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Advancing global peace and security

By ‘Femi D. Ojumu
04 January 2023   |   3:40 am
International diplomacy is a slippery concept with conceivably as many characterisations as authors who invoke it. After all, one nation’s characterisation of diplomacy entails genuine, dynamic, tactful negotiation to achieve constructive and progressive resolution of an issue.


International diplomacy is a slippery concept with conceivably as many characterisations as authors who invoke it. After all, one nation’s characterisation of diplomacy entails genuine, dynamic, tactful negotiation to achieve constructive and progressive resolution of an issue. Yet, another country’s articulation of diplomacy, encompasses dilatory tactics, obfuscation, obduracy and creating a façade of purposeful negotiation to achieve a viable denouement on issues when, in reality, the opposite is the case.

When the brinksmanship and strategic concerns of allies on a specific subject matter are added to this mix, diplomacy morphs from an art, to an admixture of emotional intelligence and a pseudo-quantifiable political science.

The pivotal inference therein is that geo-political and national interests often impinge the dynamics of effective international diplomacy with the occasional supplanting of principled morality. Examples of the latter proposition range from the annexation territories of neighbouring or far-flung states, gross human rights violations, proxy wars amongst super-powers; to the use, or abuse, depending on one’s ideological leanings, of veto-wielding powers by permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

These are some of the subtle intricacies of realpolitik on the global stage where organisations like the United Nations intermediate with varying degrees of success via its respective organs established pursuant to Article 7.1 of its 1945 Charter: The General Assembly, The Security Council, The Economic and Social Council, The Trusteeship Council, The International Court of Justice and The UN Secretariat.

Upon that context, a pragmatic definition of diplomacy adopted for the purposes of this article, is the orthodoxy of influencing the behaviour and decisions of foreign governments through constructive dialogue, engagement, mediation, devoid of conflict or violence. To be clear, this piece is not exclusively about international diplomacy. Nonetheless, it is a sine qua non for the advancement of global peace and security.

Beyond that however, can enduring global peace be ever be accomplished given conflicting ethno-religious, free market and political ideologies around the world? The subsistence of wars and conflicts around the world is, in of itself, demonstrable evidence of the practical limitations of international diplomacy; how best can those limitations be addressed? What, for instance, is the sustainability of the global weapons industry that’s worth approximately USD 483.47 billion (Global Defence Market Report 2022) in a world of diminishing conflicts and wars?

Paradoxically, doesn’t the very subsistence of autocratic regimes and despotic ‘leaders’ in parts of the world, justify the compelling logic for increased defence spending by NATO, UN Member States and Regional Military Alliances, as a strategic deterrence against rogue states and desperate terrorist networks? Upon what premise therefore, can one concurrently square the circle of the contesting objectives of advancing global peace and reinforcing security?

Although these are all complex posers defying naive responses, nevertheless, there are patent commonalities appertaining to them. First, whilst enduring equity and justice may not altogether eliminate extremism, it reduces its propensity in all probability. Put another way, poverty is a key, albeit not the sole, driver for extremist behaviour; a proposition affirmed by the UN General Assembly (GA/11761) discourse which enunciated that the deadly links between violent extremism and extreme poverty could be broken via job creation, reducing inequalities and inclusive policies.

Second, international cooperation and trade enhances the freer movement of goods, services and capital, itself reducing the need for foreign aid to poor countries (World Trade Organisation Aid for Trade Report 2022).

Third, a strategic military deterrence is necessary as a bulwark against rogue regimes and terrorists. Therefore, the realities of the dystopian world as it is, not the utopian chimera it should be, informs the logic for increased defence spending. The point is reinforced by the Global Defence Market Report 2022, which estimates that defence spending is projected to hit USD 604.82 billion by 2026.

Fourth, although the convergence of geopolitical and national interests often underpins approaches to international diplomacy, still, the case for an ethical and just foreign policy, advocated by Robin Cook, British Foreign Secretary (1997-2001) remains valid. The reason is simple; the absence of equity and justice is a recipe for desperation and violence. Noteworthy in this regard are the stirring words of the 35th President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy; “those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable.”

For emphasis, nothing in the foregoing implies nor is intended to imply, appeasement of rogue states and malevolent rulers, of any sort. Quite the opposite in fact! Appeasement has never been a viable strategy in the arsenal of real diplomacy. It simply emboldens bad actors, copycats and rogue elements in perpetrating violent extremism, terrorism and genocide. In fact, the countervailing argument against appeasement, within this article’s province, advancing global security and peace, is the concept of just wars.

