The Preamble of the Charter of the United Nations begins with the words “We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.” These opening words continue to serve as a reminder that the UN itself was created to help prevent war, and of the ruin that war can bring upon the world.
Since the UN's creation, the international community has not seen a conflict with the same level of globally widespread catastrophe as the Second World War, which motivated governments toward its creation. Unfortunately, the “scourge of war” has not disappeared. Now, nearly 70 years after the Charter's signing, ongoing violent conflicts continue to inflict unimaginable suffering around the world. Some, like the current crisis in Syria, resulting in over 70,000 deaths so far, have no end in sight.
Although not every part of the world directly experiences widespread violent conflict, the implications of militarization touch every corner of the global village. Over $1.7 trillion is spent globally on armaments, making up about 2.5 percent of the world's GDP. Figures like these have prompted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to stress several times that “the world is over-armed and peace is underfunded.”
This Briefing will bring together a diverse and high-level panel to discuss the role of war in recent human history and how far humanity has advanced in limiting the scourge of war, particularly since the signing of the UN Charter. The Briefing will highlight various aspects of this topic, including the idea that peace comes through strength, the questioning of increasing militarism in society, and the view that the institution of war should be abolished, just as institutions of slavery, colonialism, apartheid and the prohibition of women from voting have been eliminated.
This Briefing will begin promptly at 10:00 a.m. and we ask that our audience be seated by 9:45 a.m. sharp.
H.E. Mr. Paul Seger, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations
Ms. Jody Williams, 1997 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Chair of the Nobel Women's Initiative
Mr. Ralph Zacklin, Former United Nations Assistant-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, 1998-2005
Ms. Nounou Booto Meeti, Programme Manager, Centre for Peace, Security and Armed Violence Prevention