THE JAKARTA POST
APLN Chair Marty Natalegawa writes for the Jakarta Post and argues that convening a global Summit for Peace is necessary to prioritize dialogue as a means to address and manage conflict situations. The original article can be accessed here (paywall).
Our world stands at a precipice.
Conflicts – simmering as well as open – permeate. The heart-rendering situation in Gaza is merely the latest. Few regions have been exempted from conflicts. The human costs have been incalculable. Predictably, the most vulnerable, children especially, have borne the brunt of sufferings. Generations knowing nothing but conflicts; deprived of their inherent rights simply to be children. Millions of innocent civilians internally displaced or seeking refuge in distant lands, victims of power plays, often conveniently forgotten. Material gains made during intermittent periods of peace instantly perish as weapons of war demonstrate their immense destructive capacities. The advent of so-called “smart weapons” cannot hide the reality about the indiscriminate nature of weapons of war. Nothing justifies the bombings of hospitals and of homes caring for and providing shelter for civilians.
Amidst such inexplicable rampage, global common issues that demand cooperative partnership among nations – eradication of poverty, addressing climate change and preparing for natural disasters and promoting public health, to cite a few – remain forlorn. Far from rallying around common causes, nations have found capacities to inject the competitive dynamics of their geopolitical rivalries to such areas; “weaponizing” issues that deserve better. The memory of the travails of the recent Covid pandemic, once reminding of humanity’s stake in its common future – of human security – is fast fading into the distant.
The ails of our age.
Yet, precisely at such desperate times, diplomacy and dialogue as means to address common challenges are facing headwinds. Far from being prioritized, whenever crisis occur between nations or within nations, diplomacy and dialogue often becomes the first casualty. To project resolve and register protest, communications between stakeholders are halted. War drums sounded – military solutions preferred. Promises of military assistance and support publicly and readily made. This despite substantial body of evidence of the limitations of the use of force in achieving stable and sustained peace; how the use military force begets less and not more security, unleashing a cycle of violence.
Suggestions of political and diplomatic solutions are dismissed as being unrealistic or seen as signs of lack of resolve, of appeasement even. Narrow internal political calculations – longevity of power, influence, and electoral calendar – seemingly pushing diplomacy and dialogue to the backburner.
The surge of diplomacy once promised, remains precisely that, a mere promise. Multilateral organizations, once promising to end the scourge of war, remain sidelined, frayed and struggling for relevance. The interests of so-called major powers in some of the world’s deadliest conflicts assure that these largely remain out of bounds for multilateral organizations, such as the United Nations, to address. In such conflicts, the United Nations must be credited for its valiant efforts to deal with their humanitarian ramifications. However, given the deep divisions among its Member States, the United Nations seems powerless to address the root causes of conflicts. It is damming evidence of the contemporary world that ambitions are capped at establishing humanitarian “corridor” or humanitarian “pause”; and at appeals to those wielding force to “minimize” casualties among civilians.
Ours is a world bereft of cooperative leadership. Of decision-makers and states willing to do more than simply describe the carnage all around us, offering rhetorical flourish to express concerns and yet absent of concrete steps.
It is time that leaders of states – likeminded in their believe in the efficacy of diplomacy and dialogue as means to address and manage conflict situations – to stand up and be counted. For an extraordinary Summit for Peace to be convened. Not to bicker on where to apportion blame and to shift responsibilities. Nor to unrealistically assume that the specific conflict situations we face are ripe for easy solutions. Instead, simply to make a clarion call to cease all forms of violence and use of force, without prejudice to the respective positions of the conflicting parties. To create conditions conducive for much-needed negotiations and political settlement to take place. To place diplomacy and dialogue as the preferred modality to address the myriad issues of our time. To unleash a surge in diplomacy.
There is no time to waste.
Image: Collapse: A Palestinian civil defense member stands through a crack in a collapsed building hit by Israeli bombardment while searching for victims and survivors, in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on Oct. 19, 2023. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)