By Chris Hamer, President, Australian World Citizens Association
(This article was first published in the Bulletin of the Australian World Citizens Association and the Institute for Global Peace and Sustainable Development, Volume Eleven, Issue One, Winter 2014)
This year marks a hundred years since the start of World War One! It is hard to imagine how all those young men in the trenches must have felt, dying of disease, drowning in mud, blown up by artillery shells and then climbing over the top to be mown down by machine guns. ‘Why am I here?’, they must have thought. ‘Surely there must be a better way!’
They dubbed it the “war to end all wars” and after the war they tried earnestly to make it so. They set up the League of Nations as the first attempt at international governance and they forged disarmament treaties which led to the scrapping of newly-built battleships sitting on the slipways. But still it wasn’t enough.
Nowadays, it is possible for one man to press a button and incinerate half a million of his fellow human beings with a nuclear missile. Or a computer jockey in Nevada can pot a man like a rabbit from half the world away, using a drone aircraft. War has become a business of mechanical slaughter and there is no honour or glory left in it. It is time we renewed our commitment: to End All Wars!
How can we do that? Most people will say it is impossible. But in fact it is possible and the way to do it has been known for hundreds, if not thousands of years. It was put very neatly by William Penn in the seventeenth century. He was the son of Admiral William Penn of the British Navy and he later became a leader of the Quakers and the founder of the colony of Pennsylvania in America, with its capital in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. In 1692 Penn wrote an essay “Towards the Present and Future Peace of Europe”, in which he summed it all up:
“Peace is Maintained by Justice, which is a Fruit of Government, as Government is from Society and Society from Consent”.
In other words, people will be happy to live at peace provided they are treated justly and equitably according to the law. But you cannot have the rule of law in a state of anarchy, because then the robber barons and the warlords rule. The rule of law can only be upheld by a stable government, installed according to the will of the people.
For example, look at the national level. A country like Australia has a reasonably stable and effective government and has never had a war within its borders in its entire history. Compare that with the Congo, which has little or no government, where some five million people have died in conflicts over recent decades.
William Penn called for a European Parliament to keep the peace in Europe. A mere three hundred years later, that has actually come to pass! Similarly, if we want world peace, we need a world parliament. Albert Einstein put it in different words:
“In my opinion, the only salvation for civilization and the human race lies in the creation of a world government, with security of nations founded upon law”.
How are we going with that? The world tried again after World War II, with the creation of the United Nations. Under the UN system, we have made major advances. Imperialism is dead, colonialism is dead, apartheid is dead and the number of deaths in battle each year is down by a factor of ten in the last half-century, though you would hardly know it from the newspapers. But the UN is not a global parliament and was never intended to be one. It is not the final answer.
Meanwhile, the Europeans have acted to prevent any future wars between France and Germany, having endured five of them in the past two centuries. Starting from the Schuman Declaration of 1950, they proceeded in a step-by-step fashion, through a succession of treaties, to construct first the European Coal and Steel Community, then the European Economic Community and finally the present European Union and European Parliament. As a result, we can be confident that there will never again be a war between France and Germany.
Now we need to copy the European example in the global arena and proceed to the construction of a global parliament. It is a huge task, involving the integration of nearly two hundred sovereign nations and seven billion people and is likely to take many years. It could come about through reform of the UN, or it could start from a smaller grouping, a new global community of democratic nations, perhaps. We are supporting the global campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly and also trying to form a Coalition for a World Community of Democratic Nations. Nobody knows precisely what the future may hold.
The first necessity, however, is the Consent of Society and a change in our way of thinking. We must all learn to regard ourselves as fellow citizens of the global village. We must all work together and promote international cooperation for the solution of our global problems. We must resolve to uphold the universal human rights of others, regardless of nationality, race, religion or gender. And we must all commit ourselves – as citizens of the world – to End All Wars.