The philosophical coherence of just wars in parliamentary, high diplomatic, military and policy-making circles, is informed by principled morality. That is, the eminently rational view that good must conquer evil! That imminent atrocities can and should be stopped! That civilized humanity should not bury its head in the sand when fellow human beings are being wiped out by a genocidal regime or extremist group!

That just warfare must be conducted honourably for example, giving due care to children, women, the elderly, the frail and prisoners of war! That genuine efforts should be undertaken to mitigate the aftershocks of just wars via post-war reconciliation and reconstruction! It follows that just wars are legitimate under international law against malevolent, oppressive, extremist, genocidal regimes and rogue states. The UN Security Council, for example, pursuant to powers contained with Articles 24 and 25, and Chapter VII of the UN Charter 1945, may authorize collective action to maintain or enforce international peace and security. Plus, article 51 of the Charter establishes that “nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right to individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a state.”

The pacifists’ school of thought, unsurprisingly, contends that all wars are bad, and that just wars are necessarily bad. This philosophical creed affirms that peaceful dialogue is the solution to all man-made problems. This is a vacuous argument on three counts. One, there are bad actors in this world and pacifists do not propose viable arguments for dealing with them! Two, rogue states and malevolent rulers already possess dangerous weapons and seek to acquire even more. Surely, the civilized world and institutions cannot standby idly as rogue elements wreak havoc on humanity! Three, the extra-territorial ambitions of some nation states set a dangerous precedent for the world that might is right. Pacifists have no answer to the lingering question of annexations by powerful states! Simply put, just wars offer a more compelling logic than pacificism in that bad actors must be challenged and robustly too!

Traversing 20th and 21st Century history, just war theory has been utilised as the premise for World War II (1939-45) against Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany; Gulf War I, (1990 -1991); involving United States & Allies vs Iraq following Saddam Hussein’s unprovoked attack against Kuwait; the African National Congress Liberation Struggle vs Apartheid South Africa (1960 to 1994); Palestinian vs Israeli Conflict over disputed territories in the West Bank (1948 to Present); Russian vs Ukrainian (with NATO support) war (February 24, 2022 to Present); the Nigerian vs. Boko Haram / ISWAP war (2009 to Present); America’s global war on terror against violent extremists following the September 11, 2001 attacks, and on-going, to name a few.

In conclusion, to advance global peace, international diplomacy – that is, one underpinned by equity, fairness and justice, not only geopolitical and narrow national interests – plays a prominent role and must be optimally utilized. Equally, there is a strong correlation between poverty and violent extremism. Poverty itself is a driving force for illegal migration from poorer African, South American, Middle Eastern and Asian countries to America and Europe by youths and people smugglers embarking on perilous journeys across the Mediterranean and Florida straits amongst other hazardous routes.

Addressing the root causes of violent extremism entails, in part, efficacious education, poverty alleviation schemes, job creation, training, socio-economic inclusions of youths in the poorest parts of the world. It calls for effective international cooperation; not isolation and trade barriers, which are extremely blunt policy instruments because they simply propagate a vicious poverty cycle. Likewise, is the need to systemically address extremist ethno-religious ideology, which fuels terrorism. These, however, cannot be exercised in a vacuum and bland pacificism will not cut the mustard. Tough decisions will be required.

Three key recommendations flow from the above. The first is for smart and innovative thinking on an ethical international diplomacy. The second, is that a strong global defence initiative which will act as deterrence against potential and real bad actors and malevolent forces. I call this a new global security imperative. Strategic input in this regard will be required by the UN Security Council, the Africa Union, NATO amongst others. Third, rogue states and terrorists will need to be confronted via the invocation of just war principles where pragmatic diplomacy proves futile. Enticing rhetoric just won’t do. Advancing global peace demands robust security and effective international cooperation.

And these recommendations accord with the views enunciated by Nigeria’s first Prime Minister: “It may be that when we hear the world crying for peace, we may receive the inspiration to deal with these intractable problems and be able to really devote all our resources to the advancement of mankind by applying those eternal truths which will inevitably persist long after we ourselves are utterly forgotten.”
Tafawa Balewa, Prime Minister; October 7, 1960; upon Nigeria’s admission as 99th United Nations’ Member State.

Ojumu is Principal Partner at Balliol Myers LP, a firm of legal practitioners in Lagos, Nigeria.