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Re-infections with Covid-19: Are they distinct possibilities?

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By Dr. C. S. Weeraratna

(csweera@sltnet.lk)

Former Professor, Ruhuna and Rajarata Universities

During the last two decades, most of the South and South East Asian countries have developed considerably, with the involvement of the academics. In Sri Lanka, the universities, and postgraduate institutes are maintained at a huge cost. In 2018, the expenditure, related to university education, was around Rs 60 billion. The universities are under the jurisdiction of the University Grants Commission (UGC), and have a total academic strength of around 6000, most of them with postgraduate qualifications. Among these 6000, about 825 are professors, and 5,200 are senior lecturers and lecturers. The main objective of the universities, in Sri Lanka, is to develop human resources to meet national development, through appropriate programmes. These include teaching, research and outreach programmes.

Education at university level, providing appropriate technical knowledge, is critical to the building up of a knowledge society and knowledge-based economy which are the latest catch words in the field of Education. Proper use of science and technology is vital for achieving the objectives of a knowledge-based economy, but, to what extent the human and other resource base of our universities have been used to meet national development needs through innovative educational, research and outreach programmes?.

 

Universities and socio-economic development:

In Sri Lanka, government funds the state universities and expect them to contribute to socio-economic development of the country. But, the vast intellectual and infrastructural resource base of the universities has remained almost untapped, or underutilized. It is obvious that the authorities should, initiate /implement programmes to mobilize and channel the resources available in our universities for regional/national development. The socio-economic challenges, which we face in Sri Lanka, have increased considerably during the last few years. Among these are (a.) High Cost of Production in the plantation and non-plantation (domestic) sector, (b.) Land slides, mainly in Badulla, Kandy, Matale, Nuwara-Eliya districts, (c.) Water shortage in 

many parts of the country, (d.) Chronic Kidney disease of unknown etiology which is affecting nearly 200,000 people in 10 districts, (e.) Poverty mainly in the rural sector, (f.) Effective disposal of solid waste, (g.) Malnutrition among children, (h.) Power shortage and alternative sources of power.

To find solutions to these issues, appropriate public-private sector organizations need to collaborate with the academics of the universities to implement short /medium/long term programmes. But, there appears to be no effective mechanisms for the university academics to be involved/coordinate with the appropriate public-private organizations to effectively address the challenges faced by the country. It is necessary that the government institutions need to establish systems to collaborate with appropriate academics, if the authorities are really keen to find solutions to the pressing problems indicated above. A few years ago, there were attempts, by the Ministry of Agriculture, to coordinate with the university agriculture faculties to find solutions to the pressing problems in the agriculture sector. But, these attempts appear to have died down. If such coordination was effectively established, we would have found solutions to some of the pressing problems, such as the Weligama Coconut Wilt, and other issues facing the country.

 

Quality of Education:

It is essential that the total student population, passing out from the universities, needs to be given satisfactory education/ training. The quality of education, in a university, depends to a considerable extent on the standard of the academic staff and the other related facilities, such as library, laboratory and field. In most of the faculties, in the recently established universities, these basic facilities are not at a satisfactory level. The students passing out from such universities also tend to be of lower quality, not because of their faults.

Closely related to academic standards in universities is the relevance of the courses offered by the universities. While a large number of graduates remain unemployed or under–employed, employers complain that the graduates are of no use to them. They say that their standard of English is inadequate. The total annual expenditure by the UGC is in the region of Rs 60 billion. What is the use of spending so much money, if the country cannot make use of a large number of the graduates passing out. If what the employers say is correct, has there been a concerted effort by the UGC to modify/change the university courses so that the graduates are more useful? The Dept. of National Planning should play a more active role; interact with the employers and advice the UGC on the modifications/changes that need to be carried out. Perhaps these changes may not need additional expenditure.

Should the country continue to spend billions of rupees on higher education if it has no significant impact on the socio-economic development of the country? Certainly it does not mean that the universities should be closed or privatized as what was done in the case of some public sector organizations. What needs to be done is to examine what ails the university system and take appropriate measures to rectify them so that the universities could contribute positively towards achieving a knowledge-based economy.

