"If through our wisdom we could make secure elementary human needs, there would be no need for weapons and wars." - Mahatma Gandhi, quoted in J.C.Kapur, "Towards a New
Human Order," Man & Development, (New Delhi), 12/98
The two quotes juxtapose very different views as to one of the conditions necessary for a peace world or, viewed from the other angle, one of the principal causes of wars, wars being defined as armed combat between opposing military forces incurring battle-related deaths of at least 1000 persons for the duration of the conflict. Since diagnosis comes before a cure, identifying the significant necessary conditions or the significant causal factors is an essential exercise for policy-makers. That task is now more urgent than ever in light of the technological changes that has enabled wars to take more lives and inflict more damage during the last century than in all of human history and its future toll may be greater in light of the fact that during the last decade of the 20th century over 100 armed conflicts on the scale of "war" have been raging and the nuclear sword of Damocles still hangs over civilization like an ominous cloud.
Many fingers point to the stress of poverty as a major contributing factor, but both anecdotal and modeling approaches reveal that poverty has not been and is not now a significant pro-active or enabling factor: if poverty were a thing of the past would there be any assurance that wars would be eliminated or even significantly reduced? Poverty is associated with societal stress and with sporadic and endemic societal violence but stress does not lead to war or play a major role in enabling the rise to power of war-prone leaders and their associated elites unless other factors are at play. The causal factors conducive to war-making are varied but all are characterized by tribal, religious and ethnic rivalries that political leaders exploit to mobilize support for war and/or by the lust for money or hegemonic power of the political leadership.
It is exceptionally difficult to prevent the rise of such leaders who, for various self-serving reasons, are able to gain power and are prone to pursue policies leading to war. The way to thwart these ambitions is to create conditions, nationally and internationally, that are inimical to the rise to power of such leaders and, if they do gain power, to make the realization of their war-bent policies too costly to them.
-At the national level of governance the essential elements of policies to create such war-inhibiting conditions are (i) education, especially at the primary level, (ii) a free independent media, and (iii) a guaranteed protection of political and civil rights, in a phrase, democratic governance.
-At the international level of governance the support calls for (i) financial and other forms of assistance that would enable national governments to carry through the democracy-enhancing programs and projects related to education and to political and civil rights, and (ii) measures to strengthen democratic control of the system of international institutions and to constrain the exercise of national sovereignty in those areas where to do so enhances "the global common good", one key element of which is the elimination or the reduction in the numbers and intensity of international and intra-state wars.
The struggle to gain the political and civil rights that would diminish the probability of wars must embrace the economic and social rights that are the other key aspects that comprise the concept of "human rights". Though all three are mutually reinforcing, for tactical reasons the struggle to achieve civil/political rights should be differentiated and pursued on a separate track from the economic and social rights for the simple reason that the obstacles to achieving them are very different. Since the attainment of civil/political rights at the national level of governance faces less formidable obstacles and considerable progress is already evident, a concerted set of policy initiatives focused on establishing and/or strengthening civil and political rights would likely be the most effective way to reduce the occurrence and intensity of wars. Of course, over the long run, this desired objective would not be sustainable without significant progress with regard to the attainment of economic and social rights at both the national and the international levels of governance.
I - Introduction: The Approach
Over the thousands of years of recorded history there have been wars, the phenomenon of men being organized to kill in groups on a scale that is significant in terms of combatants, casualties and destruction. By one reckoning, during that period only 268 years have been free of war and in the course of the past century there have been more than 250 wars. This dismal record has led one writer to observe - with perhaps a great degree of exaggeration - "there is no doubt that world history is largely a history of wars "; and, at the outset of World War II, a renowned economist to observe: "the given fact of the world situation, as we have known it hitherto, is not peace but war and the danger of war."
We are understandably concerned about the future when, in this past century, we have recorded more deaths and damage in warfare than in all the wars over recorded history: more than 40 million, of which about 30 million are attributable to inter-state wars and, in the last decade alone, over 4 million to intra-state wars. In that decade alone there have been 103 cases of armed conflicts of which all but three (Iraq-Kuwait, Ethiopia-Eritrea and India-Pakistan) have been intra-state wars, "mini" armed conflicts that have involved more than 175 sub-national groups in over 40 countries and have created over 20 million refugees and displaced persons. We have, thus, just come through a period that has been justifiably characterized as "the century of barbarism" by the historian, Eric Hobsbawn. In his recent book, Age of Extremes: the Short 20th Century, 1914-91, he noted that
And the century ended with the most murderous years since 1945.
It may thus appear to be overly ambitious to imagine that a truly "civil society" sans armed conflict can be realized in the one we are just entering, and this skepticism about the prospects for a more peaceful world is buttressed for many by the prevailing global economic and social conditions of widespread and deep poverty afflicting about half the world population who struggle to exist on a daily income of less than $2 with all the deprivations that that very low level of income implies. And compounding this skepticism is fear of the implications of the trends that are exacerbating these conditions for the poverty-stricken half of humanity strive who exist on less than a twentieth of the worlds income and who face an acceleration of that widening gap with the onset of the information age that places a premium on education. The fear is that as that wealth and income gap grows even wider, the sense of injustice will become a source of civil disturbance in nation states and of severe global instability. The question is: has this deplorable phenomenon of widespread deep poverty and the widening wealth and income gap been a major factor in past and present wars and will its exacerbation have the effect of increasing the probability of war in the future?
The logical place to begin to answer this question is to identify all the factors, including poverty, that have been the primary pro-active causes of war. Library bookshelves are heavy with the studies focused on the correlates and causes of war. Among the most relevant, informative and analytically impressive are two ambitious academic projects: Correlates of War , under the direction of Professor J. David Singer of the University of Michigan, and the series of studies on decision-making in crises related to war, the International Crisis Behavior Project (ICBP), that has been written under the direction of Professor Michael Brecher of McGill University, "the objective (of which) is to apply the lessons of history to promote world peace.".
It is interesting to note that Professor Singer, in the introduction to Explaining War: Selected Papers from the Correlates of War Project, suggests that "we would do well to drop the mystical concept of causality from our epistemological repertoire." He advances several reasons for this stance:
Professor Brecher in discussing the analytic complexity of the crisis/war issues in a chapter of his book Crises in World Politics: Theory and Reality titled, "Concepts and Models", refers to "a crucial question: are the explanatory variables necessary and/or sufficient for the outbreak of a crisis?" His answer is relevant in a search for pro-active causal factors as distinguished from enabling ones:
It is relevant to note that in this densely reasoned volume of over 600 pages, neither the word nor the concept of poverty is to be found, even as an enabling factor.
Writing in mid-century, Harvard Professor P.A. Sorokin in his acclaimed book,The Crisis of Our Age, attempted to find the correlates of war:"let us," he urged, "be scientific and avoid the usual pitfalls of illustrative methods." In a chapter titled "Criminality, War, Revolution and Impoverishment in the Crisis Period", he endeavored to trace "the trend of wars and revolutions of the Greco-Roman and Western cultures from about 500 B.C. to the present time" and concludes that not much credence should be placed on this type of exercise:
It is evident that there are very serious theoretic and operational or methodological difficulties in trying to identify the causal factors leading to the onset of wars and to sustaining them. This suggests that we are treading in a metaphoric minefield when trying to identify single causes or even sets of causes. We can, therefore, appreciate the humbleness of Professor Singers and Professor Sorokins assessment of conceptual and methodological difficulties and, as well, the cautionary note articulated by Professor Anatol Rapoport who wrote:
Notwithstanding, the difficulties involved in trying to identify the causal factors, it might be helpful in trying to find ways to eliminate wars or, at least, substantially reduce their likelihood, by looking closely at the motivational factors of war-prone political leaders and the factors that play a role in the process by which these war-prone leaders have attained power and how they sustain such power even to the point of leading their nation to war with all its certain human and financial costs for the population-at-large and the related risks. In effect, the suggested approach is to identify and assess the roles of two "explanatory variables" as identified by the Correlates of War project:
In looking back to the history of war to provide a test of the hypothesis about the role of poverty in the process by which nations - or groups within nations - are led along the path to war, it is essential to differentiate the pre-conditions and the events that act as sparks to precipitate war. The events that are often characterized as causus belli are invariably pretexts that are of little significance in themselves as, for example, the murder of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 that provided the spark for the onset of the first World War. We know, however, that the political leaders who were bent on going to war for reasons related to the gaining of hegemonic power and the prestige and spoils that come with that power had plentiful arms and detailed battle plans at the ready, waiting only for some pretext to spring into action.
However, it has long been a common view that it is the desperation of poverty that has driven men to organized violence, to resort to arms. The chorus of voices echoing this view includes such eminent public figures as Mahatma Gandhi and the U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. It has now even entered the domain of hit-parade songs, the most popular of which, When, opens with the refrain:
"When money grows on trees/People live in peace."
