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close this bookWIT's World Ecology Report - Vol. 07, No. 3 - Critical Issues in Health and the Environment (WIT, 1995, 16 pages)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentSpecial Focus
View the documentHealth and Environment: Live Better, Live Longer
View the documentChernobyl Update
View the documentGood News
View the documentBiodiversity Patents: A New Approach to Resource Extraction
View the documentDid You Know?
View the documentLet There Be Light!
View the documentFood for Thought: On the Road to Peace & Prosperity
View the documentA New Alliance
View the documentVoices of the Planet
View the documentPoint of view: The United Nations: 50 Years of Conflict, 50 Years of Development, 5.6 Billion People

Food for Thought: On the Road to Peace & Prosperity

The year 1995 will probably go down in history as the 20th century's most significant year for celebrations and commemorations, The United Nations' 50th Anniversary and the 50th Anniversary of the end of World War II, in both Europe and Japan, head the list of occasions that call for celebrating and rejoicing. Grief and sorrow, on the other hand, characterize commemorations of Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, notwithstanding claims of justification in the latter cases.

For nearly half a century, the Cold War has characterized relations between the two superpowers and their allies in a polarized world. Every now and then, local and regional wars have raged in various parts of the world, but they have always been contained in a manner that permitted conciliation and settlement, often with United Nations involvement and leadership. Peacekeeping activities by the U.N. have evolved as a vital instrument for containing conflagrations, especially in areas where territorial disputes remain unresolved and lack of confidence and mutual distrust persist among antagonists.

Yet, the end of the Cold War has created new conditions which emphasize the importance of global, collective security. The Cold War's demise also offers a great opportunity for the emergence of a better world order, and places greater responsibilities on a rejuvenated United Nations. A U.N. Security Council Summit in 1992 called on the Secretary General to present ideas and recommendations for enhancing the U.N.'s role in strengthening world peace and security. Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali articulated his views in a well-received report entitled An Agenda for Peace, which analyzes and recommends ways and means of strengthening - within the framework and provisions of the U.N. Charter - the U.N.'s capacity for preventive diplomacy, peacemaking, and peacekeeping.

An Agenda for Peace coincided with a significant increase in U.N. peacekeeping operations worldwide. During the preceding four years, the U.N. had established as many such operations as it had during the four previous decades combined. By mid-1992, some 45,000 soldiers and civilian police forces were serving among U.N. peacekeeping missions around the world. That number more than doubled in the folio-wing three years with the rapid expansion of U.N. operations in Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, and elsewhere. The nature of U.N. peacekeeping operations also changed significantly, as it came to include diplomatic peacemaking along with its enforcement measures. Such additional U.N. involvements, mandated by the Security Council, represent the international community's response to a number of global emergencies that came in rapid succession, allowing little time for adequate preparation and response.

The rise of "micro-nationalism" and ethnic assertion, coupled with the ruthless pursuit of power and selfish interests, has posed great challenges for the United Nations. Among such nations as Liberia, Angola, and especially Somalia and the former Yugoslavia, efforts to restore peace and civil order met with tremendous obstacles, as combatants suffered no shortage of weapons or economic support from external parties. The international community, represented by the United Nations, has been challenged as never before. This has inevitably resulted in certain setbacks, setbacks which should be blamed on a lack of international political will rather than on the United Nations as a peacekeeping entity.

This must lead to the realization that only genuine disarmament in a systematic and equitable fashion will make peaceful conflict on a global scale possible. This certainly applies to ongoing national and intrastate conflicts. With increased means to impose mutually favorable terms on combating parties, antagonists can be more readily persuaded to negotiate disputes and arrive at peaceful settlements.

Peace through disarmament also provides great social and economic benefits. In the developing world, savings from arms expenditures will free up immense resources for investment in badly needed economic and social development. Industrial nations must surely realize tremendous savings, which will in turn make possible greater internal development, as well as more generous assistance to developing economies. According to the 1995 Human Development Report, world military expenditures in 1992 totaled $521,820 million, of which $1.36,010 million came from developing nations. This accounted for 60% of the combined education and health expenditures of developing nations and 33% of industrial nations.

SOURCE: Farouk Mawlawi, U.N. Senior Advisor, Habitat, Executive Vice Chair WIT.