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  • Beryl Aidi

Can We Gather Around the Table of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace?



At a time when regional and global tensions are rising, with a number of protracted internal armed conflicts and cross border wars around the world, it is time to make case for multilateralism and diplomacy for world peace. On the global stage diplomacy is a very complex matter, especially where conflicts have either flared up or are on the verge of breaking out.

 

The world is currently tittering around the outbreak of an all-out war since Russia invaded Ukraine in February of 2022. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for all intents and purposes started back in 2015 with the annexation of Crimea. The referendum that allowed Russia to acquire Crimea was largely successful because of Russia’s threat to the people living in the region. When you have a monstrous giant growling at your backyard every now and then, it is not difficult to give in to survive.

 

Since then Russia continued to build up tension with Ukraine and eventually launched its military attack in February 2022. It didn’t take long for the Nordic nations bordering Russia to realize that they might be next, hence the beeline for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) membership by previous hold outs like Sweden and Finland in the hope of better protection in numbers. Afterall, there is strength in numbers and we are better together.

 

Despite losing some significant ground to Russia, Ukraine has managed to hold off defeat with little support from the international community. There is a lot more rhetoric as nobody wants to confront a bully who’s got nuclear weapons. Moreover, from other recent wars that involved the West, not much has been accomplished. Americans are not particularly keen putting American boots on foreign soil again.


A night sky view of fired missiles
Rockets fired from the Gaza Strip Photo | Mohammed Ibrahim on Unsplash

Meanwhile, as the international community was dragging its feet on what to do with Russia, Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, 2023, on a mega scale not seen in a long time, taking the usually intelligent little state by surprise. And once again, the world’s attention is drawn to the Middle East as a similar war broke out in 2014, when Hamas attacked Israel over the occupied territories. While Israel has an obligation to defend its citizens, it has drawn more criticism than support as it is accused of excessive use of force doing harm to civilians in Gaza.  Its retaliatory attack to destroy Hamas is creating substantial collateral damage and claiming a high number of civilian Palestinian casualties.

 

As such, there is justified outrage against Israel on the one hand for using disproportionate force in retaliation, with the Palestinian civilians bearing the brunt of Israel’s military defense action. Yet on the other hand Israel’s position is very precarious as it knows only too well that its options are limited as it has faced threats from various states in the region such as Iran that have sought to obliterate the tiny nation from the face of the earth.

 

And now Iran has also joined in the fray in retaliatory attacks against Israel after the latter’s strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria. So in this war, Israel is pretty much fighting for its survival. Israel, constantly held to a higher standard than most nations, has to tread carefully as genuine concern for the plight of the people of Gaza is giving an excuse to increasing anti semitism tones, itself a matter of great concern. The world should never forget the pogroms Israel faced in the early 20th century how that led to the Jewish holocaust during World War II.

 

While the world’s focus shifted to the Middle East, Russia ramped up its bombardment of Ukraine. Other countries are doing things that are raising eyebrows. North Korea keeps provoking America with its nuclear capabilities as it menacingly as show of its military power and sets up military bases near the border with South Korea. And over in South America, Maduro’s Venezuela has decided that it owns the disputed oil rich region of Essequibo in Guyana, claiming nearly two-thirds of the country.


A map modified showing areas of Guyana claimed by Venezuela

Map of Guyana with Disputed Areas (Tigri and Guayana Esequiba)   Image |Licensed Under CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia


Though the two countries technically agreed to no use of force, and despite an ongoing case at the International Court of Justice to determine the dispute, Venezuela has claimed it and established a new state called Guayana Esequiba through only what can be called insane theft. It is mind boggling how one country can carry out a referendum to claim the territory of another, and this should be alright?

 

Venezuela's  purported 10.5 million yes vote in a referendum in December  2023 can only be termed to be something out of a fictional novel. Various news outlets could not see any evidence of long queues of voters. But even stranger than fiction is how one country decides it is voting to make decisions on a territory of another, making administrative plans to govern it remotely "until a practical and mutually acceptable solution to the territorial controversy is reached” [with the Cooperative Republic of Guyana].