The motivation to identify the lack of money as a causal factor of armed conflict is not difficult to surmise when this hypothesis lays the basis for an easy and attractive remedy: if the causal relationship is from poverty to war, then efforts to reduce the prevalence and depth of poverty would be another step towards the reduction of major wars both within nation-states and between nations. If, however, there is a weak or non-existent linkage of poverty-to-war, little reliance should be placed on poverty reduction as a means of eliminating or radical reducing the probability of wars. War, after all, has other significant pro-active causes and, in this regard, many of them would appear to be more critically important than poverty.
In undertaking a diagnosis of the causes of war it is, therefore, important to highlight two points:
And this, in turn, implies two different approaches:
We should consider both approaches before turning to consider what can be done to reduce or eliminate the scourge of war.
II Appraising the role of poverty as a contributor to warsa) The anecdotal approach: identifying the possible roles
of poverty as a causal factor leading to war
i) Do wars spring from poverty-induced desperation
and/or from other factors?
Poverty and war have co-existed through all the years of recorded history but the correlation need not imply causation. Except for uprisings such as that led by Spartacus in the era of Romes dominance and the Peasants Wars in the Middle Ages, the armed conflicts were almost all provoked by factors other than the desperation of deep poverty and/or extreme deprivation of freedom and basic civil rights.
The condition of poverty was not then and is not now as significant a factor as one would imagine. A large part of the explanation for the lack of potency of the poverty factor can be attributable to the psychological/sociological characteristics of the poor as a group in all cultures, particularly their tendency to tolerate their suffering in silence and/or to be deterred by the force of repressive regimes that have in the past and still to this day impose acceptance of whatever fate the political leadership has decided to mete out. Characterizing the condition of poverty "as perceived by the poor", the authors of a recent World Bank document, World Development Report 2000 : Attacking Poverty, ventured the astute observation:
This sense of voicelessness and powerlessness translates into passivity. It is a state of mind reinforced by religious beliefs typified by the much repeated statement attributed to Jesus: "the poor ye shall always have with thee." This is a view common to all religions, a view that tends to encourage passivity, that is, an acceptance of the prevailing state of affairs as an arrangement that is ordained by some higher power. But beyond that, in as much as the concomitants of poverty are illiteracy and ignorance of worldly affairs, the poor become very susceptible to the messages of war-bent demagogues and often willing, even eager, to be the fodder that risks being ground down in the bloody mills of war. And if this seduction process under the rubric of jingoism and chauvinism does not succeed, there is also the fear factor that can be relied upon to mobilize combatants and supporters for the war machine. The common attributes of those situations conducive to acts of war are, thus, one or more of the following: political repression of dissidents, tight control of a media that stirs up chauvinism, racial and ethnic prejudices, religious fervor and sentiments of revanchism or revenge. The poor are led to succumb to the siren-song of leaders who, when bent on travelling down the paths to war, have at their command the power to create conditions supportive of their own self-serving purposes, including war.
The difficulty of achieving validation for poverty as a pro-active factor is simply that, on a priori grounds, desperately poor people in poor nations, would not appear to have the ability to organize, launch and sustain major wars for three main reasons:
war-prone governmental or factional leaders can usually gain the necessary support for war by stirring up chauvinism and/or grievances by virtue of their control of the media, by recourse to repression, by compelling that support through forced enlistment;
leaders of armed groups have recourse to motivation either by idealistic aspirations or by mercenary considerations and to forced enlistment;
preparing, launching and sustaining wars is now an exceptionally costly process both in human terms given the high proportion of civilian non-combatants that are killed in todays civil wars and in "virtual wars" - and in financial terms.
This last reason is sufficient, especially with respect to the financial factor that is a necessity. The statistics speak eloquently on this point. In the last four decades the global arms trade has amounted to about $1500 billion of which it is estimated that two-thirds is accounted for by purchases of the developing countries, that is, an amount that is roughly equivalent to the foreign capital they obtained through official development aid (ODA) has been expended on arms. Since ODA does not finance arms purchases (except in so far as money is fungible: what is not spent by a government on aid-financed roads and such is available for other purposes such as military procurements), the financing of large-scale armed conflict by developing country governments and dissident armed groups has had to be secured from exceptional sources. Financing is also required to gain control of the media or establish other means of communicating with the purpose of convincing the populace-at-large or groups of potential followers to support the resort to arms. This persuasion is essential even in dictatorships since the political leaders of poor countries engaging in war have to divert scarce financial and other resources to armed conflict and, thereby, obviously placing a lower level of priority on the well-being of the people they lead than they do on achieving military-related objectives.
The financing required to engage in large-scale armed conflict is of an order of magnitude that compels a resort to exceptional sources such as drug dealing, diamond smuggling, and/or brigandry in general, and/or deal-making to gain the support of governments of neighboring countries and other countries whose leaders are motivated to help with money and/or soldiers on the basis of geo-political reasons and/or of religious, tribal or ethnic sympathy, and/or to secure a share of the loot. The reliance on illicit operations is well documented in a recent World Bank report that studied 47 civil wars that took place between 1960 and 1999, the main conclusion of which is that
An illustration of this phenomenon is provided in a recent article in Torontos Globe & Mail of May 23, 2000 written by two "international peace scholars":
Other cases in point could be cited as, for example, Columbia (with 12,000 paid fighters in control of a narcotic plant-growing region, the Revolutionary Armed Forces is estimated to be generating about $700 million in annual revenue from drug trafficking), Sierra Leone (control of diamond mines), and Nigeria (control of oil producing region). In most of such conflicts, the political and military leaders and their associated business elites have been reputed to have amassed huge personal fortunes. It is likely that the same observation led an anonymous author writing in The Encyclopedia Britannica on the theme of the causes of war to characterize the current type of intra-state war as "an instrument for gain or to maintain dominance, a weapon for greed and lust for power."
The necessary condition for greed and power to become operative factors in the process leading to war is the opportunity to find the financial resources to make war. It could then be said that it is a condition of affluence - and/or an opportunity to gain affluence for the political leadership and associated elites - that provides the motivation and makes feasible the option to amass weaponry even when this diversion of funds to military purposes is inimical to the interests of the population-at-large. Thus, we find in the case of major inter-state wars that the antagonists were relatively wealthy in the sense that the leaders had at their command the very considerable resources necessary both to build up their armaments and their armies and to propagandize and repress to gain acceptance for policies that would lead to the use of those weapons.
The role of the affluence factor is typified by the accounts in the Millennium edition of The Economist of the major wars that occurred over the span of the last millennium. Commenting on the war of 1914-18, The Economist wrote:
In the same issue (on page 20) the commentary noted that almost three decades before, in 1887 on the occasion of Queen Victorias jubilee celebrations, The Economist had reported that there had been "fifty years of national progress and prosperity such as England has never known before." And they quoted a popular ditty that went like this:
Perhaps one should ask, as some scholars do, whether it is not poverty as such but some dramatic event or sequence of such events leading to the exacerbation of poverty that is the factor that contributes in a significant way to the denouement of war. This calls for addressing the question: do wars spring from a popular reaction to an economic crisis that exacerbates poverty and/or from a heightened awareness of the poor of the wide and growing disparities in wealth and incomes that diminishes their tolerance to poverty?
ii) Do wars spring from a popular reaction to an economic crisis that exacerbates poverty and/or from a heightened awareness of the poor of the wide and growing disparities in wealth and incomes that diminishes their tolerance to poverty?
It seems reasonable to believe that a powerful "shock" factor might act as a catalyst for a violent reaction on the part of the people or on the part of the political leadership. The leadership, finding that this sudden adverse economic and social impact destabilizing, would possibly be tempted to seek a diversion by finding or, if need be, fabricating an enemy and setting in train the process leading to war. There would not appear to be any merit in this hypothesis according to a study undertaken by Minxin Pei and Ariel Adesnik of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. After studying 93 episodes of economic crisis in 22 countries in Latin America and Asia in the years since World War II they concluded that
If armed conflict is not caused by (nor even correlated with) poverty or the blows of economic crisis with its ensuing exacerbation of poverty, there is a fall-back position that is frequently put forward, namely, that it is the increased awareness of the poor of the sudden widening of the divergence of incomes and wealth between themselves and the rich who they see as managing to weather the economic downturn with little or no loss. There have been several such events in the past four decades but the gap has continued to grow wider and wider. The bald statistics are eloquent: in 1960 there was a 30:1 gap in average per capita incomes between the fifth of the worlds people who live in the rich industrialized countries and the fifth who live in the poorer countries, but by 1990 the gap was 60:1, and as we enter the new millennium, it is 74+:1, a contrast of about $30,000 annual average income per person to less than $400.
