Building Stronger Conflict Prevention Networks.
By Rene Wadlow.
As we reflect on current armed conflicts; on which the Association of World Citizens has proposed measures for conflict resolution: – Nagorno-Karabakh, Yemen, Syria, Ukraine-Donetsk-Lougansk- Russia – we ask ourselves if we are to be overwhelmed by an endless chain of regional wars capable of devastating entire countries; or will we help build the structures for the resolution of armed conflicts through negotiations in good faith.
Can we help build stronger conflict prevention networks?
In each of these current conflicts; there is a mix of underlying causes: ethnic tensions, social inequality, environmental degradation, and regional rivalries. In each conflict; there were warning signs and a building of tensions prior to the outbreak of armed conflict. This was particularly true in Syria; where there were four months of non-violent protests and local organizing for reforms before violence began.
Nevertheless; not enough was done by external non-governmental organizations; to strengthen and protect these non-violent reform movements in Syria. Given the complexity of conflict situations and the often short time between the signs of tensions and the outbreak of violence; external peace-building organizations have to be able to move quickly to support local civil society efforts.
Therefore; in each of these four situations; the degree of civil society organizations differ. We need to look carefully at the different currents within the society; to see what groups we might be able to work with and to what degree of influence; they may have on governmental action. Governments tend to react in the same ways. Governments cling to the belief that there can be simple security-related solutions to complex challenges; as we see these days with the current use of police and military methods by the government of Belarus.
The United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
There is often a pervading mistrust between the central government and outlying territories. Such mistrust; can not be overcome by external non-governmental organizations. We can, however; reflect with local groups; on how lines of communication can be established or strengthened.
However; preventing the eruption of disputes into full-scale hostilities is not an easy task; but its difficulties pale beside those of ending the fighting once it has started. Non-governmental organizations need to have active channels of communication with multinational governmental organizations; such as the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) . Non-governmental organizations may have an easier time to be in contact with local non-governmental forces in the conflict States; as both the U.N. and the OSCE are bound by the decisions of governments.
Growing resource scarcity and environmental degradation; the depletion of fresh water; and arable land played an important role in exacerbating conflicts in Yemen. The armed conflict has made things much worse. There is now a growing world-wide recognition of the environmental-conflict linkage. Thus; groups concerned with the defense and restoration of the environment; need to become part of the network of conflict resolution efforts. There is much to be done. Building stronger conflict prevention networks should be a vital priority.
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.