NATO applauds the start of intra-Afghan peace negotiations

September 14, 2020

Ian Davis, founding director of NATO Watch,  sent this mailing today. He and his associates “are the eyes and ears for monitoring developments across an Alliance that directly affects over 20% of the global population”.

14 September 2020

On 12 September 2020, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke via video link at the opening ceremony of intra-Afghan negotiations held in Doha, under the chairmanship of the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “With the start of intra-Afghan negotiations, we are entering a new phase of the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process,” the NATO Secretary General said. “Afghans want peace and so does the international community, which has supported Afghanistan on this long, hard road,” he added.

In a statement the North Atlantic Council urged the Afghan government and the Taliban to “fulfil their commitments to the peace process initiated by the US-Taliban agreement and the US-Afghanistan Joint Declaration” and called on “the Taliban to take decisive steps toward ending violence” and to build “on the progress of the last 19 years to safeguard the human rights of all Afghans, particularly women, children, and minorities, uphold the rule of law, and ensure that Afghanistan never again serves as a safe haven for terrorists”.

The statement also reaffirmed the alliance’s “longstanding commitment to Afghanistan, the Afghan people, and the Afghan security forces”. “We went into Afghanistan together, we are adjusting together, and when the conditions are right, we will leave together”, it said.

The start of the talks were also welcomed by the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the talks are a “major opportunity to achieve the long-held aspirations of the people of Afghanistan for peace” and called for a complete cease-fire “to protect civilians and to de-escalate the conflict in order to save lives and to create a conducive environment”. Guterres stressed the need for participation of women in the peace process and the future development of Afghanistan, for which he said the UN will extend its full support. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, secretary general of the OIC, commended the countries who played a key role in making the talks possible, while urging all parties to ensure that the negotiations prove to be constructive, help resolve differences, and lead to comprehensive reconciliation. “Dialogue is the only option that leads to peace, security, and stability for the people of Afghanistan and their country,” he said.

The peace talks became possible after Afghan officials and the Taliban reached a compromise over the release of prisoners at the beginning of the month. The Taliban demanded the release of 5000 prisoners as a precondition for negotiations, a request that initially stalled talks between the parties for months. The Afghan government has since complied and freed all but seven prisoners on the list. The Trump administration is hoping that the negotiations will lead to a further withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan; the US troop level is already down to around 8,600 from around 12,000. The NATO mission is also in the process of reducing troop numbers from about 16,000 troops to roughly 12,000 troops and is also preparing to make further reductions.

 

 

 

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Hopes for a more peaceful Afghanistan

September 11, 2020

Peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government are to start.

Yesterday the New York Times – ahead of the field – reported that officials announced this on Thursday after nearly two decades of  war.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban’s top political leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar signing the peace agreement, Doha

The release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners held by the government opened the way for the breakthrough agreed with the Taliban in a February deal brokered in Doha by the United States, at which the Afghan government was not present.

The Americans promised a phased withdrawal of their remaining troops in exchange for guarantees that there would be a cease-fire and their forces are leaving Afghanistan on schedule. The chief of the U.S. Central Command, said on Wednesday that by November the American military presence in Afghanistan will be reduced to 4,500.

Causes for concern include:

  • deciding the shape of a future power-sharing government,
  • negotiations about women’s rights,
  • the process of integrating Taliban fighters into the security forces,
  • a report from the United Nations Security Council this month which notes that there are a large number of foreign fighters affiliated with Al Qaeda and other regional militant groups in the country,
  • The killing of more than 3,500 Afghan troops, with nearly 6,800 others wounded in the five months since the U.S. and Taliban signed their deal.

Mujib Mashal, the reporter writing from Kabul, described in detail the members of the negotiating team of the Afghan republic. The monitoring of the agreement terms will be done in a joint office in Doha.