This troubling dynamic has given rise to societal tensions and when an economic or financial event occurs that further reduces the real income of the already desperately poor, there are frequent protestations that take the form of violent riots and insurgencies and frequent warnings by commentators of impending armed conflicts on the scale of war. Thus, to cite a very recent example, we read in an informative book, Bread, not Bombs: A Political Agenda for Social Justice, written by a well-informed Canadian, Senator Douglas Roche, who was formerly Ambassador for Disarmament, that "modern wars do not just happen: they spring from the terrible disparities in the possession of wealth and resources " In this assessment he is in distinguished company: in a speech given last October by the U.N. Secretary-General, Koffi Annan, observed that
Then there is the voice of Sir Shridath Ramphal, formerly head of the Commonwealth Secretariat:
Two of the authors of the Carnegie Report on the Prevention of Deadly Conflict., David Hamburg and Jane Holl, indulge similar dramatic phraseology when, in their essay "Preventing Deadly Conflict: From Global Housekeeping to Neighborhood Watch" in a recent book, Global Public Goods: International Cooperation the 21st Century,, they write:
It is not difficult to find other examples of commentators pointing to the factor of extreme inequality and adding drama to their commentary with the concepts of "triggers" and/or "explosions" and/or "flash points" precipitating an apocalyptic denouement. While an analysis of the process leading to the pulling of the metaphoric trigger is sometimes attempted by these authors, the description is almost always couched in general terms. They are understandably reticent or cautious about specifying the timing, nature and intensity of the breaking point and the triggers. In an effort to explain those cases where extreme poverty and excruciating hardship exist but no war has ensued, some analysts have been prompted to explain the "no-war" scenario by noting the absence of a trigger event. Others, digging deeper for their explanations of the absence of war-precipitating factors go beyond the poverty factor to identify the roles of three mediating factors:
All that being said, there is no denying that the issue of income distribution is central to the maintenance of "civil society" in the broadest sense of the term. One important facet of that "civil society", as the UN defines its concept and practice is the provision of opportunity for "citizens and groups to articulate their interests and mediate their differences.". As Professor Brecher observes,
When inequality is very pronounced both within nations and between nations, and there is widespread awareness by the poor of the fact that the inequality is growing even more pronounced and, to boot, some measures are taken and/or systemic changes are occurring that have a pronounced adverse impact on the poor, warning bells are ringing loudly. This portends a crisis that, given the unequal power of the rich and the poor as contending parties, is not easily or quickly amenable to bargaining or negotiation. The institutions of governance for a "civil global society" characterized by fairness are not up to the task, but the logical sequence of this kind of scenario does not indicate war as the necessary or likely outcome.
The historic record reveals that it would be rash to assume that the denouement of the trends associated with these disparities in income must lead or would likely lead to violent outcomes of the nature of international or intra-state armed conflicts on the scale of war. The most compelling support for this line of thought is that there has not been a significant correlation of countries with high inequality being more often engaged in war and, to look at this issue from the other side, a significant correlation of developing countries with low degrees of inequality escaping the scourge of war. We can identify a few developing countries that are characterized by an exceptionally high degree of inequality of wealth and incomes as ones that are, or have recently been, wracked by civil war: Sierra Leone and Columbia are the prime examples. In both these countries half the population have about 5 percent of their countrys total income. But there are others with extreme degrees of inequality that have not experienced such tragedies .And, if we look at all those poor countries with a much fairer distribution of wealth and income, we find some that have undergone the same civil war traumas as, for example, Rwanda where the richest 20 percent of the population possesses only about 40 percent of total income.
If we are to help explain the recent surge in the frequency and intensity of intra-state wars, we need to search for factors at play other than poverty and/or the widespread perception by the poor of a gross lack of fairness in the distribution of wealth and income. Many analysts, including Senator Roche in his book, Bread Not Bombs, and Michael Renner, in his recently published book, Ending Violent Conflict., make a great deal of this change in the nature and frequency of warfare. Renner refers to the shift of warfare from inter-state to intra-state as "a paradox of the 20th century." It would be too simplistic to let this phenomenon of frequent civil armed conflicts remain a paradox, a concept that suggests it is beyond rational explanation.
One plausible explanation has been offered by Jan Eliasson, the former and first U.N. Under-Secretary for Human Affairs, former Swedish Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and now Swedish Ambassador to the U.S. He attributes "
This explanation does not point to the spreading and deepening of immiserisation but rather to the cessation of the repressive forces that had been largely motivated and exacerbated by the intense U.S.-U.S.S.R. power rivalry. Related to this rivalry is a second factor, the legacy of a world where arms are in abundant supply as a legacy of the "cold war" and where the governments that were dependent on financial and other forms of support from these powers have been left greatly weakened.
A third factor and an equally important one - is the nature and degree of technological change in communications and transport that has enabled dissident groups to gain easy contact with suppliers of arms and to obtain more easily the funds for their purchase either through seizing resource-rich areas or trafficking in drugs or through other clandestine operations, all of which provide the necessary cash. Suddenly ethnic, racial, religious and cultural differences could be exploited by demagogic leaders for the cause of secession along ethnic, tribal or religious lines and/or for other causes such as the enrichment of the political leaders of the national governments or of dissent groups.
iii) The roles of ethnic, tribal, religious and other factors
- and the democratic factor
There is school of thought that believes the root cause of war is to be found in the innate nature of men, that is, a culture of violence has been developed and honed over the course of tens of thousands of years from the time when hunting was the means of sustenance. Some of its members point out that five of the proverbial "seven deadly sins" - pride, greed, lust, anger and envy - have been operative in almost all cases of war-making since these "sins" seem to have been the attributes of almost all the political leaders and their associated elites who have led their nations or groups to engage in armed conflict. The philosopher, Hobbes believed that "man is born to seek power" and this view is echoed by a renowned American political scientist, Hans Morgenthau, who believed that
Professor Piotr Sorokin in his book, The Crisis of our Age, has pointed his finger at "sensate man" as the guilty party:"The real culprit:," he concludes after his ambitious study, "is sensate man himself, with his sensate culture and society."
The conclusion that follows from this line of reasoning with regard to innate attributes - or culturally-acquired ones - is that war will always be with us because of the innateness or the difficulty of changing cultural attributes. Though this hypothesis may have applicability to societal violence such as riots and other forms of civil disturbance - as Professor Brecher observes in summing up the findings of the International Crisis Behavior Project - there is no way to validate it with regard to organized warfare. There are reasons to believe the opposite with regard to war by noting that there have been periods of history lasting thousands of years when parts of "the civilized world" did act civilized in the sense that communities lived in peace with their neighbors as, for example, the civilizations of the Danube basin and the Minoan in Crete.
True, that was long ago before the advent of the agricultural and industrial revolutions, but such examples indicate that the attributes of bellicosity are not innate and that the focus needs to be placed on the nature of the civilizations that made raiding and conquest a common characteristic from the time of the Mongols, the Vikings, the Assyrians and the Egyptians, and, in the modern era, the Belgians, the British, the Dutch, the French, the Portugese, the Russians, the Japanese - and the Americans, all of whom went to war in pursuit of an expanded "zone of influence" or "empire." The nations with military and economic power have long engaged in wars for the purpose of imposing regimes on less powerful nations, thereby enabling them to exact tribute for the benefit of the ruling elites of the colonizing powers.
The empire-building powers that engaged in armed conflict with each other - and with the conquered - carved up most of Africa, Asia and Latin America, leaving them with national borders that had little or no regard to ethnic, racial or religious differences and other factors relevant to their viability as future sovereign nations. This was tantamount to leaving a legacy of a figurative time-bomb that would probably explode into war, first, in the form of armed conflicts in which the people of these "colonies" would fight to achieve independence either through armed conflict or by mutual agreements forged under threat of armed conflict, and, second, in the form of armed conflict within and between these former colonies along tribal, ethnic or religious lines. The current wars in sub-Saharan Africa provide the most egregious example of this terrible legacy.
Apart from the mercenary motivation of armed conflict and the forms it has taken, it should occasion little surprise to note that most of the major armed conflicts of the last decade including many still being waged today - are characterized as overwhelmingly religious, tribal and ethnic in nature, often, but not always, as a cover for the profitable illicit operations. There is a wide geographic range in the occurrence of these conflicts. An incomplete list of afflicted countries and regions can attest to this geographic phenomenon: Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Cambodia, Colombia, Congo, Cyprus, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Guatemala, Haiti, Iraq, Kuwait, Liberia, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia and, as well, the Balkans and Middle East. There are some common features of most of the nations that are or have been afflicted in the past few decades by large-scale sustained armed conflict:
This points to one of the major root causes of war: failures and weaknesses that are to be found in the realm of governance. This is evident when the probability of armed conflict is greater
The verification of this lies in the findings of the research conducted by the World Bank that reveals a greater than 50/50 chance of a nation being racked by civil war if it has suffered that fate in the recent past - and substantial change in governance has not occurred. This suggests that the search for a factor with a strong correlation with war should focus on the political process and, especially, on three aspects of the political process:
the strength of the governing institutions within nation states in terms of public support for its policy and managerial competence, honesty and other aspects bearing on its legitimization;
the nature of the governing institution within nation states in terms of the power relationships, or, in other words, of its class structure that reveals in whose interests the leadership functions;
the nature of the global system within which the nations can function as sovereign political entities with the corresponding power to engage in war as a "right" sanctified by long-standing convention dating back to a long bygone era.
