The United Nations 2018 Rights to Peace Declaration states that everyone in the world has the right to peace. Is this declaration achievable?
While far from assured, we believe the strategies noted in this commentary, which build upon existing U.N. resolutions, provide a path forward to reduce the use of war to resolve conflict.
As we approach the start of 2020, there are a growing number of escalating conflicts that could result in the expansion of existing wars and the initiation of new ones. Nations spend an estimated $2 trillion annually on direct war expenditures. Nuclear testing and arms treaties are being abandoned, and an increasing number of nations and non-nation state entities are acquiring more sophisticated and destructive weapons.
Therefore, it is urgent to develop strategies to reduce and ultimately eliminate war as a means of resolving conflict.
Certain steps can lead to the cessation of war. A Year Without War (AYWW), a social movement initiated at Santa Barbara City College in 2010, has the following three goals:
Extend the U.N. Olympic truce for 2024 to 12 months. In 1993 the U.N. committed to reviving the ancient Olympic Truce. This truce calls for member states to suspend war for the week prior to, the two weeks during, and the week following the Summer and Winter Olympics and Para-Olympics. During this time, U.N. member nations could update and develop new agreements designed to limit war as a means of resolving conflict.
Redirect 5 percent of direct expenditures for war to support the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). If the U.N. year-long truce is renewed for a second or third year, member states would agree to redirect 5 percent of the estimated $2 trillion they spend per year on direct war-related expenditures to address the U.N.’s SDGs. Highest priority for allocating the funds will be to those SDGs that, if addressed, would greatly diminish conflicts from occurring. These SDGs include those that address water and food scarcity, poverty, access to education and literacy, climate change, and economic development.
Commit to an agreement to outlaw war to resolve conflict. The third goal of AYWW is to have the U.N. member states develop an enforceable agreement to outlaw the use war to resolve disputes or conflicts.
Would a one-year Olympic truce result in the total cessation of war? Probably not more than the signing of the 2016 Paris Climate Change Agreement resulted in all nations meeting their goals for reducing carbon emissions.
However, as with the signing of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, a one-year global Olympic truce would be a formal, public statement on the part of our global community as to the future we aspire to with regard to war as a wasteful, tragic means of resolving our inevitable conflicts.
Additionally, a one-year truce has the potential of mobilizing world leaders and citizens to significantly reduce war-related activities.
Whether it is this strategy or another that emerges, for our economic well-being, and perhaps our very survival, all nations must commit to the goal of abandoning war as a means of addressing conflict for at least one year. We deserve at least that much.