Peace & Security


Revolution in Human Affairs

The spread of democratic governance and human rights, the rapid economic growth and growing disparities between rich and poor, and the explosive spread of communications technologies to the masses have spawned a silent revolution that is rapidly reshaping global society – what former WAAS President Harlan Cleveland termed “a revolution in rising expectation”. This revolution releases enormous social energy which can lead to greater dynamism and more rapid progress. But what happens when the energies released find no positive outlet for constructive expression? What happens when the rising expectations of youth enter a world without sufficient employment opportunities and when the poor become passive but firsthand witnesses through the mass media to the lavish life styles of the consumer classes?

These are questions which Jasjit Singh has framed for study in the WAAS project on “Revolution in Human Affairs”, launched last February at a seminar in Delhi and presented for further exploration at the Delhi GA this November. His startling and timely conclusion is that when these rising expectations are frustrated and prevented from positive expression, they build up as tension beneath the surface until they gain sufficient pressure to explode into action, as evidenced by the Arab Spring, the Occupy Wall Street Movement, the rise of fundamentalism, and the spread of Naxalite violence in the poorer rural parts of India.

Examining history as well as current affairs, this helps us understand why France underwent a violent revolution in 1789, while England underwent more gradual evolutionary change; how greater freedom and higher levels of education can ignite social tensions; and how growing prosperity can be associated with growing discontent. Recognizing the essential role of employment in positively absorbing these social energies is one of the reasons that since 2005 India has operated the largest employment program in history. This perspective poses an urgent policy question for the Academy to examine: “How can the Revolution of Rising Expectations be vectored in a positive direction for greater constructive, peaceful and productive outcomes?”

Read more in Cadmus,Revolution in Human Affairs: The Root of Societal Violence” by Jasjit Singh and “Rising Expectations, Social Unrest & Development” by Ashok Natarajan.

 

Outlawing Nuclear Weapons

Abolition of nuclear weapons (NWs) is a strategic objective of the Academy. In his presentation to the General Assembly, Winston Nagan delineated the role of law in achieving this goal.

The perspective of the professional legal culture today is not sufficient to challenge conventional political wisdom about human rights and global security. International law is not just a mechanical reading of preexisting laws. It is also about the affirmation of values which are its very foundation. NWs defy the fundamental principle of humanitarian law. In his landmark opinion in 1996, Judge C.G. Weeramantry of the International Court of Justice rejected the legality of any usage of NWs whatsoever.

Winston poses the critical question: How effective can the structure and the processes of legal discourse be in influencing the critical constituencies that still affirm an important role for NWs and delivery systems in the management of global security priorities? Though nations cite military necessity as the rationale for the usage of NWs, their justification is dubious. The serious threats posed by the use of NWs can never be confined to a single nation-state or to purely military objectives. They invariably target large civilian population centers. The consequences of their use are likely to be transnational. Therefore, any usage must be regarded as a crime against humanity. Now is the time for the ICJ to unequivocally declarethe illegality of these weapons.

The disaster at Fukushima, Japan, raises parallel questions about the threat presented by nuclear energy plants. The fallout from a nuclear accident could well cross national boundaries and affect civilian population centers in other countries, violating traditional notions of national sovereignty and raising fundamental questions regarding the sovereign rights of humanity as a whole. The real risks of nuclear accidents and potential cost of remediation make nuclear power the costliest form of energy. These critical issues justify a reappraisal of alternative energy sources and the benefits of closing existing nuclear plants in other countries, as Germany and Switzerland have recently announced.