The first attribute is self-evident: the leaderships power to lead a nation to war is dependent on public support or on coercion through repression of dissident views. The support of the populace that confers legitimization can be gained by control of the media and of the educational institutions that slant the historical record and, in general terms, incite a blind chauvinism supportive of "national honor" and "the flag." The banners under which people are persuaded to march are rarely emblazoned with truthful slogans. The hidden agenda of the political leaders is invariably well hidden when the political leadership does not have to contend with an independent media.
The second attribute addresses a critically important question: in whose interest does the government function, especially, with respect to pursuing policies that lead to war? It was hardly a radical economist, Professor Lionel Robbins, who wrote in his book published at the onset of World War II, The Economic Causes of War, that
Professor Joseph Schumpeter weighed in on a similar point arguing that war for the purpose of extending existing boundaries for economic gain can never be in the interests of the majority of the members of capitalistic societies:
The third aspect relates to the issue of the power of the leaders of a nation to make war and the starring role given to the prevailing concept of "national sovereignty" in the global system of governance. There is a strong case to be made - and it is made often - that it is the strict respect for this concept that must be held accountable in large measure for the upsurge in armed conflicts in as much as it allows - and, indeed, enables - the human attributes of greed, pride, anger, envy and lust for power and money by political leaders to play a role powerful enough to lead their nation to war while other nations stand by. Early in the 20th century, Professor R.G. Hawtrey, a renowned social scientist, in his book, The Economic Aspect of Sovereignty, articulated very clearly the issue of power and its relationship to war:
To which Professor Robbins has commented very aptly,
The concept of sovereignty of national states would seem to be the main culprit in as much as political leaders in the exercise of national power are, thereby, vested with the right to do what they will within their own borders without regard to issues of morality. Thus, Professor Robbins concludes his book (on page 99) with the observation that
The concept of sovereignty is the legacy of the Treaty of Westphalia that was signed in 1648 and reinforced at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The case with respect to the profound implications this has for warfare in the modern era is also made eloquently by Professor Kimon Valaskakis in a paper prepared for a recent OECD conference on global governance in which he characterizes the Westphalian agreement as
It is fair to conclude that the unquestioning acceptance of this concept has enabled war-prone leaders of nations to believe that they have a legitimate right to lead their nation to war if and when they so choose, and that this view of right and power is not, as yet, constrained by any "higher" power in the international system of governance that could arbitrate disputes or abort unprovoked threats that are serious enough to lead to war. The remedy suggests itself - and we discuss in the final section of this paper.
iv) Has deprivation due to limited and/or decreasing access of a populace to basic resources been a significant factor in the war-making process?
There is a school of thought that believes that wars emerge as a consequence of "poverty" when poverty is conceived as a form of deprivation that goes beyond income to include serious degrees of inaccessibility to vital resources with resultant severe societal stress. This resource-deficiency thesis runs along the following lines: war is one of the outcomes of the juxtaposition of several trends among which the critical ones are the rate of growth of population and their consumption, the growing scarcity of fertile land and potable water to adequately support this increase in population, the rapid depletion of watershed-protecting forests, the deterioration in the quality of the environment and similar phenomena. This scenario has a distinctly Malthusian flavor.
There are many analysts who link poverty and related resource deprivation with the intra-nation armed conflicts that are considered to be "civil wars." Many years ago a vice-president of the World Bank, Ismail Serageldin, noted that more than a billion people have no access to clean water, that a child dies every 8 seconds from drinking contaminated water, and that half of the worlds population, 3 billion persons, have no access to hygienic sanitation services; he then warned that the demand for water is projected to double over the next 30 years and exacerbate the water crisis to a point where "the wars of the 21st century will be fought over water. "
The Economist, in an article in its March 25th,2000 issue titled, " A soluble problem" that focuses on the global aspect of water availability, sets forth a similar thesis:
Senator Roche echoes this warning in asserting in his book, Bread, Not Bombs, that
(whereas) the hot and cold wars of the 20th century were mainly fought over the great ideological divides.. the armed conflicts of the 1990s have been fought over the access to natural resources and the inability of weak States to mediate between the competing demands of various ethnic, racial and religious groups. These conflicts have largely dealt with disputes within States over land ownership, environmental change, water scarcity and food shortages, and illustrate the link between armed conflict and social and economic development.
Michael Renner, Peter Gleick and Professor Thomas Homer-Dixon are prominent among the group of analysts in non-governmental organizations and in academe who make this linkage between deprivation and war.
In his recent book, Ending Violent Conflict, Renner writes,
Peter Gleick, director of an environmental think-tank in California that specializes in research on water, has written about this linkage issue at great length, the latest version of which declares that
Professor Thomas Homer-Dixon of the University of Toronto has pointed to "the significant links between environmental and demographic pressure and violence in the developing world." He writes of "resource wars among countries" as a consequence of the scarcity of vital resources.
Professor Nazli Choucri has written a book called Nations in Conflict :National Growth and International Violence, wherein the point is made that
It is interesting to note that none of the case studies they cite contain an elaboration of the steps or stages of rising tension due to resource deprivation that have erupted in armed conflict on the scale of war. This assessment is shared by Professor Goldstone who, in discussing the arguments in the Environmental Security and Violent Conflict debate, concludes that
Renners allusion to "social discontent and polarization" leading to "political strife" may be true. Gleicks reference to "political frictions and tensions" also appears to be reasonable, especially as he cites numerous instances when political leaders have been exacerbated to the point where they threaten to make war. They are referring to strife-laden situations, but these stressful conditions do not necessarily have a denouement in armed conflict, especially armed conflict on a scale that could qualify as warfare. They fail to adequately explain when, where and how the tension and the resultant stress become transmuted into armed violence on a societal scale. The transmutation process cannot be assumed. The attempt to be more rigorous in tracing the relationship of the key factors and their impact on war-making and war-prevention raises the issue of methodology and this, in turn, has led many analysts to approach the issue through modeling.
B) The rigorous approach: does modeling the process leading to war help illuminate the role of poverty in the constellation of causal factors?
An anecdotal approach as the basis for an interpretation of historical experience is believed by many to lack rigor. They suggest a modeling exercise to achieve an understanding of the process that relates poverty to war. Tracing the impact of all the key factors in their complexity would then illuminate the dynamic relationship between poverty and war. The modeling focussed on the role of the poverty factor proceeds along the following lines:
a societal condition of widespread and deep poverty is essentially deprivation suffered by a large segment of society of some important basics essential for sustaining life such as sufficient income to provide for housing, clothes, food, education and health services and adequate opportunities for productive employment, and that degree of deprivation and of hope - leads to societal stress;
We can even schematically set out under what circumstances deprivation-induced grievances might turn towards armed large-scale violence by postulating the necessary conditions such as the following:
Logical as that modeling approach might sound, there are insurmountable difficulties in applying it to the real world with all its complexities - as Professors Singer and Brecher have gone to great lengths to make clear in explaining the methodology of their models and cautioning those who would draw conclusions as to causal factors. This caution is especially applicable in the case of modeling exercises that deal with the critical concepts of poverty, stress and armed violence that is on a scale and of a nature as to be categorized as "war."
One of the most comprehensive of such modeling exercises with respect to resource scarcity as a significant cause of war is that undertaken at the University of Toronto under the direction of Professor Homer-Dixon, The Environment, Population, and Security Project and The Project on Environmental Scarcities, State Capacity and Civil Violence. The gist of their main conclusion can be summarized in the words of Professor HomerDixon:
The practical utility for policy-making of the sequential impacts of the various factors that has been generated by these modeling exercises is negligible. The reasons for this pessimistic assessment can be appreciated when three of the key concepts poverty/ income scarcity, stress/grievance level and violent collective action - are examined:
Poverty /income deprivation: at one level this is unambiguously a condition characterized by deprivation of the basic necessities of food, housing, clothing, educational and health services and, above all, dignity. Squalor, fatigue and fatalism are its hallmark. But at another level poverty is an ambiguous concept including as it does "felt needs" that go beyond the availability of sufficient basic necessities of life in physical terms to include the intangibles of dignity and hope, that is, the cultural/psychological aspect that is impossible to measure. A researcher well-versed in exploring this issue of where and how poverty fits into a modeling exercise, Valerie Percival, observed that the difficulty of incorporating the role of the poverty factor in relation to violent conflict has led to this aspect being neglected in the modeling exercises with which she had been associated:
Stress /grievance level : on a societal nature this phenomenon has many mothers and takes many forms so that, as it increases, the timing and scale of its denouement as collective action of a violent nature - as in riots, demonstrations, guerrilla actions and such - is impossible to predict. It is not possible to specify the impact of poverty on the form and intensity of stress at either an individual or a societal level, especially if the institutional means for expressing stress - and thereby relieving it to some degree - is not specified. The most that can be said is that reducing poverty on a significant scale - and on a continuing basis - is likely to be more conducive to achieving a "civil society", but, at the same time, the nature and speed of the economic growth that could be expected to contribute to this outcome would need to have the following three characteristics:
Given these necessary conditions, it would be rash to envisage a global future that is free of the degree of societal stress that breeds crime and other forms of societal violence, but it is conjectural whether that stress factor is likely to lead to organized protest in the form of armed conflict.