The earlier post on this site quoted the Times war correspondent Anthony Loyd in June last year, who reported the words of a Pashtun tribal elder from Wardak, Haji Abdul Mannan:

“Our nation is like a wounded man struck repeatedly on one side by the government and on the other by the Taliban,” one, said: “The people are exhausted. Peace is desperately desired.”

Loyd ends by saying that the Afghan president, supported by the US, seems determined to pursue peace and the people of Afghanistan, on whose support the government and Taliban rely, appear desperate for an end to the fighting. Hope has soared across Afghanistan that the end of the war might be in sight.

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Geoff Tansey: It’s time to turn swords into ploughshares, bombs into bread, and soldiers into good Samaritans*

September 6, 2020

Geoff Tansey’s work first came to my attention in the ’80s when the World Development Movement published his paper, Disarm or develop. He then worked with Paul Rogers, Prof of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford and they co-edited a book, A World Divided.  He has now published a blog entitled It’s time to turn swords into ploughshares, bombs into bread, and soldiers into good Samaritans’. 

It is blatantly obvious that there is no military response that can defeat the COVID-19 virus. It should be equally obvious that military spending can’t deal with the other two great long-term, slower-acting pandemics – climate change and biodiversity loss. It is also clear that the way we run the world and today’s global “leaders” are far from adequate to address these challenges . . . 

At their best the world’s governments can come up with clear and sensible goals, such as the Sustainable Development Goals the first of which is to end poverty and the second to end hunger. But to achieve this we need to put our resources to work in the right direction. And for this to happen we need to see a worldwide commitment from every country to redirect its military spending away from mechanisms and technologies to better kill each other with into life-enhancing and environment sustaining activities. It is only by doing this that we will achieve the sustainable development goals, conquer hunger and poverty and make a fairer, healthy and sustainable world for this and future generations.

Now it is unrealistic to expect a complete redeployment of military spending to occur over night, it needs to be done in stages. So from 1 January 2021 every government in the world should shift 10% of its military spending into other areas that address the food, health, environment and climate destabilisation challenges that we face, that address the growing inequity in the world and aim to reduce it. These redirected resources must support new forms of business and productive activities which enhance our ability to mitigate and adapt to the climate disruption that is already underway. This annual 10% reduction should continue until world military spending is negligible. The valuable logistical and organisational skills found in the military should be redirected into international and national rescue services, peacekeeping and peacemaking. This redeployment of the brainpower and resources is aimed at achieving and going beyond the sustainable development goals.

This requires vision, leadership of the kind that we have not currently seen, and a groundswell from the bottom up, building on the kind of help and support we have seen being given throughout the world in many countries to those affected by COVID-19. The United Nations Charter begins “We the peoples” and it is we the peoples of the world demanding this change, and to be part of it. We need to see every different means of calling on our governments and businesses to do this, including through the online types of petition such as 38Degrees, SomeofUs, WeMove, AVAAZ, and others. If governments and businesses can take unprecedented steps in acting to fight COVID-19 they can do this.

On April 16, 1953, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower said “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense.” It is time to stop that theft. Let us begin a better way of life and save millions from the consequences of the two great long-term, slower-acting pandemics – climate change and biodiversity loss.

* Geoff writes: I come from a background in which Biblical stories permeated my childhood and this refers to a story of a man from a different and despised group (a Samaritan) from the dominant one but who helped a stranger in trouble when those you might have expected to do so from the religious and dominant group did not.”

 

 

 

 

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NATO Watch Essay 2020: China and the USA are now involved in a complex and multifaceted Cold War

September 5, 2020

A thought-provoking new addition to the articles section

Conclusions

Rather than going global and setting its sights on a confrontation with China, NATO should seek to work with China to create a more stable and secure world. China must be engaged, not contained.

Despite the reality of a hardening of Chinese policy domestically and externally, especially in an East Asian context, this does not amount to a challenge to the global order.

