No more wars.
By Magdalena Greco @m.grc
No more wars. Surely this statement is easy to say, but hard to accomplish.
The presence of the ideology of militarism has always represented a constant paradigm in the history of mankind. Nonetheless, the consequences of contemporary wars are not in any measure comparable to those present in the past. There is an element that most people are not aware of and that is often not mentioned in modern day media: today the world has enough nuclear weaponry capable of nullifying humanity as a whole. When I came across this point during my International Law class I was left astounded, it was as if a meteorite was falling in a desert, spreading thousands of grains of awareness all around me. I had never acknowledged this fundamental detail for contemporary society and for future political choices.
As a daughter of healthy wellbeing I have always taken peace for granted without really thinking how easy it is to lose it. Indeed, evidence shows that human beings make history and in Europe we have been until now lucky enough to have more or less reasonable leaders that by choice or by circumstance had a clear image in their mind of what warfare was and meant. Peace is not what ironically Jody Williams defined as an ordinary “Kumbaya”, but it requires concrete and collective actions, practicable with different duties at every level of society.
We, the youth, are facing a world that is affected by a dramatically strong growth of violence and conflicts, both ideologically and politically speaking. We should be sure that we will be prepared to face future challenges, we should not forget that we are the masters of the entire planet’s fate and we will be the future leaders of tomorrow.
The second section of the 1st day of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates wants us to tackle precisely this theme.
When does war start?
Mairead Corrigan Maguire proposes that the key to stop wars is to change the idea some Governments around the world have:
“Wars start when we believe that we can use weapons. They start when we lose sight that every human being is special. Wars start when we lose sense of dignity and beauty of every human being, and when we start having enemies. Wars can stop when we can recognize our common humanity, when we recognize that we live in an inter-depended and interconnected wonderful world. When we recognize that we as human beings can solve problems through dialogue, negotiations, listening to each other. Overcoming the fear, we should understand that we are powerful.”
Facing a Europe that is becoming more and more militarized, Mrs Maguire underlines how, in Northern Ireland, after years of civil conflict, they were able to finally find a peaceful solution to their great local problems. Consequently, the message is: everyone can find a solution.
“Do not deny dreams, young people, head to the stars, abolish militarism and war is possible.”
How can it stop?
Without any doubt the situation in Northern Ireland during the second part of the XX century inspired the social concern of another important character: Lord Trimble. Currently a MP of Great Britain and former professor of law at the University of Bristol, Lord Trimble was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998. The lesson he gives to the youth in the context of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates is of crucial importance. Indeed, Lord Trimble wants to explain a manner in which a peaceful process can be approached, even in a situation of great struggle between the two contenders. In his words, the first medium to be used by human beings is: the use of words to communicate. However, this may be difficult to achieve if blocked by dramatically different ideologies that could lead to violent actions. The Nobel Peace Laureate wants to give us a useful way to understand how to use that extreme power we have as a medium to solve peacefully our controversies. In his words:
“Dialogue is possible when all the major participants are prepared to have compromises. None can think he can achieve a victory on the other parts, otherwise he is not going to negotiate.”
First, the willingness to be open to negotiation is crucial. Indeed, any attempt of dialogue would not give any result if the parties in cause are not able to sit down around a table and find the dress that suits them best. They have to be willing to find a compromise, sure it won’t be what each party prefers or had dreamt of. However, they have to come to a conclusion where they are both satisfied with what they have as it is better that a dress that does not fit them at all.
Unfortunately, the tendency of trying to make our own ideas prevail onto others is dramatically strong. The only one way Lord Trimble recognizes in order to convince people that it is better to achieve a compromise and not a full victory, is to identify the ideology that guides them, and to make them understand that their willingness of victory at all costs is wrong and that another concept can be the base of better ideas.
However, when we asked Lord Trimble what was his advice for young people that are approaching an everyday more complicated world and how can we convince the others that through the use of dialogue things can go better, he said: “Good Luck”.
Last but not least, the Northern Irish Nobel Peace Laureate argues that we have to be realistic in terms of the solutions we propose to contemporary problems, such as the European problem of migration. He points out how the idea that Europe conquered almost a century of peace in the continent is partially not true. Effectively, even if they cannot in any way be put next to the heart breaking past wars between European Countries, for which absence we have to thank the European Union for, we should not forget the conflict suffered in Eastern Europe in the 90s, and problems that are now afflicting Ukraine.
Why should it end and what consequences can it cause?
An interesting description of peace and some strong motivations that can be concretely used in order to persuade people on the usefulness of peace are given by Ingeborg Breines, co — President of the International Peace Bureau.
As a first point, Mrs. Breines cares to underline the role of gender in avoiding wars. Absolutely correctly, she argues that wars are depressive for everybody, both women and man. They are the failure of humanity to be human. If we look around we see our governments ruling according to some old fashioned masculine hegemonic way of behavior and it is bad for everyone. Although we do not have a full gender equality in ruling governments. Women have always imagined that since they have adopted over the years the reputation of having the capacity for healing and caring, that they were going, if given the opportunity, to transfer those qualities onto the political arena. On the latter, Mrs. Breines cites from Emmaline Pankhurst’s biography, an American anti — war ditty: “I didn’t raise my son to be a soldier, I brought him to be my pride and joy, who dares to put a musket on his shoulder to kill some other mother’s darling boy?”. Nevertheless, this change has not happened yet. The nightmare of every feminist is the following one: to have 50% — 50% in Parliament, without any change.
