New Zealand evenly split

Mmm, its the morning after the election and it was not the result that I had predicted for Labour . The final result was National: 46% / 58 seats; Labour 35.8% / 45 seats; NZ First 7.5% / 9 seats; Greens 5.9% / 7 seats; ACT 0.5% / 1 seat. As you can see there is a small majority for Labour, Greens and New Zealand First which may get larger after Special Votes are counted. but the National Party will have first nibs on who they go into coalition with. I can’t believe that my compatriots were so nervous about the future that they decided to stick with a party that has failed to deliver on housing , the environment, poverty, education and health. Although I would have liked Labour to have been a tad more radical and bold they were operating within a constrained environment as well…. Oh dear, there is still a slim chance that Labour, the Greens and NZ First could stitch together a working coalition.If they don’t manage to do so Jacinda is the leader of Labour for the next 3 years and has a chance to utilise all her new team talent to begin thinking more deeply about a bright new future for the party and the country and to ensure that they are not put on the back foot by tax proposals etc. The Maori Party was decisively defeated by Labour who won all the Maori seats. The challenge will be how to satisfy all the multiple needs of the large Maori Caucus within Labour since there are few policy levers than can be pulled from the opposition benches. It was a stimulating election campaign. People were energised by politics in a way that I have not seen for a while. The polls in NZ, unlike in most other parts of the world ,were surprisingly accurate. The campaign itself was civil ,non violent and generally respectful. Bill English is a decent human being and has now committed himself to an eradication of child poverty and a new focus on the environment. So we have to keep him honest if he becomes PM. Jacinda Adern is a wonderful human being -with heaps of intelligence, social and political empathy and charisma. So all is not lost . The sun came up this morning as it always does. We are all still alive for which we can be grateful. I was shocked, yesterday, by the appalling conditions of many of the houses that I was sent to doornock at in South Dunedin. There are very deep chasms between rich and poor in Dunedin. I felt as though I was knocking on the doors of people who were living on the edge all the time. As one woman said to me” I am so overwhelmed by living that I have no energy to vote”. These are the people who will not be encouraged by last night’s election result. They are the voiceless, the impoverished, the battlers who are trapped in deep cycles of deprivation. Unless their needs are attended to the election will indeed be quite epiphenomonal.!

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Dear America


Dear America and Americans

There are only 9 days before Donald J Trump is inaugurated as the 45th President of the USA. This is a prospect that appalls most New Zealanders as it does millions of others all around the world.

We had no say and no vote in the election so can only watch this tragedy unfold   as mute bystanders.

Although we are separated from this event by 7,000 miles ( the distance between Wellington and Washington)   we “Kiwis “ have a deep sense of dread and foreboding about what is going to happen after the event.

I can’t remember a time when I have felt so uneasy about   a Presidential inauguration. The early signs do not augur well. Trump’s administration choices have been uniformly disastrous. The incoming President is more concerned with Celebrity Apprentice Ratings and his spat with Meryl Streep than with any policy dilemma. Like a mafia don he has surrounded himself with cronies and family rather than people who are knowledgeable about any of the big issues that are afflicting the US or the world.

He seems intent on destruction instead of construction, on chaos rather than stability, on hate politics rather than the politics of inclusion. His personal life, thin skin  and extreme narcissist personality make him temperamentally incapable for prudent, altruistic decision making.

His inauguration will confer legitimacy on someone who has forfeited the right to legitimacy. Someone who has not paid taxes in the last twenty years cannot expect others to do so. Someone who has never experienced war or been willing to listen to those who have should not be given the status of commander in chief. Someone who believes in the death penalty for political opponents and torture for the enemies of the United States should not be given any legitimacy. Someone who has to be persuaded of the benefits of intelligence has no intelligence.

So what do we do on the other side of the world? How can we sleep easy when the portents are all negative? What confidence do we have that American checks and balances will be able to check and balance this totally unpredictable maverick? What do we do when decades of nuanced diplomacy are undermined by off the cuff tweets or intemperate utterance? How do we protect those Trump wishes to make vulnerable and how do we resist all that which needs to be resisted?