Violent collective action : this also takes many forms from crime waves, riots, terrorism, civil insurgencies, political repression to its ultimate form: war as the organized acts of armed conflict by groups and/or by governments. One could include under the concept of "violence" those acts that impact adversely and dramatically on the environment, on health, on educational opportunities, on the culture of civility and on other social, cultural, economic, financial and political conditions that, in their weakened state, often provide the opportunity for sporadic societal violence involving arms.
To add to all this, the models need to be placed into a dynamic context since these relationships are not uni-directional: the violence also impacts on poverty and so a vicious cycle begins and it is difficult to know the speed and scope of this process and its denouement. There is not much to be gained in describing the typical sequence of the process in general terms when in the real world a great deal depends not only on the nature of the grievances but also on the remedial options. When poverty is a product of systemic institutional arrangements and there is likely to be little scope or hope of remediation, the vicious cycle repeats itself in its essential features.
Given these conceptual ambiguities and operational difficulties, it would be rash to draw firm conclusions from modeling exercises about the link between widespread deeply-felt grievances related to resource deprivation and armed violence and the way that that link works. Even when similar conditions prevail, the outcomes differ greatly indicating the dangers of generalizations from these models. It would seem more prudent to rely on the anecdotal or "structured empiricism" approach that might suggest where, when, and how we might succeed in getting into the curative phase, the path of the virtuous cycle.
All this to say that if we were to regard poverty as the independent variable and violence in all its forms as the dependent one, it is doubtful if a model could be designed to reflect how changes in poverty affects stress and through stress affects violence, particularly when we need to know the following:
To take this last factor as illustration of the difficulty of identifying the underlying causal connection between poverty and war, Michael Brown in his book, The Internatiional Dimensions of Internal Conflict: An International Security Reader, in analyzing intra-state conflicts, distinguishes between underlying and proximate causes of such conflict:
When the message "make love, not war" was conceived, did the originators assume that the human species has a proclivity to fight as an innate characteristic and needs to be sold on the idea that it would be preferable to love? Certainly, whoever conceived that message was aware that the attributes of greed, lust for power, pathological behavior and similar characteristics often manifest themselves in national leaders who, in the exercise of sovereign power, can and do lead gullible people to war. In relation to such issues that focus on the attributes of leadership and the role of the concept of sovereignty, the comments of William Pfaff, writing in The International Herald Tribune (June 27th, 2000), seem apropos: he argues that rather than bothering to affirm or deny the role of human nature in promoting or indulging violence and, through the power of the concept of sovereignty, in launching armed conflicts on the scale of war, a pragmatic approach would be more helpful; the approach he recommends begins by recognizing that "national sovereignty is not doomed and the concept of sovereignty is not empty" and in line with that, he suggests that we should "have modest expectations that will give us better institutions . not a better human nature".
Focusing on achieving better institutions and, by implication, better policies is an approach that seems eminently reasonable. We cannot rely on the emergence of national political leaders who can be counted upon to eschew war if war appeared to them to be a tantalizingly profitable prospect in terms of either money or power or both and/or if they would be prone to seek retribution for injured pride and/or to entertain racial, ethnic or religious prejudices to a pathological degree and/or for other such reasons. Nor can we condemn, prima facie, those leaders who refuse to turn the other cheek and stand up to bullies who resort to arms, that is, when war ensues for "just" or "necessary" reasons. What all this implies is that policy should be realistic and that a realistic objective would strive to achieve a less-than-ideal solution, that is, to find an effective means of reducing the probability of armed conflict on the scale of war as much as is humanly possible while differentiating between what should/could be done at the national and at the international levels of governance.
***III The virtuous cycle: how might the war-making process be inactivated?
The focus of national policymakers must be on doing something about those factors that are amenable to treatment by institutional and policy in the context of the prevailing global system. Like large boats, global systems change direction slowly so for policymakers at the national level of governance the established institutions and major policy directions are understandably taken as a given, as a "fact of life." Except for extraordinary circumstances, policymakers at the level of international governance are, per force, incrementalists who are content with modest steps in a favored direction. Hegemonic or systemic changes are usually forced upon policymakers by mega-scale events that mobilize public opinion that is receptive to radical changes under the given circumstance. While the longer term is beyond the horizon of policy-makers it is, nonetheless, a frame of reference that is critically important for judging whether the direction and pace of change is or is not contributing to achieving the desired objective of a peaceful, prosperous, equitable and environmentally-benign world..
Like the motto of Alcoholic Anonymous advises, we must differentiate for the short and medium term those things that can be changed and those that cannot - and be wise enough to know the difference. We need to consider the steps that should/could now be taken at both the national and international levels of governance that are compatible with the longer-term goals.A) Measures on the plane of national governance
i) Promoting democracy
At the national level of governance the struggle to prevent wars begins with the establishment or the strengthening of democratic institutions. Many authors on the subject of war and peace have propounded the thesis that has been called "the theory of democratic peace that democracies tend not to fight each other." The author of the five volume study, Understanding Conflict & War, Professor Rudolph Rummel, Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Hawaii, arrived at the conclusion that the political institutional factor is the most decisive one in determining whether wars are initiated at all and by whom. Professor Rummel claims his research shows that "as far back as classical Greece, democracies rarely, if at all, made war on each other." He finds the theoretic basis for this in Immanuel Kants Perpetual Peace published in 1785 and cites some interesting statistics on this matter:
The reasoning he offers for this phenomenon is that
A study undertaken by The Economist (issue of April 8th, 2000) reveals that the number of countries with democratic governments has been increasing from about 20 in 1950 to over 80 today while over the same period the population living on less than $1 per day has held steady in the vicinity of 1.2 and 1.3 billion. As they put it, the trends show "democracy mounting and poverty persisting." Freedom House, a non-governmental organization based in New York has counted 145 countries with over 40 percent of the worlds population as "free" or "partly free", an increase of 30 nations over the decade of the1990s; of these, 120 are listed as "electoral democracies" and 86 as those in which political rights and civil liberties have taken root, though some of these roots are still shallow.
Professor Daniel Tarschys of Stockholm University in a recent paper prepared for an OECD conference has commented
He goes on to address the issue of popular control of war-bent leaders:
The necessary foundation of institutions and procedures to achieve democratic control consists of three essential elements:
a system of education to ensure "literacy" in a meaningful sense, to enable critical thinking, and to encourage creativity.
an independent media that is capable and willing to present divergent views on political, economic and other socially relevant issues and other independent forms of communication that would help ensure accountability of the governing to the governed;
a judicial system willing and capable of protecting civil rights to enable the free expression of divergent views.
a) Promoting education: the bedrock of democratic governance
The bedrock of a system of democratic governance is an educated citizenry, or, at the very least, a literate one. "You cannot have a democratic state," Thomas Jefferson once observed, "without an educated population, without the ability of citizens to know and to think." The challenge of establishing the institutions and policies required to tackle this challenge of easing and, in time, eradicating the educational deprivations of the populace is most daunting with regard to the poor who invariably feel the lack of educational opportunity for their children as one of the most acutely-felt deprivations. This is especially relevant in developing countries, and especially for their rural poor who constitute the overwhelming proportion of the population of these countries. Among other things, the hundreds of millions of persons that live and work in agricultural and forested areas that are geographically marginalized by virtue of the lack of road and rail connections and other transportation and communication infrastructure usually suffer from illiteracy and the related lack of understanding of the world beyond their local horizons. Under these circumstances there is no possibility of meaningful democratic governance. Where some semblance of democratic institutions and procedures does exist in these rural regions in formal terms, it is almost always ineffective in operational terms with regard to the motivation and ability of the populace-at-large to resist the machinations of political leadership and their supportive elites who have a vested interest in resisting change that would diminish their power and their wealth-creating assets.
If democratic accountability is to be achieved under these circumstances, high priority must be given to empowerment of the people in these regions, and that, in turn, implies policies pertaining to education, and especially so - if we take the long-term view - at the primary level in rural areas. Dr. Jane Holl, executive director of the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict, and David Hamburg, president emeritus of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and also one of the authors of the same commissions report, articulated the importance of this aspect of the war prevention issue in forceful terms:
It is almost folklore wisdom to say - if one wanted to be crude in assessing things by financial criteria - "the highest rate of return of any investment is in those programs that educate young girls." Not only would they then be more capable of enhancing their economic contribution, but, as importantly, they would have a powerful social impact through their role in the family through controlling family size and, thereby, reducing the rate of population growth. They would then also be more capable and, thus, more likely to fully participate in the governance process of their societies and this gender-effect would likely contribute to a strengthening of the opposition to policies leading to armed conflict and, if need be, to the political leadership that tends to promote such policies. Essentially, what is being proposed are policies that have the effect of moving the populace that is poor from passivity to involvement and, thereby, to an awareness of how that involvement as citizens could put a brake or, at least, act as a constraint on war-making policies of their political leaders.
b) Promoting an independent media, civil rights and
accountability of the governing to the governed
The need in a democracy for an independent media, accountability and protection of civil rights are more self-evident than the need for an educated citizenry and, therefore, are well recognized. The issue of an independent media in its broadest sense includes all forms of communication. The attribute of independence is important so as to enable diversity of views and accountability of those who govern to the citizenry-at-large who legitimize their power to govern. The attribute of diversity raises the issue of freedom to know and to express views that diverge from those of the governing elite and challenge their policies and, in the extreme, their legitimization, that is, their right to govern including their right to launch armed conflict or to create conditions conducive to such conflict..
