By Saroj Jayasinghe –
The CHOGM 2013 has come and gone. The time is now opportune to ensure that Sri Lanka takes the lead in the formulating the Commonwealth’s proposals for the Global Development Agenda of the UN. The article begins with a brief introduction to the history and relevance of United Nations Development Goals, and argues why global peace should be a primary focus for the Commonwealth. The justification for this stance of the Commonwealth is that it arose from the torture of invasions, cross-border wars and colonialism. Therefore it has a strong claim to take a firm stand against these forms violence. The Commonwealth has a right to call for a globe of peace that will prevent such calamities ever being repeated and Sri Lanka is ideally placed to take this bold stand on behalf of other members of the Commonwealth, drawing on principles of peace and tolerance.
Introduction: Why do we have global development goals?
For the first time in human civilization, the year 2000 saw all 189 nation-states of the globe agreeing to a set of development goals known as the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It was to be implemented by 2015 and became a blue print that has since shaped the global development agenda (see http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/). The MDGs had the support of the world’s leading development institution, donors, and philanthropists, and mobilized resources towards eight noble common global development goals with specific targets (i.e. end extreme poverty, achieve universal education, promote gender equality, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability, and forge global partnerships for development). The result was overall several impressive gains in health, human and socioeconomic development. With 2015 fast approaching, the UN is lending its ear to institutions, nation-states and individuals, in order to develop the broadest possible consensus on the next set of global development goals (i.e. the post-2015 goals). Any proposals from the Commonwealth should therefore be considered as yet another opportunity to participate in this process.
The next three paragraphs summarize the argument as to why the Commonwealth should propose a global peace agenda. They outline three points:
1) Wars (between states and within states) have the capacity to destroy all forms of human and social development overnight and are probably the single most important preventable factor under the control of humankind. In this instance ‘war’ is defined as “a state of armed conflict between different countries or different groups within a country” (Oxford English Dictionary), and means an intense, sustained, organized and widespread conflict as illustrated by its use: World Wars, 6-Day War, Korean War, Vietnam War, and War Against Terror.
2) However, the current discussions in the development forums of the Commonwealth and the UN pay limited attention towards an agenda where humanity ends all forms of wars
3) Therefore, the Commonwealth should lead a global movement for inclusion of global peace and elimination of all forms of war in to the Global Development agenda.
1. Wars (between states and within states) are catastrophic for global development
Wars are catastrophic for human development because they lead to deaths, injuries, disabilities, and epidemics, and causes permanent psychological and environmental ill-effects. If the figure of 1.3 million deaths from 2000 to 2013 is correct, wars are currently responsible for about 100,000 per year (http://necrometrics.com/wars21c.htm). They also cause massive human displacements, almost 45 million were displaced by 2012 (source: Displacement: the New 21st Century Challenge. UNHCR 2013). Wars maim physically, and warp the psychie of non-combatants and combatants (e.g. the high suicide rates among ex-soldiers). Livelihoods, schooling, and health services are destroyed and the environments impacts could last for decades if not centuries. As a result of direct costs of weaponry, training and combat, coupled with indirect social costs outlined above (i.e. the opportunity costs from wars from diversion of funds from development to warfare) promote impoverishment of nations, even the richest (e.g. the estimated costs of wars across Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is 4 trillion dollars (see. http://costsofwar.org/article/economic-cost-summary). Finally, wars across borders flame conflicts and violence within nations (e.g. the continuing violence in Iraq after the invasion). The reverse is also true, when internal conflicts are ‘internationalized’.
2. The UN development agenda pays scant attention to global peace and elimination of wars at a global level
The UN has acknowledged that certain crucial areas such as peace, security and governance were marginalized in its MDGs (see ‘Realizing the future we want for all’ United Nations Publications. 2011). Subsequent documents nevertheless recognize and accept that “conflict, hunger, insecurity and violence” are key factors that “hold back human development and efforts to achieve sustainable development” and emphatically state that “without peace, there can be no development” (see A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies Through Sustainable Development. United Nations Publications. 2013).