Knowledge society and knowledge-based economy are the latest catch words in the field of Education. Knowledge, skills and resourcefulness of people are critical to the building up of a knowledge society which is crucial for achieving the objective of a knowledge-based economy. Universities play a prominent role in achieving this objective. At present there are 15 universities in Sri Lanka. Graduates, qualifying from these universities, have a very significant role to play in all the different professional/non professional spheres of the country which are important in achieving a knowledge–based economy. However, only about 20% of students, who get qualified to enter universities, get admitted. For example, in the year 2016, 103,000 students, who sat for GCE (A /Level), qualified, but only 19,000 (18.52 %) were admitted. Current data are not available.

Inability to utilize a large percentage of human resources in the country to contribute to the endevaours in achieving a knowledge society tend to retard to a great extent the socio-economic growth in the country. Insufficient opportunities, for higher education, cause serious problems, leading to youth unrest, and as a result of inadequate local opportunities for higher education, a large number of students go overseas to follow various courses. In the year 2009, the total outward remittances for educational purposes were around Rs. 2 billion.

 

University Academic staff:

The success/achievements of a university deepened to a considerable extent on its academic staff. Currently, there are around 5,700 in the academic staff of the 15 universities. Nearly 2,500 of them have postgraduate qualifications. By being involved in research/extension and other related activities, they could make a significant impact on the socio-economic issues affecting the country. A large number of them are highly committed and go out of their way to contribute to improve the output of their institutions. If not for them, the various programmes and activities of professional societies, such as Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science (SLAAS), which have a catalytic effect on the socio-economic development of the country, would come to a halt. All these are done on a voluntary basis.

Most of the university academic staff have to work under very trying conditions. Some of the basic facilities necessary for the staff to carry out their work satisfactorily are not available to them. Although staff quarters are available for the academic staff of Peradeniya University, most of the staff in regional universities, such as Wayamba, Rajarata, etc., do not have proper places to stay and they have to pay a considerable portion of their salaries on accommodation. Communication and transport facilities are limiting. I am aware of some university academic staff members who have to start early morning, walk to the bus/train station, and travel hundreds of kilometers to attend to various academic/professional meetings in Colombo or Peradeniya. These are done on a voluntary basis. When the staff member has to stay overnight, in Colombo, or Kandy, he/she has no place to stay and has to depend on a friend or a relation. Thus they have to face untold difficulties in attending to their professional work.

Most of the recently recruited probationary academic staff need to obtain post-graduate qualifications so that they could provide a better service. It will also raise the standards of the respective universities. Some time ago, there was a programme to send the university probationary academic staff, for post-graduate training, to overseas. This made it possible to have a well-qualified academic staff. However, there is no such a programme at present. It is essential that this programme is continued if we are to maintain/raise the academic standing of our universities.

Research

The university academic staff is expected to do research and extension. Their research out-put is given due consideration when they are given promotions. They need to publish their research findings. I brought to the notice of the UGC through the Chairman of the standing committee in which I was a member, the need to have a compendium indicating the research projects, conducted by the academic staff of universities of Sri Lanka, and to publish the research papers of the university staff, at least in an annual journal. But this was not done.

Conducting research, especially laboratory/field research is a real challenge. Most of the basic requirements for research, such as laboratory (equipment and chemicals) /communication/transport, etc., are limiting. In spite of many difficulties, a large number of university academics conduct research. How have these research benefited the country? Ideally the UGC should have a programme to commercialize/make use of the research findings of the university staff. It is necessary to have an effective mechanism to interact with the industry so that the research findings could be used by them. It is then only that the research, conducted by the university staff, universities can have an impact on the socio-economic development of the country. Merely conducting research is not going to be of use.

