By Saroj Jayasinghe –
Ten years ago, Sri Lanka hosted the Commonwealth People’s Forum in Hikkaduwa. On the occasion of its inauguration on November 10, 2013, the Colombo Telegraph featured an article by me, a relatively unknown academic from the Faculty of Medicine in Colombo.
I made a fervent appeal to the Commonwealth Peoples Forum calling for the elimination of overt aggression as a form of interactions between states or nations or regions. The appeal was packaged as a Hikkaduwa Declaration to coincide with the venue of the Forum and the gathering consisted of of civil society groups from nations that have been devastated from wars, invasions, colonisation, and cross border conflicts. However, for whatever reasons, the Declaration failed to sway the conscience of the attendees and we lost a unique opportunity to lead a call that may have found its way to the UN, in time to be included as a Global Sustainable Development Goals1
Ten-years down the road, the call has become more relevant than ever. The visuals we view of unbelievable human suffering and devastations in Ukraine, Palestine and Israel, justifies any attempts to eliminate all wars from human civilization. Enough is enough! I give below a preamble why such a call for agenda setting is justified and then describe a draft for consideration.
1. Since the origin of human history, wars have cost billions of human lives. Wars have decimated millions within minutes (e.g. the dropping of nuclear bombs), destroyed whole civilisations and societies, created millions of displaced populations and crippled billions mentally and physically for a life-time. Furthermore, its impact on our eco-system have been an unmitigated disaster, and they destroy fragile ecologies, forever.
2. Wars have the capacity, ability and have proven to destroy all development agendas, overnight. We see this unfold in front of our eyes right now.
3. However, most reports of the UN and other international groupings avoid using terms such as ‘war’, ‘invasions’ and ‘cross-border conflicts’ and, instead, tend to focus on violence and conflicts within nations. For example, the 16th Sustainable Development Goals is worded as “Guarantee Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions”. This is a narrow view on the destructive effects of wars, despite evidence that wars across borders and invasions promote internal conflicts within nations, lead to a breakdown of the social fabrics, and promote a culture of violence locally, regionally and globally that outlive its origins, leading to a continuing spiral of violence.
4. The reasons for not including wars or cross-border conflicts in most of the discourses of the UN is likely related to the existing structure of global governance: the UN Security Council plays the dominant role with its power to resolve all security issues and those related to cross border conflicts. However, its Permanent Members with veto power, have a glaring conflict of interest: they account for the largest proportion of arms producers in human history.
5. The Hikkaduwa Declaration was proposed with the intention of changing this global governance structure through the development agenda. The ultimate aim was pressurizing the United Nations to include a goal on elimination of all forms of war from the globe by 2030 in its post-2015 SDG agenda. This attempt failed.
Therefore, today I propose to attempt and mobilize global civil society to take action to eliminate all wars, and ultimately wean human civilization from violence as a form of interactions… and hence the ‘Colombo Declaration on Elimination of All Wars’.
THE COLOMBO DECLARATION ON ELIMINATION OF ALL WARS
Emphasizing the need for the global community to prevent the use of cross-border violence and aggression and rally humanity towards a peaceful and sustainable future.
Welcoming the efforts made by several nations to de-escalate the high intensity cross border conflicts and to promote their peaceful resolution,
Recognizing the contribution that can be made by global civil society and the United Nations to foster global peace,
Recalling the statements 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, halt development efforts, and rapidly reverses all forms of human and social development,
Recalling that the several organizations have pledged to support international efforts for peace and disarmament at the United Nations and other multilateral institutions,
Reaffirming that the special strength of global civil society lies in the combination of our diversity and bound together by shared sensitivities towards wars and colonization, 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, to:
1. Endorse the proposals made so far to the United Nations that promote reconciliation, and measures to end conflicts, violence and human rights violations within nations,
2. Express concern that the current discussions to formulate the United Nations agendas in areas of ecological crisis, and human and social development focus mainly on impacts of conflicts and violence within nations, and gives less emphasis to wars across borders and invasions,
3. Stress the urgent need to recognize the devastating impacts of 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 the encouragement of a culture of violence,
4. Underline the essential need to formulate strategies and plans, and structured progressive ways to creating conditions that enable end to wars across borders and invasions, internal conflicts and violence by 2030
5. Discourage any attempt to use wars across borders, invasions and violence as a mode of resolving conflicts
6. Ensure a positive, balanced and non-confrontational approach in addressing and resolving all aspects of conflicts among nations
7. Urge the UN to advocate to include an ‘end all wars by 2030’ as an overarching goal and initiate discussions on a process to achieve this goal
*Prof Saroj Jayasinghe – MBBS, MD (Col), MD (Bristol), MRCP (UK), FRCP (Lond), PhD (Col), Fellow National Academy of Science of Sri Lanka Emeritus Professor of Medicine, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka and consultant physician. The views expressed are personal views of the author and do not reflect those of the institutions he is working for.
Jayasinghe S. The post-millennium development goals agenda: include ‘end to all wars’ as a public health goal! Global Health Promotion. 2014;21(3):29-32. doi:10.1177/1757975914528251