Letter to Foreign Secretaries).  The demands are nothing new, but as with most human dynamics it is a question of timing.  While at the moment I can’t see much that may play a positive role, who can say what might come?  Thus consider taking the following actions.

Take Action:
Petition to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

Petition to US Secretary of State Kerry


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Missed an action email? An archive is kept at: www.UntilAll.org/archives.htm.

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UWAA: This endeavour is being placed under the overall rubric of “Until Well-being is Achieved for All.”

January 2013 Newsletter

Welcome to the January 30, 2013 edition of this Peace&Justice action email!

This issue provides actions for an international Women’s Rights Treaty, support for a global Arms Treaty, plus a call to ban an insecticide, in addition to other items of interest.  [My apologies for the late date, but this was the earliest possible transmission time].



The U.S. is the only developed nation (and one of only seven nations) not to have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).  This issue has been raised previously in this newsletter.  It is being raised again, by Global Solutions, and the petition is directed toward the US Senate given that the new Congress might pass it this time.

No human document is perfect, but CEDAW is the closest international document saying that women’s equality means full equality and rights.  One can argue that on the one hand, for people like Malala Yousufzai, the 15-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for presuming her right to be educated, CEDAW didn’t stop the Taliban nor is particularly enforceable as it stands, which is true and a point of strong debate.  But one can also say that for people like Malala, CEDAW can confirm or awaken the vision of what ought to be, and that one is not alone in such thinking.

From my readings thus far, it seems the reticence for the U.S. to ratify the treaty, apart from some completely disingenuous claims, arises from: (a) those who have a generalized fear that any treaty signed under the UN may undermine sovereignty; (b) conservative groups who feel it could open the door to dismantling their notion of traditional family values; and (c) that in the U.S. the political process often takes an extraordinary time.   Regarding the first concern, sovereignty is always a central concern for government, though in this case the US has some of the strongest rights globally, and was one of the countries involved in the initial drafts, besides which there are “Reservation” clauses that a nation can add should any unease remain.  The second concern is too diffuse to cover here; one must read the text (link below) and decide for oneself.  As for the last concern, if you feel the process has gone on long enough, then consider signing the petition below.

Take Action:
Sign Petition (U.S.-only)

Background (full text and explanation):





Given some of the weighty human rights issues that constantly swirl around us, it might seem trivializing to include an action to help protect bees.  But this newsletter has always maintained the link that basic human rights and life are undergirded by a sustainable planetary ecosystem.  The alarming decline in honey bee colonies has been noted for several years.  Apart from concern due to valuing nature for its own sake, the unease is two-fold: (a) The pollination produced by bees occurs far up the food chain, only a couple of steps removed from human consumption, and thus any collapse could have severe food shortage as well as economic consequences; and (b) Dramatic effects on insects could be a bell-weather indicator of what is also occurring to humans, just too subtle to have been identified yet.

While not all factors are clearly understood, one insecticide type – neonicotinoids – has been linked to the bee decline.  The European Union (EU) will be deciding at any time now regarding this issue.

Take Actions (open to all):
Tell EU to Ban Use of Insecticide (Avaaz deadline imminent)
Tell Bayer to Pull Insecticide Off the Market






The international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is meant to save lives, especially innocent civilians caught up civil unrest in their own countries.  After several years of work the final treaty hopefully will be voted on in March. The goal is to address the ill-regulated legal international arms trade (from jet fighters to missiles to small arms) and eradicate/ reduce the illicit international trade, in order to contribute to peace and security and reduce human suffering.

Those who have followed this newsletter’s longitudinal focus on the Darfur crisis have watched the unspeakable human suffering, instigated by Sudan’s President Bashir and expedited by the illegal arms trade that has allowed Sudan to bomb its own citizens, even up to this present day, as well as arming the Janjaweed (while also remembering that it is a much more complex narrative). The fact that an arms embargo has been in place since 2005, cuts two ways.  First it indicates the need for the ATT – the embargo was partly undercut by the lack of universal, consistent, rigorous transfer controls.  But secondly, it is clear to most people who have worked on this issue, that at best for the foreseeable future the ATT will only be able to reduce somewhat the illicit flow.  But any reduction also means a reduction in death, displacement, and trauma, and hence the value of the ATT, even in an imperfect global situation.

