Armed conflict is in decline all over the world, and one the principal reasons is the success of the United Nations in preventing war, according to the Commission on Human Security, an institute Co-Chaired by Sadako Ogata, former UN High Commissioner for Refugees and Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge in a report entitled War and Peace in the 21st Century. (Hat tip: Shrinkwrapped)
The key points are summarized in the report's overview:
- The number of armed conflicts around the world has declined by more than 40% since the early 1990s
- armed secessionist conflicts are at their lowest point since 1976
- Notwithstanding the horrors of Rwanda, Srebrenica and elsewhere, the number of genocides and politicides plummeted by 80% between the 1988 high point and 2001
- International crises, often harbingers of war, declined by more than 70% between 1981 and 2001
- The dollar value of major international arms transfers fell by 33% between 1990 and 2003. Global military expenditure and troop numbers declined sharply in the 1990s as well.
- The number of refugees dropped by some 45% between 1992 and 2003, as more and more wars came to an end
- Five out of six regions in the developing world saw a net decrease in core human rights abuses between 1994 and 2003
- The period since the end of World War II is the longest interval of uninterrupted peace between the major powers in hundreds of years.
- The number of actual and attempted military coups has been declining for more than 40 years. In 1963 there were 25 coups and attempted coups around the world, the highest number in the post–World War II period. In 2004 there were only 10 coup attempts—a 60% decline. All of them failed.
- "International terrorism is the only form of political violence that appears to be getting worse, but the data are contested"
The BBC notes that "The report credits intervention by the United Nations, plus the end of colonialism and the Cold War, as the main reasons for the decline in conflict." Not everyone agrees that these were the causal factors. Owen Greene, director of the Centre for International Co-operation and Security at Bradford University "cast doubt on its praise for the United Nations, saying the international body had been more successful at preventing conflicts from resuming than starting in the first place. 'Its record in preventing large-scale conflict has been rather poor'" he said.
Shrinkwrapped thinks two major factors are responsible for what is, by historical standards, an epidemic of peace:
- the fall of the expansionist, imperialist, communist, USSR; and
- the ascendance of a non-expansionist, non-imperialist power "despite the desperate claims and hysterical charges from the left"
The Commission on Human Security notes that the media has been remarkably oblivious to this surprising trend towards peace. That's not surprising given that probably nowhere has the process lauded by the Commission on Human Security been more in evidence than in Afghanistan, and more studiously ignored. The UNHCR itself admits that "more than 3.5 million Afghans have returned to their homeland since the end of 2001", one of the most remarkable reversals of refugee flows in history -- and then gives the credit to the United Nations -- "when the Bonn Agreement set Afghanistan on the long and bumpy road to political stability and socio-economic development." But what else happened in that time frame? Inquiring minds want to know.
Kofi Annan has recently made it known that he was for elections in Iraq all along. The restoration of constitutional rule in Iraq is destined to become yet another feather in the cap of the World Organization.
"The secretary-general pays tribute to the courage of the Iraqi people and congratulates the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, as well as the thousands of Iraqi election workers and monitors, on having organized and carried out the referendum in such challenging circumstances," said the spokesman, Stephane Dujarric. The world organization had an electoral assistance team in Iraq to help with preparations leading up to the voting and continuing through the tally.
A Korean professor of Peace Studies published a syllabus in 2005 outlining the principal lessons underlying the remarkable spread of world peace.
1. Diplomacy, Negotiations and Conflict Resolution
2. Peace through Strength?
3. Disarmament and Arms Control
4. International Organizations
5. International Law
6. World Government
7. Ethical and Religious Perspectives
8. World Peace Model
9. World Peace through Pax UN