The importance of the aspect of accountability to democratic governance is well articulated in a Policy Brief #9 of the Institute on Governance (Ottawa, May 2000) authored by Mark Schacter, When Accountability Fails: A Framework for Diagnosis and Action:
Accountability has, as its political purpose, checking the might of the political executive - minimizing the abuse of power (and) as its operational purpose, helping ensure that governments operate effectively and efficiently.
One of the essential elements in the process is access to information through a variety of sources that are direct or indirect. The direct means is through the ability to exercise "access to information" rights from governmental sources; the indirect is through the media in all its forms and in all its political diversity.
c) Putting the political aspects of the "human rights" agenda for
democratic governance on an equal footing with the economic
and social aspects
The third essential element necessary for democratic governance revolves around the broad concept of "human rights". The political aspect needs to be distinguished from the economic and social that would include the provision of opportunity to enable citizens to realize their fullest potential. The political dimension refers to what are called, "civil rights", that is, protection from arbitrary arrest and punishment for dissenting even when such dissent is organized and threatens the exercise of power of "the establishment." In his book, The Rise and Fall of Economic Justice and Other Papers, Professor C.B. MacPherson took great pains to differentiate "civil rights" and "political rights" as well as "human rights":
The rights we call civil rights are rights exercised against the state, that is, claims for individual freedoms which the state cannot invade, and those we call political rights are rights to a voice in control of the state . The rights called economic and social rights (such as the right to work, the right to equal pay for work of equal value, the right to an income consistent with a life of human dignity, the right to education, et.c.) is a category of rights that began to be talked about by some nineteenth-century socialists, but only became respectable during and after the Second World War.";
The civil and political category of rights happens to be the most effective constraints against war-prone leaders. This, therefore, raises an important question: would it not be tactically advisable at the national level of governance to place the highest priority on expanding and strengthening both civil and political rights?
In the interests of quenching the fires of war this tactical issue is worth engaging: is there a practical (policy-relevant) point in differentiating between the social and economic dimensions of the concept of "human rights" that goes beyond that of "civil/political rights"? In answering, the criterion should be the probability of a successful outcome with regard to the war/peace issue. Professor C.B. MacPherson notes that the joining of economic/social rights with the civil/political rights aspect is regarded by philosophers and political theorists as a "logically indefensible mess" and by the business/governing establishment with fierce hostility:
In any class-divided society and, above all, in a class-divided world, the concept is bound to appear as it has historically been something of a threat to the established order, as was the case in the French Revolution when the rights of man were pressed as a weapon against the highly unequal class state of the old regime. And so it is again now when human rights, now much expanded to include all sorts of economic and social rights, as well as the civil liberties and political rights which were the main demands of the eighteenth-century` declarations (on human rights).
Much progress has been made in the struggle for economic and social rights as claims for benefits to be guaranteed by the state, but the inequities prevailing and even being accentuated both within the industrialized countries and the developing ones and between them indicate that there is a very long and difficult road ahead. The difficulty arises from the fact that the changes called for to achieve the full panoply of human rights are systemic in the sense that, as Karl Polanyi noted, there is a serious rift between democracy and economy." In Polanyis vernacular, the reference to the economy is essentially a reference to "the false promise of market fundamentalism", an ideological belief was then - and is even more so now half a century after Polanyi wrote - firmly entrenched in the globalized economys governing establishment.
This raises a tactical question: in the short and medium term, can we realistically hope to achieve the systemic institutional and policy changes for significantly greater equity that would give meaning to economic and social rights at the level of national governance? The struggle for economic and social rights is now much more dependent on changes in the policies and practices of the major international governance institutions and the major transnational corporations that wield enormous power in defense of the status quo. By virtue of that stance and power, it is exceptionally difficult to conceive and implement those policies and practices that would be congenial for the poor and, thereby, give meaning to economic and social rights for the global citizenry-at-large. The struggle to achieve this greater equity is complicated by the growing importance in an era of globalization of the global level of governance that is obliged to temper national sovereignty for the purpose of achieving a much more peaceful and secure world. This obligation is implicit in the mandate of these global institutions for the reason that is well articulated by Professor Ruben Mendez who has pointed out that
This brings us to consideration of the measures that should/could be taken on the plane of the level of international governance to carry out this mandate..
B) Measures on the plane of international governance
There are many global-scale initiatives that would enhance the possibility of achieving and maintaining that global public good of a peaceful world or, at least, a world that is less afflicted by armed conflicts on the scale of war. The following would be worth serious consideration:
Laying the educational foundation for democratic governance is among the many activities that can be and by its nature, must be - carried out on a global scale. Education may well be a national responsibility but the means to achieve the targets of educational achievement set out in UN resolutions, particularly, providing access to primary schooling to all children by 2015 would obviously call for programs on an international scale both for reasons of the finances and the talent required, neither of which is not available at the national level for developing countries, with few exceptions. The scale of the challenge is indicated by the fact that an estimated130 million children in developing countries have no access to education of any sort - and most of them are in rural communities that are very poorly served due to their physical isolation and poverty.
The importance of this education-centered program can be appreciated on humanitarian grounds, but there is a very non-emotional reason for the prioritizing of educational programs for primary grades in rural areas: the youngsters now of primary school age can be expected to migrate to the cities over the next two decades in the tens of millions per year. It is estimated during this period the population of the developing countries will increase from about 5 billion to almost 7, that 90 percent of this increase will be in their cities where over half their population will then be living and that. the urban population in these countries will have doubled to 4 billion. The demographic flow from countryside to cities that this implies will pose a formidable challenge in terms of raising the necessary capital to provide enough opportunities for their productive employment and, as well, to provide the sanitation and other essential urban infrastructure that is very capital-intensive. It is pertinent to pose the following questions apropos the issue of armed conflict:
Overcoming the severe educational deficit thus has additional reasons for being placed very high on the priority list of the global agenda. A response commensurate with this challenge would call for organizing an international effort akin to that of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) that focuses on agricultural and silvicultural research. Before establishing an educational analogue of CGIAR it would seem both desirable and necessary to launch an internationally-sponsored study to determining the desirablility and the feasibility of undertaking an international program of research to a) bring down the cost of the hardware, b) desig educational programs through the collaboration of the worlds leading pedagogical talents, and c) train the required number of teachers in distance education techniques that would enable them to reach children in the rural primary schools where the need is greatest..
b)Shifting development assistance towards issues
of governance to strengthen democracy
Increasing the allocations of ODA towards programs and projects designed to strengthen the various facets of democratic governance in recipient nations would help accelerate the trend towards democratic governance in both form and substance in all developing countries. This program of assistance takes the form of advising on the design and operations of the parliamentary or congressional branches of governments vis a vis the executive and the judiciary branches, advising on the institutions and practices of the justice system to assure the rule of law and other measures that would strengthen civil society as, for example, providing financial and other forms of support for human rights institutions through programs to raise awareness of violations of human rights. This, in turn, calls for measures to encourage the effective participation of citizens in civic affairs and, in doing so, make it more difficult for demagogic leaders to win support for policies conducive to armed conflict.
Since it is the weakness of the institutions of governance that is a major factor in the rise of secessionist and/or rebel groups that, whatever their original motivation, are essentially brigands in time if only to ensure adequate financing that leads to corruption in the broadest sense, this organizational and democratic deficiency needs to be addressed. The World Bank and other bilateral donor agencies have come to recognize that capacity-building for democratic governance is an essential element of a policy package that, in turn, could improve economic and judicial performance with respect to advancing human rights in the broadest sense that includes both a legal, a socio-economic and a cultural dimension. Thus, more aid is tending to flow in support of these "soft" types of programs and projects that strengthen democratic control World Bank research has revealed that the risk of armed conflict can be substantially reduced - by as much as 30% in terms of the probability of repetition of civil wars in developing countries - by an approach that i) strengthens control of resource markets to deny access to the funds that finance civil wars, ii) increases aid flows for developmental and peace-strengthening initiatives within a framework of "policy reform."