So what does the illegal international movement of arms such as tanks, missiles, aircraft and small arms have to do with a U.S. domestic-focused group called the National Rifle Association (NRA)?  At first glance, absolutely nothing.  But being Canadian and thus not ever having had any sense of a right to own arms, I have spent hours of research to understand the dynamics going on (and hence this slightly longer section).  I can see how one can feel the need for a watchdog like the NRA if one feels the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment – the right to bear arms – is so sacrosanct [the crucial question of ‘why sacrosanct’ must await another time].  And I believe the NRA has played that role for some people over its 140 years, although I also see over the last few years a discontent from some members (to the point of forming a new organization), feeling that it is now overreaching it arguments.  But that aside, the one sliver of contact between this domestic right and the ATT lies in the ATT’s notion of recordkeeping for imports.

For the ATT, the legal movement of arms such as tanks or attack helicopters needs to be tracked.  Vastly oversimplified, if within nation A there is a request to {somewhere within Nation B} for 100 tanks, then if nation A doesn’t get 100 tanks then that allows the discrepancy to be tracked since some form of record has been kept, hopefully leading to the illegal activity.  The point is that it can make sense for large items, but the NRA is claiming it may be used for a citizen ordering a single rifle from, say, Germany.  And that basically becomes a registration scheme, let alone expensive overhead.  And registering firearms is a red-line for the NRA, in that it could become a tool for any possible “tyranny of government.”  This logic seems to be behind all three points in the original NRA objections listed below.  I give a sample response in the “Alternate Wording” below.  The other points raised by the NRA have been addressed by Amnesty and also by the link below.

So please consider signing the petition below.  To be honest I am not overly enamored with the Amnesty wording and will substitute the following, which you are also welcome to use.   And regardless I am sure we will be visiting this issue next month since it be will just prior to the final ATT meeting:

===  Alternate Wording ===

Subject: NRA: Stop Abusers of Small Arms

Given that NRA members pride themselves in being responsible gun owners, I ask that the NRA support the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), since it is a legitimate attempt to keep guns out of the hands of those who would intentionally use them to harm others, including harming the U.S. military.

The current draft of the ATT addresses most of the concerns you have voiced, specifically its wording about “the sovereign right and responsibility of any State to regulate and control transfers of conventional arms that take place exclusively within its territory pursuant to its own legal or constitutional systems.”  And the State Department has made explicit its  “Key U.S. Red Lines” on the ATT, including:
– upholding of the Second Amendment;
– no restrictions on civilian possession or trade of firearms, and
– no dilution of sovereign control over issues involving the private acquisition, ownership, or possession of firearms.

Finally, if you remain concerned about record keeping, the NRA could easily recommend that no individual citizen importing a small number of firearms shall be tracked, and siilarily for stores.  If there are further concerns the NRA should provide wording that would be acceptable and/or provide a suitable “Reservation” clause.

I am sure your members are appalled whenever there is misuse of firearms anywhere in the world, and would welcome your leadership to reduce such occurrences via a commendable final version of the ATT.

=== END Alternate Wording  ===


Sign Petition (open to all countries – select “Not in USA” as the State):

List of Original 3-point NRA Objections
Article Refutes NRA Claims
Actual Treaty Draft Text and other Info.








There is no current action on this topic.  And I am out of time, except to say that the humanitarian crisis along the border between North and South Sudan remains appalling.  And the situation in Darfur, also remains largely in a tragic state, with a significant increase in hostilities.  See www.UntilAll.org/Darfur.htm for details.  Of a related note, is the following item:

Sudan Elected to UN ECOSOC

The UN elected Sudan onto its Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).;  This is particularly galling given that ECOSOC is responsible for regulating various human rights bodies and for overseeing UN committees on women’s (and some children’s) rights.  Thus rather than having its own abysmal record examined in these areas, it will be in a position to try to manipulate the council and such decisions as which human rights NGOs can participate in the Human Rights Council, thereby filtering out the level of outrage that should be directed toward Sudan’s atrocities.


Uganda & LRA – fear gone but poverty remains

Joseph Kony, a name made infamous for his repugnant use of child soldiers, has long ago left Uganda.  But as the following article indicates, it has left in its wake the grinding struggle of poverty.


