Thursday, April 30, 2015

Silk Road Rejuvenation.

For those that know about the Silk Road and/or the Orient Express train route, there is a great history of culture, trade, tourism, adventure and war. The traditional routes go above, below and through the Caspian Sea. This rejuvenation will also entail energy trade (oil/gas pipelines) along the traditional routes as well as from the South China Sea into Central Asia. With the rejuvenation there is an economic area spanning from Indonesia to Ethiopia to Central Europe to North China. This is a huge area experiencing great obstacles. The major obstacles are the well known wars which have raged on for decades if not centuries. The Afghanistan war stretches into all neighbouring countries. Iran, Syria and Iraq has put huge questions into trade with anyone for quite some time. Ethiopia and East Africa has endured millenniums of strife. Lastly the unease amongst the countries surrounding the South China Sea also has impacts on the new trade efforts. On the plus side there are two major economic forces which are working to find solutions. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) is one force. The other is a new development called the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Now these efforts will employ a version of trickle down economics. We know from experience that the top down format of trickle down economics has not been as great a saviour as we had hoped. In the last twenty years of peacebuilding we have understood the need for a multilevel approach to society. Such a topic will get extremely complex very quickly. The management of this complexity is what will be of utmost importance. At present there are a number of phrases that relate to this complexity such as, All of government approach, 3D approach (development, diplomacy, disarmament), sector security reform, community based approach, micro lending, corporate social responsibility (CSR), multinational agreements and many others. The BRICS economic group has been around for some time. The AIIB is very new, actually still being formulated. However the support being put into AIIB has been rumoured at $146 billion (US$) and that is just the beginning of the pledges. Both of these groups will no doubt work together and that will produce a very large and influential group. During the next decade or so, we will experience the emergence of this new partnership. As always great things can be done to advance our entire world towards peace. Such a journey will have its share of difficulties. Already opposition to the emerging economic partnership has caused rifts amongst countries. Some see these new partnerships as a slow power grab or at least influence when large economies begin to work with the smallest economies. These situations are common place and defined in a phrase known as Tied Aid, which is illegal. Tied Aid is the practice of donating money to a country with the condition of spending that money in the donor country. Sometimes the tie is to secure a countries support on certain topics, basically a bribe. There are many pitfalls and positives as always. Either way we are in for an amazing time as the rejuvenation of an ancient trade route is reopened.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Common sense in Peacebuilding

Often when we are in conversation we talk of a collective wisdom that refers to an easy solution or understanding that was not taken – common sense. For example common sense tells us to not stand in front of a moving object, more so when that object can cause great harm to us. Even though common sense/wisdom can be a positive influence, it is often just useless points of destructive thought. Often when a phrase of common sense is uttered, the intention is to point out a failure after the damage has been done. On the positive influence of common sense, in the realm of peacebuilding common sense tells us to not kill or even shoot at another. Common sense tells us to talk with each other. We are to work out our issues using calm resolve in concert with those around us. What we are not to do is make enemies of the other who is in the same situation with you. However, such ideology is exactly what we are not getting in many of the wars taking place. What does common sense tell us about the current wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Ukraine and Palestine? The first realization is that peacebuilding efforts usually take decades to complete. One of the fastest peace building efforts has taken place in Tajikistan. Japan and other countries held firm to peace negotiations during 1994-1997. A recent article written by Farrukh Usmonov of University of Tsukuba, Tokyo provides a great insight to a peacebuilding success. At the very root of the peacebuilding success is the singular fact that the Tajikistan parties resolved to stop and prevent further conflict. The focus was on the process of negotiation and achieve peace. Peace became a reality when leaders of all put national interests higher than regional and personal gains. During peacebuilding efforts the issue of weapons is a vital component. The solution is easy to speak about but very difficult to implement. The solution is to have a complete ban on all weapons. Farrukh Usmonov wrote about this in the article, below is a quote for that article. “Tajik negotiation, stated to respect signed military protocol and stop the rearming of soldiers/citizens. Such cases are often present in post conflict. Thus, parties had to understand that even if a single citizen has a weapon, if each side tries to hide weapons it may cause mistrust and may add problems to solve issue, which again may harm society. That is not an easy process and it may take several months, however parties do not have any choice but to implement de-weaponization and complete it by given period of time. That is why, military protocol, which obliged leaders of opposition to dissolve their various military groups, were crucial for post-conflict period in Tajikistan.” In many of my past writings the need for a complete ban on weapons has been pointed out. The efforts to achieve this goal produces great results and speeds up the process. Sadly it is rare that such efforts are made due to the difficulties involved. It is easier to prolong the violence than to collect the tools of war. Thus we have many wars that rage on for years due to the laziness of those who are called leaders. Well to be fair it is not just laziness, there is a great deal of mistrust that exists. No one wants to be the first to lower their weapons. The method to a total ban is to slowly implement such a plan. This is the philosophy behind no fly zones and ceasefire agreements. When we are involved in the chaos of war, common sense can help us. However for the most part common sense has pushed us to kill each other. The sense that we need to use is the one that seeks to build a peaceful society. Rare are the situations such as took place in Tajikistan. We can only hope and pray that such sense overcomes the leaders in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Israel and other war torn places.