Peace in Our Time – Shocking Raw Numbers

My team and I are in the final stages of coordinating an international symposium which will be held in Malta during the course of next month. It will primarily deal with the global efforts of a Vienna-based international peace movement and the hands-on philanthropic and voluntary initiatives of an international organisation under the aegis of the United Nations in the fields of inclusion, economic and social inequality and aid and assistance to the vulnerable.

Delegates from eighteen countries will congregate on the island and discuss the international state of affairs based on the subject matter. A number of politicians from Malta, Scotland, England and Italy and heads of Royal families from Liechtenstein and Austria are also guest speakers during the event. It will be a welcome relief from the daily partisan political squabbling which we locals have to endure, day in and day out. Even though the subject matter is even more shocking and also affects the future of our children and our nation.

In the year 2020, a mere two war hotspots (Afghanistan and the Yemeni border) registered the reported amount of 38,500 violent deaths due to armed conflict. In other countries around the world in the same year, another 80,000 violent deaths were reported as the result of armed conflict. These numbers are equivalent to the killing of one Maltese out of every four during the course of last year alone.

In the year 2020, war hotspots Afghanistan and the Yemeni border registered 38,500 violent deaths due to armed conflict.

Another 500 deaths were reported in 2020 as a result of terrorist incidents, including attacks by violent non-state actors for political motives. Terrorism related to drug wars and cartel violence is not included in this amount. Moreover, during the same year, the United States of America – supposedly the world beacon of democracy and peace – saw its gun sales rising by 40% to 39,695,315. The figure also represents the high-water mark in gun sales since the current record-keeping system went into effect. And the trend continued throughout this year.

This year, the 15th edition of the Global Peace Index (GPI), which ranks 163 independent states and territories according to their level of peacefulness, was published. Produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), the GPI is the world’s leading measure of global peacefulness. This report presents the most comprehensive data-driven analysis to-date on trends in peace, its economic value, and how to develop peaceful societies. Notwithstanding an international pandemic, it still does not make delightful reading.

This year’s results show that the average level of global peacefulness deteriorated by 0.07%. This is the ninth deterioration in peacefulness in the last thirteen years, with 87 countries improving, and 73 recording deteriorations.

Iceland remains the most peaceful country in the world, since 2008. Eight of the ten countries at the top of the GPI are located in Europe. This is the most European countries to be ranked in the top ten in the history of the index. But only three of the nine regions in the world became more peaceful over the past year. The number of violent demonstrations rose in 61 countries since 2008, and fell in just 27 countries. There was a 244% increase globally in riots, general strikes, and anti-government demonstrations between 2011 and 2019. There is currently no sign that this trend is abating.

Naturally, inequality and an unfair distribution of world resources are prime factors in creating the necessary backdrop for violent societal change. In Abu Dhabi this week, David Beasley, the director of the United Nations’ World Food Programme issued a specific appeal. ‘A small group of ultra-wealthy individuals could help solve world hunger with just a fraction of their net worth,’ he stated.

Billionaires need to “step up now, on a one-time basis”, said Beasley, citing specifically the world’s two richest men, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. “$6 billion to help 42 million people that are literally going to die if we don’t reach them. It’s not complicated,” he added.

Tesla chief executive Musk has a net worth of nearly $289 billion, according to Bloomberg, meaning that Beasley is asking for a donation of just 2% of his fortune. The net worth of US billionaires has almost doubled since the pandemic began, standing at $5.04 trillion in October, according to progressive groups Institute for Policy Studies and Americans for Tax Fairness.

It is high time that Malta again grabs the mantle of moderator and facilitator in world politics instead of merely sitting on its laurels.

Humanitarian organizations like the WFP have struggled to get supplies to those in need in various regions, compounding the crisis. “We’re out of fuel. We’re out of cash, in terms of paying our people and we are running out of money and we can’t get our trucks in,” said Beasley in the wide-ranging interview.

In the meantime, local politicians continue with their partisan frenzy of creating local storms in teacups when the bigger picture is just that much more serious. It is high time that Malta again grabs the mantle of moderator and facilitator in world politics instead of merely sitting on its laurels and basks in the isolated glory of yet another first-in-Europe statistical achievement. Malta has an illustrious history of being in the forefront of international fora and its striking past international initiatives are still relevant today.

Mintoff’s Helsinki stand in the seventies was not a one-off gambit in the international arena. It is high time that more of the same is projected and executed. After all, as Bishop Desmond Tutu famously stated, ‘do your little bit of good where you are. It’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.’

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