A human rights revolution in the mid east?

Anyone remember the 60’s.  The critical mass of an unpopular war, a civil rights movement that demanded rights, freedoms and reform, and that exploded through America.  If some version of this is emerging in the mid east, on the issues of political freedoms, basic democratic and human rights, and fuelled by social media, then we are in for some huge historic changes in the Mideast and it will not end with Egypt.

So what is an honest and helpful response from Canada on this?  From the global community, Canada, and its political parties?  So easy to jump right in and be righteous, and be politically opportunistic, side with the reform elements, and demand that leaders MUST GO NOW!  I would ask “why now” to publically hold such a position?  If we are in opposition to such governments, perhaps it would have been more honest to have a list of leaders who must go, and work to that end, and many, many undemocratic and oppressive regimes would be on the list.

If we believe in human rights, non-violence and peace, then perhaps our position should be constructive and helpful, and not reflexively take the side of one faction or another.  It should be solidly pro-peace, pro-democracy, pro-human rights and pro-non-violence.  Then the question is how to help the parties involved resolve differences in a way that respects such human values.  What does being in the “business of peace’ mean in such conflict?  Our initial response must be to stand strong in support of values and not necessarily factions. Then we must walk the talk.

We can stand and join the popular chorus or we can do something. Canadians like to think of themselves for being well respected for doing something constructive in conflict zones.  So by way of considering some general principles for action, perhaps we should define our support and voice in terms of standing for values and then:  first, offer to assist in  stopping or preventing violence or killing as a first priority, second, offer to assist in the care for the victims, third, offer to facilitate and create safe spaces for transition talks or diplomacy, fourth, offer to assist in strengthening or rebuilding governance where needed, fifth,  offer to assist in development of safe, healthy and socially responsible communities, sixth, offer to assist in reconstruction of economies and infrastructure and seventh, offer to assist to help the country enable truth, reconciliation and justice activity.

If this is clear to these countries in crisis, they can choose where they need help, and perhaps we will be well on the way to making some great new friends, and making a difference in this world.

Paul Maillet


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