soldiers playing soccer first world war
British and German soldiers playing soccer in No-Man’s Land during the Christmas Truce in 1914. Photo Credit: Universal History Archive

There is increasing realization that prolonging or escalation of Ukraine conflict can bring very high risks for the entire world. Elsewhere in the world, many less talked about conflicts in the Horn of Africa, in Nigeria and elsewhere are aggravating very serious situations of starvation and starvation deaths, making it impossible for relief workers to reach those in dire need of life-saving food and medical care. It is time to say—enough of all this, let there be peace now, and there cannot be a better time than for this than the month of Christmas. The year 2022 has brought too much risks and violence, please let it end on a note of peace, let 2023 be different, let it be a year of hope.

For this it is not enough to bring just one-time peace and ceasefire, it is important to avoid similar mad violence later. For this we should have much stronger and longer-term efforts for peace.

As our deeply troubled world has sunk deeper and deeper into the morass of an entirely avoidable crisis, the three key words for the path ahead should be restraint, negotiation and peace. Of course this applies to all sides.

Peace in the prolonged Ukraine conflict is now much more difficult than in the earlier stage. Each passing day of war only adds to the accumulating discontents; hence it is best to clinch peace now before things become even more difficult. As areas of disagreement are many, the only obvious way forward seems to be to keep all disagreements in the backseat for the time being and somehow clinch a ceasefire, putting an immediate end to all further fighting. All sides must agree to this, if not on the basis of their perceived self-interests, then at least to protect world peace.

This will have to be followed up by goodwill- enhancing measures on all sides, helped by others, as disagreements cannot be resolved in conditions of anger and hatred. However if there is sincere effort and political will on all sides, it should still be possible to resolve disagreements within a period of two years or so, by which time anger on all sides must  cool down somewhat.

Without being alarmist, what appears obvious enough is that there has been more talk in recent weeks and months of 2022 of a world war-type situation and a nuclear war than at any other time in the post-1945 world, and this includes the most disturbing weeks of the Cuban missile crisis sixty years ago.

Surely the situation is more complex and dangerous now, the disagreements are more difficult to resolve. What is more, the leaders on all sides appear to be less committed to peace as the foremost objective compared to 1962.

Under all circumstances, the drift towards a more direct conflict between US/NATO and Russia should be avoided. Similarly, nuclear conflict and use of any other weapons of mass destruction and banned weapons should also be avoided.

While the most immediate step for this is ceasefire in the Ukraine conflict, this should be followed by other steps in the longer term to ensure that such dangerous situations are avoided altogether in future. The ultimate goal of achieving elimination of all weapons of mass destruction, robot weapons and space warfare should never be lost sight of.

To push reluctant world leaders more and more in this direction, the peace and disarmament movement should be much stronger and must function with much more continuity, instead of rising and ebbing with the perceived seriousness of various crisis situations.

The dangerous and irrational concept of world ‘dominance’ by any single country should be given up once and for all. If anything, the aspirations should be based on world leadership, and let those who contribute the most for world peace and welfare be the  leaders, not imposed by force but truly recognized by people the world over. As long as the concept of someone dominating the world and seeking forever to eliminate existing and potential, real and imagined rivals exists, there can be no real peace in world.

Even if we cannot eliminate war with certainty for all times just now, can we have at least a single decade without any war or civil war in any part of world? Let ceasefires be declared according to local conditions, with an agenda of settling other differences in conditions of peace without guns and bombs booming. No war at least for a decade. Just talk things over and settle your differences. Meanwhile let millions of dislocated families also return to their homes.

Imagine how much this can contribute to saving precious human lives and to reducing acute human distress! Some of the world’s areas worst affected by hunger and deprivation, famine and various disasters are also those ravaged by war and conflict, and if they can just have peace for a decade, badly neglected tasks not just of relief but also protection from various disasters and drought-proofing can also be taken up, in the process creating conditions of stability, hope and cooperation which can also break the vicious cycle of various conflicts rooted in deprivations.

Climate scientists have been warning that the world is lagging behind in terms of its commitments to climate change mitigation and adaptation. One important reason for this failure is the distraction from such responsibilities caused by conflict and war (apart from the fact that war and war preparations also involve high GHG emissions). Just a decade of peace will give our troubled world much more space for attending to such responsibilities of great importance.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children and A Day in 2071.

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