Myanmar: Hope and Pitfalls

It has taken a long time for most people to give much credence to the transition in Burma.  But the past year has awakened many to see it as more than a mere façade.  Real political and media space has opened up.  That said, and not dismissing the discrimination against the Muslim Rohingya, the fighting in the Kachin area of Myanmar may pose the greatest risk:


Fair Trade Chocolate – Hersheys commits to 100%

Even for a chocolate lover such as myself it is easy to see such a headline, give a little nod, and move on.  But when I stop and consider the implications, on the one hand  it is terrific news for the rights and well-being of children.  Ending properly the appalling conditions of many of the children in the cocoa industry would relieve such suffering and loss.  That said, while Hershey’s commitment to 100% Fair Trade chocolate is a welcome statement, at this point that is all it is.  It could slip away, and if not done properly so that proper transitions occur it may simply transfer the pain elsewhere.






World Less Free – List of Gains and Losses

Freedom House has released their latest “freedom score” or list of the countries that have gained or lost in terms of basic freedoms over the last three years (please note that both the source and content are controversial).  The following article provides a quick graphic and summary:


Syria After Assad: What religious role among various factions? Views of scholar after visit



How Not to “Feed the World”

A Mother Jones article highlights work from Oxfam which indicates how, even setting aside such controversies as Monsanto and mantras of increasing crop yield, one of the chief obstacles feeding the world is the growing amount of land in poorer countries being bought up – “land grabs” – either by speculators (such as hedge funds) or by companies (such as Iowa’s AgriSol) who want to use the land often to grow export crops for use in biofuels for instance.  This leaves the local people sidelined both in terms of ability to use the land and with less land being used to feed the local population.  Oxfam takes aim at the World Bank who it hopes with a change in leadership may alter its advice to such governments.  The stakes are high – we are talking about enough land to feed a billion people.


Positive Note: Global Pact on Mercury Controls

Even as a child, I knew mercury was a bad thing.  Sometime later the industrialized world started to take action to curb its use.  However it was not until this month that a global, legally-binding treaty was reached at the U.N.  While not perfect and with possible snags to come, it is nonetheless welcome news to everyone, since it respects no human boundaries.  That said, it will be most needed, if the mechanisms can be worked out, in the many unregulated areas around the world.
   Los Angeles Times article, Jan. 23, 2013

June-July 2012 Newsletter

Welcome to the June – July edition of this Peace&Justice action email!  To alter your profile, follow the steps at the end, where your profile is listed.

This issue provides actions on Syria, Sudan and Burma, among others.  The previously mentioned new feature of these newsletters – occasional sections that focus more in-depth on an issue – will be delayed until the fall.  The first such focus will remain the issue of “Mental Health”.



What started as peaceful protests over a year ago in Syria has now escalated into an armed conflict throughout the country. Some 15,000 people are dead, thousands have been arrested and many tortured with hundreds dying in custody. Over one million people have fled or are internally displaced.  As well, opposition fighters have also reportedly tortured and killed captured members of the army and their supporters.

The international community has struggled to take effective action. On March 27, 2012 the Syrian government accepted a ‘six-point plan’ by UN Special envoy Kofi Annan and a ceasefire was agreed on April 12. Yet the fighting has continued unabated.

The Russian Federation supported the peace initiative. Yet that same government has repeatedly used its veto at the UN Security Council to block or weaken resolutions aimed at stopping the violence in Syria, while remaining the main weapons supplier to Syrian forces.

Please consider sending a message to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, calling on him to help stop the bloodshed.  While it would be naïve to assume such letters themselves would change his decision, it is important that the international community not be silent.  As well, given that Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad could face war crimes charges, at the end of the day, what regime wants to be found on the wrong side of history?

Take Action:
Tell Russia to Help Stop Syria’s Bloodshed

Eyewitness of Houla Massacre [Guardian]
Battle for Aleppo [Globe&Mail]



Consider sending a message to your member of Congress asking them to cosponsor the Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act of 2012. The act calls for a comprehensive strategy to end serious human rights violations in Sudan, to create incentives for other governments and persons to stop supporting Sudan and its resulting atrocities, and to reinvigorate genuinely comprehensive peace efforts in Sudan.  It aims to change Sudan’s calculus using diplomatic measures and {non civilian targeted} sanctions. It also advocates policy to help end human rights violations in Sudan.

