A starting point for the new Secretaries of State and Defense.
by Gareth Evans
Gareth Evans, Australia’s foreign minister for eight years and President Emeritus of the International Crisis Group, is currently Chancellor of the Australian National University and co-chair of the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect. As Foreign Minister, he was at the forefront of recasting Australia’s relationship with China, India, and Indonesia, while deepening its alliance with the US, and helped found the APEC and ASEAN security forums. He also played a leading role in bringing peace to Cambodia and negotiating the International Convention on Chemical Weapons, and is the principal framer of the United Nations’ “responsibility to protect” doctrine.
Project Syndicate, 27 December 2012
CANBERRA – If we were hoping for peace in our time, 2012 did not deliver it. Conflict grew ever bloodier in Syria, continued to grind on in Afghanistan, and flared up periodically in West, Central, and East Africa. There were multiple episodes of ethnic, sectarian, and politically motivated violence in Myanmar (Burma), South Asia, and around the Middle East. Tensions between China and its neighbors have escalated in the South China Sea, and between China and Japan in the East China Sea. Concerns about North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear programs remain unresolved.
And yet, many feared eruptions within and between states did not occur. Strong international pressure helped to contain the Second Gaza War quickly. A long-sought peace agreement was secured for the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. Major strides were taken toward sustainable peace and reconciliation in Myanmar. There was no major new genocidal catastrophe. And, despite the United Nations Security Council’s paralysis over Syria, UN General Assembly member states made clear their continuing overwhelming acceptance of the responsibility to protect those at risk of mass-atrocity crimes.
The bigger story has been concealed, as ever, by the media’s daily preoccupation with current bloodshed: Over the last two decades, major wars and episodes of mass violence worldwide have become much less frequent and deadly. After a high point in the late 1980’s and very early 1990’s, there has been a decline of well over 50% in the number of major conflicts both between and within states; in the number of genocidal and other mass atrocities; and in the number of people killed as a result of them.
Phi Beta Iota: The proposition is half right. Organized conflicts have gone down. Homicide, slavery (including in the USA), displaced populations, poverty, state-sponsored terrorism including extrajudicial drone attacks, these are all on an upwards trend. However, despite the reality that there are 5,000 secessionist movements worldwide, and guns cannot beat time, the Internet is having a very positive effect in providing an alternative — as Alvin Toffler was the first to observe in his 1991 book PowerShift — to violence. If we can get free cell phones into the hands of the five billion poor, inclusive of banking, health education, and other services now too costly in the Western model to deliver directly now, the five billion poor will create infinite wealth, and the above article will be completely correct. Death is in the details.