.. by Mir Wazir Khan
The world is facing three challenges of gargantuan proportions needing men of cosmic vision for their solutions: the one is global poverty, the second is global warming and the third is the risk of accidental nuclear war involving great powers. The causes are, directly and indirectly, linked with struggle to clinch global resources and accumulation of wealth by rich nations. Karl Marx?s prediction about the exploitative nature of unchecked world Capitalism is becoming a reality and the relevance of Communism is debated again a quarter of a century after the dismemberment of ex-USSR.
Statistics about global poverty present strikingly disturbing picture. Powerful governments, bureaucratic establishments and global governing and financial structures are in the hands of the few advanced nations and a small capitalist class within these nations. There are no checks on them on how to utilize these resources and institutions equitably for the wellbeing of the humanity as a whole and the results are economic inequality and rising poverty.
Africa is said to contain 12% of world population but it has access to just 3% of the world?s total energy resources. It might be one of the causes of the continent?s underdevelopment. According to Oxfam, just 26 people own as much wealth as 50% population of the world combined. Reportedly, a global network of tax havens facilitates the richest individuals to hide $ 7.6 trillion annually in tax evasion. The international agencies working or reporting about global poverty believe that the fight against poverty cannot be won until the inequality crisis is first tackled. The global inequality crisis is reaching new extremes and the results of Global Attitudes Survey conducted in 44 countries across the world — Europe and North America included— suggests that poverty and economic inequality is considered as one of the biggest threats to the stability in the world. The richest 1% have more wealth than the wealth of the rest of the population of the world put together. Power and privilege is being used to twist the economic system to increase the gap between the richest and the rest by different taxes, tariffs, trade regulations and barriers.
The share of the poorest in the ever-increasing global wealth is dismal. Since the turn of the century, the poorest half of the world?s population has received just 1% of the total increase in the global wealth while half of that global increase in wealth has gone to the top 1% richest class. Other socioeconomic indicators also show sorrowful trends. For instance, out of 7 billion population of the world, three billion are living on the equivalent of $ 2.50 a day. 80% population live on the equivalent of less than 10% of the global income and richest 20% own for 75% of the world?s total income. According to Oxfam report, the world already produces 17% more food than is needed for every person on the planet to eat a balanced diet. A leading CEO in the UK earns in a year to the equivalent of ten thousands workers in a garment factory in Bangladesh in a year. Potable water is not available to over one billion and over three billions are not having sanitation facilities in a world where bathrooms of the richest 1% are ornamented with gold and silver.
Global warming do not need any more statistics to corroborate the same as it has become a common man?s knowledge. Exploration and extraction of the natural resources of the Earth is at its height. Production of goods is on the increase and there is no dearth of any commodity. Due to this the Earth is getting hotter and hotter because of consumption of huge quantities of coal, oil, electricity and other sources of energy for industrialization. Our oceans, seas and rivers are contaminated due to dumping of toxic waste from the industries and marine life is in danger of extinction. The hot temperatures in coldest regions of the earth, the rise in ocean and sea levels, the fast melting of ice in the Arctic and Antarctica and the huge swathes of floating icebergs suggest that the effects of global warming are going to damage the earth in the coming years.
Ninety-seven percent climate scientists agree that climate change trends over the last century are very likely due to human activities and the largest influence has been the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane because of huge quantities of coal being used to run the industries. Humanity, irrespective of geography, language, caste, creed and color is facing one of its existential threats in the form of global warming, extreme poverty and nuclear weapons. May be, a few decades from now, the temperatures would rise to such levels that living in most parts of the world would be very difficult, if not impossible and humanity may be forced into nomadic life again.
On-going great powers rivalries for spheres of influence and energy resources may led to wars and nuclear conflict may be a reality. Military buildup and upgradation of nuclear weapons by the USA, Russia and China is going on with added momentum. Deployment of nuclear missiles and anti-missile shields in Europe by NATO and leaving of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty by the USA could stoke up new arm race. The weapons livery of the great powers are rising with new warplanes, nuclear missiles and aircraft carriers. The relation of the USA with Russia and China is not cordial. The USA-China showdown in South China Sea and US-Russia tensions over Crimea and the Black Sea can trigger accidental conflicts. The worsening USA-Russia relations and NATO?s concentration of troops and weapons in countries bordering Russia can ignite chances of accidental clashes leading to a great war. The huge Vostok 2018 military exercise by Russia in September 2018 and the Trident Juncture military exercise by the US and NATO in Arctic near the borders of Russia in October 2018 are not good omens for world peace. Any conflict starting with conventional weapons can switch to nuclear arms and the use of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) can lead to mutually assured destruction of both the attacker and the attacked.
Our national and international leaders and global governing structures should do something tangible to address these issues.
Reportedly, after China the USA is the second country responsible for the highest emission of carbon dioxide and methane because of huge industrial consumption of coal. However, US president Trump withdrew from Paris Climate Summit saying reduction of global warming is no specific concern of the USA. The role of international organizations such the UNO, the Security Council, G?7 industrialized nations, European Union, regional and continental groupings of nations and powerful international non-governmental organizations has been mostly ambivalent towards these major challenges. The advanced nations of the world created a peace forum by the name of Paris Peace Forum and held a convention in November 2018 to commemorate the end of World War 1. However, most of the same nations were active belligerents in World War II just 21 years after the end of World War 1. World War II is considered as the most catastrophic military conflict in the history of the world. It was in this war that nuclear bombs were used and the war cost the lives of over 70 million people including damages to properties in trillions of dollars.