This newsletter has highlighted how Darfur and Sudan move in and out of the news spotlight – such is the nature of long-standing conflicts.  But as noted in Current Status, there continues to be significant political oppression, and various areas of either atrocities or humanitarian crises.

Take Action (US citizens only: Enter your zip-code for correct Representative):

Status of Bill HR4169




After such a long period of political oppression, and at times areas that verged on ethnic cleansing, it has been an almost stunning to see the signs of change, as indicated by recent events surrounding Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.  Yet while this forward momentum toward democracy should be encouraged, it needs to be mixed with much caution, so that it does not reward a government that is still carrying out severe human rights abuses against innocent civilians — particularly in Burma’s ethnic minority states.

Thus the following action calls on the U.S. to renew the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act which will continue to prohibit products made in Burma from being imported into the United States — it will deny hundreds of millions of dollars from getting into the hands of Burma’s military.  While such sanctions punish everyone by prohibiting economic growth, in this case even Aung San Suu Kyi indicates that they need to remain until real political change occurs.  She sees this as a real leverage point that should not be lost.  Lifting them without real change will primarily reward the military with only minimal help for the citizens.

Take Action (U.S. only):




Walmart recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.  As the world’s largest retailer, its policies hold tremendous clout.  Thus in the action below, you can send a greeting which includes birthday wishes to improve workers’ lives, and to sign on to national or global agreements that strengthen local communities, ensure labour and safety standards, and freedom of association.

Send Special Birthday Greetings:





Failure to Achieve Arms Trade Treaty

It has been hugely disappointing to see the failure to negotiate a new Arms Trade Treaty.  The proliferation of arms around the world has helped turn local conflicts into large-scale human tragedies for civilians.  Our longitudinal study of Darfur is a case in point, where the flood of simply small arms in the 1980s turned local conflicts in the deadly explosive scenarios we have witnessed.  The flood of arms did not generate the conflict, but they did allow the manipulation of the various conflicts to be highly magnified, resulting in enormous civilian tolls and allowing the entrenchment of political/power landscapes.  The only positive note is that the door is open for further talks and a vote could occur by the end of the year.


UWAA:  This endeavour is being placed under the overall rubric of “Until Well-being is Achieved for All.”


April 2012 Newsletter

Welcome to the Monday, April 30, 2012 issue of this Peace&Justice action email!

This issue provides opportunity to strengthen our global fabric by supporting new Arms Trade Treaty talks. As well, more concretely you can support hopes for a peaceful resolution of highly volatile attacks between Sudan and South Sudan. Finally you add you voice to get Shell to clean up the devastating mess in the Niger Delta.


The illegal movement of arms has devastating effects around the world, fuelling many of the conflicts. While there are some international agreements in place, the UN will be spending eight weeks in July grappling with ideas to strengthen such efforts. But those efforts depend on the resolve of the constituent countries and that resolve rests on the voice of its people. Thus you will find below actions that can be taken (thanks to Amnesty International), tailored for many of the countries that this newsletter goes to, as well as a generalized one for other countries.

Hopefully the UN meetings will produce a stronger arms trade treaty. While such a treaty by itself will not magically stop the flow of arms, it is a necessary step, and any impact it can have in reducing the devastation is worthwhile.

Take Action (according to country):

Australia: http://www.amnesty.org.au/armstrade/comments/28348/

Canada: http://www.amnesty.ca/iwriteforjustice/take_action.php?actionid=856&type=Internal

UK: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/content.asp?CategoryID=10079

USA: http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx?c=6oJCLQPAJiJUG&b=6645049&aid=517422

Other Countries: Click on the picture in the following link, select your country and sign petition:


Background: The Small Arms Survey organization provides excellent work on the analysis and impact of the illegal movement of small arms and its ability to fuel conflicts around the globe. It also provides good background material for the current state of treaties and agreements on international, national and regional levels.



The lives of half a million people in Sudan are now at risk. Many could starve to death from Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s blockade of food and humanitarian aid or die from his relentless bombing of villages and refugee camps — similar tactics he used in Darfur to terrorize and murder innocent civilians. Sudan is extremely volatile – teetering on full-scale war with South Sudan. There is desperate need for the international community to facilitate a peaceful resolution to the complex dynamics.

