Peace in the 21st Century

  1. We live in a time of fear, frustration and anger. A sharp contrast to the post WW2 world until about 2015.
  2. We live in a world of global challenges like climate change, ever growing migration of people across borders and continents, which can only be successfully met, if and when countries, or better national governments of countries, pull together.
  3. The distinction between rich, developed and poor developing countries can no longer guide international relations. We are all sitting in the same boat. For instance, phasing out fossil fuels can only be accomplished, if producers and consumers work together on a common global strategy. A small step in this direction is the forming of a climate club, led by Germany and Chile, and which 35 countries have joined.
  4. Another global challenge is illegal international migration. This can only be overcome, if countries of origin and receiving countries enter into a contractual arrangement to allow a certain number of migrants to relocate legally, as was recently done for 5000 agricultural workers between Malawi – Israel.
  5. Regrettably Russia has embarked on a retrograde course of policies and is pursuing with military force its nationalistic ambition, i.e. to restore the Russian Empire. As it does so, it wishes to lead the way into a new world order, which basically means a world without US dominance. Russia does not even pay any longer any attention to what the UN says and does, except to sometimes oppose it. How to combine Russia’s ambition to lead the way into a new world order, with a responsible and less antagonistic attitude is at this moment not visible.
  6. The retreat from global responsibilities by the US, has left the international system of peace and stability without effective oversight and control. The UN cannot fill the void as a reform of the security council is long overdue, and peace-keeping forces are currently being reduced, and new ways are not being explored. There don’t seem to be any champion for strengthening the authority of the UN and to revitalize its primary mandate for international peace and stability.
  7. China is preoccupied with its own internal problems, and takes a rather standoffish attitude towards international problems. Europe and the US are still seeking a newly defined role, whereby Europe is more globally oriented than the US political establishment, but is weary of its colonial past and perceived neo-colonialism. African, Asian, Arab and Latin American countries are not really stepping up to the plate, although several recent peace initiatives by African and Arab cuntries are welcome signs of a greater engagement and selective actions.
  8. Religious fundamentalism is on the rise in many countries. And even in countries like Iran, where a large part of the urban population is openly opposing the ruling religious leaders, change is not in the offing.
  9. What do all these threats and trends mean for building a peace architecture? To come out of the dismal state of international affairs four basic elements need to be put in place:
  10. a. Create a new and hopeful narrative for our times. Work on the basis of the letter and spirit of the UN charter. Go back to a world without fear, without want, and in freedom.
  11. b. Make conflicting parties talk to each other so that eventually they  reach agreements step by step observing the principles of the UN Charter and restoring in people the hope for a better future. Help overcome perceptions and biases and make parties listen to each other. The UN needs to step up its work in this field.
  12. c. No agreement will cover all eventualities. We need to introduce human values like integrity, honesty, decency in order to fill the gaps.
  13. d. Try out new institutional and organisational arrangements to address the drivers for conflict, i.e. social inequality, double standards when applying the rule of law, and excessive power grab by individuals and small groups, which use populist slogans and an authoritarian style of governing.
  14. Once these elements take hold in daily politics a global peace architecture can be built as scoped earlier. (see my blog of 6 July 2023.

Autor: Kerstin Leitner

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