"GIVING TEETH TO PEACE" - BOOK REVIEW of: THE HUMAN RIGHT TO PEACE
by Dr. Larry Fisk, PhD.
Dear friends and colleagues,
Senator Doug Roche's new book "The Human Right to Peace" happens to be so informative, clear and forceful I can't resist forwarding my review to as many of you as possible. The reasons for my enthusiasm for the book are contained in the following review.
"GIVING TEETH TO PEACE"
Review of: Douglas Roche, The Human Right to Peace. (Ottawa, ON: Novalis) 2003. 271 pp. $24.95 (Cdn) (ppbk; ordering information below)
Even though I had met Canada's renowned "peace and human security Senator" and had experienced him as an outspoken, yet modest, man I will confess to being pleasantly surprised at the extent of the savvy and vision of this well-informed, lucid, sagacious author. Senator Roche has over thirty years of political life in capacities like Chair of the UN Disarmament Committee, Canada's Ambassador for Disarmament and Chair of Canadian Pugwash, enabling a vantage point to make the case for both the reality of a "third generation" right of peace, and its unparalleled significance.
At the heart of this instructive and inspiring little book is the argument that "peace" is a universal third generation right, depending in part on the achievement of prior waves of human rights plus the modern interconnectedness of all states. This contemporary inter-dependency is unlike first generation rights like "liberty and equality" which are rights extracted from, or in relation to, the sovereign state alone. Similarly, second generation rights like education, health, or more generally "economic, cultural and social" rights attending societal inequalities, are also devised in relation to the state, or its agencies and fellow citizens. Globalization, with its international understanding, widespread participation, and effective communication, makes possible the universal right of peace. It is both "innovative and addresses a whole swath of new and interconnected challenges". It is an essential right because the horrendous atrocities of wars, genocide, environmental devastation, world-wide hunger, displacement, disease and water shortages and the threat of nuclear annihilation, all make human living deplorable or near impossible for the vast majority in the modern global context. Without peace, it is now clear, the achievements of past rights are a cruel parody of justice.
The value of Doug Roche's book is not just the cogent argument for peace as a fundamental right. The book is a succinct history of 20th century Globalization and wars, with particular attention given to 9-11, Afghanistan and Iraq. More than that it is a manual carefully documenting the slow but steady work of the United Nations and providing chapter and verse for United Nations declarations and achievements.
Those cognizant of the Canadian Peace Initiative and its attention to education and action for a world fit for children will find a stunning directive in Roche's attention to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. "The Convention", he observes, "is the most universally accepted human rights instrument in history. It uniquely places children at the forefront in the quest for the universal application of human rights." Here we see a commitment by every country in the world except the USA and Somalia, to ensure standards for children's health, education and protection against abuse. Protocols developed in 2002 were signed on against such heinous practices as child soldiering, the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
His chapters on religions and inter-faith dialogue, peace education, and civil society constitute a blueprint for universal action and peaceful living. For those who care deeply about the values and commitments which grow from a considered faith position, Roche argues forcefully for a continuation of those dialogues which have highlighted agreement on human decency, justice, the rights of children, freedom. This Papal Medal winner for his work in disarmament challenges the religious institutions to take the first step in humility and service to engaging the global secular culture. What the world faiths have held sacred in their moral teachings secular societies, and par excellence the United Nations, have attempted to implement. For Douglas Roche, reconciliation is the highest form of dialogue. Religious tenets and ethics which propound the centrality of human oneness, as the author wisely notes, "has moved from being a kind of abstract, if vaguely interesting, idea to an issue of pressing daily political concern". Such issues as health, education, the environment, crime, terrorism, and corporate Globalization are now part of every one's life.
In his concluding two chapters Doug Roche teaches us all that peace education arises in the context of peace as a universal human right. Peace education is a "weapon" to be employed by all citizens everywhere in the task of replacing a culture of violence and war- the culture which presumes violence and war are acceptable means of security-by a culture of peace. The content of peace education includes knowledge of arms control and disarmament mechanisms; the application of human rights, conflict resolution and problem-solving; overcoming environmental degradation, children's rights and gender equality, democratic participation; and listening, leadership and dialogue skills.
Similarly, in his chapter on civil society Senator Roche documents the impressive growth of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and their success stories in influencing the sovereign states and the activities of the United Nations in directions of peace and justice. Increasingly, NGOs are often more knowledgeable than government sources. They are capable of employing new technologies like the Internet and email to establish world-wide constituencies for a culture of peace. They are capable of working with governments-as with the "Ottawa Process" of the Landmines Treaty, and the work with governments to establish the International Criminal Court. And they are able to work without or around sovereign states in massing support as in the Hague Appeal for Peace or the millions who protested the ignoble plans and actions of the recent war in Iraq.
The new civil societies consist of NGOs and the increasing presence of an understanding of what is required to work to abolish the irrationality of war and the insanity of weapons that can destroy all human life and culture. The new directions reinforce democratic experience and often enable end-runs around recalcitrant governments and their backward-looking policies. The civil society is made possible by the immediate availability of alternative information, as on the Internet, and the highly developed skills of citizens in civil societies and NGOs in communicating a new set of standards, fuelled by the best of age-old religious visions.
Doug Roche's illuminating and instructive book will be one to be added to my required reading list for courses in peace and conflict, development and change. His masterful use of UN documents and an appendix of indispensable websites will constitute some new priorities in my personal reading practices. We owe a debt of gratitude to Senator Douglas Roche for his care in describing these subjects and for providing a notion of peace that motivates change in everyday living-it is truly a portrait with teeth.
- Larry J. Fisk, is a Professor Emeritus of Political, Peace and Conflict Studies now living and teaching in Calgary, Alberta. You can contact Larry at firstname.lastname@example.org
The 260 page book can be ordered for $24.95 from Novalis, 49 Front Street, 2nd Floor, Toronto, ON, Canada M5E 1B3; telephone 1-877-702-7773 or (416) 363-3303; email email@example.com ; web site http://www.novalis.ca ; ISBN 2-89507-409-7 (2003).
You can also read a summary of the books highlights at http://www.peace.ca/humanrighttopeace.htm