Rethinking variables of global peace and conflict | By Syed Wajahat Ali


Rethinking variables of global peace and conflict

HISTORICALLY, since humans have started shaping identities and evaluating their needs and resources, the globe had never been Dante’s utopia in absolute peace.

Presently, however, the implications of conflict, its velocity and intensity are unprecedented.

The UN reports that two billion people live in conflict-affected areas worldwide. During the last year, 84 million people were forcibly displaced because of conflict, violence and human rights violations.

The worst affected areas are Afghanistan, Ethiopia’s Tigray region, South Sudan, Syria, Palestine, Yemen and Ukraine.

The world has become so interdependent that it has never been before; consequently, the translation of economic, political and cultural impacts of conflict has become a matter of days.

Supply chain disruption, energy shortage, less international capital mobility, sanctions and unidentified risks, all accounted for drifting the global economy from inflation towards stagflation and deflation—a path to another great depression.

Climate catastrophes (flloods, droughts) and pandemics add to the gravity of the strain—leading to violence (Haiti), protests (Argentina) political uprisings (Tunisia) and regime toppling (Sri Lanka).

“The risks of recession are rising,” said Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the IMF. The IMF downgraded the world growth projections three times for the year 2023 while anticipating one-third of the global economy facing two consecutive quarters of economic contraction—raising poverty levels, loan traps and income disparity across the world.

A huge influx of immigrants has already stressed the employment and utility systems of the host economies—providing enough base for conflict parasites to exaggerate and exploit the natives’ insecurities.

Xenophobic violence in South Africa, Trump’s populism, Brexit results, the immigrant debate during the last German elections and the victory of the far-right coalition led by Ms.Georgia Melony in Italy are symptoms of soaring systemic racism.

While born, living and breathing in data, Generation Z has just arrived. Their responsivity is evident in protests against Iran’s theocratic tyranny. They are leaving Russia to avoid military conscription.

In China, they do not adhere to the work ethics of their previous generation. In the West, they are demanding remote work and shorter work weeks. Generation Z decides, positions and expresses much faster than their predecessors.

The productive channeling of their responsivity demands a higher but adequate frequency of communication.

Unfortunately, the variables and diction designed for peace communication 75 years back are losing their efficiency to do so.

Undoubtedly, constituting the United Nations for peaceful arbitration was the biggest achievement of human collective conscience.

However, the prevailing diversification of conflict signals incapacity of peace enforcement tools to engage with the exploding efficiency of conflict mechanisms.

The UN’s limitations are logistic and political. One major constraint comes when superpowers like the USA which contribute a significant amount of money to fuel the UN’s operations, openly denounce arbitrary intervention at the cost of its foreign policy goals and downgrade the sanctity of the UN’s regulatory efficacy at large.

The conflict mechanisms tend to adapt and optimize times faster today than those designed for conflict resolution in the aftermath of the World War-II.

These systems are resourceful groups, states and individuals with support networks to consolidate conflict narratives using social media.

In 2018, for instance, Cambridge Analytica, a British consulting firm psychologically profiled over 87 million Facebook users to manoeuvre the US elections.

It was a massive data breach. Moreover, the emergence of populist leaders (Narendra Modi, Imran Khan) and the growing influence of multinationals are outcomes of systematic social media management.

During the General Debate of the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, the Secretary-General emphasized “Social media platforms based on a business model that monetizes outrage, anger and negativity are causing untold damage to communities and societies.

Our data is being bought and sold to influence our behavior – while spyware and surveillance are out of control – all, with no regard for privacy.

Artificial intelligence is compromising the integrity of information systems, the media and indeed democracy itself” His statement is equally applicable to political actors incubating and trading conflict by using: 1) cultural identity crises coupled with territorial disputes and economic deprivation; 2) struggle for ideological and sectarian supremacy; 3) conflict-driven populism for domestic consumption; 4) economic interests with an urge to steer the world capital and resource.

Apart from easy access to information and freedom of speech, social media also provides a broadcast to ossify hysteria and prejudice through psychological reinforcement.

It has glamorized conflict through distorted facts and political spins. Thus, the complexity of the conflict matrix has become mind-blowing with the addition of new variables contributing to the social thought process.

Conflict incubation emerged as a more intelligent process after the advent of social media. Well-thought and well-organized intervention can prevent communities from this “Forest of Red Flags”, rightly said by Mr. Antonio Guterres.

The UN needs a parallel support system other than governments to handle the complexity of the challenge.

It is through strategic re-organization of non-regulatory, instinctive and consultative organizations to uproot the conflict drivers operating deep down in the societal processes.

Merely relying on interstate diplomacy and regulatory frameworks is not sufficient anymore.

It’s time for the cultural fraternity, humanitarian organizations, people of art and music, literary groups, socially responsible corporate networks, academia, travelers, professional clubs and all those who own this globe beyond the barriers of race and politics, to re-organize themselves in the fight against this unseen but horrible onslaught of global intolerance.

Unlike in the previous century, merely the existence of such groups is not enough. Such organizations are present all over the world. All they need is systematic clustering of their agendas and resilience.

Rotary, for example, is an organization that has divided the whole world into districts irrespective of the color and creed of its members.

Hundreds and thousands of people have embraced companionship and conformed to a global identity working for common threats like Polio, Climate Change and Illiteracy.

Similarly, those doing films, music, poetry and other forms of art can play a tremendous role in reframing perspectives.

They can help reimagine conflicts by translating them to the third dimension—an aesthetic dimension of human social attributes.

They can act as lubricants to reduce friction by transforming the common sentiments of love, pain, happiness, integrity and objectivity into a firewall of resistance against the oppression of irrationality.

Moreover, unlike the loan and assistance model, inclusive, cross-national, B2B business engagements can reduce space for manipulative ‘Bigs’ to trade at the cost of shared growth and co-existence.

Socially responsible corporate engagement of like-minded SMEs will allow the mobility of capital between the lower strata and reduce the gap between the haves and have-nots.

—The writer is an academic, columnist, and public policy researcher.


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