We look forward to some answers so that our days are not blighted by the dark shadow of this appalling President in waiting !!

Posted in Dirty Politics, Dominatory Politics, Donald J Trump, Presidential Inauguration, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Civilised communities will be judged by how well they serve the interests of the weak and disabled-Reflections on the Sagamahira Tragedy.

I am deeply saddened and disturbed by Satoshi Uematsu’s murder of nineteen residents at a care centre for people with mental disabilities in the Japanese city of Sagamihara.
I am, with this, sending love and deepest condolences to the families of all those who lost their lives in this appalling tragedy.
What saddens and worries me particularly, however, is that Uematsu sent letters to politicians in February in which he threatened to kill hundreds of disabled people to advance his goal of “a world in which the severely disabled can be euthanised, with their guardians’ consent, if they are unable to live at home and be active in society.”

In addition to this being an indication of severe mental illness it also echoes Nazi and other eugenic programmes in the 1930s and 1940s in which the disabled were to be eliminated alongside Jews, Roma Gypsies, socialists, homosexuals etc.
The statement is, to some extent, a perverse extension of the xenophobic nationalism that is afflicting too many parts of the world at the moment. A purification of the race and a removal of disability or moral stain is a twisted extension of extreme patriotism.
These brutal killings have shocked Japan.Civilised nations will be judged not by how well they treat the powerful and the wealthy but by  how they treat the weakest and the poorest. Japan  has excellent facilities for aged and disabled care. But there are many like Uematsu  who feel shame at disability, failure,  and inadequacy. He pathologically acted on this  anxiety.

As our grandchildren said “There is far too much violence these days” This is absolutely true . Every day we wake to reports of a bomb here, mass murder there, barrel bombing in Syria, violence in Kashmir…. the list goes on… violence everywhere has to be delegitimised, condemned, prevented or transformed. And this needs to start with political leaders eschewing violent rhetoric, hate speech, and the creation of permissive environments within which murder is normalised.

Posted in Civilisation, Eugenics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Erdogan has Erred Again


Erdogan has Erred Again

Kevin P Clements

Military Coups  challenge the rule of law and basic democratic  rights. But Counter Coups (especially those led by someone as ruthless and oppressive as Erdogan)  are often  more damaging because they  generate  states of emergency ( which often last a long time)  and justify higher levels of state repression than the original coup. This seems to have been the  case in Turkey over the past three days.  Erdogan had already undermined  Turkish democracy before the coup  by repressing and bullying  his political opponents and  endeavouring to eliminate  Kurdish opposition  violently.

But it looks as though he  has taken his  “normal” repressive tactics  to even higher limits  with  his most recent moves.  Some 60,000 bureaucrats, soldiers, policemen, prosecutors and academic staff have come under the government’s spotlight, many of them facing detention or suspension over alleged links to the Gülenist movement and the coup plotters.

On the 21st July his government then  imposed a work travel ban on academics and called  Turkish academics abroad back to Turkey.  All  1,577 deans of public and private universities in Turkey submitted their resignations at the government’s urging. This came after 20,000 teachers and administrators were suspended from their jobs as a result of the coup, along with 6,000 soldiers and more than 2,700 judges and prosecutors, and dozens of senior generals accused of involvement in the coup.

The scale of the crackdown is unprecedented and Turkey , under Erdogan , is rapidly losing any right to become a member of the European Union and is forfeiting its claim to be a democracy.

In addition to  trying to close down academic  and official dissent, Erdogan and his followers wish to reintroduce the death penalty so that many political opponents can be eliminated permanently.

All of these actions  are creating ripe conditions for either a civil war in Turkey or an opening for  the conflicts in Syria and Iraq to spill over the borders.  These are extremely dangerous times and the global community must urge  prudence ;  the reactivation  and reopening of Universities and Schools;  the independence of the Turkish Judiciary and the reopening of   space for legitimate dissent. If these things don’t happen  soon  our worst Turkish nightmares might become a reality.