However, these documents focusing on development NEVER use the term ‘war’ and instead use the terms ‘conflict’ and ‘violence’ giving a narrower focus to the magnitude and intensity of violence. There is deafening silence on cross-border wars, invasions or occupations perpetrated by nation-states! Even the document ‘Towards freedom from fear and want: Human rights in the post-2015 agenda’ by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) avoids the term ‘war’, and has a single reference to ‘conflict’ (see : http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/pdf/Think%20Pieces/9_human_rights.pdf).
As a consequence of this narrow focus on violence, the proposed solutions are restrictive, and call on nations to tackle violence and conflicts within their borders, while turning a blind eye towards more powerful states that conduct cross-border wars, invasions, and covert wars, thereby violating the right to life of those living in other countries. Thus when the OHCHR, Amnesty International (AI) and 17 other Non-Governmental Organizations recommended to the UN to “….pursue an approach that puts human rights and justice at its core” they failed to remember any measures to counter cross-border wars, invasions and covert wars! http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/pdf/Think%20Pieces/9_human_rights.pdf)
Therefore, this failure to recognize Global Peace in the post-2015 global development agenda should be a primary focus for the Commonwealth.
3. Include Global Peace as a development agenda.
The Commonwealth should propose to the UN to include achievement of Global Peace as a Development Goal. It should be complemented with several clear targets, of which the most crucial target of ‘end all wars by 2030’. This target calls for a firm commitment by all nation-states to eliminate all wars (inter-state and intra-state) to zero by 2030 and includes overt and covert military actions. The following are excellent references on the topic: (Address by JF Kennedy to the UN on 25 Sept 1961 when he made the statement “Mankind must put an end to war–or war will put an end to mankind” available from http://www.state.gov/p/io/potusunga/207241.htm and “A world without war: Is it desirable? Is it feasible? by Joseph Rotblat when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 1995). Other actions under the target of ‘end all wars by 2030’ include the following:
a) Restrict availability of arms: Cheap small arms make it easier to organize and conduct wars. Global production of small weapons which has shown a three-fold increase between 2005 and 2009 should be restricted. Interestingly heading the list are several Commonwealth nations (e.g. Canada) and other global peace promoters! (e.g. Sweden and Norway). (See: The Small Arms Survey 2012).
b) Reduce tensions between nation-states. Issues creating tensions should be tackled: e.g. expansion of military power outside one’s borders (e.g. tensions in the Asia-Pacific due to China and US expanding and competing to establish sea bases) and nuclear arms race (e.g. the crises in relation to North Korea and Iran). Thus targets should include declaring zones of peace, restrictions on the establishment of military bases outside one’s borders and nuclear disarmament.
c) Global initiative on peace education and conflict resolution This will include curriculums for school children, graduate level, postgraduate courses, on-line courses and other resources
d) Initiating research on peace studies and modalities to end all wars: Several institutions are involved in this process. However, this could be further promoted by funding Commonwealth institutes that promote research, education and advocacy for global peace.
e) Establishment of a more democratic global governance structure: This too will facilitate a reduction in tensions and disarmament and promote negotiated settlements. For example, the UN Security Council has an un-democratic structure of five permanent members with veto power, who arbitrate between inter-state wars and decide on global security issues. If a similar undemocratic system is constituted within a nation-state, the same permanent members of the Security Council will be the most vociferous opponents, calling such a move as undemocratic….. hypocrisy, globalized!
Conclusion: Wars will continue to kill and maim millions….and will destroy all development agendas overnight. We need to demand for global peace and a world without wars in order to survive and develop. Thus the Global Development Goals of 2015 of the United Nations offers a historic opportunity for nation-states and humanity to pledge towards a world without wars and global peace…….and we should firmly grasp this opportunity ……
*Dr Saroj Jayasinghe, is a physician and an academic in the University from Sri Lanka. The ideas expressed in this paper are not those of the institution. firstname.lastname@example.org
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