The effort is still extremely inadequate in relation to the challenge. A large part of the reason for this inadequacy is to be found in systemic resistance: on the side of the recipients that are wary of the threat to their "sovereignty"; And on the donor side, of the threat to the existing managerial culture that has tended to emphasize the criterion of a successful manager as one who achieves the greatest financial throughput, the equivalent of sales, a bias that tends to tilt the lending towards the more capital intensive programs and away from those programs and projects that help the poor and the cause of human rights and democratization. That bias in donor agencies has been recognized, but little has been done to make the changes that are required on the part of both the leadership and the staff of these organizations, including the international ones. They are, after all, the creatures of the major donor countries that, in the final analysis, exercise a large measure of control over the management of these institutions in terms of broad policy directions and mode of management, though not day-to-day operations.
c) Democratizing the institutions and procedures for decision-
making at the level of global governance
The "control" aspect bears emphasis since at present overwhelming power is being exercised by the major industrialized countries within the international organizations and through the meetings of heads of state of the so-called Group of 8 and the financial ministers of these eight countries that act as the governing boards of the global economic/financial system. The original focus of these "summit meetings" were issues related to financial, trade and investment, and macro-economic policy, but only of late has the agenda broadened to include such subjects as the arms trade and the related issue of gaining control of some aspects of the diamonds trade, other conflict prevention and peace-keeping issues, and reform of the UN system. Even countries such as Brazil, China and India are excluded from these discussions that have global affairs as its scope of concern. The reason this membership aspect needs emphasis is simply that any realistic hope that the prevailing global economic/financial system that is labeled "globalization" is ever to work for the benefit of the global community-at-large, the democratic attribute of broad involvement in decision-making is an essential pre-condition.
The advantage of this broadening of membership should be self-evident in as much as it would enhance the chances that there would be greater acceptance and follow-through on decisions entailing constraints on the sovereignty of national governments in key aspects of governance for the common good. The reason for this optimistic expectation is that "the common good" to be achieved would then be more broadly conceived than if reliance were to be placed, as now, on only the self-interest of the economically powerful nations alone. In the view of several commentators achieving greater democracy in the sphere of global governance could be a step that could "jump-start change":
Bolder measures would then likely ensue that could weaken the sovereignty stance and strengthen adherence to the spirit of the UN charter with its emphasis on the global good. This could enable the UN to more effectively address those underlying causes of armed conflict related to the greed and lust for power by ruling elites and by tribal, ethnic and leaders who have too often exploited their positions of power for their own ends and, in doing so, leading their nations to war.
ii) Curbing the flow of weapons
There is second set of measures worth considering, one with a more immediate payoff, namely, measures to curb the flow of weapons to the belligerents engaged in these armed conflicts. There is a burgeoning weapons trade with warlords who have secured the funds to pay for the arms by the looting of easily portable rough diamonds, narcotic plants, precious stones and such resources found in areas under their military command. The importance and the difficulty of stopping this trade is suggested in an article titled, "War and money: the business of conflict", inThe Economist , (March 4th, 2000), where it is observed that
The answer to that question would seem to be that greed for money and power has long been one of the major causes of wars and with respect to new wars, the role of these factors is even greater thanks in large part to technological advances in communications and transport that make it easier to conduct this kind of trade, and, to a lesser degree, thanks to the fact that the sinews of the established governments of the very poor countries have been greatly weakened by lack of funds, a damage compounded by the fact that their governance institutions are generally already fragile with debilitation stemming from managerial incompetence, political and financial corruption, and low and waning legitimacy in the minds of their constituents. These conditions have created a ripe ground for warlordism to gain a foothold and, under certain circumstances, thrive.
Many suggestions have been put forward to address this challenge. Most proposals that address this issue a call for firm action by the vendors of the arms - and here lies one very dismaying fact: the overwhelming percentage of the weapon systems that underpin the armed conflicts are provided by the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany who, together, account for 80 to 90 percent of conventional arms sold in the worlds official and clandestine markets. The U.S. accounts for about 50 percent of the $53.4 billion of total global sales in the last year of the 20th century and adds fuel to the fire by subsidizing their arms exports to the tune of $7 billion though it is known that many of the eventual buyers are organized groups engaged in armed conflict that have obtained funds with which to purchase the arms through engaging in such activities as drug trafficking, looting mines for diamonds and other resources from areas over which they have established military control. Significantly, no measures have been taken by these endorsers to constrain their own citizens and corporations that are the sellers of arms and the buyers of drugs and diamonds and other booty from warlords and repressive governments.
It is no secret that this trade not only makes armed conflict possible; it makes it more probable. John Tirman, executive director of the Washington-based Winston Foundation for World Peace, in his book, Spoils of War: The Human Cost of Americas Arm Trade, has focussed on the U.S role as a supplier of arms and as a major player in international organizations. He proposes the imposition of "international constraints", that is, with the help of conditionality in World Bank and IMF lending, benchmark standards would be set, as, for example, whether the purchasing country has a "reasonable" balance between military and social spending, civilian control of military policy, and a history of non-agression..
Another proposal has been put forward by a non-governmental organization called Global Witness that would focus on the purchasing side of the transaction, namely, curbing the funds available to purchase arms. The proposal calls for the establishment a "provable product audit trail" for finished diamonds that are a major source of such funds. Some of the major diamond producing countries, led by South Africa, have drafted an agreement on a worldwide certification scheme for rough diamonds that, given their role in supporting many of the wars now raging in Africa, are referred to as "conflict diamonds" and "blood diamonds". At the latest meeting of the G-8 the British government presented the proposal for this global certification scheme designed to ensure purchasers that the diamonds have not originated in zones of conflict as in Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These conflict zones account for about 4% of the annual $6.5 billion value of the diamonds produced. The diamond industry itself has a great deal at stake under threat of a consumer boycott and would likely succumb to pressure and try to institute effective measures. As a compliment to this that would address the vendor side of the equation, in an article titled "Diamonds are a wars best friend...", (The Globe & Mail, May 23, 2000) two "peace scholars", Messrs. Berdal and Malone, have proposed that measures be taken to "stigmatize and sequester ill-gotten gains of warlords who rely on access to the global market to peddle local resources in order to buy more guns and missiles."
Clearly there is a lack of political will when pious resolutions are not backed by measures to ensure compliance. In the case of the arms trade it would be crass to mention the factor of greed on the part of those in the industrialized countries who stand to gain. The middlemen and buyers are seemingly powerful enough politically to sell the rationalization that measures to curb these types of commercial operations would be administratively difficult. This line of argument is reinforced by the underlying rationale for this resistance which is the hard-core reluctance of the members of the business community and their apologists to systematically allow the introduction of any ethical considerations into the operations of the hallowed "market system."
ii)Tempering the Westphalian legacy: constraining the role of sovereignty where it conflicts with the global common good.
A key aspect of any program designed to diminish the probability of armed conflicts relates to the issue of sovereignty, namely, how to resolve the conflict between the national sovereignty principle and the obligations of signatories to the UN charter and UN resolutions. Those signatures could only be meaningful if, by signing, there was an undertaking of the signatories to constrain the exercise of their sovereignty in some key respect when this action is judged to be benefiting all nations. That benefit, as a recent study pointed out, would have one incontestable exceptionally humanitarian component if it succeeded in addressing the plight of
The response of the international community to this distressing phenomenon has been well described by Professor Kimon Valaskakis, Canadas former Ambassador to the OECD:
The idea of a New Westphalian system able to constrain the exercise of national sovereignty with the objective of attaining a peaceful world is now a recurrent item on the international agenda. It is a seductive idea; however, it would likely pose dangers in a world of very unequal partners. Imperialism can take many guises. The Westphalian legacy of nationhood may be five centuries old and under assault in the face of pressures related to the concept and realities of globalization but, given the practical difficulties in this era of globalization with its political and economic imbalances, it remains alive - and defiant. Despite the siren call of the message that sacrifices should be made for "the global public good", constraining national sovereignty for this purpose is a process that will not be moved by exhortations about the common good but will yield slowly only to push-pressures as the global economy grows increasingly interdependent. The politics of vested interest in the status quo will follow reluctantly but the challenge is to ensure that the exercise of national sovereignty is modified for the benefit of the populace-at-large. One postitive element of that new configuration of a "globalized economy" would surely be a dampening of the urge and ability of nations to engage in armed conflicts on the scale of war.
Achieving an over-arching concept of modified sovereignty as an operational reality is exceptionally difficult since it would, of course, constrain national governments in the exercise of some aspects of their Westphalian sovereignty. Over the last three and a half centuries the historic record reveals a defiant message repeated all too often by political leaders: "keep out, what we do within our national boundaries is our business and ours alone - and that includes preparing for armed conflict or suppressing our own people." This absolutist interpretation of national sovereignty has had to be tempered of late in light of the increased deadliness of armed conflict, the outsiders immediate awareness of all bloody repressions, and the significantly greater spill-over impact on the economies of other nations in a more highly interdependent world. This has given rise to recognition of the relevance of the amorphous concepts labeled, "the global common good" and "the global community" and to greater effort to make them concrete in the form of international institutions and processes of cooperation. Thus we now have a plethora of international institutions in the United Nations system with its specialized agencies and "international finance institutions" (IFIs) like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, etc. Accompanying this institution building there has evolved ritualized periodic meetings of finance ministers, heads of states, etc and groupings known as the G-8, the G-20 and the G-78, etc. and international conferences on development, on energy, on environment, on demographics, etc. Targets have been set but progress on the ground has been slow as international cooperation has come up against powerful resistance.
