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Eye to eye – and the world goes blind

Mahatma Gandhi never received the Nobel Peace Prize he should have had. His teachings in non-violent conflict management have been and are a great inspiration to many, but are not so widely used by top politicians. 


The Gandhi quote the headline refers to is relevant to the many despairing situations we see around us today of revenge and confrontation. It seems that man's enormous advantage over other living beings – namely our ability to insight, dialogue and communication – has been put out of play in a childish sandbox behavior where "you hit me, I hit you" has taken over for an adult, future-oriented thinking. Is humanity only in its infancy? Does it risk staying there? Have we allowed a completely obsolete and testosterone-filled masculinity to prevail in international relations, where the use of weapons and threats is seen as a legitimate extension and confirmation of one's own muscles, strength and power?
News of the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13 last year came amid The World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates (Nobel Summit) in Barcelona. It was the 15th in a series of such annual rallies, where individual Peace Prize winners and Nobel organizations meet for consultation on a relevant topic. The Nobel Summit was established by Gorbachev with some of his Nobel Prize money. This year, 19 award winners met with hundreds of young people from many countries in a fruitful discussion on migration and humanity. I represented the International Peace Bureau, which received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1910. In the concluding statement, it was emphasized that it is now even more important to understand and relate to the root causes of the turmoil, insecurity and refugee crisis in the world. It was also warned against using the perpetrator in Paris to demonize refugees and Muslims. The way we talk about and approach other people is a measure of our own humanity.

This is it in contrast to the immediate reaction of President Hollande, who said that France was at war and would use all means in its power to annihilate Daesh. This is frightening rhetoric from a military superpower with nuclear weapons.
More war rhetoric, more bombs and more military personnel in the area are probably exactly what jihadists – and the military industry – want. The United States and its allies have already fallen into similar traps, at least three times since September 11, 2001, and now they are calling for more of the same. Is it not soon time to conclude that there is no military solution to the conflicts, after so many failed "interventions", with mass killings of civilians, torture, political chaos, civil rights violations, radicalization and increased "feedback" in form of terrorism? The scene is again set for a significant increase in the number of victims, more migrants and polarization on all sides. As Steinbeck wrote: If you only have a hammer in your toolbox, you will only look for nails. But are we so poor that we cannot look for other – and non-violent – means? Without alternatives to violence and war, the war industry and the rapidly growing number of security gurus will again be the winners. The rest of us end up in fear and apathy. When the world spends close to $ 1800 billion a year (in demonstrable numbers) in the military, but fails to find the ten percent of this needed to reach the new UN sustainability goals or finance the green transition we know is needed to To prevent the globe from becoming uninhabitable, we must conclude that our priorities are riot raging wrong. It's time to make other choices.

The main challenge in The world today is changing production and consumption so that our beautiful planet is not destroyed and can remain a home for people and life. Instead, it seems that we are misusing money and thinking about national security and national pride – not human security and security. Safety is not created by deer frigates and F35 bombers, but by diligently building stable and creative communities where food and water and air are healthy and good for our children and grandchildren.
If our main concern is to fight a religious ideology shrouded in religious persecution, which recognizes no other way of life than its own, it must be done through relevant societal measures, and not mixed with a resource imperialism that seems to use ever more sophisticated military means to procure access to oil, minerals, land and power.
The main challenge will be the same as after World War II when the UN was established: to prevent future wars. The goal is well expressed in UNESCO's mission statement: "Since the war is based on the human mind, it is in the human mind that the defense of peace must be built." In other words, we must step away from the antiquated dogma of Roman times that says "if you want peace, you must prepare for war." The answer must be: If you want peace, you must prepare and build peace. Last year's Nobel Prize winner, Malala, had a clear proposal: You can kill terrorists with rifle, but with education you can kill terrorism.

Then what is the political, social and economic instruments that can act in the short and long term in a complicated situation like in Syria? There are questions we need to discuss in depth. Some answers may seem to be given:
Since the various conflicts in the Middle East are affected by each other, a holistic approach is needed that includes both Israel / Palestine and the Kurdish situation. The UN must be much stronger, not only with Security Council resolutions, but with political, economic and community-building measures from the various UN units. A body for building security and cooperation in the region in line with the OSCE should be considered.
Real security can never be achieved by military means, and not at all by owning and threatening the use of nuclear weapons. Few, if any, will resort to terrorism if there are development opportunities in which they live and they feel recognized and integrated into their society.
All foreign troops must return home, and all foreign military training must end. This applies to both the United States, NATO and their allies such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as Russia and Iran. A strict arms embargo and control of money transfers must be enforced. Smuggling and illegal sale of oil must stop, and strict border control must prevent more or less covert recruitment to the war.
More are needed to convince those in power that disarmament is necessary for both peace and development. Hardly any region needs this more acutely than the Middle East. Congratulations to the Nobel Committee, which this year has awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to a vital, home-developed Tunisian civil society quartet. A real support to be able to realize the dream of an Arab, democratic spring!
More resources are also needed to reach the marginalized youth, not least young men, who do not have development opportunities today in poor suburbs, whether in Paris, Kabul or Tripoli. Funds are needed for people-to-people collaboration, professional development projects and cultural exchange.
The gap between what people understand needs to be done, and what the world's leaders really do, is getting bigger and bigger. It undermines the belief in democracy in our western countries as well, and leads us out of a humanistic tradition we have been proud of.

Breines is co-president of the International Peace Bureau

Ingeborg Breines
Ingeborg Breines
Breines is an adviser, former President of the International PEACE Bureau and former UNESCO Director.

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