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Is Peace (only) a Matter of Spirituality?

Beware of God

Beware of God / Photo : Synaptic Impulse - Flickr

Today is the International Day of Peace. Started by the General Assembly in 2002, it is supposed to celebrate peace worldwide.  According to the official calendar that lists all the events taking place in the world today to celebrate peace, at least 70% of the events are related to spirituality and to religious activities.

I find it quite ironic that peace is associated with religion when most of the conflicts that are currently taking place have at least a religious component if not a religious background: the civil war in Iraq, the insurgency in Afghanistan, civil war in Somalia, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the insurgency in the southern Philippines and many more. I understand that religion and spiritual values can breed tolerance, cultural understanding and open-mindedness. Unfortunately this is not always the case and the most belligerent minds and groups often use religion as a justification for their distinctly unpeaceful agendas.

Wouldn’t it be possible to promote peace without including faith in the package? Couldn’t we establish a true understanding and a peaceful world by using different concepts? The ancient Greeks who invented democracy and laid the foundations for our modern civilization were also confronted with the need to make peace. At the time, peace was established on foundations of social justice, sound legislative processes and economic growth.

This ancient understanding of peace is one that the modern world would do well to keep in mind and it could serve as a useful alternative to spirituality for this International Day of Peace.

UN, G20 and the Dollar

Dollars ! / Photo: pfala, Flickr

Dollars ! / Photo: pfala, Flickr

In the August 2009 ISN Special Issue entitled “Redesigning Global Finances- The End of Dollar Dominance?“, I asked whether the window of opportunity to redesign the global financial architecture has already passed with no real progress having been made. This week, the UN Trade and Development report was published, calling for a “new approach to multilateral exchange-rate management to complement stricter financial regulation.” Their critique of the dollar system contains the usual arguments: it is prone to fluctuations, creates current account disequilibria and requires poor countries to create huge reserves better used elsewhere. To mend this, they suggest nothing less than a new Bretton Woods system. Accordingly, it would be based on managed flexible exchange rates at sustainable levels, thus making great fluctuations and currency crisis a thing of the past and level the playing field for international trade. The report is interesting not because it contains revolutionary new ideas, but because a UN agency officially calls for alternatives to the dollar system.
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The New Ethical Order

Just one day before the 35th G8 summit in the earthquake-torn town of L’Aquila, Italy, the Holy See released the third encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI. who will meet with US President Obama on Friday.

photo: Kevin Dooley, flickr

The passion of Christ / photo: Kevin Dooley, flickr

Being the Holy Father’s first social encyclical, the 144-page “Caritas in Veritate” profoundly examines the depraved morals of market economy, the inhuman side-effects of globalization, consumerism and relativism, the need for a sustainable protection of the environment, the role of media and technology in modern life, the strengthening of workers’ rights and, above all, the imperative of “love and forgiveness, self-denial, acceptance of others, justice and peace”.

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A New Global Fund?

More healthy mothers and children is the goal.

More healthy mothers and children is the goal / photo: Alemush, flickr

“Why don’t we have a Global Fund for maternal health, like the one for TB, malaria and AIDS?”, implored Dr Siriel Nanzia Massawe, an obstetrician in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

I was jolted by this desperate doctor’s question, buried in a recent New York Times article about the prevalence of maternal deaths during pregnancy and childbirth in sub-Saharan Africa.

You mean we don’t have a Global Fund fighting maternal – and for that matter, child – mortality? I wondered incredulously.

After all, two of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) call for a significant reduction in child and maternal mortality by 2015. And former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan established the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in 2001 to reach this third health-related MDG.

So why has only the MDG addressing communicable diseases been deemed worthy of a Global Fund? After all, the international community is far behind on all MDG health-related targets: maternal mortality has been stagnant for two decades; more than nine million children under age five still die every year; and AIDS infection rates are still too high for antiretroviral treatments to keep pace.

Clearly, a more synergized and streamlined approach to the three health-related MDGs is desperately needed. Each one impacts the other: For example, AIDS and malaria cause specific complications for pregnant women and their fetus’s development.

In the end, perhaps every one of these MDG initiatives could be more fully realized if greater attention were paid to how they interact. Has the time for an integrated Global Fund for Health arrived?

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