The most dramatic examples of this resistance are the following:
the unwillingness of almost all of the donor industrialized nations to consider the desirability and feasibility of innovative approaches to secure adequate and reliable financial support for developmental and environmental and other global-scale programs that would not have to rely on national aid commitments or on private investment flows that are highly concentrated on a few developing countries and are, in any case, erratic. Two illustrations might suffice.
The "icing on the cake" of these initiative is simply that the financing would be secured from a source that does not depend on approval on an annual basis from the governments of the donor nations, an especially important advantage given the "spoiler role" of the U.S. with regard to any proposal that weakens their power through blackmail that goes under the polite name, the withholding tactic, the use of which has been all too frequent;
Notwithstanding, there has been some progress. International agreements have been reached on a variety of issues confronting humanity as a whole that are directly related to political and civil rights and which are also labeled, "human rights" though the economic and social rights components are given more lip-service than teeth. We have, however, come far enough with respect to the issue of human rights to have an eminent scholar, Christine Chinkin, Professor of International Law at of the London School of Economics, designate the post-second world war period as "the age of rights" and offer the following assessment:
In the same issue of the LSE Magazine, Thomas Hammerberg, Ambassador of Sweden for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, observed that
He cautions that "the battle for human rights is not won", but as Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted there is a significant achievement in the acceptance (if not, as yet, the implementation) of the idea of the universality of these rights and their indivisibility in accordance with Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that proclaims the right to security of persons as a fundamental human right, together with a right to life and liberty. And Michael Ignatieff has echoed the same message in his book, The Rights Revolution.
There has been some progress in thinking about the issue of reconciling human rights law and the sovereignty-based UN charter, as Gwynne Dyer, an eminent international affairs journalist, has noted:
Metaphorically, it may be said that we are at the foothills of a high mountain that we hope to climb. There are some other hopeful signs of progress:
the establishment of democratic governance at the national level has advanced to a point where today the majority of members of the United Nations have some semblance of democratic institutions a rise, as the non-governmental organization, Freedom House, reports in its current annual report, from 20 countries in the "free category in mid-century to 65 by 1990 and now numbering 86 while those that are "partly free" has risen in the past decade from 50 to 59. That leaves 47 countries in the "not free" category so there is a way to go if the citizens of all countries are to enjoy the trappings of democratic governance.
the issue is now at the center of the global agenda in the sense that pressure is being exerted to keep up the momentum. The Lys˛en Declaration recently signed at the initiative of the former Canadian and Norwegian foreign ministers, Lloyd Axworthy and Knut Vollebaek is an indication that presssure is being exerted and new tactics considered, as indicated in an op-ed piece in the International Herald Tribune of October 21, 1998 where the two wrote::
There are also gleams of hope in noting several aspects of change that provide some historical perspective on this issue:
The pace of change is still glacial. Though there seems to be a growing political culture that strives to give primacy to human rights and to the human dignity, this pace of change in concerns and intentions falls far short of the urgent need for action to tackle the deep poverty afflicting half the planets people, the intra-state armed conflicts inflicting a tragic cost of unimaginable proportions, and the threat of nuclear war threatening humankinds very existence. In a period of history characterized by changes of a transformational nature, boldness and imagination are required to meet these challenges of peace and war and the concept and practice of national sovereignty is at the top of the agenda.
With regard to armed conflict on the scale of war, both as an actuality and as a threat, the challenge in theory at the international level of governance is to establish rules and enforcement procedures that would be effective in constraining the exercise of a national governments "sovereign right" to go to war or prepare for war with another nation, or, within a nation, of a groups to resort to arms on the scale of civil war, or the right of national leaders to flagrantly suppress the human rights of its own citizens on a scale and in a manner that violates norms of conduct embodied in rules established by the international community-at-large. In practice difficulties arise in answering the following questions:
who is to judge? what are the criteria for the judgment?
who should have and who already has the means to act on the
judgment? and through what institutions and procedures
should/could judgments be implemented?
Answering these questions is on the global agenda and needs to be treated as a matter of high priority if the decisions are to be made in a democratic manner involving both developed and developing nations in the process.
c) Systemic change and strategy re international governance
The societal stress attributable to the widespread conditions of deep poverty and political repression is of a nature and a scale as to indicate that institutional and policy changes to address this would need to be systemic. There is, after all, a conundrum that must sooner or later be faced: if the poorest half of humanity living in the developing countries were to aspire to close the income gap from the present ratio of 1:74 to, say,1:10 and aspiring to achieve one-tenth of the income of those in the industrialized countries would not seem to be too presumptuous a target - the extra resources required and the additional waste and emissions would put extraordinary pressures on the planetary system in physical environmental and economic, financial and social terms. To deny those aspirations on the grounds of the planets limited capacity to absorb the resultant pollutants or the limited availability of such basic resources as clean water and fertile soil would be not only unconscionable but also very destabilizing, especially as modern communications have made those in the developing countries aware of the quality of life on the other side of the proverbial tracks.
But the metaphor of "a ticking bomb" suggesting armed conflict does not appear to be an apt one to apply in this case. Yes, the trends, if not reversed, will undoubtedly build to a point of "crisis", defining crisis as one dictionary does, "in political, international or economic affairs, an unstable condition in which an abrupt or decisive change is impending." However, the denouement of the crisis will not likely take the form of major inter-state wars, nor even of intra-state armed conflicts on a large scale. Given the relative power balance between the rich and the poor countries and given the dire consequences of war on the lives of the poor, the denouement would not likely be armed conflicts instigated by the poor seeking to better their lives at the expense of the rich. Tragically, the most probable scenario of violence erupting under intense pressure will be a continuation of the poor fighting the poor, mostly within their own nation states as ethnic, tribal and religious differences are exploited by political leaders and their elites for their own objectives, objectives that are usually sharply divergent from those of the people who, for a variety of reasons, either follow them or remain passive.
This dynamic with its denouement in intra-state armed conflict has become an all too common occurrence in the last few decades and, given the policies of the major players in the prevailing global economic/financial system, there would appear to be only a glimmer of hope for change for the better in sight. The glimmer of hope derives from the spreading realization that effective institutions of global governance are needed to address global-scale problems and from the increase of democratic forms of government, that is, the increase in the number of countries that have achieved or declared themselves as aspiring to achieve democratic governance both in form and substance. There is a long way to go with regard to both the institutional arrangements and policies and the strength of the new "democracies" in terms of enabling their citizens to have a voice, exercising their rights and obligations, and placing reliance on the established judicial means of mediating differences. And it is a long way to go because it is difficult to make the necessary systemic changes at the international level of governance that would, in turn, facilitate the necessary national changes. The spread of democracy would, thereby, be accelerated and the prospects of peace enhanced. The difficulty of achieving democratic governance and maintaining it in the face of economic deprivation has been eloquently articulated by Nigerias President, Olusegun Obasanjo, when he posed the following question at the pre-summit meeting in Okinawa in July 2000:
This is a challenge that requires an effective down-to-earth answer. Setting targets at U.N. conferences needs to be backed by the measures that need to be taken to realize them. These measures would involve institutional as well as policy changes of a nature and degree that would challenge what we call, the vested interests, that is, those who have the greatest stake in the existing order of things and have formidable power and the will to maintain that power and the income and wealth that come with it..
Differentiating what should/could be done at both the national and international levels of governance implies a flexible concept of sovereignty, that is, one that is less absolute and rigid than the Westphalian one that for over four centuries has been a key factor governing the conduct of international affairs and in the design and mandates of such international institutions as were operative during this period. A flexible concept of national sovereignty does not imply that the nation state will cease to be the lynch-pin for effective international formalized agreements since these agreements and related institutions need to reflect national interests if the nations are expected to adhere to those "rules of behavior." The leaders of nation-states would have to agree to participate in the cooperative approaches that link national and international agenda for "the global common good."
As a matter of strategy the necessary international-scale initiatives should be designed on the principle of a twin-track approach that has mutually reinforcing goals both of substantially reducing the number of those existing in conditions of dire poverty while reducing the gross inequalities in income and wealth and of preventing wars. There is, of course, an overlap in these goals: the proposed education initiative, for example, would promote both development and peace objectives and should, therefore, be part of both programs. But the campaign to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality should best be pursued in its own right and not as an adjunct to a campaign to reduce the chances of war; by the same token, the campaign to significantly lessen the probability of war would best be pursued in its own right and not as an adjunct to a campaign to reduce poverty and inequality. The reason for advocating this strategy is that twin but separate approaches would likely be more effective in advancing the day when the two shameful blights on the conscience of humanity - unnecessary poverty and inexcusable war become distant memories to be remembered as morality tales of times that should not be repeated and against which we must ever be on guard.