Recently I’ve been reading “The Future State of the World: As It Relates to the Australian Aid Program” which was commissioned by the Australian government ahead of the significant expansion of their overseas aid program. It makes for interesting, if not disturbing, reading. Anybody who has spent a few minutes thinking about the range of complex problems the world faces cannot be unaware of how interconnected the challenges are. Expanding population places pressure on infrastructure, which in turn places stress on service delivery, which in turn creates greater social, environmental and political fragility, and so on. The authors of the report identify four main drivers of change, they are: 1) climate change, fragility and risk, 2) demographics, 3) urbanization, and 4) food and water stress.
I think the authors of the report might have under emphasized the importance of globalization. What I mean is that the unevenness and rapidity of change that globalization brings about makes effective management of these drivers, their solutions and their consequences even more difficult. Social conflict and violence will certainly be one of the unintended consequences of redressing these drivers.
Some countries are managing these drivers by exporting labor in an effort to both reduce stress domestically, as well as generate new incomes streams through remittances. Others have prioritized food security and in doing so have programs for limiting the export of food outside their borders, and purchasing land elsewhere to grow ‘sovereign food’. Of course, all these ‘solutions’ to these drivers of change create their own problems, both foreseen and unforeseen.
Acknowledgement of the importance of these drivers and the additional dynamic of globalization can lead one, not surprisingly, to considerable pessimism about the future. I think such pessimism is understandable, but entirely counterproductive.
This is where I think it is important to inject the peace worker. The mission of the peace worker should be to help others frame solutions to problems by seeking to add value and create positive sum outcomes. There are several things peace workers can do. They can do this by helping bring communities together to solve problems collaboratively. Peace workers can also help create greater understanding of conflict’s dynamics by conducting a conflict analysis, and make such an analysis available to the community. Perhaps there are other things that peace workers can do, but without a doubt great opportunities exist.