Many of the points of conflict can be traced back to unresolved aspects of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that the U.S. helped broker. Thus it is appropriate that the U.S. be one of the leading countries trying again to stabilize the region. The action below is to help garner enough support for a U.S bill currently in Congress that tries to bring a comprehensive approach to the various destabilizing and dehumanizing clashes. For sure, leaders in both Sudan and South Sudan have made extremely misguided actions (Sudan in taking some of the oil; South Sudan is cutting off all oil; Sudan in its bellicose responses), at least in relation to their citizens (some of whom have started twitter feeds aout living peacefully with each other).

US-only: Tell your Representative to Support New Sudan Legislation:

Send Petition to your Representative

Darfur update: There is no explicit action for Darfur. For sure if Sudan goes to war it will bring even more misery to Darfur. It is interesting to note that Bashir summoned some of the Darfur Arab leaders to join in the fight against South Sudan, and this time some of them declined. Most notable in Darfur is Bashir’s growing attempt to paint Darfur as a conflict that is over, with people voluntarily returning home and where foreign friends will help in the reconstruction of Darfur; this contrasts sharply with views from within the camps and elsewhere. For more details, see http://untilall.org/Darfur.htm#B.%20CurrentStatus.



This newsletter joined similar calls before, but thus far Shell has not made significant efforts to stop its destructive processes in the Niger Delta let alone clean them up and compensate the local people for their loss of livelihoods, health and sometime life. In a recent study more than 100,000 barrels had been spilled or leaked over a 72-day period. Amnesty will be collecting the following petition and taking it to Shell’s Annual General meeting in May, so please consider signing it and raising the pressure – with over $30 billion in profits, Shell can easily afford the cleanup and better practices.

Take Action:

Tell Shell CEO To Clean Up Niger Delta




This new feature has been postponed and will appear either in another week or will become part of May’s newsletter, along with further reflection on #Occupy (its spring should be May 1) and #Kony2012, given that its April 20 campaign fizzled.




Charles Taylor guilty of aiding Sierra Leone war crimes

This newsletter has followed issues in both Liberia and Sierra Leone. On April 26, former Liberian President Charles Taylor was convicted of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his backing of rebels in the conflict in neighbouring Sierra Leone. He was convicted by a UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (which is an ad hoc Court not to be confused with the permanent International Criminal Court which handed down its first conviction as reported last month).


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Missed an action email? An archive is kept at: www.UntilAll.org/archives.htm.

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UWAA: This endeavour is being placed under the overall rubric of “Until Well-being is Achieved for All.”

March 2012 Newsletter

Welcome to the Saturday, March 31, 2012 issue of this Peace&∓Justice action email!

These blogs containing the newsletters will keep with the basic peace and justice touchstone of not filtering out reality (within human limits) – a people of peace must engage in the full human dynamic. Thus these blogs will only be moderated to catch spam and attacks on personal character, falling heavily on the side of freedom of speech. It is hoped that passion and respect can be held in balance.

Secondly, please note that this newsletter is actually a combined February-March edition. Unfortunately the February edition got snared in a convergence of changed hardware, software and conflicting schedules and was never sent. So this edition contains a few remaining relevant pieces from it, plus the usual March items.

Finally, this has delayed until the April edition, another new feature. It will be an occasional section that focuses more in-depth on an issue. It will now start in April and will focus on the issue of “Mental Health”. This topic more generally points to the topic of Human Nature, which underlies, informs or shapes notions of peace and justice.



It has been a year since the “Arab Spring” uprisings. While this newsletter is primarily focused on actions that might move us to a more decent world (and an action on this topic follows in the next section), the scope of the past year`s upheavals is worth some brief reflections, which will be focused on four countries: Egypt, Syria, Mali and Turkey.

However firstly I want simply to list the scope by country. Most lists include between 15 – 18 countries. Rulers have been forced from power in four countries (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen); civil uprisings have erupted in Bahrain and Syria; major protests have broken out in six countries (Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Oman); and minor protests have occurred in five countries (Lebanon, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Western Sahara). Freedom House indicates that the most significant gains were concentrated largely in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, while the largest declines in freedom included Bahrain, Iran, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

Egypt: On the upside, the protestors did learn the lessons from the past, as mentioned in past newsletters, and kept up the pressure until Mubarak was gone and elections were held. The downside from an idealized Western script standpoint was that: (a) the resulting playing field was not level – some parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood have for years had an extensive, well-running structure and were able to use it to capture a disproportionate vote; and (b) the West tended to project onto most Egyptians the aspirations of the protesters. While that was not unfounded in terms of the basic desire to remove the past’s oppressive factors, it did not extend that far (specifically to the rural areas) in terms of a more Western-style, secularist style government. In the end, one can only hope that despite the ever-present geo-political meddling and the uneven nature of current power dynamics, basic human rights will gain an ever stronger presence.