By exaggerating the Chinese ‘threat’ and casting the country as an ‘enemy’, the United States and NATO are likely to encourage an even harder line from Beijing. Given the undoubted mutual antagonism between Washington and Beijing, Europe’s role should be to act as a diplomatic bridge between the two sides, as happened to limited extent during the first Cold War.

This does not preclude European politicians speaking out and taking action over Chinese human rights abuses. And they should also continue to promote liberal democracy, humanism and internationalism in engaging with China.

As the British journalist Jonathan Freedland notes, perhaps the answer begins in finding allies and taking on the undramatic, often unglamorous work of diplomacy, and then “advancing bit by bit towards something better”.

Read the full article here.

 

 

 

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Propose full world multilateral disarmament in five years at the United Nations

August 28, 2020

 Proposal to the UN for all states to:

1. cut defence by 20% a year for five years,
2. stop all arms production. Firms have falling subsidies while they convert,
3. require world-wide open inspection, UN policing, punishment for infringement,
4. exterminate terrorist weapons and
5. move disputes to UN.

185 signatures to date

Shown on this map

 

At 10,000 signatures…

At 10,000 signatures, government will respond to this petition

 

At 100,000 signatures…

At 100,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament

 

Petition presented by Alan James Storkey 

To sign this petition click here

 

 

 

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From the testimonies of four American airmen involved in dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima

August 13, 2020

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum at dusk

In 2018, The Mainichi reported that interview tapes and transcripts of evidence from American airmen who dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945 had been donated to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum by the bereaved family of a Japanese person who had owned them. Museum curator Ryo Koyama said, “The records contain vivid testimonies by each and every crew member (of the Enola Gay) and have historic value.”

Captain Robert Lewis, co-pilot of the Enola Gay 

In the log Captain Lewis wrote on the return flight from dropping the bomb on Hiroshima, he wrote the famous line: ‘My God, what have we done?’

Theodore van Kirk

In 2014 it was reported that Theodore van Kirk the last surviving member of the crew that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, had died in Georgia. He said: “The whole World War II experience shows that wars don’t settle anything. And atomic weapons don’t settle anything. I personally think there shouldn’t be any atomic bombs in the world — I’d like to see them all abolished.

Private Richard Nelson

Private Richard Nelson, radar operator, said “War is a terrible thing. It takes and destroys. Anyone feels sorry for people who are killed. We are all human beings.”

Major Claude Eatherly

Only Major Claude Eatherly came forward to declare in public that he felt remorse for what he had done. The 26-year-old Texan piloted the advance weather plane which had to assess target visibility over Hiroshima. After reporting the weather was good over the target, Eatherly turned for home and was over 300 miles from ground zero when the bomb exploded, but his role in enabling the bombing haunted him for the rest of his life.

Later in his life, he began sending parts of his paychecks to the city of Hiroshima, along with letters of apology. He committed crimes to benefit others, such as forging cheques and donating the money illegally obtained to a fund for the children of Hiroshima.  In the late 1950s, he was held by the Veterans’ Administration Hospital in Waco, Texas for possible mental disorders. In 1961, his brother tried to have him declared insane at a 1961 juried hearing at Waco.

While in the hospital, he began to correspond with Viennese philosopher and pacifist Günther Anders, and worked with him to lobby for the abolition of nuclear weapons. The following account was published in 1961 and much of the book may be read courtesy of the  Marcuse Faculty, University of California. Bertrand Russell wrote an introduction, concluding:

On August 6th, 2020, the New York Times magazine reported that in a 1961 interview with reporter Ronnie Dugger, Eatherly explained that he was not convinced by the orthodox explanation about the atomic bomb as a war winning weapon; the Japanese were putting up so little resistance by early August that he believed the war would have ended even without the nuclear devastation.

He sent a message to the people of Hiroshima. “I told them I was the Major that gave the ‘go ahead’ to destroy Hiroshima, that I was unable to forget the act, and that the guilt of the act has caused me great suffering. I asked them to forgive me.”

