Hollow as the phrase “Peace on Earth” sounds to many of us, there is hope. The world is less violent. The first report released a year ago by the Human Security Centre surprised many. The follow up this year, December 21st, supports the trend uncovered last year. Happy New Year.
I remember reading about this last year. For some reason, the horror of Iraq erased the progress being made elsewhere. Some excerpts from a 2005 article by Andrew Mack.
The Human Security Report, an independent study funded by five countries and published by Oxford University Press, draws on a wide range of little publicized scholarly data, plus specially commissioned research to present a portrait of global security that is sharply at odds with conventional wisdom. The report reveals that after five decades of inexorable increase, the number of armed conflicts started to fall worldwide in the early 1990s. The decline has continued.
By 2003, there were 40 percent fewer conflicts than in 1992. The deadliest conflicts — those with 1,000 or more battle-deaths — fell by some 80 percent. The number of genocides and other mass slaughters of civilians also dropped by 80 percent, while core human rights abuses have declined in five out of six regions of the developing world since the mid-1990s. International terrorism is the only type of political violence that has increased. Although the death toll has jumped sharply over the past three years, terrorists kill only a fraction of the number who die in wars.[Emphasis added]
That last statistic should not surprise us at all. Michael Moore sent a Christmas letter today with a grim statistic. At the current level of American casualties, on Christmas day, a soldier will die in Iraq taking that toll higher than the 2973 killed on 9/11. Which is nowhere near the estimates – real or unreal – of the Iraqi casualties.
What accounts for the extraordinary and counterintuitive improvement in global security over the past dozen years? The end of the Cold War, which had driven at least a third of all conflicts since World War II, appears to have been the single most critical factor.
In the late 1980s, Washington and Moscow stopped fueling “proxy wars” in the developing world, and the United Nations was liberated to play the global security role its founders intended. Freed from the paralyzing stasis of Cold War geopolitics, the Security Council initiated an unprecedented, though sometimes inchoate, explosion of international activism designed to stop ongoing wars and prevent new ones.
Other international agencies, donor governments and nongovernmental organizations also played a critical role, but it was the United Nations that took the lead, pushing a range of conflict-prevention and peace-building initiatives on a scale never before attempted. The number of U.N. peacekeeping operations and missions to prevent and stop wars have increased by more than 400 percent since the end of the Cold War. As this upsurge of international activism grew in scope and intensity through the 1990s, the number of crises, wars and genocides declined.
There have been some horrific and much publicized failures, of course — the failures to stop genocide in Rwanda, Srebrenica and Darfur being the most egregious. But the quiet successes — in Namibia, El Salvador, Mozambique, Eastern Slovenia, East Timor and elsewhere went largely unheralded, as did the fact that the United Nations’ expertise in handling difficult missions has grown dramatically.
A major study by the Rand Corp. published this year found that U.N. peace-building operations had a two-thirds success rate. They were also surprisingly cost-effective. In fact, the United Nations spends less running 17 peace operations around the world for an entire year than the United States spends in Iraq in a single month. What the United Nations calls “peacemaking” — using diplomacy to end wars — has been even more successful. About half of all the peace agreements negotiated between 1946 and 2003 have been signed since the end of the Cold War.
As far as I am aware, that would be the same United Nations that many choose to deride, hate and apparently, slander. This year’s Human Security Brief indicates the trend is continuing. The terrorism toll is becoming a larger issue as well.
The new data indicate that the post-Cold War decline in armed conflicts and related fatalities reported last year has continued, with Sub-Saharan Africa seeing the greatest decrease in political violence.
Other encouraging trends include continuing declines in the number of genocides and other mass slaughters of civilians, and a drop in refugee numbers and military coups.
But some of the other findings are far from positive. Four of the world’s six regions have experienced increased numbers of conflicts since 2002, the last five years have seen a huge spike in the estimated death toll from terrorism, while negotiated settlements, which are responsible for an increasing proportion of conflict terminations, have worryingly high failure rates.
Seems to me that better funding of the UN efforts and some economic incentives to the countries at war would be a far better use 0f our tax dollars. Somehow I think Moore’s warning that this is the first of THREE Christmases we still have to spend with Bush in the White House includes the idea that America will continue to pay for bullets and bombs, but not for peace.
New Years Goal: we can change that. We have a Democratic majority in Congress….