Many new and creative measures capable of reducing the frequency and violence of war have indeed been tested and distilled in the crucible of this century’s countless and ghastly wars and are now available to humankind. Also at long last available for the first time in history-due to advances in knowledge, science and technology-is the capacity to cope with some of the root causes of war, like hunger and poverty.
But is the cause of ending war a hopeless case, due to the unchangeable and aggressive nature of man? Well, there is even good news on that front: recently discovered and mounting evidence, archeological and paleoanthropological, indicates that until perhaps 6,000 years ago humans generally lived in peace.
The bad news, known to us all, is that we also now possess knowledge and weapons capable of destroying so-called civilization and conceivably exterminating life on earth.
So the issue before us is this: Will we summon the will and the wisdom to restore humankind to a state of original grace, to peace on earth?
Randall Forsberg, Jonathan Dean and Saul Mendlovitz-three individuals with long and distinguished careers already behind them in the cause of peace-propose a way to proceed. They have made a new and major contribution to the cause.
Many of the broad steps they lay out-terms of a series of treaties to be negotiated over many decades-will clearly be essential ingredients of any successful and enduring structure of world peace that is created. The details are obviously subject to changes large and small as the world stumbles and staggers-or perhaps commences to march forward with stronger and more certain strides-along the long road to greater tranquillity than has been known for several millennia.
Establishing the early goal of negotiating one or more treaties is an essential part of the process, since obviously governments must become involved before concrete action will occur. But starting with just one important government will be enough to launch the effort, as was demonstrated recently when Canada took up the issue of outlawing land mines.
The other absolutely essential ingredient is the deep and total involvement of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This, too, was demonstrated in the case of land mines in the historic collaboration between the Canadian government and the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. The most important contribution of Global Action, I believe, is the suggestion that the many different and diverse NGOs-movements and individuals concentrating today on one or another of the most obvious causes of war, most horrific characteristics of war, or most hopeful and promising preventatives of conflict-form a coalition to push a comprehensive approach to ridding us of war itself.
Those working to banish trade in small arms, for example, would of course carry on their crusade, as would advocates of banning nuclear weapons and proponents of mediation and judicial processes. But they would also all be invited and urged to work together in a cooperative effort that should strengthen each cause as advances are achieved, as well as enhance prospects for progress toward the more general goal. As Jonathan Dean put it in a letter he wrote to me just over a year ago, “Despite remarkable progress on nuclear disarmament, without more movement towards ending conventional wars, it will be difficult to completely eliminate nuclear weapons. I also doubt that, unless it is imbedded in a broader program to stop wars, the . . . initiative on restricting arms sales can succeed.”
NGOs are fulfilling a rapidly increasing role in international affairs in and about the United Nations and just about everywhere else. Witness the impact of Amnesty International on human rights in the world. Witness the global focus on the issue of abolition of nuclear weapons that hundreds upon hundreds of NGOs are bringing about. Witness that in Bangladesh countless NGOs have actually achieved a form of power-sharing with the government. Witness the emergence even in China of a new force known as GONGOs-Government Organized Non Government Organizations!
Randall, Jonathan, and Saul have now proposed a new and historic mission for these ever more significant instruments of civil society.