Thirty “girls of Hiroshima,” young hibakusha, or atomic bomb victims, left alive but scarred by the blast, responded. “We have learned to feel towards you a fellow-feeling, thinking that you are also a victim of war like us.”

Eatherly said “I have been having such difficulty in getting society to recognize the fact of my guilt, which I have long since realized. The truth is that society simply cannot accept the fact of my guilt without at the same time recognizing its own far deeper guilt.”

 

 

 

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In Memoriam: by Steve Schofield

August 10, 2020

Background to the haunting music and film to be seen and heard later

In post-hippy 1980s Britain, Margaret Thatcher’s policies provoked a wave of protest across the country. There was much to protest about: nuclear weaponry, racism, attacks on trade unions, cuts in public services … and the dreadful Poll Tax.

Musicians around the country, from self-taught beginners to trained professionals, formed bands to join the growing protests.

In Bradford, a few Peace Studies students and some members of CND got together to make a joyful noise on Peace marches, with a drum, a clarinet, a flute, a couple of saxophones and occasionally an accordion.  Suddenly a stunning ‘streetband’, called “The Peace Artistes”, appeared.

“Rocking with rhythm and pulsating with passion”, based in West Yorkshire, they have astonished audiences at Folk, Jazz, World Music and street festivals all over Europe and the UK.  Since forming in the 1980s, they have played for causes and celebrations – from political rallies to birthday parties.

In the 1980s and 90s, people in the UK could absorb many different cultures of music making.  The emphasis on co-operative group music was popular – in the Brazilian-style samba bands that resounded throughout Britain, in community choirs and African-style djembe groups,

The Peace Artistes’ repertoire and style are inspired by these rich traditions.  Whilst drawing on musical influences from South Africa, Central and South America, jazz, reggae, the music of central and eastern Europe, cabaret and pop, they also add something special in their distinctive costume and performance!

Steve Schofield’s remarkable body of peace-related research will be listed on this site when assembled and his  Lessnet work covered on a sister site. 

Now click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6P2lLacU-A

 

 

 

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The UK ‘has long sought to broker a political settlement to the conflict in Yemen’

July 26, 2020

Earlier this month an article on the BBC website and many other online sources stated that UK has long sought to broker a political settlement to the conflict in Yemen while backing the Hadi government in its effort to defeat the rebels.

The writer was not aware of these efforts and searched for further information. The best source found was a 2019 report by the Select Committee on International Relations which is appointed by the House of Lords in each session “to investigate the United Kingdom’s International Relations”.

It reported that, in September 2014, the Shia Houthis helped former President Ali Saleh to seize control of Sanaa from the interim government of President Abed-Rabbo Hadi. In March 2015, Saudi Arabia launched a military intervention to restore Hadi to power fearing a complete takeover of the country, seeing the Houthis as allies of Iran.

The U.S., the UK and France refused to join the Saudi-led military coalition but provided Riyadh with intelligence, arms and political cover in order ‘to restore the legitimate government’. This included providing spare parts, maintenance, technical advice and resupplying for the Saudi air force, training in targeting and weapon use, and providing liaison officers in Saudi headquarters.

The work of DfID was outlined, its assistance with providing food and water supplies, vaccination and helping to stabliise Yemen’s currency.

The Select Committee on International Relations noted that since the war began, the UK has licensed £4.7 billion of arms exports to Saudi Arabia, and £860 million to its coalition partners. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Arms Transfer Database, between 2010 and 2017 the UK was the second-largest exporter of arms to Saudi Arabia (after the US), and accounted for around 25% of arms imports to Saudi Arabia.

The committee decided that “Given the volume and type of arms being exported to the Saudi-led coalition, we believe they are highly likely to be the cause of significant civilian casualties in Yemen, risking the contravention of international humanitarian law”.

Rt. Hon Alistair Burt MP, Minister of State for the Middle East, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), gave evidence to the committee, outlining the UK’s “constant” and “consistent” support for diplomatic progress.

