Ending the Era of Wars


Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate – TRANSCEND Media Service

Mairead Maguire

Mairead Maguire

15th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates – Barcelona, 13-15 November 2015

I would like to thank the Major of Barcelona, Ada Colau I Ballano, the Permanent Secretariat of the World Summit, and all those who have worked so hard to make this great event possible.

It is wonderful to see so many people here and in particular to see so many young people. I hope you will enjoy the next few days making new friends and leave feeling joyful and enthusiastic about the great tasks and challenges ahead of you.   There are enormous challenges which will require all your energy, and enthusiasm, and above all, your creativity and imagination to dream of, and to build a disarmed, peaceful world starting with ending militarism and wars…

But in order to build a disarmed world, we need to analysis the root causes of the increasing violence and conflict, and take ownership of what has gone wrong. People around the World  have been shocked and saddened, by the huge numbers of refugees and migrants, (thousands of whom have lost their lives), streaming across Europe, and into other countries, fleeing from the Middle East, devastated by proxy wars, (mainly by the West), and refugees from West Central Asia, and African countries, devasted by colonialism, slavery, economic injustice, and unfair capitalism. Their plea is for jobs and a chance to have a better life. The roots of this tragedy lies in many of the Western Foreign Policies and the role of the EU and other USA/ NATO countries, and it is time to acknowledge and take responsibility for what our Foreign Policies have done, and to host the Refugees and Migrants in a welcoming and compassionate way. Indeed I believe the refugees should be our top priority to be helped and those people, organizations and countries who have opened their hearts and borders have acted in the true spirit of humanity, which is as the, human family we help take care of each other, especially the children and vulnerable in our societies. This means saying No to war, and yes to peace.

Since 9/11, NATO/USA has fought many illegal wars. They argue that it is necessary to fight Terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa, and that it must defend its members from threats from the ME and NA. They point to failed states like Libya exporting Terrorism and Disorder, yet it was exactly the NATO war against Libya, which led to the strengthening and recruiting of Jihadist fundamentalism and for every person killed by NATO bombings, ten more Jihadists are born. It was NATO which created a failed state in Libya, and who are destroying countries either directly or with proxy wars, such as Afghanistan, Iraq and in Syria today.

Yet, what can be done. Global military spending, which costs an average of 4.6 billion dollars a day continues to rise, while poverty is spreading all over the world and the global social crisis is deepening.   I believe we must abolish militarism, nuclear weapons and war, disband NATO, (which should have been done when the Warsaw Pact was disbanded,) and start to base our International Relations on International Law and Human Rights. In October this year, we celebrated 70 Years of United Nations Charter, and it gives us an opportunity to defend, democratize and upgrade this indispensable global institution, so that it can serve its founding aims effectively and reaffirm the norm of the UN Charter, which is ‘that peace shall be established by peaceful means’. We need to affirm the United Nations as the Body that represents the Human Family, and hold it accountable for its Mission ‘To save the world from the Scourge of war’.

Alfred Nobel described war as ‘the horror of horrors and the greatest of all crimes’. Furthermore, over 100 years ago he had a vision of a world without war and a strategy to end wars. Encouraged by his good friend, and the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, Bertha Von Suttner, he wanted to help the then Peace Movement of his day, achieve their aims of peace and abolishing war.    He left some of his money for this purpose and wrote into his will that he wanted to support ‘the champions of peace’ and those who would work for the Fraternity amongst the nations, abolish armies, and hold Peace Congresses.

I think if he were with us today, he would be most disappointment in witnessing the growth of racism, fascism, militarism and wars, and the setting aside by many Governments of International Laws, and Human Rights under the false banners of Humanitarian Intervention and ‘War on Terror’.  He too might challenge us to awaken from our sleep walking into war and recognize the danger we are in as the human family if we continue down the road of militarism and war, instead of recognizing the imperative of Peace for the very survival of humanity.   We are witnessing the re-militarization of Europe, and the revival of cold war politics. We, the People must insist there be no cold war again, and encourage Political Leaders to move away from the rhetoric of enmity and war to begin to dialogue and negotiate, and work co-operatively together , to help solve our problems, such as poverty, environmental crisis, etc.,   The people of Europe should refuse to be boxed into a false choice between the west or east, when they can decide to be part of both and work together. World Political and Spiritual Leaders have a huge responsibility to help abolish nuclear weapons and war and join together in the enormous task of General and Complete Disarmament.

One of the most urgent of tasks is to insist on Zero Nuclear weapons and demand that nuclear weapons be abolished and banned worldwide. These weapons are immoral and since they can never be used as and in a war of hydrogen bombs we are all threatened with annihilation. These weapons continue to be built in spite of their danger and huge costs, as decisions as taken by those with vested interest, who make huge profits from arms and wars. President Eisenhower was right when he warned America against the dangers of the Military, Industrial Complex and its dangers to democracy and this applies to all Military Industrial, complexes throughout the world, who profit from arms and wars, and a small elite of alleged ‘experts’ generals and defence chiefs, (every country which makes up the Security Council is part of this military arms race). They take decisions about war without any reference to what ‘We the People’ want for our children, i.e. human security of food, education, etc., In recent years we have witness an increase of militant fundamentalisms. All must challenge this violent extremism but it will not be stopped by yet more violence from Governments. The UDHR proclaims ‘It is essential if man is not to have recourse as a last resort to rebellion against tyranny and oppression that Human Rights should be protected by the Rule of Law’. Government have a responsibility to seek Peace and take risks for peace by entering into dialogue with their opponents and making peace with their enemies.

Civil Community, or in the words of the UN ‘We The People’ have an important role to play in peacemaking and building a nonviolent world. I would appeal especially to Women and Youth, whose voices are so important in ending militarism and war as they know the cost of war, Our voices are important and we must raise them and join together to insist on Freedom of Conscience, Freedom from war and our Human Right to Peace. In teaching peace at every level of society and the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ we lay the foundation of a new consciousness built on respect for human dignity, freedom and equality for all people. In you all lie HOPE for humanity.


Mairead Corrigan Maguire, co-founder of Peace People, is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment. She won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work for peace in Northern Ireland. Her book The Vision of Peace (edited by John Dear, with a foreword by Desmond Tutu and a preface by the Dalai Lama) is available from www.wipfandstock.com. She lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. See: www.peacepeople.com.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 16 Nov 2015.

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