Making the world safer in 2023


LIKE a woman in labour pangs, the world in 2022 experienced convulsive events that threatened humanity, spread misery, and raised apprehension over global security, hunger, and the economy.  With the return of war to Europe, tension in Asia and the malignant shadow of deadly diseases, the prevailing world order has come under severe stress and prompted a frantic search for new strategies to avoid disaster.

For world, regional and national leaders, 2023 should be a year to reset the crumbling world order and fashion a new template to guarantee peace, prosperity, and economic wellbeing.

Centrifugal forces are tearing the world apart: Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, food shortages, inflation, the persistence of COVID-19, displacement caused by wars and flooding, threat of nuclear war, the reignited arms race, including and possible use of hypersonic weapons, and the alarming effects of global warming, are all present. The strain is spreading distress, and uncertainty.

The stability and prosperity of nations are threatened, and so is the transnational impetus. Some countries are moving away from globalisation and international cooperation, whose anchors of liberalism, consumerism and free markets are being questioned.

In Ukraine, the world is inching towards another holocaust. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine since February 2022 has claimed 6,884 civilian deaths and 10,947 injured. Of the dead, 428 were children.

Ukraine estimates about 13,000 of its soldiers and no fewer than 10,000 Russian troops had been killed, while 14million Ukrainians were displaced – the fastest, largest displacement witnessed since the Second World War.

Russia hasweaponised its oil and natural gas resources of which it has the eighth and first largest reserves respectively,upending the global energy landscape, fuelling inflation and derailing efforts by world economies to climb out of the COVID-19 pandemic-induced recession.

Imperatively, the world must unite to end the various crises; platitudes alone cannot halt the downward spiral, more effective diplomacy is required.

The West’s response to simultaneously pour arms and aid to help the beleaguered Ukrainians is ethically and legally right – since they are backed by UN resolutions –and imposing sanctions on and isolating Russia, has helped the smaller European nation hold out against its bullying neighbour, but is prolonging the war and the misery of the Ukrainian population.

Putin’s nuclear weapons threat is irresponsible. Armed confrontation between the world’s major powers has been avoided for over seven decades by the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction; their possession of nuclear weapons guarantees the destruction of each other, and this curtails any inclination to wage war against each other. Smaller, pariah countries like Iranand North Korea are frequently being restrained when they rattle their nuclear arsenals, but it is exceptionally troubling when a major power and one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council waves it so recklessly. Russia’s ruling elite should stand up to Putin and stop him from plunging the world into a nuclear holocaust.

Some 32million people around the world currently are refugees, fleeing persecution, conflict, or violence. When the internally displaced are included, the number balloons to over 100million.

The humanitarian situation in Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Yemen remains desperate without any signs of a resolution in the underlying conflicts. Syria alone accounts for a fifth of the world’s refugees.

One possible bright spot heading into 2023 is Ethiopia. In early November, the government and Tigrayan leaders signed a peace deal that ended a two-year long civil war that has displaced more than 5.1million people.

Three years after the coronavirus disease struck, many countries appeared to have turned the corner on the first global pandemic in a century. With the declaration by the World Health Organisation that the end of the pandemic was in sight, many countries abandoned the lockdowns, travel restrictions, and related measures imposed in early 2020. The success of vaccines and therapeutic treatment helped in lowering the chances of dying from COVID-19.

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However, its resurgence in China is threatening to reverse the gains. Its zero-COVID policy failed to tame the disease and this has triggered alerts and restrictions against travellers from the Asian giant by many countries. COVID-19 will remain a deadly disease there and elsewhere for years;by working together however, the world can defeat the virus and prevent a return to strict restrictions.

Scientists first warned of a possible climate catastrophe 40 years ago; now that perilous future has arrived. Extreme weather events were commonplace in 2022. Record heat waves burned forests and dried up rivers in Europe. Pakistan endured a similarly brutal heat wave that was followed by epic monsoons that left as much as one-third of the country under water, killed more than 1,391 people, and caused an estimated $30billion in damage.

No fewer than 600 persons died in the 2022 floods in Nigeria, and 1.3 million others were rendered homeless, says UNICEF. The US southwest endured a record drought that shrank reservoirs and diminished crop yields. Hurricane Ian wreaked havoc on Florida, bringing home the message that more should be done to combat climate change and save the planet.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the effects of climate change will soon become irreversible. But there were a few bright spots. In August, United States President, Joe Biden, signed into law, the Inflation Reduction Act, heralded as the most important step taken thus far to reduce the emission of the heat-trapping gases that cause climate change.

Likewise, scientists generated technological advances that might someday wean humanity off fossil fuels. But overall, government action continued to lag. The COP27 meeting held in Egypt ended with an agreement that in theory will lead wealthy countries to compensate poor countries harmed by climate change. But no breakthroughs were made in cutting emissions, and the share of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continued to rise in 2022.

Meanwhile, North Korea ramped up its provocative missile testing estimated at about 72, in protests over the series of military exercises mounted by the US and South Korea since September. It has also repeatedly threatened nuclear strikes against the US, South Korea, and Japan and enhanced its alignment with both Moscow and Beijing.

In response, Seoul and Tokyo have ramped up their defences, focused on missile defence, pre-emptive strikes, and a strategy Seoul calls “massive punishment and retaliation.”With China and Russia blocking UN resolutions to sanction North Korea, the US needs to strengthen coordination with Japan and South Korea to contain the hermit nation.

Such considerations should come into play as China renews its belligerence towards Taiwan and ramps up its militarisation of the South China Sea. There should be good-faith negotiations to de-escalate tension.

Human rights took violent bashing in many countries. Since the February 1, 2021 military coup in Myanmar, the junta has brutally suppressed widespread opposition. The police and military have arbitrarily detained more than 15,700 people and killed at least 2,300, and tortured hundreds, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an NGO.

The military, also known as Tatmadaw, burned down over 38,400 houses across the country between February 2021 and August 2022, according to the research group, Data for Myanmar. In Iran, the protests witnessed against the morality police have refused to slacken, challenging the rule of the cruel leaders of the Islamic Republic, who in 2022 saw the most significant challenge to their rule since they came to power in 1979. Many citizens have been killed, and thousands imprisoned or tortured.

In Africa, unabating insecurity has claimed thousands of lives with several militia groups waging savage internecine wars against their countrymen. From Nigeria to DRC Congo, Somalia, Mali and others, the people have been under great security threat with the governments unable to effectively protect their citizens. No fewer than 8,058 lives were cut short violently across Nigeria in 2022, according to the Nigeria Security Tracker, run by the Council on Foreign Relations.

Insecurities– whether they be armed conflict, proliferation, climate change, environmental degradation, human rights violations, human displacement, or terrorism – are systemic, thereby requiring coordinated collective responses. Every state, community, and person has an equal right to security, and a global ethic committed to human security and the repair and preservation of global ecosystems should be vigorously pursued.

The renewed push to ban nuclear weapons should be accompanied by confronting the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, which poses a big security challenge for Asian and African countries.

Compliance with the rule of law, tackling poverty and economic inequalities, strengthening democracy and human rights should be priorities to make the world safer in 2023 and beyond.


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