By Saroj Jayasinghe –
An Open Letter To The Commonwealth Heads Of Governments – Make Global Peace Your Primary Agenda!
Activities relating to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM 2013) are progressing in earnest, and Foreign Ministers and Heads of State are now busy formulating proposals that include, the negotiating points from the perspective of the Commonwealth on the United Nation’s Global Development Goals of 2015 (i.e. successor to the Millennium Development Goals of the UN that is scheduled to ‘expire’ in 2015). This open letter to the Commonwealth Heads of Governments is to draw their urgent attention to a crucial factor facing humanity and the biggest human-made disaster, namely, war.
Since the origin of human history, wars have cost billions of human lives. From as recent as the beginning of the Second World War (i.e. past 75 years or so), wars between nations have killed and maimed more than a billion. They have decimated millions within minutes (e.g. due to dropping of nuclear bombs), annihilated whole civilisations, created millions of displaced populations and crippled billions mentally and physically for a life-time. Furthermore, they destroy environments and whole ecologies, forever, and contribute to climate change. In short, wars have the ability to destroy all our development agendas overnight. Furthermore, wars across borders and invasions are probably the most powerful promoters of internal strife and conflicts within nations, as they lead to a breakdown of their social fabrics, and promote a culture of violence. The unfolding chaos in Iraq is a painful reminder of how a country could tear itself to pieces and spiral towards worsening violence after invasion. Therefore, a set of global development goals that does not tackle the issue of wars between nations (in addition to conflicts within nations) will be akin to the mythical Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burnt….
Sadly, the on-going discussions on the post-2015 Global Development Goals (especially at the level of the UN) do exactly that, and focus mainly on conflicts and violence within countries, and pay scant attention to wars between countries and its threats to global peace. Some of the UN documents, on the post-2015 Development Agenda, never use terms such as ‘war’ or ‘disarmament’! (e.g. UN System Task Team’s report to the UN Secretary General, ‘A renewed global partnership for development’ and the ‘‘Realizing the future we want for all’).
Of all international groupings of nations in the world, the Commonwealth is in a unique position to contribute positively towards this discourse. Born after violent invasions, repressions and degrading colonization, it is extremely sensitive to the issues arising from wars across borders. Furthermore, several Commonwealth nations continue to be affected by cross border aggression and wars between nations. We, as a people, have collectively experienced the reality of how invasions promote the destruction of once cohesive societies, and the emergence of a culture of violence which destroys each other. Recent examples include Pakistan, which is under severe strain due to proxy wars conducted across its borders by drone attacks. Other examples are from Africa, which continues to suffer from the effect of past covert wars and invasions that have contributed in no uncertain terms to be tagged as ‘failed’ states. Their histories are dotted with cross-border invasions, decimation of its leaders who fought for independence, and the establishment of puppet regimes. Ironically those nations that initiated, perpetrated and executed now sit proudly in powerful organizations such as the European Union, and host institutions such as the International Criminal Courts.
Thus the ‘real’ people of the Commonwealth demand that the principles of reconciliation should be applied to conflicts between nations as well as within nations. We cannot tolerate the hypocritical situation where we advocate for accountability of states for violence and human rights within its borders, while turning a blind eye to equally horrible violations across borders….. Thus the Commonwealth must face squarely the issue of impunity in the global arena, human rights violations on a global scale, and failures in accountability at a global level… As the late US President J.F.Kennedy stated “Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind”
Towards balancing this asymmetry of attention, a Hikkaduwa Declaration was submitted to the Commonwealth Peoples Forum-2013 in Hikkaduawa, via open letters published in Sri Lankan newspapers, emails, and in the form of a printed document which was circulated. It had the ultimate aim of pressurizing the United Nations to include a goal on elimination of all forms of war from the globe by 2030, in its post-2015 development agenda……… This was a unique chance for the CPF-2013 to stake a real claim as a promoter of global peace, which appears to have been sadly missed.
The Declaration, is now re-born, as an electronic petition, directed at the Commonwealth Heads of Government, and is now open for viewing and signature by 2.2 billion citizens of the Commonwealth…..
We, the people of the Commonwealth 2013, in the context of meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting held in Colombo, Sri Lanka 15 and 16th November 2013,
Propose action by the Commonwealth Heads of Government on this Declaration to be known as “The Hikkaduwa Declaration” which contains the aspirations and commitments of the people of the Commonwealth,
THE HIKKADUWA DECLARATION
Emphasizing the significance of the United Nations Post-2015 Global Development Goals which provides an invaluable opportunity to rally humanity towards sustainable global development,
Welcoming the increased attention being paid to peace, security and human rights in the discussions on United Nations Post-2015 Global Development Goals,
Recognizing the contribution that can be made by the Commonwealth to shape United Nations Post-2015 Global Development Goals,
Recalling the statements in the Commonwealth Charter that international peace and security are essential to the progress and development of all,
Convinced that wars across borders, invasions, and internal conflicts, devastate human life, hinder development efforts, and is able to rapidly reverse human and social development,
Recognizing that wars across borders and invasions lead to internal conflicts within nations, a breakdown in their social fabric and promote a culture of violence
Recalling that the Commonwealth has pledged to support international efforts for peace and disarmament at the United Nations and other multilateral institutions,
Reaffirming that the special strength of the Commonwealth lies in the combination of our diversity and bound together by shared history and tradition, respect for all states and peoples, and concern for the vulnerable,
Expressing the will and the aspirations of all peoples to eradicate war from the life of humankind,
- Endorse the proposals made on United Nations Post-2015 Global Development Goals that promote reconciliation, and measures to end conflicts, violence and human rights violations within nations,
- Express concern that the current discussions to formulate the United Nations Post-2015 Global Development Goals focus mainly on conflicts and violence within nations, and does not give adequate emphasis to wars across borders and invasions,
- Stress the urgent need to recognize the adverse impact wars across national borders and invasions directly have on development, and indirectly through promotion of, internal conflicts within nations, a breakdown in their social fabric, and, a culture of violence,
- Underline the essential need to formulate strategies and plans towards creating conditions that enable end to wars across borders and invasions, internal conflicts and violence by 2030
- Discourage any attempt to use wars across borders, invasions and violence as a mode of resolving conflicts
- Ensure a positive, balanced and non-confrontational approach in addressing and resolving all aspects of conflicts among nations
- Urge the Commonwealth Heads of Government to advocate for the inclusion of ‘end all wars by 2030’ as a United Nations Post-2015 Global Development Goal
*Saroj Jayasinghe – Delegate CPF-2013 from Sri Lanka, University academic and physician – email- firstname.lastname@example.org
If you wish to join in an e-petition to the Commonwealth click here