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Chilcot Vindicates the Global Peace Movement

 We were right! The one and half million people who marched against the war in Iraq in London in 2003 and the millions who did the same all around the world were right.

The people knew-and have been vindicated by Chilcot- that the UK went to war before peaceful options were exhausted and military action was “not the last resort”.

It was a war of discretion rather than necessity which all of us said at the time. The invasion was based on “flawed intelligence and assessments” that went unchallenged by an arrogant political elite that wanted to maintain Britain’s dwindling international power by a dependent relationship with the United States.

Chilcot says that the Threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were “presented with a certainty that was not justified” and Tony Blair’s assertions that his decision for action made “in good faith” sound as hollow now as his promises did then.

His assumption of “full responsibility for any mistakes” is 13 years too late.

The fact is that this war was a deliberate “act of military aggression launched on a false pretence”. We knew it at the time, we protested against it at the time, and we have all been vindicated by Chilcot.  It is now highly desirable that there be a post facto political impeachment process of Tony Blair  so that he  is never able to hold political office in the UK or anywhere else ever again.

The Chilcot  report, while a vindcation of  the Global Peace Movement , is not very helpful to the millions who have been displaced from their homes by this invasion, or the millions who have been killed , injured and tortured afterwards. It is they who are suffering the long term consequences.

The report took a long time to write but because of this it will be challenging for the warmongers to rebut.

It’s an argument for transparency, for consultation , for honesty and only going to war as an act of defence and as an act of absolutely last resort.

Getting rid of Sadam Hussein was no justification for the chaos that has followed. This is a moment for us all to reflect on the failure of violence, militarism and war and to look for 21st century solutions that involve none of these things.

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Divergence and consensus at the OEWG

This is very measured statement on the achievements/non achievements of the Open Ended Working Group on the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons.

IPPNW peace and health blog

Understanding the code words of diplomacy

ICAN protest in front of Australian embassy during the OEWG. Photo: ICAN ICAN protest in front of Australian embassy during the OEWG. Photo: ICAN

Those of you who attempted to follow the discussion in real-time over the last two weeks at the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) at the United Nations in Geneva may have been non-plussed at the language in the speeches, especially if you were reading in the 140 character condensed form of Twitter posts. Those of us commenting and reporting from the “front-line” do our best not to overdo the acronyms and use plain speech, but it is easy to get sucked into diplo-speak. So here are a few personal definitions to help you understand what lies behind some of the frequently used code words in the many statements and in over sixty working papers submitted to the May session of the OEWG.

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Time, Space and the Global Imaginary: Reflections on Elise Boulding’s Contribution to a Global Civic Culture and a Peaceful World.

Time, Space and the Global Imaginary: Reflections on Elise Boulding’s Contribution to a Global Civic Culture and a Peaceful World.

 Elise Boulding

Kevin P Clements.

(Not for quotation. This is the draft of a short piece  to go in a festchrift edition of  the National Conflict Management and Research  Journal. Russell Boulding, Elise’s son and  archivist  is pulling contributions from me, Mary Lee Morrison and Andrea Strimling Yodsampa. We only had 1,400 words to say what Elise meant to us and to focus on what we thought were some of her most notable achievements. This is my very rapid response. I’d be grateful for any reactions from    Elise’s  friends and others who know  her work as there is still time to revise and resubmit!). 

Time, Space and the Global Imaginary: Reflections on Elise Boulding’s Contribution to a Global Civic Culture and a Peaceful World.

Kevin P Clements.


Elise and I first met in the early 1980s. We were both sociologists, Quakers, peace researchers and pacifist activists. These commonalities, however, were not what brought us both together. We were united more by a shared concern to ensure that our religious and ethical beliefs, theory, research and practice were consonant and that our academic work had positive practical consequences and vice versa. Along with Marx we were united in a desire “not just to understand the world but to change it”!! I had always been impressed by Elise’s quiet desire to make sure that her work had a positive impact and when we met finally that impression was confirmed.


