Peace in the 21st Century: Prospects and Prescriptions
Author: Martin Lees, Rector of the University for Peace
Originally Published at Peace and Conflict Monitor on 01/18/2005
This article was first delivered as a lecture entitled “The Prospects for Peace in the 21st century” by Martin Lees Esqr to the International Politics Society at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.
Full Article The Prospects for Peace in the 21st Century
I feel greatly honored particularly as a Scot to address you in this ancient and distinguished university. I would like to thank the organizers, the International Politics Society of St. Andrews for their kind invitation and for the perfect arrangements.
I have the honor to be the Rector of the University for Peace affiliated with the United Nations. The University for Peace was established in a Treaty endorsed by the General Assembly in December 1980 to mobilize education, training and research in the cause of peace. We are engaged in teaching students from around the world at the graduate level on critical peace-related issues and also in other forms of education such as short courses and community-based education at every level. We currently offer multicultural Master s degrees in seven fields: International Peace Studies; Human Rights; International Law and the Settlement of Disputes; Gender and Peace Building; Peace Education; Sustainable Development and Natural Resources; and Environmental Security and Peace.
We are extending our programmes through networks of cooperation into all regions of the world. And we are beginning to disseminate knowledge on all these topics, using state-of-the-art technologies, to partner universities and other institutions of learning. The multicultural teaching materials developed and tested by the University for Peace reflect diverse international experience and best practice on critical peace-related issues. After suitable adaptation to specific cultural contexts and requirements, they can be used as a basis for teaching in partner universities, colleges and schools.
In this way, it will become possible for thousands of students to study the critical issues of peace in their home countries, thus building up the motivated and skilled human resources on the scale required in the developing countries to prevent and mediate conflict and to build the foundations of peace and progress. By disseminating knowledge and by supporting efforts throughout the world to educate a new generation of leaders, teachers and experts on the critical issues of conflict prevention and the building of peace, we can contribute to a more peaceful and secure future for humanity.
I have chosen a bold topic for my talk: The prospects for peace in the 21st Century. Those of my generation who have been struggling in the international system for two or three decades cannot claim to have achieved a world to the measure of our hopes. I fear that, in spite of the undoubted progress made, we will leave to our successors a difficult and dangerous world which still suffers from abiding poverty for millions, injustice and threats to peace. Many of you here tonight will have to face, directly or indirectly, the challenges and problems which we will leave in your care.
For this reason, I felt that I should use this valuable opportunity to look beyond day-to-day dramas and events to examine the broader, longer-term issues of the 21st Century. In this brief presentation, I will be forced to simplify and to generalize. I will first make some introductory points and clarifications and then identify some of the major trends and issues which will define the challenges to peace in the 21st Century. I will then briefly review the present responses of the international community to these challenges and conclude with some suggestions on a few lines of action which can contribute to achieving a more peaceful, secure and successful world.
Every day we are confronted on our televisions and in the newspapers by a remorseless tide of tragic events and crises, by violence, terrorist attacks and conflicts in all regions of the world.
Since the terrorist attacks of 11th September 2001 on the United States with the tragic loss of almost 3,000 innocent lives, we have followed the war in Afghanistan, the continuing tragedy of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, the intensive international debate leading to war in Iraq, the war itself followed by the on-going crisis of the aftermath, and the widening range of attacks in Bali, in Madrid and now in Saudi Arabia.
There is, in consequence, an intense and deep public concern about the state of our world, about relations between peoples and ethnic and religious groups and about the prospects for a stable, peaceful world for future generations.
Viewed from the perspective of the rich, developed countries, a major change has occurred. Threats of violence are now a reality and conflict is no longer perceived simply as happening far away in other countries. Since the terrorist attacks on the United States and the recent bombings in Madrid, the public in developed countries now feels directly threatened by international terrorism.
It is particularly important to recognize that the attacks on the United States have resulted in a profound and permanent change in attitudes and priorities. This change is not only reflected in the policies of the Bush Administration but also, deeply, in the concerns of the American public. A sense of vulnerability is evident across the United States. Indeed, nations throughout the world are now aware of the threats posed by international terrorism to their security, and to the lives and prospects of their citizens.
It is increasingly recognized that if civilized society is to contain and defeat international terrorism, we must confront the threat in two related and mutually reinforcing ways. We must maintain adequate levels of military security and take strong, direct action, including military action where necessary, to confront and eradicate terrorism. This is the principal focus of international deliberation and action at the present time.
But this is not enough. We must also, through international and national action, and through the efforts of civil society, work together to address the underlying injustices, frustrations and failures that give rise to the hatred and intolerance which drive violence, terrorism and conflict and provide the environment in which they can fester.
In this presentation, I am going to stand back from the tense and tragic context of current events to focus our attention on some of the issues, trends and relationships which create the underlying conditions in which such intolerance, hatreds, violence, terrorism and tragedy can arise.
The changing Nature of Conflict and the Concept of Peace… continue reading The Prospects for Peace in the 21st Century