IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

Betwixt and between

It is hard, for several reasons, to make sense of the world; and it is understandable that many people talk about rising “disorder” or even “chaos”.  However, there are, I think, understandable reasons for this situation.  One is that the world we knew, that we thought was “solid” is turning out to be “fluid” or at least not so solid.  The parameters are changing, we are in some sort of, to use what is now something of a cliché, paradigm shift.  Or, put another way, more and more we are confronted by GGI’s–ie Global Governance Issues– that just won’t go away (much as we wish they would).

Or to quote (for the “nieme fois” as the French say) W.B. Yeats‘s “The Second Coming”:  “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold…”.  We are probably not conscious of the degree to which this is actually happening.  However, consider to what an extent “issues” keep cropping up for which solutions cannot readily be found, or in regard to which the existing structures of world order (for lack of a better term) don’t seem adequate.  The Euro crisis is a good example.  The Euro was/is a good idea, but it wasn’t set up with enough means to keep it on track.  Or look at the U.N. Charter.  The world had just had a terrible trauma (ie WW II) and it was pretty clear that change was necessary, and yet the limits of peoples world views prevented the founders of the organization from really creating means adequate to deal with the realities of world politics then and now.  Or, consider the current wave of intra-state conflicts.  Certainly, international norms have evolved to some extent, and “non-interference” in a state’s internal affairs can be side-steppe by the Security Council if they deem that those “affairs” are creating threats to international peace and security (…and don’t “pooh pooh” this:  it is a significant innovation).  However, the main actors (in most cases the permanent members of that same SC) have to be willing to act, to really take the principle of Collective Security seriously…and to date they are not yet always ready to do that.  So, we often get responses to crises that are too little, too late (or at least seem that way).

Such are the “interesting” times in which we live.  It will probably get worse before it gets a lot better, in that the limitations of our world order and the mindset(s) that underpin it, will become more and more obvious; and the crises these limitations create will be more acute…and it is exactly this which brings significant change.  So, to reiterate my main message for early 2012:

“IGbarb says:  fasten your seat belts, we are in, and will probably remain in for some time, a zone of turbulence.”


January 11, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reforming the United Nations

As you might know, the United Nations was created to “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”. However, at the same time it is based on the sovereign equality of states. Therefore, it is not clear the organization can really achieve its prime objective as currently designed. As the Charter explains, the Security Council has responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, but the five permanent members of the Council (do you know who they are?) have what is popularly known as the “veto”, so no decisions can be taken against their will. This was probably a good idea in some ways, because it would be hard to imagine any Security Council “peace enforcement” action being very effective against the United States, Russia or China and even against either Britain or France (though that might not be totally impossible).

However, today, after decolonization, the end of the Cold War and many other important events, the whole Charter has definitely started to show its age (there are actually references to “enemy powers”), and reform has been talked about more and more. Here is the official U.N. page of the subject. If you scroll to the bottom of the page, you will see that the list of areas needing reform is quite long, and, to say the least, very challenging.

The Global Policy Forum‘s page on this subject starts with: “The UN needs reform. On that everyone agrees. But there is sharp disagreement on what kind of reform is needed and for what purpose.” And there lies the “rub”. As Roland Robertson the sociologist (and one of the first people to write about globalization, btw) once said, the world is united but not integrated. It seems to me making a more relevant and (at least to some degree) more powerful global organization is essential to really guarantee international peace and security and to have any chance at all of saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war.

However, there is still much work to be done to bring this about. As I have said before, I think one important part of a solution to this problem lies in education. Currently, students graduate from high school with only a minimal understanding of what the U.N. is, how it works, and what needs to be done to make it more effective; and few really acquire the values and perspective necessary to function as responsible world citizens. An alternative is the evolving field of Peace Education, and many organizations and institutes are working on curricula that highlight issues related to world order as well as conflict resolution skills. We’ll get back to peace education, but in the meantime here is a U.N. site that lays out a rudimentary curriculum. Did you learn that in school? I don’t remember that I did.

October 21, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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