is certainly a step forward that there is a growing consensus among us
that development, peace-building, and conflict prevention must be
undertaken simultaneously if initiatives at peace and security are to
take hold and prosper.
This is, however, a consensus mainly among United
Nations agencies, peace analysts and practitioners, and civil society
actors. Moreover, the positive experiences in this area have been
mainly at the local, micro level.
Negative Global Trends
Unfortunately, at the global, macro level, trends
are in the opposite direction, towards greater destabilization and thus
greater human insecurity. What are these trends?
First of all, never since the end of the Second
World War have established norms of international law been more under
threat than today. And what is disturbing is that the key destabilizer
is the most powerful member of the global state system. It is ironic
that there is lively debate on whether or not China is, to use the
terms of international relations theory, a "status quo" or a
"revisionist" power when the focus of the discussion should really be
the United States. There can be no doubt, in my view, that the US is a
revisionist power, that is, one that seeks to radically alter the
correlation of global power even more in its direction, if we take into
account the following developments:
- Under the false pretext of eliminating weapons of mass destruction,
the US has attacked the fundamental pillar of the UN system—the
inviolability of the sovereignty of the nation-state—by invading and
- The Bush administration has set aside the Geneva Conventions on the
treatment of prisoners by creating the new category of "enemy
combatants" to allow certain prisoners to be subjected to unlawful
punishment, including torture.
- White House executive orders have unlawfully extended the reach of
the US state, allowing CIA agents, for example, to seize individuals in
Italy, against Italian law, and bring those individuals to Guantanamo
Naval Base in Cuba.
The second macro trend countering positive
developments on the ground has been the undermining of development by
the powerful multilateral economic agencies. Over the last two and a
half decades, the stated goal of using trade policy to promote
development, which was so well articulated by Raul Prebisch, the first
secretary general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and
Development (UNCTAD), has been replaced by the subordination of
development to free trade, corporate profitability, and the economic
interests of the rich countries. This has been accompanied by the
dominant position achieved by the International Monetary Fund, the
World Bank, and the World Trade Organization at the expense of the
United Nations economic agencies in the system of global economic
governance and the hegemony of the ideology of neoliberalism.
More poverty, inequality, and economic stagnation
have been the consequences of the neoliberal paradigm, resulting in its
loss of credibility and legitimacy. However, like the dead hand of the
engineer of the speeding train, neoliberal policies continue to prevail
nearly everywhere. But the problem is not only ideological, that is, a
case of negative outcomes resulting from policies guided by wrong
assumptions. The policies themselves are increasingly followed to
consciously subvert the interests of developing countries.
At the International Monetary Fund (IMF), for
instance, the rich countries have killed off all attempts to reform the
decision-making system to give developing countries more weight in
determining the policies of the agency. Likewise, an already very mild
proposal that would have allowed developing countries to protect
themselves from creditors while restructuring their external debt, the
Sovereign Debt Restructuring Mechanism (SDRM), was vetoed by the US.
At the World Bank, the appointment of Paul
Wolfowitz, whose name is synonymous with unilateralism, heralds a new
era in which the policies of the World Bank are likely to be oriented
even more closely to what the American right defines as the national
interests of the United States.
At the World Trade Organization (WTO), the so-called
"July Framework Agreement" that serves as the negotiating document of
the coming ministerial meeting in Hong Kong brazenly preserves the high
levels of subsidization of agriculture in the European Union and the
United States while demanding greater access to the markets of
developing countries in order to dump subsidized commodities.
A third negative trend is the usurpation of the role
of the United Nations in leading the effort to meet global challenges
by the Group of Eight. At the recent G8 Summit in Scotland in early
July, the G8 staked out global leadership in the areas of debt, trade,
aid, and climate change. This is hugely problematic for two reasons.
First of all, the G8 is an informal, unelected, and unaccountable
entity. Second, it represents the interests of the world’s most
powerful countries, so that the proposals it has come up with for
dealing with some of the world’s most pressing problems are tailored to
fit primarily the interests of the dominant interests in those
What is emerging in effect is a structure of global
governance in which the G8 makes the key decisions of issues of global
import, then has them implemented by the IMF, World Bank, and WTO,
bypassing the UN system. What makes this power play so insidious if
that it is being carried out with the rhetoric of achieving the UN’s
Millenium Development Goals and promoting global poverty reduction.
These then are some of the key trends at the macro,
global level that can easily undermine the successes registered at the
local, micro level by more coordination of development, peacebuilding,
and conflict prevention efforts.
Fortunately, there are counter-forces to these
negative global trends, and to stand any chance of success the Global
Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) must relate
innovatively to them. What are these positive countertrends?
First, there is the global peace movement, the
potential power of which was on display on Feb. 15, 2003, when some 40
million people in hundreds of cities throughout the world marched
against the projected invasion of Iraq. Probably one of the most
stunning achievements of the movement was the convoking of the World
Tribunals on Iraq (WTI) in New York, Copenhagen, Tokyo, Mumbai, South
Korea, and a number of other cities. At its recent culminating session
in Istanbul, the WTI’s Jury of Conscience headed by novelist Arundhati
Roy adopted a resolution that is likely to have a moral influence on
the course of events: it called on US and Coalition soldiers in Iraq to
exercise their right of conscientious objection and called on
communities throughout the world to provide haven to those who heed
Second is the global justice movement, also known as
the anti-globalization movement. This movement contributed mightily to
the derailment of the WTO ministerial meetings in Seattle in 1999 and
Cancún in 2003. While it is best known for its opposition to the IMF,
WTO, and World Bank, this movement is also the site of an exciting
process of generating alternatives to the dominant neoliberal
paradigm—alternative systems of development and global economic
governance that would subordinate the market, trade, and profitability
to the goals of development, economic justice, and social solidarity.
Third is the movement among Southern governments to
band together to resist the continuing hegemony of the North. The
months leading up to the WTO’s ministerial in Cancún in 2003 saw the
emergence of the Group of 20, Group of 33, and Group of 90. The
resistance of these groupings, along with that of civil society,
prevented the Northern governments from railroading the ministerial.
While these alliances have had their share of shortcomings, they
nevertheless offer the possibility of serving as the springboard of
efforts toward greater South-South economic cooperation outside the
Bretton Woods-WTO framework.
Finally, many Southern governments as well as global
civil society networks are slowly coming together around the UN reform
process, out of a sense that while the UN system has many flaws, it
still serves as one of the few existing global multilateral framework
that can counter the trends towards a more unstable and inequitable
world promoted by the dominant political and corporate interests.
UN reform in the view of these governments and civil
society networks is not what the United States means by "UN reform,"
which means further eroding the capacities of the UN. On the contrary,
the progressive UN reform program contains, among others, the following:
- a greater effective decisionmaking role for the General Assembly;
- dilution of the power of the big powers in the Security Council,
including the abolition of the anachronistic system of Five Permanent
- strengthening of the UN system of economic agencies composed of,
among others, UNCTAD, the Economic Commission for Latin American, and
the Economic and Social Commission for the Asia Pacific, to serve as a
counterweight to the Bretton Woods system and the WTO;
- The institutionalization of a co-equal decisionmaking role for
civil society—especially social movements-alongside governments, in the
In sum, we cannot divorce advances in promoting
human security at the ground level from macro, global trends. Some of
these trends are negative, others positive. It is by innovatively
interacting with these fluid forces that the Global Partnership for the
Prevention of Armed Conflict will be able to effectively contribute to
the making of a truly more secure world.