 

Employment of graduates:

A substantial percentage of those passing out from our universities and other higher education institutes are unemployed or under-employed. Thousands of graduates have been appointed as Development Assistants in many government offices and are not involved in productive work. Inability to utilize a large percentage of human resources in the country to contribute to the endevaours in realizing the objectives of a knowledge-based economy tend to retard to a great extent the socio-economic growth in the country. There are many enterprises in the fields of industries and agriculture where there are opportunities for the graduates to find productive employment. But, the previous governments have not being able to increase employment opportunities so that those passing out from the universities can be gainfully employed. Instead they simply gave employment to thousands of graduates as Development Assistants who do not have much development work to do. This may be one of the reasons for the widening trade deficit. It is extremely important that the numerous organizations such as Industrial Development Board, Export Development Board, and Institute of Post-Harvest Technology develop appropriate programmes which will have a positive impact on employment opportunities in the country. Inability of the government to create adequate employment opportunities so that the graduates can be gainfully employed would cause serious problems leading to youth unrest, which the relevant authorities need to give serious consideration.

 

 

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Buddhist Theory of Kamma

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by Venerable Narada Maha Thera

Kamma is the law of moral causation. The theory of kamma is a fundamental doctrine in Buddhism. This belief was prevalent in India before the advent of the Buddha. Nevertheless, it was the Buddha who explained and formulated this doctrine in the complete form in which we have it today.

What is the cause of inequality that exists among mankind?

Why should one person be brought up in the lap of luxury, endowed with fine mental, moral and physical qualities, and another in absolute poverty, steeped in misery?

Why should one person be a mental prodigy and another an idiot’?

Why should one person be born with saintly characteristics and another with criminal tendencies?

Why should some be linguistic, artistic, mathematically inclined, or musical from the very cradle.

Why should others be congenitally blind, deaf, or deformed? Why should some be blessed and others cursed from their births?

Either this inequality of mankind has a cause or it is purely accidental. No sensible person would think of attributing this unevenness, this inequality, and this diversity to blind chance or pure accident.

In this world nothing happens to a person that he does not for some reason or other deserve. Usually, men of ordinary intellect cannot comprehend the actual reason or reasons. The definite invisible cause or causes of the visible effect is not necessarily confined to the present life, they may be traced to a proximate or remote past birth.

According to Buddhism, this inequality is due not only to heredity, environment, “nature and nurture”, but also to kamma. In other words, it is the result of our own past actions and our own present doings. We ourselves are responsible for our own happiness and misery. We create our own Heaven. We create our own Hell. We are the architects of our own fate.

Perplexed by the seemingly inexplicable, apparent disparity that existed among humanity, a young truth-seeker approached the Buddha and questioned him regarding this intricate problem of inequality:

“What is the cause, what is the reason, 0 Lord,” questioned lie, “that we find amongst mankind the short-lived and long-lived, the healthy and the diseased, the ugly and beautiful, those lacking influence and the powerful, the poor and the rich, the low-born and the high-born, and the ignorant and the wise?”

The Buddha’s reply was:

“All living beings have actions (Kamma) as their own, their inheritance, their congenital cause, their kinsman, their refuge. It is kamma that differentiates beings into low and high states.”

The Buddha then explained the cause of such differences in accordance with the law of cause and effect.

Certainly we are born with hereditary characteristics. At the same time we possess certain innate abilities that science cannot adequately account for. To our parents we are indebted for the gross sperm and ovum that form the nucleus of this so-called being. They remain dormant within each parent until this potential germinal compound is vitalised by the karmic energy needed for the production of the foetus. kamma is therefore the indispensable conceptive cause of this being.

The accumulated karmic tendencies, inherited in the course of previous lives, at times play a far greater role than the hereditary parental cells and genes in the formation of both physical and mental characteristics.

The Buddha for instance, inherited, like every other person, the reproductive cells and genes from his parents. But physically, morally and intellectually there was none comparable to him in his long line of Royal ancestors. In the Buddha’s own words, he belonged not to the Royal lineage, but to that of the Aryan Buddhas. He was certainly a superman, an extraordinary creation of his own kamma.

According to the Lakkhana Sutta of Digha Nikaya, the Buddha inherited exceptional features, such as the 32 major marks, as the result of his past meritorious deeds. The ethical reason for acquiring each physical feature is clearly explained in the Sutta.

It is obvious from this unique case that karmic tendencies could not only influence our physical organism, but also nullify the potentiality of the parental cells and genes – hence the significance of the Buddha’s enigmatic statement, – “We are the heirs of our own actions.”

