A good starting point are the building blocks of a well-functioning modern society: the implementation of the rule of law, free and fair elections, a multi-party system, a free press, an independent justice, religious freedom, respect of minorities, sustainable economic policies to the benefit of all, good education opportunities, etc. In other words: a system build on accountability, checks and balances that assures human progress and prosperity for all with respect of individual freedom and rights. With the implementation of those building blocks, peace follows either as a precondition or as a matter of course. Without them, the risk of tension, conflict and war become a serious threat.
A fair number of the world’s two hundred states, represented at the UN, are to varying degrees close or narrowing the gap to enjoy such an enviable status. With a variety of implementation of those criteria depending on local history, geography, economic progress and culture, countries represent a colourful and interesting, though uneven, mosaic. It follows there is no “one size fits all” magic formula or ideology for accountability.
My central point.
Behind those achievements, there has always been real, effective and sustained “people’s power”, manifested over many centuries in all parts of the world against all possible odds, interrupted by uprisings, wars, other calamities but also driven by a desire to break resolutely with the past and to change things for the better to the benefit of ever larger communities. To change things is part of our human DNA. The danger enjoying a society like the present one we are living in is that we are growing so overconfident good times are here to stay that nobody cares about looming dangers just around the corner like the rise of far right political parties in a number of countries, aimed at creating unrest and destroying social fabric. Complacency is the worst enemy of peace and progress: it leads to stagnation and even regress. Peace is alas! also an element in perennial short supply. Europe is currently enjoying one of the longest periods of peace in its two thousand year long history: since 1945, with the exception of the violent breaking up of ex-Yugoslavia, no single European state has been embroiled in a war with its neighbours. But at times peace has been seriously threatened by outside factors such as the fall of the Berlin wall in 1990 and the subsequent implosion of the former USSR. Peace today has become in the minds of many such an ordinary product we tend to forget the sacrifices by countless ancestors to bring it about as well as the message they have transmitted loud and clear over the generations: let everyone be aware peace is under siege every day and all must be done to cherish and to preserve it. Not with arms, but through dialogue, persuasion, talking and nurturing contacts with all implicated parties, with treaties, with capable and trustful negotiators showing the benefits of peace over destructive conflicts.
Examples of the strength and determination of “people’s power” and its beneficial consequences on societies abound: the fall of the Berlin wall in 1980, the end of apartheid in South Africa and the former political inmate Nelson Mandela becoming its first black president, the peace deal just recently concluded between the authorities in Columbia and the FARC- rebel movement after 52 years of war, Tunisia being the only beacon of hope in a tense region, uprooted by the Arab Spring. These events able to create peaceful transition, are little by little transforming the world into a better place.
In a micro-context, many people both young or a bit older, not seeking publicity or recognition for themselves but nevertheless well known to the general public nowadays, are present day role models of transforming societies: Coluche in France and his “Restos du Coeur “ in 1986, the young Abdullah (14 years), refugee from Afghanistan in Sweden, Rafaëla Silva (25), winner of a judo gold medal in Rio representing the excluded favella’s, Daniël Bahrenboim, the Argentinian-Israëli conductor traveling the world with his orchestra composed of young musicians from Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Jordania and Israël, Mohammed BOUAZIZI in Tunesia in 2010 who unwittingly triggered the Arab spring by immolating himself, the young Afghan girl Malema YOUSAFZAI, promoting the right of education for young girls and women in her country, left for dead after being shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012. At barely 17 she became the youngest ever Nobel-prize for peace nominee. Many more examples remain under the radar.
THE FUTURE IS NOT WHAT THE PAST USED TO BE
Compare mankind’s contribution to the world’s peace and progress to the construction of a giant, harmonious and beautiful edifice: since human’s existence millions of years ago, every person is called upon to offer his/her contribution to its construction in the form of a brick made of solid material. Only solid bricks are accepted, the others refused. A solid brick stands for peace, harmony and prosperity, a brittle brick for tension, conflict and war. Naturally, construction works will be delayed by a stock of refused bricks. But humans having a call for perpetual change built into their DNA, the building nevertheless continues to show progress, as the production of solid bricks exceeds the one of brittle bricks. Therefore, mankind must continue working ever harder in the knowledge that somewhere at the end of the line, the day will dawn that this beautiful edifice will be finished.
Author: Amb. Robert Vandemeulebroucke
Ambassador (retired), Belgium
After graduating in History of Art and Archaeology and obtaining his PhD in the Hittite civilization at Ghent University, Ambassador Vandemeulebroucke entered the Belgian diplomatic service, during which time he was Ambassador to such countries as Nigeria, Benin and Togo and more recently Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar.
He was also Minister plenipotentiary and head of the BIT (Bilateral Investment Treaties) Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Brussels and has held many positions of responsibility in the field of Trade and Economic Affairs. Ambassador Vandemeulebroucke is a specialist in the fields of government liaison, international relations and analysis, negotiations, diplomatic exchanges and protocol and, as such, is actively involved in a number of professional organisations, such as VIRA (Vereniging voor internationale relaties or Association for International Relations) – Anders, which conducts analyses of geopolitical events.