We should fight militarism and militarization. The Co — President of the IPB talks for a while of facts and figures. Every year in the world 1.7 trillion dollars are used for military purposes. If we make a comparison with what the United Nations needs for the Development goals, this 10% of what governments spend in armaments would be enough to put a full stop on the substantial needs of people all around the world. Mrs. Breines advices that we should reduce the war’s entire military budget by 10% per year, at least for the period we have this new development challenge for the UN. Consequently, disarmament for development is extremely important, not only because if we do not disarm we will not survive, but also because of the better use of money the entire system can do. Furthermore, she points out how the military apparatus is the biggest polluter of the world. A first medium to change the situation is through education. The IPB stresses that UNESCO has stated that we should build a defense for peace in the mind of human beings, since war is a product of man.
“The growth of peace is like agriculture. You can grow your seeds, you take care of them until they become a new, fabulous, healthy tree. But pay attention: you need just one second to cut this tree”.
The session is almost over when we receive an inspiring intervention from Dr. Alex Rosen, who represents the NGO International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). In his words, we have to look for the origins of the contemporary crisis within ourselves. Dr. Rosen, who had the opportunity to see the results of wars visiting hospitals for refugees, has a big fear. The latter is for the following: he will go one day to meetings to try to deal with a situation much worse than the one we are facing today, a situation which we could not handle as humanity, that is the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear war. Indeed, it would cause an incredible amount of victims that no specialist hospital could take care of, even after just one nuclear attack. A regional war between just India and Pakistan with nuclear weapons could not be faced. It would not just touch human being’s integrity but it would also cause great climate change. Agriculture would be greatly affected to the extent of causing famine and people to die from starvation. This would lead to civil wars, refugee crisis and humanitarian crisis that we cannot even being to fathom, it would be an incredible spiral of negative phenomenas one after the other. This outcome remains present as long as there are nuclear weapons in this world. As a consequence, governments should end arm export to support peaceful negotiation in hot zones of conflicts such as Syria and Ukraine.
Dr. Rosen stresses that we have to see nuclear missiles and bombs as what they are: massive destruction weapons that cannot be used according to international humanitarian law as we are not able to understand who is civilian and who is not. The point is: we should not talk about who can have it and who cannot:
“We have to stigmatize them, we have to ban them, it means to abolish it and to fill the legal gap concerning nuclear weapons.”
Luckily, thanks to the fundamental concern of NGOs such as the IPPNW, the message is catching on and people are starting to be convinced with the importance of nuclear disarmament. There have been three world conferences, in Oslo, in Mexico and in Vienna where people discussed a legal framework in order to ban nuclear weapons. The General Assembly of the United Nations is making its part in this discussion on the need to create a way to fill this legal gap in the prohibition of such massive destructive weapons.
“Now we should discuss the legal method to abolish them. Now governments are coming on board in this fight. Recently 121 countries have signed a document where they state that governments want to devote energy, time and money in order to fill this legal gap. We have been too lucky for too long”.
In an ironic manner, Dr. Rosen wants to give the following message to the youth: “For a world of #peace, #abolishallnuclears, support the #humanitarianpledge, no more delays.”
Jayantha Dhanapala, a Sri Lankan diplomat, member of the Board of Sponsors of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and governing board member of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, remembers that even though war and peace exist from the birth of the world, in the year 1945 two facts changed the face of war forever. Through the acknowledgement of how terrible ordinary and nuclear warfare was, after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and with the approval of the United Nations Chart that Mr. Dhanapala defined as the “Constitution of the world” something started to improve. Particularly, the latter banishes the use of force in almost all of its parts, except the VII Chapter and the permission of individual and collective self — defense. According to him, the proof that sometimes good sense tends to prevail over the vulgar showing off of countries’ muscles, is the agreement on the right of Iran to peacefully use nuclear energy. This will have to be monitored, however it is a sign of progress.
Even after these important changes, governments should not forget to keep a constant attention towards the fight against militarism. Eisenhower himself in 1961, at the end of his second term of Presidency, warned people against the military complex, pointing out how it could be crucially and dangerously insidious for internal and foreign politics. If today we globally spend around 1,7 trillion US$ on the military apparatus, we obviously do not give as much importance to health, education or other social areas. This is one of the reasons why we need dialogue, mostly focused on the warning of the almost 4.000 nuclear weapons that are able to potentially cause human destruction. We have to make people realize that a nuclear war today is a concrete danger.
“We must think in a new way, the abolition of nuclear weapons has become an article of faith. As Einstein said: Remember humanity and forget all the rest”.
The inspiring second section of the 1st day of work of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates is concluded by the words of Phil Lord, presiding Clerk of The American Friends Service Committee. He wants people to be aware of how human beings have the concrete power to act to improve the lives of other human beings, such as NGOs concerned by the fight for better human rights for all. We have to invest in diplomacy and it has to be sustained actively. Invest in communications, institutions like the UN to make sure they are working in a functional way. All in all, we have to think about peace differently and not listen to people who believe that “war is the only way to go”.
We, the people of the world should believe in peace and should understand that this is possible and achievable if we are able to have a healthy dialogue with one another. When we understand that together young people can build a new world, improving the heritage of peace attempts our fathers gave us.
A world where war does not exist any longer.