The world in the 21st century seems to be a very hostile place to live in.
A brief look at current affairs and happenings around the world reveals to us; mass shootings and murders in the United States, piracy in the Indian Ocean, sectarian conflicts in the Middle East and the continuance of Failed States; the first ten 10 of which are in Africa.
This is compounded by growing fears of dis-integration of the European Union, threats of great power expansionism in the South China and East China Sea, drug wars in the Americas and ideologically extremist terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (Daesh) operating in parts of Iraq and Syria, Boko-Haram in Nigeria, Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines and the Al Shabab in Somalia.
Arms trafficking and Displacement figures due to conflict and geographical disasters are on the rise and the amount of asylum applications by refugees and migrants to the European Union, mainly from conflict zones, have reached over a million. Illicit trade in wildlife reaps “in the order of $20bn a year. The impact is disastrous, causing immense suffering to animals and people and destroying ecosystems.”
The memory of financial collapses have not yet passed our memory, Poverty and income inequality have not significantly reduced, resource management has led to street battles and the intensity and frequency of earthquakes, landslides, flooding and droughts has plagued many parts of the world throughout the year.
Stagnant agricultural production levels and an ever increasing portion of population over the age of 65 only add to the strain of issues that we face as a collective human race. In fact the World Economic Forum mentions that “By 2020, individuals aged 60 and older will be greater in number than children younger than five. By 2050, the world’s older adult population will have doubled to 2 billion.”
Geo political issues and unresolved domestic issues have led to the birth of “populist” parties that threaten to undermine much of what has been recognized as the status quo. The New York Times in May this year noted: “Amid a migrant crisis, sluggish economic growth and growing disillusionment with the European Union, far-right parties — some longstanding, others newly formed — have been achieving electoral success in a number of European nations.”
Traditionally International Relations theorists have looked at security in the point of view of the preservation of the security of the state by military threats from outside forces. This view is brought forward chiefly by political realists who derive their theory from Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Hans J. Morgenthau. Therefore traditional realists see security as something that could be ensured principally through the enlargement of armed forces to counter threats from external sources that could challenge the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state.
This view however can no longer be satisfactory and adequate. Non-traditional security threats such as some of those mentioned above do not impact only one state. Threats no longer limit themselves to the territorial boundaries of a state. In the context of a conflict the possibility of it seeping to a neighboring state or spilling over to their entire region is a likely possibility. A financial crisis in one part of the world can affect another part of the world in a very short span of time. Millions of dollars can be lost and earned in a day or two and the lives of many of us are held in the balance. Climate change for example, impacts every one of us regardless of whether our abode lies in the Caribbean or in India.
For centuries, mankind has attempted to solve problems and issues that it has faced. It is the resilience that we as a collective human race have embodied, which has allowed us to manage, control and remove threats that have been encountered in the past. When the First World War (often termed as the Great War) ripped through families and infrastructure, leaders such as Woodrow Wilson endeavored to rectify this through international organizations such as the League of Nations, which attempted to create the concept of collective security. Its present manifestation, the United Nations has ensured that many conflicts have been averted. The United Nations has also strived time and again to mitigate the tensions, mistrust and lack of solidarity in the international community by becoming a center for harmonizing the activities of states.
Common concerns vis-à-vis issues of our island and the world, have been debated and discussed about such global forums and will continue to be discussed in order to create better understanding and consensus so that such issues can be confronted head-on. Security, as mentioned above, can no longer be looked on as something pertaining to one state or even one region. The world as a whole comprises of humans and eco-systems that must be protected and safeguarded for future generations. Sustainability backed by the sustainable development goals then becomes key to our shared future.
In fact, as a report by SIPRI elucidates: “the world is still home to 826 million illiterate adults.” Education and the promotion of literacy are but steps along the way, which can become building blocks, leading to interconnections and shared efforts; to tackle global issues such as poverty and unequal development and many more.
Her Excellency Ambassador Shelley Whiting at the Inauguration of the Bandaranaike Center for International Studies academic batch 2016/2017 stated that “the concept of security has certainly changed…… (and now has a ) wider range of issues…nuclear proliferation, geopolitical rivalries, migration and ethnic and religious tensions, access to portable water and climate change are just some of the issues that can be described as security challenges that we (face) today.”
One might ask, “Why is it important to learn about current affairs and international relations?” We live in a small island in the Indian Ocean with a relatively small GDP and population in comparison to our immediate neighbor. “Why does International Relations matter to us?” In the words of Her Excellency Ambassador Shelley Whiting:
“Whether you choose to pursue activities in international relations; be at as a diplomat or working for an NGO or humanitarian agency or whether you are a businessmen who is just looking to develop an understanding of global affairs by enhancing your understanding of international relations you will have an important role to contribute in shaping the Sri Lankan foreign policy, and Sri Lanka’s own position in the world….”
The Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies (BCIS), conceptualized at a time when the subject of International Relations had not taken precedence as a fundamental area of study among the Sri Lankan student populace; has become one of the most premier south Asian institutes dedicated to teaching and instructing students in international relations, human rights and international trade. BCIS draws your attention to some of the issues highlighted above, tries to break down the reasons behind such issues, and imparts the theory that has been expounded by the greatest academics of the world, introduces you to visionary leaders of Sri Lanka and broadens your horizon beyond what you know today.
We can no longer live in a bubble believing that global issues have no bearing towards us. If we are to learn more; the platform has been set for you at BCIS to “launch” into the world.
Shakthi De Silva – Research Intern.
Disclaimer – none of the views in the articles referenced/linked in the posts above reflect the official viewpoint or stance of the BCIS and only project the individual perspectives of the relevant authors.
Image sources : https://karachimetrological.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/2010-floods.jpg http://media.moddb.com/cache/images/groups/1/9/8589/thumb_620x2000/middle-east-conflict.jpg , http://tessant.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/nuclear-disaster.jpg, https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https%3A%2F%2Fupload.wikimedia.org%2Fwikipedia%2Fcommons%2F6%2F6b%2FDrugpackscorpion.png&imgrefurl=https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FIllegal_drug_trade_in_Colombia&docid=H2ja3FSIWVHJbM&tbnid=tnYaAB_rDaq_NM%3A&w=1600&h=1200&client=firefox-b&bih=657&biw=1366&ved=0ahUKEwjntoHFrZ3PAhVLoJQKHX3TA9sQMwgvKBEwEQ&iact=mrc&uact=8, http://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/infogram-particles-700/josephinee1364271992.jpg, https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.vosizneias.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2014%2F12%2FFinancial-Crisis-Forg_sham.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.vosizneias.com%2F187583%2F2014%2F12%2F15%2Fwashington-memories-of-financial-crisis-fading-as-risks-rise%2F&docid=nAHQJCO5CVhnxM&tbnid=QCPIXTeBTmnwlM%3A&w=3391&h=2449&client=firefox-b&bih=657&biw=1366&ved=0ahUKEwjx88uKqp3PAhWFl5QKHfJPCycQMwhOKCYwJg&iact=mrc&uact=8, https://bcissrilanka.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/ea7ca-img_0406.jpg