A peaceful world may be the goal of many of our nations’ leaders and is certainly a concept close to the hearts of many billions of people world-wide. However we are clearly far from achieving this target.
Examining the simplistic solution to the problem of peace that has recently been implemented – to declare war on terrorism – demonstrates that as a global community we must undertake a less reactionary and more multilateral approach to attain any real progress. Attempts to simply abolish terrorist threats are superficial and sensational, with declarations of war and no real intelligence about who the enemy is, or indeed why they are the enemy. Prior to action, logic tells us that a broader consideration of the issues would lead to a more informed and therefore more effective response.
We must ask the question - why is there not peace in the world if the majority of humanity does desire it? Obviously there is a huge chasm between what the people desire and what the governments can implement. This of course has its roots in politics, foreign policy, trade and profit. Needless to say that the very people who create this great bureaucratic maze of policies are not the people who are keen to change existing structures so that the will for peace can progressively manifest, but are instead those with power and privileges, who depend upon these structures to hold-fast, ensuring their survival.
Globalisation, war, poverty and injustice have lit the fuse for widespread global protests. At the most recent of these, November 20th 2003, anti-war demonstrations attracted hundreds of thousands of protestors, all eager to speak out against the war in Iraq. Earlier this year the numbers protesting globally were in the millions.
The injustice experienced by the majority of the world is diverse by nature and complex in structure. From the occupation of territory, to the clearly opportunistic and profit driven foreign and global economic policies that are loaded quite obviously in favour of the rich and powerful minority- the vast majority of the world is in desperate need of justice. Until they receive it, they will not be at peace, nor will they live in peace.
The call for economic and social justice is widespread, ranging from the many millions of informed individuals to the countless NGO’s and United Nations divisions continually pressing for change and an urgent re-prioritisation of government expenditure and attitude. Examining the Millennium Development Goals (September 2000), it is clear that only a tiny portion (0.7%) of the 22 richest Nations’ GDP is required as financial assistance to developing countries. Of these nations, many of the richest are far from reaching the proposed target this decade.
The Principle of Sharing
STWR believe that this call for appropriate levels of aid, agreed by the General Assembly, can only be considered as merely the first step toward economic justice for the developing world, through adopting a modicum of the principle of sharing. The more fundamental issues of economic reorganisation remain untouched. Thus without even these simple goals being taking seriously, how can any developing nation hope for justice? And subsequently, as countless millions continue to die needlessly in poverty, how can any of these nations, or even we in the developed world be at peace?
To date, almost $88 billion has been spent on the 'war on terror' and this is increasing by about $3,000 per second. Alarmingly, this is more than the $800 billion that was spent on military budgets world-wide last year. It has been estimated that the world would need to mobilise between 30 and 40 billion dollars annually for several years to deal with global poverty and achieve universal access to basic social services, including low cost water-supply and sanitation. This amount is only a tiny percentage of the global annual military budget.
It could be argued that 30 or 40 million dollars annually is too large a sum of money to legislate for economically. The response to this would be to consider the economic and financial advantages (if not the moral necessity) of this level of redistribution of the world’s resources. The affect of sharing on this scale would be a massive increase in goodwill between nations, undoubtedly reducing the need for over-the-top military expenditure. Likewise, global cooperation would greatly increase economic opportunity for all nations, resulting in greater prosperity for all.
What is most disturbing, given the international pressure upon governments to increase aid, is that some low income countries are spending $13 debt servicing for every dollar in aid that they receive (State of the World 2003, World Watch Institute). It is estimated that poor nations actually subsidise the rich nations to the tune of nearly $200 billion per year. It seems that the current models of aid for low income countries are playing the role of the sheep in wolves clothing. These measures seem disrespectful and detrimental to the countries that are supposedly receiving assistance, and it adds to the propaganda released by the powerful nations as they present themselves to their voters as working for a better world, and enforcers of justice and keepers of the peace.
Time for Change
There is a long way to go before the world can truly know peace. It seems that the only way it can be achieved is if those in power are prepared to change the structures that prevent many billions of people having the right to the basic welfare and rights that citizens of the developed world take for granted. For governments to even recognise this would be to acknowledge global injustice.
The task at hand is mammoth in scale, entailing a very practical implementation of the principle of sharing at all levels of society, generating world goodwill and ultimately, peace. We at STWR believe that this is an inevitable process, since there is an ever growing body of people who understand the issues, alongside the formulation of numerous socio-economic models that provide answers to some of the most pressing problems. The people behind these movements represent diverse approaches to the same fundamental issue - that of global injustice, the enemy of world peace.
STWR are actively involved in the establishment of this global citizen’s movement and we invite you to use the resources on our website for information and inspiration for yourself and those you know.