  • The former Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson MP, had taken a significant part in the small-group meetings of like-minded nations that were essential for progress.
  • Later, Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt MP, had been very active in diplomatic efforts and had travelled to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. He had also visited Iran, as part of a number of UK visits to Tehran to try to understand more closely the relationship which the region needs to have with it.
  • He went to the Stockholm peace talks in December 2018 where he met leaders of both delegations. He was the first British Minister to meet representatives of the Houthis.

Video: https://watch.thewest.com.au/show/72630

The committee thought that the UK had done everything it could as pen-holders at the UN to encourage the efforts of successive envoys.

The Government had great faith in the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Yemen, Martin Griffiths and had used its best endeavours to give him the support and space that he needed in order to be able to do his job.

A month after the UN’s February mass polling of several conflict zones, https://www.ft.com/content/f715b4ce-32ff-4aa8-be3a-5ae83e17c929
the warring parties in Yemen agreed to their first nationwide ceasefire since 2016, in what Saudi Arabia said was an effort to protect the conflict-ravished country from the threat of coronavirus. On the fifth anniversary of the Saudi-led coalition’s intervention in the impoverished nation’s civil war, the rebel Houthi movement and the exiled government agreed to a call from António Guterres the UN secretary-general for an immediate end to hostilities.

On July 1st, the  foreign minister of Sweden. Foreign minister Heiko Maas of Germany and foreign secretary Dominic Raab of the UK co-wrote an article in the FT: opening “We have a global responsibility to ease the suffering of the Yemeni people. We — the foreign ministers of Germany, Sweden and the UK — would like to share how we think the international community can contribute to peace”. They presented five aims (truisms):

  • First, a nationwide ceasefire and a political settlement
  • Second, humanitarian assistance needs to be delivered to all Yemenis who need it
  • Third, we need to encourage implementation of existing agreements. This includes the Stockholm Agreement, which calls for a mutual withdrawal from the port city of Hodeidah, and the Riyadh Agreement.
  • Fourth, for Yemen to effectively recover from Covid-19, its already fragile economy must be kept alive.
  • Lastly, we expect full respect of international law, including humanitarian law and human rights, from all actors

The Select Committee on International Relations Committee was more hard-headed:

Although conclusive evidence is not yet available, it assessed that given the volume and type of arms being exported to the Saudi-led coalition, it believes they are highly likely to be the cause of significant civilian casualties in Yemen, risking the contravention of international humanitarian law.

It reiterated the conclusion of its 2017 report, The Middle East: Time for new realism, that the UK’s sales of arms to Saudi Arabia, which are used against Yemeni civilians, are the source of considerable public disquiet.

The committee was deeply concerned that the Saudi-led coalition’s misuse of their weaponry is causing—whether deliberately or accidentally—loss of civilian life. Relying on assurances by Saudi Arabia and Saudi-led review processes is not an adequate way of implementing the obligations for a risk-based assessment set out in the Arms Trade Treaty.

It urged the UK to redouble its diplomatic efforts with all external actors—particularly the US, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Iran—to keep them committed to the Hodeidah ceasefire, and its extension to Sanaa and elsewhere in Yemen.

The Select Committee concluded that the British Government should be more willing to use its role as penholder at the UN Security Council; it could take the initiative on all Council activities concerning Yemen, speaking first whenever the Council discusses the issue, holding emergency meetings, organising open debates and leading visiting missions to intervene if if blockages arise and peace talks are not progressing.

 

 

 

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Palestinian territory: “There is still time to reverse the annexation decision”

July 3, 2020

UNRWA/Marwan Baghdadi: Al-Walaja, a Palestinian village in the West Bank.

UN News reports that Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned Israel on Monday 29th June not to proceed along the “dangerous path” of annexing a swathe of occupied Palestinian territory, urging the Government to listen to its own former senior officials along with the “multitude of voices around the world”.

“Annexation is illegal. Period. Any annexation. Whether it is 30 per cent of the West Bank, or five per cent”, she stated, adding that it would have “a disastrous impact on human rights” throughout the Middle East.

