By René Wadlow*
Early June has seen a series of meetings by leaders of governments that may help to clarify what are the next steps that that non-governmental peacebuilding groups should take. From 11 to 13 June, the G7 States met in a summit. On 14 June, the NATO leaders meet. On 16 June President Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin will meet in Geneva. The tensions concerning Belorussia, while not crucial in themselves, will no doubt color the atmosphere as does the Western sanctions on President Alexander Lukashenko.
Government ministries, security agencies and highly placed advisors have been working on position papers for all these meetings. Largely absent are the recommendations of non-governmental organizations (NGO) devoted to conflict resolution. There is a good bit of analysis of intergovernmental relations done by NGOs but our influence is small in these governmental summits. We can hope that these meetings “clear the atmosphere”. While the impact of governmental leaders on each other is limited, beyond “photo opportunities”, personal relations can open doors to somewhat better relations.
While talk of a “New Cold War” is overly dramatic, there are real structural tensions that have been there for a long time and that will not be easily overcome. Recent events in the Middle East, the future of Afghanistan and its impact on the wider Pakistan-India-Iran area, the future of the two Koreas – all are fundamental issues related to the balance of power at the regional and world levels. The tensions related to the Chinese delimitation claims in the South China Sea as well as China-Taiwan relations are structural issues which influence Western policy toward China as well as Chinese attitudes toward the West. While it is unlikely that climate change, biodiversity, and migration issues get more than a passing mention, the ecological background to world politics is real and merits sustained attention.
It is certain that governments beyond the circle of those participating directly are also looking at the outcome of these meetings. The European Union has a working group on relations with Russia which should make a report at the end of June.
For peacebuilding NGOs, there is a crucial need to develop policy recommendations that take into consideration the outcome of these meetings. While long-range policy recommendations are useful (too much money is spent on arms) there needs to be middle-range recommendations related to continuing conflict tensions, both the individual and the interrelationship of tension areas. The summits may help us to see more closely where we go from here.
*René Wadlow is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. He is President of the Association of World Citizens, an international peace organization with consultative status with ECOSOC, the United Nations organ facilitating international cooperation and problem-solving in economic and social issues, and editor of Transnational Perspectives. This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS)