After the peaceful end to the conflict between the NATO and Warsaw Treaty groups in the last decade of the last century, a hope was kindled that the new world order might adopt non-violent ways of preventing and resolving conflicts. This hope did not last for long. The twenty first century was inaugurated with an attack on Pentagon and the World Trade Centre by Al Qaeda. In its first half decade, it has seen new wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon. There is a talk of a war in Iran. If wars are launched at this pace, the twenty first century might prove to be the most devastating of all.
Approximately 400 millions died in the wars of the last two millennia. About 100 million of them died in the last century alone. If a major war takes place in this century, and if it escalates to such an extent that some of the players use nuclear weapons, we can foresee at least 4 or 5 times these deaths sometime in the next few decades. A world moving towards a war is also bound to neglect poverty, health, climate change and other priorities of human development. Such policy neglect will result in the death of at least 500 million children in the next 50 years at the current rate. Thus, we face the prospect of about a billion people being killed for no fault of their own if our leaders do not make conflict prevention and poverty alleviation their top priorities – in particular conflict prevention involving the big powers.
It is important to note here that the Western powers are always keen on conflict prevention in the so-called Third World but they want to apply highly discriminatory standards when it comes to their own behaviour. Several roadmaps are available for resolving and preventing regional conflicts in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. We now need a framework for preventing global conflicts which may involve big powers.
First, we need a firm recommitment to the Article 2 (4) of the United Nations Charter. This article embodies the philosophical basis of the United Nations. It demands that states should refrain from using force or threat of force in the conduct of international relations. In the last sixty years, this article has been violated from time to time. Even though the aggressor has often paid very heavily, powerful states refuse to learn any lessons from history. The former Soviet Union disintegrated after attacking Afghanistan. It created a train of events that eventually led to the birth of Al Qaeda. We will wait and see what the United States attack on Iraq means for the future of the United States. In the meanwhile, it has created 50 new terrorist organisations. So long as states violate Article 2(4), non-state players will justify their use of violence and terror. It is therefore necessary to mobilise world opinion to affirm recommitment to Article 2.
There is a growing consensus that the international community deviate from Article 2 (4) by using provisions of Chapter 7 in support of the Responsibility to Protect. Genocides such as those in Sudan and Rwanda are simply unacceptable. However, it would be disastrous if powerful states use this principle to advance their strategic objectives rather than protecting hapless civilians. It is necessary to ensure that the international community assumes ‘the responsibility to protect’ but without allowing interested parties to us it as a tool to serve their selfish interests.
Second, we need strict implementation of Security Council Resolutions 1373 and 1566 binding states to take all actions against terrorists acting in territories within their jurisdiction. If there is strict implementation of these resolutions, security of all states will be guaranteed from international terrorism. There will still be the risk of domestic terrorism but it then will be a matter for internal law enforcement agencies. It may be necessary to have intrusive inspections by Counter Terrorism Directorate of the United Nations if certain countries violate these resolutions, following the precedence of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty.
If Article 2 of the Charter and Security Council Resolutions 1373 and 1566 are implemented in their full spirit, it will effectively result in countries providing mutual security guarantees to one another. Those states accused of attacking other countries at their pleasure will trade off their security with those suspected of harbouring support bases for international terrorism.
Third, we need to promote internal reforms in all countries that are moving towards extremism of different types. The Strategic Foresight Group 2007 report An Inclusive World, prepared with research input from all over the world, has reached unconventional conclusions. It has identified common patterns in the evolution of extremism and violent conflicts in all parts of the world. It has concluded that relative developmental, democratic and dignity deprivation creates supply of terrorists. It calls for reforms to mitigate the phenomenon of relative deprivation. The specific nature of reforms will vary from one country to another. But it is essential for all of us to create inclusive societies, in which all constituents feel a sense belonging. It’s only when all strata and sects of people feel that they have a stake in the future of their country that they will want to abdicate violence.
