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Let’s give peace a better chance!

November 22nd,2023 | Valley Voices

By Dr. Peter Langille

Israel and Gaza are in the news this month, while wild violence continues in Sudan, Yemen, Armenia, Mali, Myanmar, Tigray, Haiti, Ukraine and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There is also the danger of larger conflicts with geo-political confrontation and a new arms race dominating the agenda of the ‘great’ powers. Further confrontation is a lose-lose game, irrespective of how it’s played. If it goes hot and nuclear, most die; if it lingers into the long term, there won’t be sufficient resources to address our climate emergency.   

There’s too little thought on how to prevent armed conflict. Despite UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ pleas for “big and bold” ideas, the new UN Agenda for Peace offered little hope and passed the buck back onto the member states for prevention, protection, peace operations and disarmament. Yet our future, if there is to be one, will depend on far deeper cooperation and a far more effective UN, one with a capacity to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”

Last year, an initiative from Farm Point attracted interest: a proposed UN Emergency Peace Service (UNEPS) was selected by the Global Futures Forum (out of 40 proposals submitted) and is now part of the People’s Pact For the Future, to be raised at the 2024 UN Summit of the Future.

Much as we rely on prompt, professional help when there is an emergency in our community, the world urgently needs a UN 911 service. That’s the idea behind a UNEPS: a service specifically designed to respond rapidly and reliably to prevent armed conflict, protect civilians, address human needs and encourage wider disarmament.

UNEPS is to complement existing UN arrangements with a standing “first responder” – a multidimensional group of civilians, police and military elements – in a multifunctional capacity. Rather than rely on slow contributions from risk-averse UN member states, this service is to draw on dedicated individuals recruited, screened, selected, trained and hired on a basis similar to UN civil servants. It’s also to be gender-equitable, which would help to raise standards system-wide and improve the prospects for peacebuilding and conflict resolution. 

This is not a radical proposal. The idea stemmed from an earlier Government of Canada report, “Towards A Rapid Reaction Capability For The United Nations”, submitted to the UN General Assembly. Unfortunately, it’s only in the aftermath of tragic wars and/or genocides that the UN member states consider substantive reforms and new approaches. 

The UNEPS idea is no panacea, just one overdue step toward a UN-centred, global peace system, one that may yet help save millions of lives and trillions of dollars. With wider support and solidarity, it might even give peace a better chance.   

Dr. Peter Langille specializes in peace and conflict studies, UN peace operations and independent analysis of defence and security policy. He developed the concept, case, model and plans for the proposed UN Emergency Peace Service. He lives in Farm Point and can be reached at hpl@globalcommonsecurity.org.

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