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World peace spreads

Analysis: 2006 became one of the most peaceful years in modern times. 2007 could be the year of lasting peace agreements.


[2006-2007] 21. November 2006 became a historic day that passed most houses: On this day Nepal's Maoist rebels and the country's new naval alliance signed a peace treaty. The ten-year civil war with 13.000 killed was over.

Out of the blue, Nepal's peace treaty did not come: Ever since King Gyanendra the 21. April renounced god-given power and gave power "back to the people," the country has taken a step toward democratic states. The elected parliament has regained the power it lost four years ago. New elections must be held in July 2007. Millions of oppressed Nepalese have regained their civil rights. A referendum will be held on a new constitution. And 16. December it became clear that from now on the king will only have a symbolic role. But most importantly, the "unstoppable" civil war is over.

The Maoists in Nepal are just one of several former terrorist organizations that have signed a peace agreement with recent months: the IRA in Northern Ireland, the ETA in Spain and the LRA in Uganda.

In most cases, these are the cases "the media forgot" – at least the development of peace is mentioned so rarely that they do not stick with most media users. When the action group YouGov before the UN Peace Day, 21 September, asked the British how they saw the world of today, the answers were strikingly pessimistic: 75 percent of them Britons that the world is more violent today than 50 years ago.

A similar result would probably also have emerged in Norway. The impression that the population gets from the situation outside their own region is usually characterized by conflict and war.

But the number of conflicts in 2006 has been the lowest since World War II. And the number of serious wars (over 1000 dead) has dropped by 80 percent over the past 15 years, figures from the International Crisis Group show.

Fewer wars

This autumn's calculations from Prio (Peace Research Institute in Oslo) also give cause for optimism. This summer's 34 days-long war between Israel and Hisbollah in Lebanon received huge media coverage, but it was the exception that confirmed the rule: When Israel began its bombing, there had not been a state war in the world in three years. This was the longest period of peace for such acts of war over 50 years.

It is not only democracies that are following the trend of no longer fighting one another: in today's world order, stable nation states also generally show a limited interest in going to war against other countries.

The number of people killed in war and conflict has also improved dramatically in recent years, including the negative developments in Iraq and Afghanistan. In recent years, the average number of people killed from war and conflict has averaged about 20.000. This, unlike about 100.000, died every single year throughout the Cold War, according to Gareth Evans, head of the International Crisis Group.

The trend is therefore quite clear: there will be fewer wars and fewer casualties. It is peace – or the absence of war – and not war that is characteristic of the situation in 2006.

The same showed the report that Prio presented 1. September this year. The title was signifying enough: "A more peaceful world." And the conclusion: Despite what one can get the impression of through mass media, the world is more peaceful than in many decades. Figures from the University of Uppsala and the Institute for Peace Research in Oslo show a significant decline in the number of armed conflicts, from around 50 in the early 1990 to 31 in 2005. Today's conflicts are also less bloody than before. Compared to the world's population, the change is even more obvious: not since before World War II has the chance of being killed in war been lower than it is now. ”

Uganda and Congo

It is not just in Nepal that there has been a clear peaceful development in 2006. In Uganda, peace talks between the government and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) began on July 14 in Juba, led by the Vice President of South Sudan. On August 26, Joseph Kony's LRA and the government signed a peace agreement that could end the 20-year conflict, which has led to more than 1,5 million forced evictions. On 18 December, the negotiation deadline was postponed until 28 February 2007, a positive feature that increases the hope for peace.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, four million people lost their lives during the wars from 1996 to 2004. But 30. July this year, the first multi-party election in the country in over 40 years was held. And 29. In October, Joseph Kabila won the second round of the presidential election, which went both peacefully and has been recognized internationally.

One of the more fragile peace treaties is that of the Basque terrorist organization ETA, which is responsible for over 800 dead during its battle against the Spanish state in recent decades. 22. In March, ETA announced on national television a "permanent ceasefire". The model for the peace agreement is the IRA, which in the fall of 2005 chose to "destroy all weapons" in Ireland. Thus, Europe's longest conflict is on the brink of the solution.

The same is the case in Indonesia's Ache province, in northern Sumatra. After a peace agreement was signed with the detachment group GAM on 15. August 2005, with Nobel Prize candidates Susilo Bawambang Yudhono and Martti Ahtisaari in the leadership role, the peace in this post-tsunami area has remained stable.

In February 2006, The Magdalena Medio Bloc, Colombia's oldest paramilitary group, declared it to lay down its weapons. Apart from Colombia, both North and South America are now considered almost war-free zones, although low-scale conflicts still exist.

Of other conflicts such as conflicts that are on the road to recovery, it should also be mentioned that in July China and India opened the Himalayan Pass Nathu, which has been closed for over 40 years. This opens a new bridge between the world's two most populous states. It happens right after Nigeria follows international legal decisions to give the Bakassi Peninsula back to Cameroon.

Climate for peace

Why have recent years, including 2006, shown such a positive development with peace solutions to some of the worst conflicts of the 20th century? One reason is the end of both the colonial era in 1945, as well as the end of the Cold War from 1989 – two periods that both gave rise to a wealth of wars around the world. The last 15 years of investment in peace mediation, in which Norway has contributed, has also created a climate for peace. The terrorist attacks 11.09. 2001 also meant that terrorist organizations such as the IRA and ETA lost their former seductive appeal.

It is worth noting that Prio or others here at home have to a small extent managed to come out with their analyzes of the development of the world. The reason lies in conflict-oriented journalism in Northern Europe: The critical approach to domestic relations is also used in the rest of the world. Thus, the positive development becomes less interesting than the negative examples. But so does the knowledge of what it takes to make peace where there is war.

A survey by Observer this fall showed that 96 percent of all covered international conflicts in Norwegian media deal with the Middle East, including Afghanistan and Iran. This creates a distorted picture of the world. Combined with the US focus, the Middle East coverage quickly gives the impression that the world is going far worse than it does.

The question is whether 2007 can obtain as many peace agreements as 2006 did. Despite positive developments, there are still plenty of conflicts.



  • 22.03 .: ETA promises "permanent ceasefire". in Spain
  • 14.08 .: Hisbollah in Lebanon makes peace with Israel.
  • 26.08 .: LRA signs peace agreement in Uganda.
  • 29.10 .: Opposition leader Bemba recognizes Kabila as Congo's elected president.
  • 21.11 .: Maoist guerrillas enter into peace agreement with parliament in Nepal.
Dag Herbjørnsrud
Dag Herbjørnsrud
Former editor of MODERN TIMES. Now head of the Center for Global and Comparative History of Ideas.

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