Fourth, we need a process to secure sustainable peace and security in the Middle East, which is at the centre of the present global conflict. The Arab League Peace Plan (2002) guarantees security of Israel in exchange for vacating lands occupied in the war of 1967. However, with Iraq and Iran, the security of the Middle East is no longer confined to the Israel-Arab conflicts. We need a comprehensive approach. In An Inclusive World, we have proposed multiple stake-holder semi-permanent conference on peace and security in the Middle East, on the lines of the early version of the Conference on Peace and Security in Europe. It is possible to envisage some other framework to address the problems of peace and security in the region, including a mechanism under the auspices of the United Nations or a Quintet by expanding Quartet to include the League of Arab States.
Fifth, we need a new architecture of global security. The European Princes formed the Concert of Powers in the early part of the 19th century. It helped establish certain balance of power but it neglected the basic truth that the rulers and states were not always on the same side. As a result, revolutions (though failed) and wars took place between France and Germany that eventually led to the two World Wars of the 20th century. In the last quarter of the 20th century, as economics gained more and more significant currency than mere political power a new Concert of Powers has emerged in the form of G-8. If we continue with the Concert of Powers model, now being refined as ‘coalitions of the willing’, in the twenty first century, revolutions from Latin American to the Middle East and devastating wars in West or East Asia may threaten the survival of the world as we know it.
It is therefore necessary to build a Concert of Conscience in place of Concert of Powers. The current G-8 have to be part of such a Concert of Conscience, forced by their people to follow a policy based on conscience rather than mere pursuit of power. They are at times capable of compromising their short term interests for long term benefits, as they did while writing off $50 billion debt of the African countries in 2005. It is more difficult to do so with respect to strategic interests. However, all G-8 member countries are democracies (including Russia which is perhaps a semi-democracy) and therefore it should be possible for the civil society, media and electorates in those countries to influence the behaviour of these states in the long run.
It is also important for emerging economies to join the Concert of Conscience. India, China, Brazil and South Africa are invited to the G-8 meetings. It is important for these countries to use their growing clout for a global security model that is based on conscience rather than dominance. It is entirely possible that the elite in these countries may be tempted to join the club and enjoy its perquisites rather than use their newly established global status to revise the terms of global security. Again, the voice of people in these three and quarter democracies can have certain influence.
Finally, a new Concert of Conscience will only be able to deliver if it has strategic players from Southeast Asia and the Middle East – Indonesia, Turkey, Egypt and the collective leadership of the oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council. Any board room of global security management that does not have respectful place for these four players is bound to be incomplete and therefore its decisions will be inadequate and inconsequential in several parts of the world.
The concept of Concert of Conscience is not a ploy to expand G-8 to G-16 to create a new club. Also, important players like Jordan, Iran (when it is ready to do business with the West), Korea and Nigeria will want to have a say in the way the world is run. The small but resource-rich Scandinavian countries, and indeed some other European countries often take the mantle of conscience keepers of the world and they may be able to provide a positive direction to the Concert of Conscience. In an ideal world eventually United Nations General Assembly should guide the destiny of the humanity. In practical world, we need a smaller representative group reflecting realities of the world to deliberate global changes.
We don’t need another power structure, replacing or expanding G-8. But we do need ways to engage important countries in the world that between them represent significant portion of the world economy, population and strategic assets in order to replace the current model based on enforcement by the powerful to collaborative problem-solving by all concerned.
It is also important to realise that there are often differences between aspirations of states and those of people. In the yester years, the world was fortunate to have courageous visionaries to speak on behalf of the people - Bertrand Russell, Albert Einstein, Willy Brandt, Nelson Mandela, and others. They had the moral authority to challenge the misconceived priorities of states. Who can mobilise the world opinion today as the Russell-Einstein Manifesto did when the nuclear arms race threatened human survival?
In the last five hundred years, ground realities have changed. In the first phase, the Church made way for the kingdom. In the second phase, the kingdom made way for the nation. We are now living in an era when the nation-state has to make way for the people. In this era, we should not simply accept that a few old men in grey suits meet at Yalta or Bretton Woods to play games which kill children for decades and decades. We need to mobilise global public opinion to shift our future from the world of arrogant imposition of wars by a few to the one of conflict prevention and peace for most of us. Is this impossible? Wasn’t the abolition of slavery impossible? Wasn’t the end of colonisation impossible? Wasn’t the elimination of Apartheid impossible?
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