Dealing with this problem of variation, the Atthasalini, being a commentary on the Abhidharma, states:

“Depending on this difference in Karma appears the differences in the birth of beings, high and low, base and exalted, happy and miserable. Depending on the difference in karma appears the difference in the individual features of beings as beautiful and ugly, high-born or low born, well-built or deformed. Depending on the difference in karma appears the difference in worldly conditions of beings, such as gain and loss, and disgrace, blame and praise, happiness and misery. “

Thus, from a Buddhist point of view, our present mental, moral intellectual and temperamental differences are, for the most part, due to our own actions and tendencies, both past and present.

Although Buddhism attributes this variation to kamma as being the chief cause among a variety, it does not, however, assert that everything is due to kamma. The law of kamma, important as it is, is only one of the twenty-four conditions described in Buddhist Philosophy.

Refuting the erroneous view that “whatsoever fortune or misfortune experienced is all due to some previous action”, the Buddha said:

“So, then, according to this view owing to previous actions men will become murderers, thieves, unchaste, liars, slanderers, covetous, malicious and perverts. Thus, for those who fall back on the former deeds as the essential reason, there is neither the desire to do, nor effort to do, nor necessity to do this deed, or abstain from this deed. “

It was this important text, which states the belief that all physical circumstances and mental attitudes spring solely from past kamma that Buddha contradicted. If the present life is totally conditioned or wholly controlled by our past actions, then certainly kamma is tantamount to fatalism or determinism or predestination. If this were true, free will would be an absurdity. Life would be purely mechanistic, not much different from a machine. Being created by an Almighty God who controls our destinies and predetermines our future, or being produced by an irresistible kamma that completely determines our fate and controls our life’s course, independent of any free action on our part, is essentially the same. The only difference lies in the two words God and kamma. One could easily be substituted for the other, because the j ultimate operation of both forces would be identical.

Such a fatalistic doctrine is not the Buddhist law of kamma, Five Processes for Kamma Niyama.

According to Buddhism, there are five orders or processes (niyama) which operate in the physical and mental realms.

They are:

1. Utu Niyama –

physical inorganic order, e.g. seasonal phenomena of winds and rains. The unerring order of seasons, characteristic seasonal changes and events, causes of winds and rains, nature of heat, etc., all belong to this group.

2. Beeja Niyama –

order of germs and seeds (physical organic order), e.g. rice produced from rice-seed, sugary taste from sugar-cane or honey, peculiar characteristics of certain fruits, etc. The scientific theory of cells and genes and the physical similarity of twins may be ascribed to this order.

3. Kamma Niyama –

order of act and result, e.g., desirable and undesirable acts produce corresponding good and bad results. As surely as water seeks its own level so does kamma, given opportunity, produce its inevitable result, not in the form of a reward or punishment but as an innate sequence. This sequence of deed and effect is as natural and necessary as the way of the sun and the moon.

4. Dhamma Niyama –

order of the norm, e.g. the natural phenomena occurring at the advent of a Bodhisattva in his last birth. Gravitation and other similar laws of nature. The natural reason for being good and so forth, many be included in this group.

5. Citta Niyama –

order or mind or psychic law, e.g., processes of consciousness, arising and perishing of consciousness, constituents of consciousness, power of mind, etc. including telepathy, telaesthesia, retro-cognition, premonition, clairvoyance, clairaudience, thought-reading and such other psychic phenomena which are inexplicable to modern science.

Every mental or physical phenomenon could be explained by these all-embracing five orders or processes which are laws in themselves. kamma as such is only one of these five orders. Like all other natural laws they demand no lawgiver.

Of these five, the physical inorganic order and the order of the norm are more or less mechanistic, though they can be controlled to some extent by human ingenuity and the power of mind. For example, fire normally burns, and extreme cold freezes, but man has walked scatheless over fire and meditated naked on Himalayan snows; horticulturists have worked marvels with flowers and fruits; Yogis have performed levitation. Psychic law is equally mechanistic, but Buddhist training aims at control of mind, which ispossible by right understanding and skilful volition. The kamma law operates quite automatically and, when the kamma is powerful, man cannot interfere with its inexorable result though he may desire to do so; but here also right understanding and skilful volition can accomplish much and mould the future. Good kamma, persisted in, can thwart the reaping of bad kamma, or as some Western scholars prefer to say ‘action influence’, is certainly an intricate law whose working is fully comprehended only by a Buddha. The Buddhist aims at the final destruction of all kamma.