We developed a warm, positive and loving friendship for the next 28 years. We were bound by common academic concerns but, perhaps more importantly, by an easy rapport, a meeting of minds and spirit. An example of this was in her final years of life. I visited her after she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I had expected a truncated one sided conversation but she engaged me with some deep philosophical questions about  life and death. After exchanging normal pleasantries, for example, she asked me “ Do we leave life or does life leave us? !!” This is a question that goes to the heart of how we live in the face of death. She then followed that up by stating “ I used to be a doer like you now I just am. What is the point of just being?” She then smiled at a nurse going by and said “ I know I can bring joy and happiness to the people around me”. Even in adverse circumstances she managed to pose deep existential questions and look for meaningful action while grappling with the challenges of memory loss. I was fortunate enough to visit her a few days before she finally died in 2010 and, despite a prompting from Russell that I was sitting beside her holding her hand, I was astonished that she opened her eyes and said “Kevin, how kind of you to come”. She was a relationship builder to the very end.


As she did with many others, Elise encouraged me to assume leadership positions within the International Peace Research Association. So, I was variously Secretary General of the Asia Pacific Peace Research Association; a co-President of IPRA and then President of the IPRA Foundation when Elise felt she had to lay down that responsibility. Finally, I was Secretary General of IPRA from 2008-2010.

All of these positions gave me, as they had given her, connection to a vast global network of scholars, practitioners and change agents . All of us were and are united by a common concern to ensure that cultures and structures of violence are replaced by cultures and structures of peace . To this end we focused our attention on the diverse origins and sources of violence and how these might be replaced by processes and institutions that would guarantee stable peace, inclusion and social justice through time.

Elise and Kenneth Boulding were both committed “Futurologists” and “Systems theorists” (Boulding, 2001). This meant that they were always focused on the ways in which location in different cultural, geographical, social and linguistic spaces shaped and conditioned what was seen and understood. Time and space were, therefore, important dimensions in determining their thinking. Long before it was fashionable,they were concerned to anticipate future global challenges and think about how to respond to these at national, regional and global levels. They were both globalists, universalists and cosmopolitans trying to make sense of the particular in terms of general systems thinking.


But they were always thinking about temporality as well. Neither felt that we were doomed to keep repeating the negative behaviour of the past and both believed strongly in the power of education and imagination as critical drivers of progressive change. Kenneth was fond of saying that “Everything that is thinkable is possible”. Both he and Elise resisted being confined by the limits of their own minds and were always thinking of ways in which the future could  contribute to personal and systemic well being.


They also understood, however, the importance of paying attention to the past ( not just to learn from its mistakes) but to ensure that the wisdom of those who had devised practical solutions to past problems could be tapped and shared with those making decisions in the present. Once again, however, it was Elise rather than Kenneth who made the conceptual   leap enabling us to capture cross generational wisdom in the building of a peaceful future.


Her concept of a two hundred year present, for example, is was personally embodied, elegant and practical. (Boulding, 1988). In this concept she asks each one of us to place ourselves in time and to remember that there are people alive today who were born a hundred years ago. We have a responsibility to learn from them and to devise ways in which we can listen to and engage with them so that we might benefit from their wisdom and understand how they responded to problems, many of which continue to afflict us today. At the same time, however, she reminded us that there will be a baby born today who will live for another hundred years. The challenge, therefore, is how to ensure that we capture the wisdom from the past to enliven and inform   our present and then ensure that the decisions we make in this present enable the new born baby to realise its potential a 100 years from now.


Thinking in terms of a 200 year present is a way of creating a strong ethical and practical framework for decision making. It means, adhering to the moral principle of reversibility and never to do anything that cannot be reversed. We should not make any irreversible decisions   because we don’t know what the future will hold and its important to preserve adaptive resilient capacity. So we need to work, wherever possible to ensure that our decisions can be changed modified and adapted by future generations.


