Dear Participants of BERMUN 2021,
In the words of Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph J. Bunch, “The United Nations is our one great hope for a peaceful and free world”. With the UN’s formation after World War II came one central goal, the prevention of another international conflict. Outlined in its charter, the UN’s prime task is providing a platform for diplomacy to save future generations from the scourge of war.
In the 19th century “war” referred to a conflict between two states. It has evolved to refer to a large-scale conflict between two political entities such as revolutionary groups or terrorist organizations. The causes of war can be narrowed down to a failure in diplomacy and/or the anticipated gains surpassing the costs for those who wage it. After the cessation of the flames of conflict, not only are the dead mourned, but disease, destroyed infrastructure, environmental devastation, and cultural rifts remain. In the Congo Civil War, 90% of the 2.5 million casualties died from a lack of drinking water and a malaria epidemic, only 10% from bullets fired. The mere end of conflict does not put an end to human suffering.
While diplomacy is a tool in the pursuit of peace, it is not the only one. In international relations, there are at least four important theories on how to build peace. (1) Institutional liberalism asserts that international organizations such as the United Nations strengthen peace between states. (2) Democratic peace states that democracies do not wage war with other democracies. (3) Economic interdependence theory claims that countries which trade do not pursue war with one another. (4) Dictatorial peace declares that peace can be maintained through an authoritarian rule that suppresses attempts to initiate conflict.
Among these theories, there must be a clear focus on what the short or long term goal is of any plan or action: is it negative or positive peace? “Negative peace” refers to the absence of large-scale violence, while hostile conditions that breed war and conflict remain. It is something that is strived amid brutal conflicts. “Positive peace” refers to a sustainable peace built on inclusion, friendly relations, and cooperation. Although positive peace is the end aim encapsulated in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, negative peace is often a welcome substitute - at least in the short term.
The UN was founded to prevent the scourge of war, and the international community has helped to prevent wars in the 76 years of the UN’s existence in what some call the “long peace”. And yet our world is still plagued by conflict. At this BERMUN, we will work to develop measures to prevent and reduce conflict by peacemaking and peacebuilding.