WHAT IS KAMMA?

The Pali term kamma literally means action or doing. Any kind of intentional action whether mental, verbal, or physical, is regarded as kamma. It covers all that is included in the phrase “thought, word and deed”. Generally speaking, all good and bad action constitutes kamma. In its ultimate sense kamma means all moral and immoral volition. Involuntary, unintentional or unconscious actions, though technically deeds, do not constitute kamma, because volition, the most important factor in determining kamma, is absent.

The Buddha says :

“I declare, 0 Bhikkhus, that volition is kamma, having willed one acts by body, speech, and thought. ” (Anguttara Nikaya)

Every volitional action of individuals, save those of the Buddhas and Arahants, is called kamma. The exception made in their case is because they are delivered from both good and evil; they have eradicated ignorance and craving, the roots of kamma.

“Destroyed are their germinal seeds (Khina beeja); selfish desires no longer grow,” states the Ratans Sutta of the Sutta nipata.

This does not mean that the Buddha and Arahantas are passive. They are tirelessly active in working for the real well being and happiness of all. Their deeds ordinarily accepted as good or moral, lack creative power as regards themselves, Understanding things as they truly are, they have finally shattered their cosmic fetters – the chain of cause and effect.

Kamma does not necessarily mean past actions. It embraces both past and present deeds. Hence in one sense, we are the result of what we were; we will be the result of what we are.

In another sense, it should be added, we are not totally the result of what we were; we will not absolutely be the result of what we arc. The present is no doubt the offspring of the past and is the present of the future, but the present is not always a true index of either the past or the future; so complex is the working of kamma.

It is this doctrine of kamma that the mother teaches her child when she says “Be good and you will be happy and we will love you; but if you are bad, you will be unhappy and we will not love you.” In short, kamma is the law of cause and effect in the ethical realm.

 

KAM MA AND VIPAKA

Kamma is action, and Vipaka, fruit or result, is its reaction.

Just as every object is accompanied by a shadow, even so every volitional activity is inevitably accompanied by its due effect.

kamma is like potential seed: Vipaka could be likened to the fruit arising from the tree – the effect or result. Anisamsa and Adinaya are the leaves, flowers and so forth that correspond to external differences such as health, sickness and poverty-these are inevitable consequences, which happen at the same time. Strictly speaking, both kamma and Vipaka pertain to the mind.

As kamma may be good or bad, so may Vipaka, – the fruit – is good or bad. As kamma is mental so Vipaka is mental (of the mind). It is experienced as happiness, bliss, unhappiness or misery, according to the nature of the kamma seed. Anisainsa are the concomitant advantages material things such as prosperity, health and longevity. When Vipaka’s concomitant material things are disadvantageous, they arc known as Adairaja, full of wretchedness, and appear as poverty, ugliness, disease, short life-span and so forth.

As we sow, we reap somewhere and sometime, in this life or in a future birth. What we reap today is what we have sown either in the present or in the past.

The Samyutta Nikaya states :

“According to the seed that’s sown, So is the fruit you reap there from, Doer of good will gather good,

Doer of evil, evil reaps,

Down is the seed and thou shalt taste The fruit there of”

Kamma is a law in itself, which operates in its own field without the intervention of any external, independent ruling agency.

Happiness and misery, which are the common lot of humanity, are the inevitable effects of causes. From a Buddhist point of view, they are not rewards and punishments, assigned by a supernatural, omniscient ruling power to a soul that has done good or evil. Theists, who attempt to explain everything in this and temporal life and in the eternal future life, ignoring a past, believe in a ‘postmortem’ justice, and may regard present happiness and misery as blessings and curses conferred on His creation by an omniscient and omnipotent Divine Ruler who sits in heaven above controlling the destinies of the human race. Buddhism, which emphatically denies such an Almighty, All merciful God-Creator and an arbitrarily created immortal soul, believes in natural law and justice which cannot be suspended by either an Almighty God or an All-compassionate Buddha. According to this natural law, acts bear their own rewards and punishments to the individual doer whether human justice finds out or not.

