In last month’s blog, after writing about the impending crash of the American empire and the window of opportunity this will create to change the global system of governance from the culture of war to a culture of peace, I returned to a previous theme of an Alternative UN Security Council.
It has been pointed out to me that I did not provide a very explicit rationale about this proposal and why it should be given priority. So let me try to do that now in terms of the following strategy and tactics involved.
1) The United Nations is capable of promoting a culture of peace, as we showed at UNESCO during the 1990’s when Federico Mayor was its Director-General. We initiated culture of peace programs at a national level in El Salvador and Mozambique that brought together the opposing sides of the civil wars in those countries to work together in projects of education, science, culture and communication. In one case the project was funded by one of the major donors to the UN (Germany) and in that case the program was successful. However, the major powers pointedly refused to fund the other projects, and despite the efforts of UNESCO and our partners “on the ground” the culture of peace programs could not be sustained. National programs foreseen in Russia, the Balkans and elsewhere could not even get started. An account of the one successful project in El Salvador is available here on the Internet.
2) Our experience at UNESCO shows that the peace capacities of the United Nations cannot be achieved so long as the UN is run by the Member States. In fact the Member States of the UN Security Council are the states who are responsible for wars and preparation for wars, such as the possession of nuclear weapons. This can be understood from the history of the culture of war which shows that over time the state has come to monopolize and embody the culture of war. Other entities that previously made war (cities, tribes, criminal organizations, etc.) have been “pacified” by the states and deprived of their war-making capacity. Meanwhile, the preparations for war remain the dominant expense of the state, and the huge military expenditures of the state have engendered a military-industrial-financial complex. This was even true in the old Soviet Union, as we found out at the end of the Soviet empire. A self-perpetuating cycle has resulted, as the military-industrial-financial complex promotes and ensures the election of a pro-military government.
3) There is a growing anti-war consciousness of the peoples of the world in contradiction to the policies of their national governments. We see this growth in anti-war consciousness in the news covered by the Culture of Peace News Network. See, for example, the increase in participation in the International Day of Peace from year to year.
4) There is a contradiction between the growing anti-war consciousness of the people and the continued priority of the culture of war by the state. So far this contradiction has been handled by the state and its allies in the miltary-industrial-financial complex in two ways.
a) First, they control the mass media and emphasize enemy images and news of violent events in order to convince the people that military preparedness is necessary.
b) Second, national elections have become more and more expensive and hence more dependent on funding from the military-industrial-financial complex. Anti-war candidates cannot get the funding they need to win on a national scale. As a result, almost no congressman or senator in the United States votes against the military budget, even if a majority of the voters that elected them may be anti-war.
5) Putting together the above, it would seem that the transition to a culture of peace needs a United Nations that is run by the peoples of the world rather than the Member States. This may be expressed In terms of the charter of the United Nations, which begins, “We the Peoples. . . ”
6) If history did not have major qualitative, revolutionary changes, but simply continued with only gradual change, it would seem that a United Nations run by the Peoples would never be possible.
7) However, there is good reason to believe that the American empire will soon crash because of its over-militarization similar to that which caused the crash of the Soviet empire. Many other countries will crash as well, similar to what happened to Eastern Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union. This may open a window of opportunity during which the United Nations is more or less abandoned by the states and open to a radical refoundation. In fact, we have already seen in the last few decades the United Nations is abandoned by the major states when there is a crisis. The economic crisis of 2008 was handled directly by state ministries and power was not given the UN entities, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Similarly, the great powers avoid the United Nations when it comes to nuclear policy and rely on ad-hoc inter-state forums and agreements to contain nuclear proliferation. Also, the great powers do not seriously engage the United Nations in confronting the problem of global warming and climate change. As for military interventions, the great powers try to get consensus on the Security Council, but they go ahead with invasions and attacks when they cannot obtain it.
8) We don’t have to wait for the crash of the American empire to begin preparing. Given all of the above strategic considerations, we could create an unofficial Alternative Security Council (ASC). This would be an effective tactic for at least two reasons.
a) Wide dissemination of regular press releases by the ASC would support and strengthen the anti-war consciousness of the peoples of the world that “another world is possible.” It would start them thinking that the United Nations could be reformed in a way that would support peace instead of war.
b) Experience gathered by an ASC could provide a valuable input into the institutional changes that would be needed for an eventual refoundation of the United Nations based on “We the Peoples” instead of the Member States. Perhaps the eventual institutional arrangement would be different from the ASC, but the principles would be similar.
9) The effectiveness of an ASC at this time, especially its press releases and their effect on the peoples’ consciousness would depend upon the perceived stature and democratic representation of the members of the ASC. For this reason, a good choice would be an ASC composed of mayors and ex-mayors of major cities in all regions of the world (for example, two each from East Asia, South Asia, Arab states, former Soviet states, Africa, Europe, South America and North America).
10) This proposal does not depend on the timing of a crash of the American empire. Even if you do not think it will crash soon (as I do), you may wish to start thinking in the long run, how the world can turn from a culture of war to a culture of peace.
11) Nor does it depend on the maintenance of the United Nations after a global economic crash. Perhaps there will be a new institution, similar to what happened after World War II which did not retain the League of Nations but established a completely new institution, the United Nations. But even if there is a totally new institution, it will face the same challenges as the United Nations of today and the experience of a previous ASC could be useful.
12) Many readers may well persist in believing that the nation-state can be reformed to support a culture of peace. As you can see, I am skeptical of this. In any case, however, attempts to reform the state could also be served by the experience of a radical alternative such as the proposed ASC.
13) As for the importance of all this, I close with the words from the monograph on a culture of peace that we published at UNESCO in 1995:
14) When in the course of history there is an accumulation of changes which make possible a revolutionary transformation in social relations, the mobilization and participation of people on a vast scale, a global movement, becomes possible through the development and sharing of a common vision of a new world. The time is ripe for such a movement and vision for a culture of peace.
15) The transformation of society from a culture of war to a culture of peace is perhaps more radical and far reaching than any previous change in human history. Every aspect of social relations – having been shaped for millennia by the dominant culture of war, is open to change – from the relations among nations to those between women and men. Everyone, from the centres of power to the most remote villages, may be engaged and transformed in the process.