Today is the International Day of Peace, as declared by the United Nations. It echoes the noble words of the 1945 Charter to save us “from the scourge of war”. Thus, the efforts of generations of politicians, diplomats and security forces are framed by the dogma that war is always a bad thing, and that peace is a good thing to be had.
War, it shows, is not illegal. The Charter of the United Nations authorizes the fight against the crime of aggression. The concept of “just war” also exists under international humanitarian law. War can also be necessary, indeed moral. Historically, genocide and crimes against humanity have been ended with the use of force.
At the same time, our peace-building record is less than impressive. Over the past half century, it is hard to think that many armed conflicts have actually ended completely. Instead, most grumble, boil, or smolder in cycles. Think of the historical conflicts in Palestine or Kashmiror more struggles about The periphery of Myanmar, or uprisings in the Maghreb and in the Sahel. Many national authorities are preoccupied with persistent internal divisions, such as Pakistan is facing unrest in tribal areas and South Sudan which has witnessed ethnic violence.
Internationally, the UN has spent billions of dollars and deployed tens of thousands of dollars peacekeepers according to country scores. Dozens of UN special envoys along with special envoys from regional bodies such as the European Union, the African Union and the ASEAN linked regions. Consulting organizations and NGOs are busy, peace-building projects abound, and peace conferences led by eminent figures fill the calendar.
But this well-practiced peaceful way of doing business produces meager profits. It can temporarily mask the violence when the protagonists are pressured to sign any piece of paper that allows for a breather and a chance to reunite. After that, the conflict flared up again until the next ceasefire or “peace” agreement. And so, the cycle continues.
Worse still, there is concern that an early peace intervention will prolong conflicts as happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina and on the Korean Peninsula. That’s because conflicts only end when they are willing to do so. Ideally, that’s when the underlying causes or differences have been resolved, including accountability and justice for wrongdoing. In practice, however, that rarely happens and so wars only end when one side has won decisively. Think of the Second World War or Viet Nam’s war.
But modern warfare is much more multidimensional and enduring, especially when external sponsors join different camps. The durability of any subsequent peace depends on two main factors. The first was the viciousness of the previous war’s conduct. The reality is that today, horrific atrocities are the norm, and survivors raped, tortured, starved, lifeless in no mood to reconcile with their attackers. Then the second element begins – the magnanimity or wisdom of the victors. This is almost always in short supply.
The irony is that although we know a lot about waging war, we are not so smart about making peace. Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize is easy, but many winners feel ashamed that their efforts have not stood the test of time. A prominent example is the former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the President of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed.
That’s why, all peace is temporary and once society has tasted violence, it tends to be forever, especially when Hollywood, Bollywood and Netflix legends start hands on reshaping history.
We should therefore not be surprised that endless armed conflicts have accumulated over the decades: some 170 different types are now raging around the world. The number of direct deaths in combat increased about three times to 120,000 last year from the mortality rate in the early 2000s. Such statistics show a fraction of the human cost of war, as they underestimate the indirect consequences that largely fall on the civilian population. These numbers have greatly increased over the past decades as wars lengthen and become more fierce. The United Nations estimates that a quarter of the global population – two billion people – live in conflict zones.
The theory of war and peace holds that it is not supposed to be this way. As more of us are educated, healthier and better off, we must become more peace-loving because it serves our self-interest in achieving steady prosperity. Besides, as more of our basic needs are met and more of our higher needs for voice and self-esteem are realized through representative democracy, we will have less reason to fear. fear or resist others.
Even as we do, we have many standards and interests, laws and institutions to bind us. Therefore, our disputes – within communities and nations, or between them – should be resolved peacefully, informed by the logic of facts and balanced give-and-take.
Indeed, global indicators of poverty alleviation, human development and institutional capacity show that despite the current periodic crises, including energy and food, we have achieved achieved unprecedented progress in most economic, social and political aspects. But that has not brought peace to the world. Does that mean the theory is wrong?
Not necessarily, because history also shows that more education and development leads to a deeper understanding of what is wrong with our world as well as the aspiration and ability to do something about it. about it. Most of our social and political progress has come from fighting for them.
For example, every human right that we take for granted today is achieved through struggle. This happened first in a pioneering context, and then, as specific rights as food and water, to vote or not to be tortured, were codified, they became commonplace.
But without solid protection for hard-won rights, it is easy for them to make mistakes, thereby creating new conflicts. And some rights are still not fully realized everywhere, such as the right for women and girls to be educated in school. Afghanistan or let them have the option of spawning in parts of USA.
Those who enjoy those rights in peace and comfort have no moral standing to prevent others from obtaining them. Although peaceful means to do so are preferred, conflict often breaks out when authoritarian regimes impede progress.
In the future, there will be more conflicts with new geopolitical tensions and new insecurities from climate change, pandemics, resource competition, and dysfunctional globalization. These violences are born because of growing inequality within and between societies and people around the world continue to struggle with vested interests to achieve new human rights.
Every conflict has a logic that must be understood before dealing with it fairly and justly for peace to be sustainable. Otherwise, in order to have peace, we may first be forced to create an opportunity for conflict.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial views of Al Jazeera.