There are some who criticise thus: “So, you Buddhists, too, administer capitalistic opium to the people, saying: “You are born poor in this life on account of your past evil kamma. He is born rich on account of his good kamma. So, be satisfied with your humble lot; but do good to be rich in your next life. You are being oppressed now because of your past evil kamma. There is your destiny. Be humble and bear your sufferings patiently. Do good now. You can be certain of a better and happier life after death.”

The Buddhist doctrine of kamma does not expound such ridiculous fatalistic views. Nor does it vindicate a postmortem justice. The All-Merciful Buddha, who had no ulterior selfish motives, did not teach this law of kamma to protect the rich and comfort the poor by promising illusory happiness in an after-life.

While we are born to a state created by ourselves, yet by our own self-directed efforts there is every possibility for us to create new, favourable environments even here and now. Not only individually, but also, collectively, we are at liberty to create fresh kamma that leads either towards our progress or downfall in this very life.

According to the Buddhist doctrine of kamma, one is not always compelled by an ‘iron necessity’, for Kamma is neither fate, nor predestination imposed upon us by some mysterious unknown power to which we must helplessly submit ourselves. It is one’s own doing reacting on oneself, and so one has the possibility to divert the course of one’s kamma to some extent. How far one diverts it depends on oneself.

Is one bound to reap all that one has sown in just proportion?

The Buddha provides an answer:

“if anyone says that a man or woman must reap in this life according to his present deeds, in that case there is no religious life, nor is an opportunity, afforded for the entire extinction of sorrow But if anyone says that what a man or woman reaps in this and future lives accords with his or her deeds present and past, in that case there is a religious life, and an opportunity is afforded for the entire extinction of ‘a sorrow” (Anguttara Nikaya)

Although it is stated in the Dhammapada that “not in the sky, nor in mid-ocean, or entering a mountain cave is found that place on earth where one may escape from (the consequences of) an evil deed”, yet one is not bound to pay all the past arrears of one’s kamma. If such were the case emancipation would be impossibility. Eternal recurrence would be the unfortunate result.

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Egg Face Packs and Masks for Healthy Skin

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LOOK GOOD – with Disna

* Egg and Orange Juice Pack:

Separate the egg white and add one teaspoon orange juice, and mix well. Then add ½ teaspoon turmeric powder. First wash your face, and then apply the mixture on your face – avoiding your eyes. Leave it for 10-15 minutes. Then wash your face with warm water. It gives nourishment to your skin.

* Egg and Lemon Juice:

Separate the egg white and add one teaspoon lemon juice, and mix well. Then add ½ teaspoon honey. Make your face ready for the mask. Apply it (avoiding eyes) and leave it for 10 minutes. Then wash your face with warm water and apply some cream on your face. This is a glowing face mask.

* Egg and Banana:

Separate the egg white and add one mashed banana. Mix it well and then add coconut oil. Then apply the mixture, on your face, and leave it for 15 minutes. Then wash it off with warm water. This is a natural glowing pack.

* Egg and Rose Water:

Separate the egg white and add rose water to it. Then add olive oil and mix it well. Apply it on your face and leave it for 15 minutes. Then wash it off with warm water. It is a nice and refreshing face mask.

* Egg and Pineapple:

Separate the egg white and add one teaspoon mashed pineapple and one teaspoon honey. Mix it well and apply it on your face (avoiding your eyes) and leave the mixture for 15 minutes. Then wash it off with warm water and apply some moisturizer.

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Effective conflict resolution, prime challenge for UN

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Seventy five years on, effective conflict resolution remains a prime challenge for the UN. Even a summary survey of the UN’s conflict resolution history would reveal one of the prime causes for this to reside in the inability of the major powers to work consensually towards international conflict resolution and peace.

