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Conflict Prevention can (still) be highly profitable

Posted by Fondation Chirac on 24 February 2010

Several regions of the world profited from the ensuing peace at the end of the Cold War. Europe was one of the first to benefit from the end of the conventional weapons race. Southern Africa saw the end of open conflicts in Namibia, Angola, and Mozambique. Central America finally witnessed the end of the Contras and revolutionary fronts. Reaping the benefits of peace in these regions was only possible because the different agreements that ended the conflicts were accompanied by credible measures to prevent the return of tensions: military power accompanied disarmament measures, confidence and security measures, international deployment to reassure those who were disarming. Then, it was time to adopt social measures complete with reconciliation processes, followed by reconstruction, and the reintegration of opposing forces. After, there were economic measures with large sections devoted to regional development and economic restructuring. Finally there were symbolic measures that involved all the moral forces and the guarantors of the legitimacy of the agreement process: political parties, churches, unions, international institutions.

Investing in something other than weapons

There are still large peace dividends to be harvested in an impoverished world  emerging from an economic and financial crisis, a crisis that will have wreaked warlike damages in a time of peace. Across the globe , we must impose a principle of reasonable sufficiency over the desire for ever more weapons. In Europe, our neighbours have unusually high military expenditures. The Balkans, Greece, and Cypress are in the lead with Russia following close behind. Against whom and for what reason is the latter prolonging its stockpiling of weapons at three to four times the rate of Germany? As for the Near East and the Middle East, they still spend as much on weapons as before the war. Not to mention developing countries…

All of this money could go to alleviating social, regional, and public deficits that have worsened with the economic crisis! Potential investments have been utterly wasted!

Inventing new prevention tools

To succeed, we must invent new prevention tools: solid treaties we can trust on issues where none exist (conventional weapons in Europe is a case in point) or guarantees of security to reassure those who are sincerely starting to disarm, such as the populations around the Black Sea. Most importantly, we need exchanges, synergies, interactions between non-governmental entities, and common interests. Such efforts are impossible if frontiers are closed to migrant workers. Nothing can be achieved without a minimum of solidarity, developmental aid, and disinterested, third party support.

A new generation of opinion leaders must commit

However, a new institutional framework for security, trade, and development is insufficient. A new generation of opinion leaders must commit to prevention alongside the institutional elite: those who speak to youths, to women, to the poor, and to those at the extremes. Societies are more complex, less reined in, and directed than at the end of the Cold War. Political leaders strive to capture the media spotlight but their legitimacy is diminished. This is especially true when establishing the particular sort of trust that is necessary for opposing parties to fearlessly disarm during new conflicts. We need mediators with bare hands, opinion leaders at the local level, a dense network of peace and disarmament lawyers, capable of discovering in others a fellow man, a neighbour, perhaps even an ally.

In addittion, please read this article from Jacques Delpa : Greek Crisis: Ending (at last) the Trojan War

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