 

However ridiculous this idea may sound, it is far from being a laughing matter. According to the Associated Press, satellite images show that over the last few months, Venezuela has been amassing military troops and expanding military bases close to the border with Guyana.

 

It needs no guesswork to come to a conclusion as to what Venezuela’s ultimate motives are. It almost the same script on a different stage with different cast that Russia has been acting out against Ukraine. Lay claim to  some long gone territory that it no longer has legal rights to, conduct a questionable referendum and then declare war and attack.

 

 

Against such a backdrop, it cannot be gainsaid that the quest for world peace is a global issue and requires a multilateral approach. No single country or state can achieve peace in an interconnected world. The news is raft with stories of how global supply chains of commodities such as grain, oil and gas have been affected by Russia’s war against Ukraine. Ukraine has made international appeal for support in funding and weapons, which have been made but the support has been barely enough as it is too little and far between.


Ukraine is going as far as appealing to less developed countries with very little military capability for support as allies, albeit, in diplomacy. All the while, Russia keeps making military gains into Ukrainian territory. Media reports have indicated that the use of nuclear weapons is not beyond Russia, especially if NATO [the West] attempts to join in the war. It is becoming increasingly and uncomfortably clear that a multi-nation conflict could erupt with many a commentator conjecturing that World War III may be in the offing. This is treading on dangerous grounds.

 

At the conclusion of World War II, and in its more than 70 years of existence, the United Nations was formed to ensure a multilateral effort to never again allow the world to go war on such scale. With one of the belligerents in the Russian-Ukraine war having amassed nuclear weapons, North Korea’s repeated provoking tests of its ballistics, the outrageous and now deadly war in the Middle East as Israel fights off Hamas, Iran and others, civilians are the ones suffering the most.

 

The Israeli – Hamas war in Gaza poses deadly threats to civilians as Hamas is again using civilians in what can be termed as human shields as they did in the 2014 war. When an enemy attacks, one of the objectives in a counter offensive should be self-defense. Under international law civilians or non-combatants are not supposed to be targets of a military action.

A group of people walking down a street holding flags and a banner saying 'Stop genocide free Palestine'.
Free Palestine demonstration in Helsinki, Finland 21.10.2023. Photo | Janne Leimola on Unsplash

While the world holds Israel to a high standard in minimizing attacks on civilians, Hamas are not playing by any rules by setting up military bases in densely populated civilian areas. Even with precise and targeted offense, it is highly likely that there will be a huge civilian collateral damage, which is a violation of international law. Moreover, unless Hamas leaves the civilian settlements, it is highly unlikely that the desperately needed adequate humanitarian aid will reach civilians.

 

In all these scenarios, international law has been violated through the use of force bolstered by arms race even though various treaties exist to prevent it, the violation of international humanitarian law, and the proliferation of nuclear weapons by some of the belligerents, a thing the multilateral agreements on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons was supposed to be bringing to an end to make the world safer.

 

At a time when the long held traditional leading democracies are getting challenged with the increasing rise of nationalism, multilateralism is at risk of being dashed to the side. Yet the world is facing many other existential threats from effects of global warming and climate change. We do not need to heat it up with these unnecessary wars.

 

It is time to step up the multilateral efforts to bring about peace and end these unnecessary wars and rumors of war through diplomacy. To expect America alone or Germany alone to send military aid one way or another is not enough. The world should not forget about the wars even as they continue. While every country is free to choose a side, what sort of world do we want to live in and to leave for the future generations.

 

One sided protests and criticisms will not resolve the issues, any more than military support to one side or the other. More concerted effort with concrete steps and decisive action is needed to from a multilateral approach to de-escalate the tensions, cease the hostilities and broker peace amongst the already warring parties through diplomacy and to prevent further outbreaks of war before we have a real world war.

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