The fact that UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres’s call for a ‘global ceasefire’ on the 75th anniversary of the founding of the UN, which falls this year, has apparently fallen on deaf years speaks volumes for the general unpopularity of international peace among sections of the world community. There is a spirit of unwillingness on the part of particularly the big powers to be receptive to peace, understood as the avoidance of armed conflict, and this ought to be cause for some concern among humanists world wide.

There needs to be agreement among all international quarters who matter that the use of force or coercion in conflict situations is not the final and decisive answer to their resolution. The inability of the world to agree on this insight remains one of the principal reasons for the perpetuation of conflict and war.

To be sure, the UN has done its utmost to bring peace to war and conflict zones over the decades by entirely peaceful means but some major conflicts are continuing to rage without abatement. For example, there is the Middle East problem that has been a veritable thorn in the flesh of pro-peace sections over the years and the Kashmir conflict. The complexity of these problems is such that they elude easy resolution. However, it’s plain to see that the lack of a spirit of compromise among the main actors in these conflicts is playing a key role in their relentless continuation.

A chief reason for the seeming ineffectiveness of the UN in the face of festering conflicts is the unwillingness, as observers point out, on the part of the big powers to work in accord towards peace in some major theatres of war. Syria, Libya and the Ukraine, for example, could do with some agreement and compromise among the foremost powers, particularly the US and Russia. What renders easy conflict-resolution in these trouble spots difficult to achieve is the fact that, most often than not, the warring parties are backed by conflicting big powers.

As is known, the key UN organ tasked with the responsibility of ensuring international peace and security is the Security Council. As revealed by UN conflict-resolution history, the main stumbling block to bringing peace expeditiously to some raging conflicts is the use of the veto by the foremost powers, mainly the US and Russia. Since the ascension to major power status by China, the latter too is a major factor in the establishment of world peace and security.

It stands to reason that if there is no agreement among these powers on ways of resolving outstanding conflicts, there cannot be an easy passage to peace. And there cannot be easy access to peace as long as there exist conflicting interests among the big powers in relation to the war zones in question. For example, in Syria, conflicting political and strategic interests among the US and Russia prevented the country from returning to a degree of normalcy. However, Syria is a prime, contemporary ‘killing field’ where civilian lives are snuffed out in alarming numbers.

Besides the unconscionable killing of civilians, what is most unfortunate about these endemic war situations is the apparent helplessness of the UN. The power to perpetuate war or foster peace resides mainly within the UN system with the Security Council and if the UNSC is itself an arena of conflict between hitherto formidable powers, there is no possibility of establishing and fostering global peace speedily.

However, there is the fast-changing global power balance to consider, particularly in the context of rendering the UN a more effective instrument in delivering peace. It need hardly be mentioned that the present composition of the Security Council was determined by the world power balance that existed at the close of World War Two. Hence, the permanent status accorded to the US, Britain, France, Russia and China. But in the current international political and economic order there are countries that could easily compete with the above powers for permanent status and in fact dwarf them. Some of these states are: India, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa.

In the name fairness and equity some of the latter powers need to be inducted into the UNSC. The diffusion of the authority to establish peace and security among a greater number of powerful states could result in the gridlocks plaguing current peace-making being broken. The overwhelming power currently in the hands of the existing ‘big five’ could be more evenly distributed among those potential Security Council members who play a pivotal role in shaping the current global political and economic system. Thus, UN reform needs to be accelerated in the name of more expeditious peace-making.

It could be said that, as matters stand, economic power would prove as decisive in shaping the world system, as military and political clout. In fact, in the days ahead economic power could prove the foremost factor in this respect, considering its central importance in reviving the world economy, post COVID-19.

The emerging economies are those to watch most. In around 30 years time, they would be contributing nearly 60 percent or more to the world’s GDP. It stands to reason that countries would find it to be in their best interests to forge increasingly close ties with these emerging economies. Some of these are: India, Indonesia, South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey.

However, minus a spirit of reconciliation and good will among those who matter most, international peace-making would prove arduous. ‘The spirit’ needs to be amply willing to foster peace and not war. This ‘spirit’ will be the icing on the cake of international peace. While economics would be a driving force of the world system, peace-building will prove the fundamental building blocks of a more stable world.

 

 

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