Conflict Resolution: Time to find a new model for the 21st Century?

Against a backdrop of rising instances of armed conflict, and in particular religion based conflict, a high level EU Today conference in Brussels on March 6th considered the seeming failure of contemporary models of conflict resolution, and carefully postulated upon possible new models to resolve the crises that are claiming the lives of countless numbers of innocent civilians across the planet. 

Delegates from the European Commission and Parliament, NATO, Belgium, Cambodia, Germany, India, Kashmir, Pakistan, Russia and Ukraine, as well as the United Kingdom and the United States of America, came together with journalists and human rights campaigners to informally discuss the causes of, and most importantly the possible but elusive solutions to, the ongoing crises in our world.

Key-note speaker at the conference was Mike Hookem, a British Member of the European Parliament, a spokesman on defence issues, and himself a former Engineer Commando in the British armed forces. 

The conference considered the role of key players, in particular the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), in the context of contemporary conflict resolution. Also, and more positively, alternative models were presented and considered. 

Hookem, a prominent Eurosceptic, presented an argument grounded in academic terms which was highly critical of the proposed “European Army” which is currently being forwarded as an option for European defence, seemingly as a replacement to the existing NATO model upon which, if we are to be completely honest, the European Union depends. 

His position was challenged on some points by prominent peace campaigner Frank Schwalba-Hoth, widely considered to be the father of the Green movement not just in his home country, Germany, but across the EU as a whole. 

At such a level, this debate was to challenge both delegates and audience alike, and was clearly embraced with gravitas. 

In the context of the current escalation of violence in Kashmir, Masood Iqbal Mir, general-secretary of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, regarded as one of his country’s most prominent human rights campaigners, presented a heart-rending and at times emotional update on the situation in his home country which truly brought home to delegates the sheer scale of the awful and tragic human cost of this, the longest running human rights struggle in the world today. 

It was noted with considerable interest that Iqbal Mir was strongly supported in his condemnation of the UNSC, which promised a plebiscite on independence as long ago as 1948, and which has yet to be delivered, by fellow Kashmiri activists who might ordinarily be considered as political rivals, at least in the domestic context. 

Also a matter of urgent debate was the ongoing situation in Eastern Ukraine. Mykhailo Samus, deputy director for international affairs, at the Centre for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies in Kyiv, flew into Brussels at short notice in order to appraise delegates of the current situation. Like all the other speakers, he also expressed concern about the lack of effectiveness of the UN Security Council in the context of the ongoing Russian aggression against his country. 

This topic, conflict resolution, is the most important matter facing our international community… We don’t have effective instruments to punish aggression. We should start reform of our existing instruments, especially the UN Security Council: we must start this debate now.

Mykhailo Samus, deputy director for international affairs, at the Centre for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies (Kyiv)

Criticism of the UNSC was a thread that resonated throughout the conference. Whilst the speakers agreed with Schwalba-Hoth in that the UN is an important institution that must be preserved, each had their own reasons for calling for reform. 

This strongly echoed the opinions expressed by Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kazakhstan, who, following his country’s chairmanship of the UN Security Council last year, called for reform of this august body in order to make it relevant to the needs of the 21st century.

The Kashmiri delegate echoed Nazarbayev’s proposal by calling for a meeting of the heads of states of China, the European Union, Russia, and the United States, in order to discuss the ongoing, and seemingly interminable crises such as that in his own country, which has raged since 1948 despite toothless UN resolutions aimed at bringing an end to the conflict and the bloodshed. 

EU lawmaker Mike Hookem also stated that the relationships between these important power blocs need to be addressed “if we are to have any chance of finding a successful path to conflict resolution in many of today’s frozen conflicts”.

This call for reformation of the UNSC was echoed by Daran Kravanh, a survivor of the Killing Fields of Cambodia, which between 1975-79 saw the slaughter of up to 2.5 million people - approximately a quarter of the population of the country -  in the name of Communism. 

Nazarbayev - who was the first post-Soviet head of state to voluntarily relinquish all nuclear weapons - has proposed a conference in Astana, pencilled in for 2020, on security and defence, to coincide with the 45th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, which he has also identified as being in need of reform in order to make it more relevant to the modern day.

The United States - the Russian Federation - the People's Republic of China - the EU should find new formats of dialogue, if we are talking about the fate of our civilisation. After the First World War, the powers created the League of Nations. Then, after the Second World War – the United Nations. It is obvious that to settle the arising confrontations is a difficult challenge. Nevertheless, I propose Astana as a platform for these four parties to discuss the problems in the sphere of economics, politics and security.

President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev

The United Nations has no power. That is the problem.

Daran Kravanh, survivor of the Killing Fields of Cambodia, speaking at the EU Today conference on conflict resolution, March 6th 2019

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Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright is publishing editor of EU Today. 

An experienced journalist and published author, he specialises in environment, energy, and defence.

He also has more than 10 years experience of working as a staff member in the EU institutions, working with political groups and MEPs in various policy areas.

Gary's latest book WANTED MAN: THE STORY OF MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV: A Manual for Criminals on How to Avoid Punishment in the EU is currently available from Amazon

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