By Ahmad Mobeen
On November 1, 2015, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, issued a joint statement demanding an immediate end to interstate conflicts, poor reception of aid requests, explicit violations of international law and the net indifference towards the refugee crisis. It is to be noted that this was not the first time that global leadership had been singled out by the top humanitarian authorities (label not undisputed; see below). On October 24, 2015, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon reprimanded the P5, the UN Security Council’s five permanent members – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – on their futile efforts at peace-building, stressing that they “weren’t doing much at all” and that they need to fix the way they operate.
Whats Happens After the Threshold?
There is a reason why the breaking point of patience seems to have passed. The widespread use of heavy weaponry in civilian majority areas have left millions of people throughout the globe displaced and left them shaken to their core.
The almost unbelievable statistic that civilians account for 93% of all deaths and injuries in Yemen reveals the macabre and inhumane picture of the Middle Eastern scenario. Furthermore, the constant violence in Syria has killed more than 250,000 people and has forced some 4 million to flee the country. Out of these, about 1000 lost their lives after exposure to chemical weapons, 9000 after being kidnapped and tortured (both by terrorists and pro-government forces) and 600 due to starvation, dehydration and a lack of basic medical care. All this misery and pain triggered a multitude of debates about the urgency of the situation and highlighted the role and responsibilities of other nations regarding the matter. Unfortunately, however, it was not enough, and this brings us to the second issue that the Red Cross chief highlighted – an unending shortage of aid.
Even the most economically sufficient nations such as the United States have given too meager an amount to the accelerating millions that require it.
The failure of meeting the demand for monetary help is nothing new, as the withholding effects of preferences like the geopolitical location of the beneficiary, historical relationships, and the potential strategic trade incentives have always been well documented by economic geographers and sociologists. The 2005 Niger famine is a clear example; out of USD $300 million annual aid (substantially lower than what was required) flowing into Niger at that time, only about 5 percent of it was coming from the United States, roughly only a nickel per American per year!
Mr. Moon and Mr. Maurer also reproofed nations on their lack of adherence to International law, terming it detrimental to the very concept of peace, worrying the latter might get shrouded in an identity crisis with the coming generation unable to positively discriminate between acceptable actions and otherwise. Basic human rights are being ignored in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Nigeria, as attacks on housing societies, hospitals, schools and places of worship become conspicuously frequent and pandemic. “Enough is enough!”, Mr. Moon pleaded, “Even war has rules. It is time to enforce them.” The current global crisis is a crisis of humanity, no doubt, and the question now becomes what can (if at all) be done about it.
There is speculation that the UN, especially its Security Council, has lost its power as the undisputed leader on international affairs. While this is true to some extent, the development cannot be termed recent: the veto powers, “green room” meetings and the preferential rights systems of the multilateral agencies have been criticized for eliciting self-interest, face-saving and under-representation of nations since their inception. However, this is not an excuse to let it continue, as a serious effort towards an all-inclusive dealing of affairs would result in a more efficient and equitable running of the aforementioned organizations.
It is also worthwhile to remember that interstate (and even intrastate) negotiations should be encouraged and showcased as a worthy alternative to war and its destructive consequences. Although intelligence sharing and policy revising are a welcome development, what is required is perhaps cooperation on a bigger scale. Accepting and appreciating the sovereignty of other states and their physical independence is as crucial as knowing when to intervene and when not to. These processes are not mutually exclusive and the Weberian concept of “Verstehen” (putting oneself in the shoes of others) may very well be advised to the nation states when deciding on such critical issues.
International Peace into Pieces
Coming to the greatest post-WWII exodus currently jolting the world, the words of impeached Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff resonated with me a lot. Addressing the European Union at the United Nations General Assembly last September, she argued, “In a world where goods, capital, data and ideas flow freely, it is absurd to impede the flow of people!”. And the problem, as it has been reiterated many times, is not EU-centric (for instance, the zero admittance policy of the Gulf states remains an embarrassing black mark on their global position and reception). The crux of the predicament is that humanity as a whole has failed. Mr. Moon is correct when concluding that wrong doers consistently evade punishment because (among other things).If the Gulf states do not accept any refugees and refuse to aid them via alternate means (for example, monetarily), then the other states are equally responsible for inaction against the Gulf states. Oil money is good, and so are intercontinental trade negotiations, but the question is, where do we draw the line?
Civil rights abuse is widespread in many of the beneficiaries and benefactors in this core-periphery model, and strict measures are necessary to address them. But in the modern business-oriented world, alas, is it all “strictly financial”?
Ahmad Mobeen is associated with State Bank of Pakistan as an Economic Analyst.
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