How Family Literacy in UN Member States Has Become A Conduit for Sustaining Peace

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How Family Literacy in UN Member States Has Become A Conduit for Sustaining Peace

(The following is an excerpt from the full report How Family Literacy in UN Member States Has Become A Conduit for Sustaining Peace. Download the full report below)

“We are certainly in the most dangerous time in human history,” Jeffrey Sachs said at the meeting “Sustaining Peace: Partnerships for Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding” convened by the UN and Columbia University (December 8, 2017).

“We must start with the proposition we don’t take war and peace seriously.” Sachs, who is the Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General on the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs), told the standing room only crowd.

Sachs supported this statement by presenting the evidence. He spoke of the amount of money “outlays” spent on military armaments; the destruction of capital, lives and livelihoods; the cost of basic needs and emergency response initiatives; and the international response to refugee movements. He advised participants to pay attention to the Global Peace Index and said that 11 to 13% of the Global World Product, which amounts to ten trillion dollars per annum, is spent on war.

Refusing to soften the delivery of his message, Sachs went on to state, “The U.S. is one of the most violent and costly places in the world.” A shift, he argued, needs to take place so there is a common understanding that “if you blow it up you rebuild it.”

“War mongers should pay,” he said, his ire evident to everyone in the room, “just as polluters pay.”

Not letting up. Sachs continued by talking about “proxy wars”. Naming Syria, he stated it is not a civil war. He said “proxy wars” occur when regional powers try to bring down a regime. Naming the U.S., he spoke of geopolitical strategic meddling by outside global powers.

Sachs ended his presentation by raising concerns about the lack of commitment to peace or to conflict avoidance by UN Member States, and he stressed that there needs to be more emphasis on peacebuilding, peacekeeping, and reconstruction. Even so, he declared that the UN is the most vital institution for peace and our best hope of survival.

The President of the UN General Assembly, H.E. Miroslav Lajčák provided the questions that must be asked if the concerns expressed by Sachs are to be addressed by the UN Member States, academia, and civil society.

“It is important that we respond to the big and important questions,” Lajčák said in his opening address. “There is no room for complacency.” He spoke of “too many local and regional conflicts” and of the need to “sustain peace – a peace that lasts for generations.” 1 All quotes are taken from notes made at the meeting and not from transcripts.  

He talked about “conflicts within and between countries,” and he said, “We do not have a good mechanism for dealing with them.”

Lajčák spoke of the need to stay ahead of potential conflicts, and of the UN’s resolution to do so. He emphasized the need for: conflict prevention; predictable and sustainable financing of prevention; more coherence in the UN support for peace; and partnerships with civil society with the intent of sustaining peace. He repeated several times that local knowledge and participation of the local people in peace initiatives is of vital importance.

“What tools do we have at our disposal?” Lajčák asked at the end of his address. “And, how can we give greater visibility to sustaining peace?”

The remainder of this paper addresses the questions posed by Miroslav Lajčák, first by drawing on the “tools” described by presenters at the conference, and second by providing greater visibility to the family literacy initiatives of UN Member States that are instrumental in sustaining peaceful coexistence in human societies around the world. Download the full report.

FeaturesDenny Taylor