The 200 year present, therefore, is critical to ensuring sustainable development and an eco system that is able to nurture life. It is also a profound call to nonviolence because violent decisions are always irreversible and generate pain, brokenness, death and destruction.   They fail the ethical test of reversibility and prevent us from living in a 200 year present.


In addition to this lovely insight about time and place, Elise and Kenneth Boulding, both understood that there would be no movement from a violent and unjust status quo unless what was, could be replaced with a more positive vision of what might be. (Boulding & Boulding, 1995). Both understood the cognitive and emotional power of a compelling image of the future. Both wrote about the power of the image and how to be curious and inventive in the development of positive images.  It was Elise rather than Kenneth, however, who focused attention on ways in which individual and group imagination could be nurtured and liberated in order to shift possibility boundaries in progressive, radical and non-violent directions. (Boulding, 1995).


The futures imaging workshops that she developed with Warren Zeigler, for example, demonstrated  her desire to make sure that she not only understood the power of a future image in social change, but was able to link this insight to an experiential process within which individuals could learn how to imagine and realise their “imaginaries” in concrete terms. (Boulding, 2001). In these workshops the process that she described as “Futures Remembering”, was her effort to ensure that people gave specific shape and meaning to their images of a “world without weapons” while devising concrete plans for realising them through time. This attention to the future is a very important tool in any conflict transformer’s toolbox. If there is no willingness to imagine and vision a positive future, actors in conflict will always be caught in a paralysing past which will immobilise them politically in the present.


Elise wanted to understand space, time and imagination in order to build a Global Civic Culture   capable of generating a new and more peaceful world order. She wanted to challenged taken for granted patterns of power, authority and responsibility at national, regional and global levels. In her book , Building a Global Civic Culture, (Boulding, 1988), Elise focused on the diverse ways in which the world was becoming more globally interconnected and interdependent. She documented the ways in which civil society actors ( in national and International Civil Society Organisation (CSOs) these were her preferred terms for NGO and INGO) were expanding and becoming more critical to political decision making. She wanted to explore how these CSOs could make governments, regional organisations and multilateral institutions more accountable and ensure that they directed their attention to developing policies and programmes that served the common good and advanced the human interest rather than national and sectional interests. Elise was a strong supporter of the United Nations, all her life and her work on the Governing Board of UNESCO was catalytic in the development of her global consciousness and in the evolution of this book.


In all this work on developing a functional global system she promoted  integrative rather than dominatory power(power with others rather than power over others). She was not a naïve idealist and understood the importance of challenging taken for granted hierarchies and political arrangements where these were generating inequality, subjugation and violence.


She also wanted  a world where diversity was celebrated, where there was equality between men and women , adults and children. She wanted a world within which all 6.5 billion people on the planet would be able to have their needs for recognition, security and welfare met and where they could all realise their deepest human potential. She advanced all of these causes with integrity, passion, intellect and a deep commitment to the welfare of others. I miss her every day but her ideas sustain me and others as we grapple with the follies of the 21st century just as she grappled with the tragedies of the 20th.






Boulding, E. (1988). Building a global civic culture : education for an interdependent world. New York: Teachers College Press, Teachers College, Columbia University.

Boulding, E. (1995). A journey into the future: Imagining a nonviolent world. 51.

Boulding, E. (2001). Designing Future Workshops as a Tool for Peacebuilding. Peacebuilding. A Field Guide. Boulder/London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 373-375.

Boulding, E., & Boulding, K. E. (1995). The future : images and processes. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.




Posted in Building Peaceful Community, Conflict Transformation, Development and Peacebuilding, Feminist and Christian Objections to War, Futurology, Global Civic Culture, Humility of learning, Imagination, Love and Mutuality, Non violent responses to Violent Politics, Pacifism, Relationship Healing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment