The year of the twin crises

This is the year when we face the reality of a dark horizon for global security. War in Ukraine since Russia’s seizure of Crimea in 2014 and its not-so-stealthy takeover of parts of the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine has escalated with the Russian invasion in February. Meanwhile, confrontation between China and the USA over Taiwan has intensified and there are approximately 50 other active armed conflicts worldwide.

At the same time, in case anybody has forgotten, this is the year of climate change – the worst heatwave on record in China, a once in 500 years drought in Europe, complete with the re-emergence of hunger stones in major rivers for the first time in centuries, drought and record heat in India, massive flooding in Pakistan, drought and surging food insecurity in the Horn of Africa

The twin crises of security and the environment add up to a planetary emergency. The heavy events of 2022 on both the security and the environmental sides of the equation are symptoms of deep, underlying problems. The further problem is that the two crises are linked: each feeds the other.

And behind them is a third problem, in that governments and international organisations alike lack adequate mechanisms and instruments for addressing these environmental and security challenges.

Laying out the evidence, analysing the trends and causes, and identifying what to do about it all is the subject of SIPRI’s report, Environment of Peace: Security in a new era of risk, published in May.

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Climate change, security, the UN – and EVIDENCE

All eyes are on the Covid-19 pandemic and the unfolding crisis it is causing, whose full dimensions are not yet clear. Meanwhile, there’s the climate crisis. It too has multiple, unfolding impacts about whose full details we cannot yet be sure. We should not lose sight of it, of course, and not only because it is very, very important. Some of what we are are (or should be) learning from the pandemic is relevant to the climate crisis, not least the widespread deficiency in resilience that Covid-19 is revealing.

At French initiative, the UN Security Council held what is known as an Arria Formula debate on 22 April. This is a relatively informal meeting so the Council can be briefed on and discuss major issues. The meeting was virtual and I joined Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo and International Crisis Group President, Robert Malley, to provide the initial briefings, after which some 23 representatives of member states plus the representatives of the African Union and the European Union also spoke.

Here, in more formal tones than I normally use in this blog but rather less formally than my last UNSC briefing in February, is what I said.

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International Peace Day message from Desmond Tutu

Each year, 21 September is the International day of Peace, declared as such by the UN. Each day, the Day gets better known. Last year on this blog I recorded a message. This year there’s a much better message to be had. It comes from Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, celebrating the power of words, of simply talking peace. Please use this link to hear him:

And keep talking peace! Today and every day.

 

Development goals, progress and philosophy

The UN’s long process of developing the post-2015 global follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals continues with the Open Working Group working on Sustainable Development Goals. Last week they released a draft. It has many plenty of goals and targets but lacks an overall concept of what progress means today. What might the wise have said about it in days gone by? Continue reading

The conflict horizon 1: Untold good news

Peace is the big, under-reported good news story of the 20-plus years since the Cold War ended. There are fewer wars than in the 1980s. There have been more peace agreements, and an increasing proportion of them endure for longer.

Good. Because the next 20 years will make the last 20 seem like a rehearsal for the real thing. Continue reading

The US-Iranian-Syrian diplomatic dance

The destruction of Syrian chemical weapons (CW) has started. In a breakthrough moment in Iran-US relations, the two Presidents talked on the phone and the foreign ministers sat down to discuss Iran’s nuclear programme. Though the connection has received little comment in the western news media, these two welcome developments are deeply linked and close to inter-dependent. Continue reading

A day of peace

Today, 21 September, is the UN International Day of Peace. It’s a day to think about how peace is achieved, safeguarded and built. It is, of course, not the work of a day. Think of Syria, and how much rebuilding of all kinds will be needed when the opportunity of peace arrives. Or think of Rwanda, 19 years on from the genocide, and how it is still recovering and building a peaceful society. Here’s a brief video of (some of) my thoughts about it.