Syria: Syria forms the other end of the spectrum, where Syria’s president has ruthlessly suppressed all dissent, resulting in 9000 dead.  See the article below – complicated.

Mali:  Mali had been a stable democratic nation for 21 years.  It had nothing directly to do with the Arab Spring. But indirectly, Mali’s recent coup that ended its stability can be traced to the Arab Spring, one of the unintended consequences of toppling Libya (to see the connection read the Al Jazeera article). The point is simply that not all repercussions can be even remotely imagined nor are good.

Turkey: Turkey was also not part of the Arab Spring.  But Turkey is a key indicator of the fluid nature of the democratic space that might be attained, specifically it democratic-economic-Islamic balance.  As a bridge between East and West, Turkey has a strong secular legacy.  But it has become harder to read recently, for instance, due to trouble with the military which led to a tighter fist and fear of further oppression of its own people (at least 70 journalists detained recently).  See Is Turkey the Best Model for the Arab World?.

Brief Background: Sample of the clichéd views and more solid footing:
   Far from the Tahrir Dream [Oxford professor; Globe&Mail]
   The Egypt Backlash [FP]
   Inside Syria – complicated [IRIN]


Human Rights First has created an action to pressure Bahrain to stop the crackdown on its people. While most actions originally created for the Arab Spring anniversary have passed, this one remains active. It should be noted that Bahrain is home the U.S. Fifth Fleet.

Take Action:

[Update: On March 16 Clinton criticized Bahrain (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12762500). However as long as the petition remains open it should be signed, since nothing has changed].


Starting in March 6 2012, the social media started buzzing about Joseph Kony, the repugnant leader of the ruthless Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The buzz was sparked by a US-based charity called Invisible Children (IC). For years they have been trying to get Kony captured. IC decided to make 2012 the year to achieve their goal and used social media to try creating an aware and motivated [primarily US] constituency that would then force politicians to act more deliberately to capture Kony The centerpiece was a very slick 30 minute video, integrated with social media and celebrities. It has been the most stunningly successful marketing campaign I have ever seen, and I would be surprised if anyone reading this newsletter has not heard about it! Since then it has gathered both praise and criticism.

Due to its widespread awareness at this point, I will simply refer readers to my reaction to it contained in the following blog, based on this newsletter’s fundamental concepts of openness and dialogue:

KONY2012: Let’s Dialogue Our Way to a Solution


The current evacuation zone around a nuclear plant is 10 miles. But Fukushima demonstrated that it needs to be at least 25 miles. The following petition calls on the U.S. government to extend the zone, as well as create secondary zone:

Take Action:


I always associate the Amazon.com web site with books, even though I know it has long since sold other items. But until last week I never knew it had been selling whale and dolphin meat (in Japan). It stopped doing so last week (within certain constraints), but only after an online petition. I am adding the following action both for its own sake and as I reminder to myself – and perhaps yourself – that even seemingly innocuous-sounding companies can, unseen, grow into areas over cross over lines.

Tell Amazon.com to permanently ban whale, dolphin, and porpoise meat.


ICC: Historic First Conviction: Congo’s Thomas Lubanga

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has handed down its first verdict, convicting the little known militia leader, Thomas Lubanga, of war crimes (using child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo). The ICC was created ten years ago as a permanent replacement for the ad hoc tribunals created for such atrocities as Rwanda. The ideal is that the court: (a) brings a sense of justice for the victims of those convicted; and (b) acts as a deterrent to those who have felt free to terrorize a people. The hope is that with the first conviction, over a period of time it will build up such a legacy. The fear is that until other international dynamics fall in line with such ideals, that the ICC will have limited success. There are also other criticisms of the ICC, which must await a future newsletter.

One year After Fukushima Nuclear Reactor Disaster Continue reading