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Kosovo and Beyond:
Peacemaking in a Post-Cold War World

Compiled By GayToday

A new study from the Worldwatch Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based research organization, reports that the unfolding humanitarian disaster in the Balkans has exposed the inadequacies of international peace and security strategies, dramatizing the need for an entirely new approach to security policy in the post-Cold War world. belgradebynight.jpg - 8.48 K Photo: Dusan Maljkovic

"The humanitarian disaster in Kosovo illustrates the choice we face at the beginning of a new century: Will we be overwhelmed by an endless string of internal wars capable of devastating entire countries and perhaps even re-igniting interstate confrontations, or will we build the foundations for a lasting peace?" said Michael Renner, author of Ending Violent Conflict.

The Kosovo conflict brings to a close the most violent century in the history of humankind. Three times as many people--110 million--fell victim to war in this century as in all the wars from the first century AD to 1899.

As in Kosovo, most wars since World War II have been internal conflicts. Since 1989, 97 out of 103 armed conflicts were internal. And 70 percent of all war casualties since World War II have been civilians, rising to more than 90 percent in the 1990s.

Given this change in the nature of conflict, Renner argues for a multi-layered strategy based on simultaneously pursuing disarmament, promoting conflict prevention and mediation, fashioning effective, permanent peacekeeping forces, protecting human rights, prosecuting war crimes, and invigorating global institutions such as the United Nations and the World Court.

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"To be successful, these steps will need to be linked with a broader human security agenda designed to strengthen the fabric of society," Renner said.

This requires recognition of the underlying causes of these conflicts--poverty, social inequality, ethnic tensions, population growth, and environmental degradation--and how they interact and push people toward violent conflict.

Governments may prefer what they regard as lightning-quick military action with "decisive" outcomes over the patient and early commitments required for successful conflict prevention and mediation. "Military means are usually inappropriate for humanitarian action and largely irrelevant for peacemaking efforts," Renner said. "And they absorb resources that could be better used for conflict prevention."

Although conflict prevention is by no means an easy task, its difficulties pale beside those of ending fighting once large-scale bloodshed has occurred.

Renner calls for investing in an array of preventive mechanisms: building early conflict detection networks; establishing permanent dispute arbitration centers; setting up an international corps of skilled and experienced individuals to serve as roving mediators; and positioning peacekeeping forces between adversaries in order to provide time and space for mediation.

tank.jpg - 6.19 K Conflict prevention may involve positioning peacekeepers between would-be-attackers and their intended victims. But more fundamentally, conflict prevention is about recognizing and ameliorating the underlying pressures that lead to violent disputes in the first place, from the unequal distribution of wealth to the lack of jobs to the degradation of ecosystems.

Renner suggests that a much greater emphasis on human rights is a critical ingredient in ending violence, both at the individual level and at the level of moving toward a fair and just civil society. With good governance and accountability, there can be sufficient political space for societies to resolve disputes peacefully.

"If individual and collective human rights are respected, then civil society can flourish," said Renner, citing the dramatic growth in the participation of citizens' groups and their involvement in the wide range of issues that are the preconditions for peace.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have scored some striking victories recently with the adoption of treaties to outlaw anti-personnel landmines and to establish an International Criminal Court.

nuke.jpg - 4.99 K And NGOs are now working to launch a campaign against small arms proliferation and to move toward the abolition of nuclear weapons.

In a meeting echoing the first world peace conference 100 years ago in the Hague, hundreds of NGOs will be coming together in the Hague Appeal for Peace conference, May 11-15, to establish a new peace and justice agenda for the twenty-first century.

Renner also calls for international organizations, particularly the United Nations, to become more important actors in preventing violence. But the UN receives scant resources and commands little political power.

And it is now increasingly in danger of being sidelined by interventions like the NATO bombing in the Balkans. "Now is the time to reinvigorate, not starve the UN," said Renner. He describes a number of measures to strengthen the UN, such as the overdue reform of the Security Council, to make it more representative of the world's nations.

"It's also time to get serious about far-reaching disarmament," said Renner. "We must cut down on the arms already in circulation and limit new production." During the Cold War, weapons were dispersed indiscriminately across the planet.

These military leftovers are a source for cheap and easily available arms, tempting people to rely on violence to resolve conflicts. In order to be just and effective, constraints on armaments need to be universally binding, applying to all states equally.

Renner cautions against the facile argument that as national economies become more and more integrated into the global economy, an increasingly interdependent world will of necessity lead to growing global cooperation and make military-centered concepts of security far less relevant--that economic interest will automatically trump belligerence.

But this is not an inevitable outcome. Globalization itself carries the potential for tension and conflict because the benefits and burdens are distributed in such spectacularly uneven fashion. "In the end, a sense of global human community does not come about simply as a result of economic structures and cold financial calculation,"

Renner said. "It needs to be carefully nurtured with all the tools at our disposal."

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