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World Peace: Its Future in Times of Greater Uncertainty

By Alba Leon

It is a truth well established that the world, as seen through the lens of international relations, is in a state of anarchy.[1] Sometimes, for brief periods, a system arises that will make relative sense of the chaos. But chaos is the state that relations between states will revert to if we look away, even if only for a moment. And apparently we’ve all been looking away.

On 21 December, The United Nations High Commissioner for human rights, made the unusual decision to not seek a second four-year term. He was concerned about having to give in to the bullying and intimidation that are quickly becoming a hallmark of the times.[2] Not only the Trump administration, but Russia, Syria, Venezuela, North Korea and Myanmar, are all examples of governments that seek to exert influence on the international system, and on their citizens, through sheer use of force. And it is more and more apparent that these governments, led by strong men, are slowly dismantling the consensus-building system that was firmly established, or so we thought, after World War II.

That the international system is looking to regain its balance has become obvious at one of the most contested places in the globe: Jerusalem. The international status of the city remains formally unresolved, although many states just de facto accept it as an international city, one that does not belong only to one state.[3] That is why most countries establish their embassies to Israel in Tel Aviv, rather than Jerusalem.

This de facto acceptance of the status quo was broken on 6 January, when US President Donald Trump, announced his decision to formally recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and ordered the US Embassy to be moved accordingly. [4] Although the move was not an explicit pronouncement on the actual boundaries of Israeli sovereignty, it was a powerful signal from the most powerful country in the world that Israel had the sole right to Jerusalem, in spite of General Assembly Resolution 478 (1980), which explicitly called for States that had established diplomatic missions in the city to withdraw them.[ 5]

Although the international system that was created after World War II is showing its frailty, and in many cases has not been able to deal with conflict, it may yet have one last fight in it. Also on 21 December, after the High Commissioner for human rights had abandoned all hope, a majority of United Nations members sent a powerful, if symbolic, signal back to the Trump administration. With 128 votes for, to 9 against and 35 abstentions, the General Assembly voted for a resolution demanding that the United States take back its Declaration on Jerusalem.[6]

Even amid the intimidation, and threats to withhold US aid from countries that went against US policy, countries such as Egypt and Jordan, who are strategic partners of the US, along with many others voted to condemn the actions of the Trump administration. It is too early yet to tell what kind of measures, if any, will be applied by the US government to show their displeasure about countries that don’t follow suit, or if these measures will be effective in the end. As more countries defy the dominance of the US on the world stage, they may very well succeed in rendering US policy ineffective at the international level.

And so, the world is now on tenterhooks, seeing how all actors on that international stage respond to these new threats to the fickle order that currently reigns. But as the United States continues to act in an isolationist and isolating way, we can only hope that the European Union  steps up to fill the wider vacuum that US actions are leading to. While this sounds hopeful, it should also be good to remember that the current international system, with all its advantages, but also its flaws, was born out of the ashes of World War II. And that the issues that have become the fighting banners of the Trump administration are those issues that were contested at the very beginning of these times of peace: the Israel-Palestine conflict, the belligerence of North Korea, the expansionist views of Russia.

It would seem then that the current actions of the Trump administration are leading the world back to a time of more uncertainty, proving once and for all that not all past times were better. As many around the world reflect on the year that has gone by and make their wishes for the year that is about to begin, perhaps this time we should all wish for World Peace, and really mean it.

Sources

[1] http://internationalrelations....

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/1...

[3]https://www.cia.gov/library/pu...

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/1...

[5] http://repository.un.org/bitst...

[6] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/1...

 

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