Religions are unanimous in their teaching that Man is the noblest creation of God and deserves life of dignity and honor. Is it really possible to live a dignified life without water, sanitation, food, shelter and clothing? Is an earnings of $ 2 a day enough to keep the body and soul together with rudiments of a decent life such as health, housing and education? Data shows that over three billion population is living below poverty line and another over three billions are living in poverty or at least a little above poverty level. What is the benefit of the end of Cold War, collapse of Communism and the victory of Capitalism and Democracy as unrivalled ideological systems to the poor of the world!
Establishment of judicious societies has been the hallmarks of major faiths. Prophets struggled, and at times sacrificed their lives, for the establishment of virtuous and egalitarian societies. The religious affiliation in the world today (in billions) is Christianity (2.4), Islam (1.8), Hinduism (1.15) Secular/non-religious, agnostics and atheists (1.2) and Buddhism 521 million.
Judaism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Baha?ism, Sikhism etc. constitute the remainder of the global population. Over half of the world?s population are followers of two major Abrahamic religions of Christianity and Islam. Excluding Japan, major scientific and economic powerhouses?USA, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy and Russia– are Christian-majority countries. Around two billion Muslims have the world?s most precious resources of oil, natural gas, gold and many other valuable minerals in their possession. But poverty and deprivation is on the rise. We follow divine religions and we also eulogize Democracy and Capitalism. But social justice is nowhere in existence and living condition of the people of the world is getting more and more miserable.
Majority in the world are struggling for bare survival. Like animal planet, our human planet is also working within the principles of ?survival of the fittest? and ?might is the supreme right.? One can see world leaders proudly talking about their stockpile of nuclear weapons. In this age of abundance, most of the humanity spent their whole time to earn?often failing?two times meals for themselves. They have no free time or the peace of mind to think about the world in which they live and about the systems and structures that have tethered them. The rich of the world gather at Davos every year for Economic Forums, where, perhaps, most probably they discuss on how to perpetuate the existing system of exploitation and oppression.
His holiness Pope Francis is leading majority of Christians from the Vatican. In his first address after assuming the pontificate, he spoke against global inequalities. But, so far, he has not been able to influence world powers toward making efforts in the direction of poverty reduction. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia occupies a special place in the Muslim world. The kingdom is the birth place of Islam and the last Prophet of Islam and Islam?s most sacred mosques and shrines are situated there. The Kingdom is the richest country in the Muslim world. Saudi Arabia can do much more toward resolution of these burning issues. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran and Muqtadara al- Sadr of Iraq, as leaders of Shi?a sect in Islam, can combine their efforts for solution of these issues and for social justice at least in Shi?a-majority countries.
His Highness the Aga Khan IV, the 49th Imam of around 20 million Ismaili Muslim— a sect within Shi?a Islam– the Dalai Lama, along with hundreds of millions of his followers, many other savants, sages and thinkers can do a lot in resolving the pressing challenges of our times. For example, what the United States governments did in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and now trying to do in Venezuela and what the famous Ivy League universities of the USA and their high-profile professors and graduates are really trying to do to balance the policy formulation of the United States and to check and contain wrong policies of their governments which result in mass killings and mass exodus of innocent people.
Secretary-General of the UNO, heads of states and governments of the USA, the European Union, the UK, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, Japan, Russia and China can certainly make positive impact in resolving these issues. They are the most powerful people on planet earth in the age of globalization and will be responsible to God and to history for their lacking towards humanity. Further delay in the realization of an equitable economic order for the world will force millions to risk their lives— in deserts and oceans?for greener pastures in Europe and North America. The huge migrations will ultimately destabilize the European countries in the years to come in different ways including problems of adjustments, space and assimilation, which will likely destabilize the entire world in different ways.
The response to these challenges must start from good governance at nation-state level and fair international socioeconomic order at global level. The powerful nations should help the underdeveloped nations in technology, education and good governance as a first step toward solution of these major issues. Global confrontations by big powers and huge spending on armaments should be curtailed. The powerful nations should think and work on how to save the billions from poverty so that people shouldn?t opt for migrations of compulsion. If living conditions would have been bearable for poor South American people, they wouldn?t have gathered on the borders of the USA. If the powerful nations have desisted from destroying stable government of Gadhafi in Libya in 2011, huge number of Libyans wouldn?t have voyaged in difficult conditions, often risking their lives, for seeking asylum in Europe.
Same is the situation in Yemen and Syria, where insurgencies and military actions supported by powerful nations have destroyed and killed millions. We live in a strange world where powerful countries neither allow our own countries to remain in peace and stability nor allow the entry of the poor refugees in their countries when their original countries have been turned into infernos for them. Or, perhaps, these are the beauties of Democracy, Capitalism and of Globalization?the overarching principles of our modern civilization?which, we, the barbarians fail to understand!!! .. Mir Wazir Khan, Awi, Chitral 16 Mar 2019