As a new year begins, the eyes of the world are rightly focused on the twin threats of the COVID-19 pandemic and accelerating climate change. A similar level of attention is required to the threats to peace on virtually every continent.
People in many parts of the world are living in conflict or are on the brink. Autocrats, populists and warlords are facing off across borders and oceans.
Expenditure on armaments is at a record high, international agreements regulating weapons of mass destruction are being sidelined by the very countries which possess them, new weapons with terrifying potential are being made and used, and nationalist sentiment and ethnic intolerance continue to grow.
The decline of multilateralism and the substitution of bellicose rhetoric for genuine dialogue are potent threats to humankind as the limited ambitions shown for the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty at the UN in New York this month demonstrate. The structures, institutions and processes which developed following the second half of the last century served to prevent global conflict for decades, but they failed to prevent many local and regional conflicts and are now under threat as never before.
Achieving and sustaining peace
We implore the leaders of nations to make 2022 a year of peace – a year where common security replaces national security as their overriding goal.
Achieving and sustaining peace is hard work, but it is work that must be done. Common security must be our global aim so that those living today in the shadows of war, or under the threat of war, can emerge from trauma and fear and live lives of peace and dignity. Never again should we tolerate military conflicts or confrontations between states that require human beings killing each other.
Achieving and sustaining peace can only be built on the basis of security and dignity in people’s lives. As the very first words of the ILO’s constitution make clear, “universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice”. It must be built on the cornerstone of a new social contract, where rights, wages and decent jobs are guaranteed, governments are accountable and the world economy is transformed into one based on justice, equality and an end to corporate impunity.
Central to this is transforming the production of arms into socially useful production, based on a just conversion for the workers and communities concerned. This would make a vital contribution to reaching a zero-carbon future, ensuring social protection for all while including public health and harnessing the positive social and economic potential of new technology and digitalisation.
2022 must also be the year when the world truly faces up to the pervasive and oppressive reality of violence against women and girls in conflict zones and workplaces. The official statistics are bad enough, but these only touch on the extent of this scourge.
Our common security, built on the foundations of democracy and a new social contract, must be the guiding path for all countries through this new year and beyond.