The proposed plan has been widely opposed by vast sections of the Israeli public (by 46%, according to a recent survey compiled by the Israeli news outlet Channel 12), and thousands of Jewish and Arab Israelis protested against annexation in June, warning it would upend all future prospects for peace.

An article in the Jewish Chronicle reports that more than 500 UK Jewish students and youth movement members have put their names to a letter urging the Board of Deputies to speak out against what they claim are the Israeli government’s plans for the ‘’unilateral annexation of the West Bank”.’

The letter, sent to the Board’s honorary officers, warns that the organisation’s historical support for a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians will be ‘’impossible to achieve’’ if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu goes ahead with the proposed annexation of a portion of the West Bank. It goes on that the Board’s ‘’relevance’’ to the younger generation will be questioned if it does not speak out.

Michelle Bachelet (right) warned that if Israel goes ahead, the “shockwaves will last for decades. ”While acknowledging that the “precise consequences of annexation cannot be predicted”, she upheld that they are likely to be disastrous for Palestinians, Israel itself and for the wider region.

The UN rights chief cited the Secretary-General’s call for Israel to abandon its annexation plans, saying that she backs that appeal “one hundred per cent.” Palestinians would come under even heavier pressure to move out of the annexed zone, and entire communities currently not recognized under Israel’s planning regime, would be at high risk of forcible transfer, according to the UN human rights office (OHCHR).

She maintained that “the shockwaves of annexation would last for decades, and would be extremely damaging to Israel, as well as to the Palestinians” adding that “there is still time to reverse this decision”.

 

 

 

 

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Early mediation would have avoided suffering in Venezuela

June 28, 2020

We must strengthen our mediation capacity and our tools for sustaining peace, leading to long-term development (UN Secretary-General’s remarks to the General Assembly on his priorities for 2020, (video on webtv.un.org, 22 January 2020)  

Many years ago the writer was profoundly impressed by a book Adam Curle wrote about his experience as a mediator during the Nigerian civil war (1967-70).

In our conflict-ridden world we need a regiment of such peacebuilders- but they are of a rare calibre.

Paul Ingram has outlined the Stepping Stones approach

Launched by the Swedish Government in this report, it lists incremental steps to be negotiated. Paul and his colleagues are focussing on nuclear disarmament but the Stepping Stones principle could be adapted to assist the Venezuelan peace process.

Dr Katia Papagianni from the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, has recorded in the FT some achievements of direct mediation:

Negotiations by non-governmental peacemakers in Mozambique, the Philippines and Aceh, have

  • led to ceasefires,
  • reduced violence,
  • enabled the delivery of humanitarian assistance
  • and led to the disbandment of armed groups.

Mediation as a last resort

In the Financial Times today, Michael Penfold, professor of political economy at IESA business school in Caracas, half-heartedly recommends mediation after the repeated failure of US policy:

“What is clear is that US policy has failed to produce regime change. The international isolation it has fostered has, meanwhile, led the regime to cement relationships with authoritarian states such as Iran, Turkey and Russia.

“It has also pushed the Maduro government to deepen links with illegal organisations that help supplant the oil revenues lost since the country’s energy sector collapsed”.

⁠— however distasteful, talks are the only way forward (Penfold)

US mercenaries involved in failed coup attempt

He advocates an alternative way forward, resuming the Oslo process that seeks a negotiated democratic settlement:

“US should unconditionally embrace a more flexible transition process. Only a negotiated solution can isolate extremist actors on both sides who believe, against all evidence, that exterminating the other is the best pathway to restoring constitutional rule in Venezuela”.

If the half-hearted aren’t swayed by the four humanitarian achievements listed by Dr Papagianni, she adds pragmatically: “Let’s remember: the cost of helping people to resolve conflict peacefully is a fraction of the cost of war and of keeping the war machinery alive”. 

 

 

 

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