Douglas Roche

World is making progress in ending war

  • April 25, 2014

Cynicism is tempting because it’s easy. Hope is hard work. At 85 peace activist, retired ambassador to the United Nations, former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister and Senator Douglas Roche refuses to take the easy way.

“If you believe that the greed, corruption and hypocrisy so evident in world politics cannot be overcome, if you believe that the United Nations is just a talk shop and cannot accomplish much — you will probably not accept the main point of this book,” Roche writes in Peacemakers: How People Around the World are Building a World Free of War, the latest book by this Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great.

“The world as a whole now has the most hopeful prospect for peace in the last several centuries.”

People believe the world is going to hell in a handbasket, that war and violence reign everywhere, because they limit themselves to television news, Roche told The Catholic Register.

“There are remarkable developments that are lifting up the world. We are missing this because we take in the violence we see on television and we think that that’s the world,” he said. “That’s only a very small part of the world that is in a process of change today.”

The Toronto launch for Peacemakers was to take place April 25 at the Croft Chapter House on the campus of the University of Toronto. Roche will present his book at a panel discussion on peace at the United Nations in New York May 1.

Though he’s written 21 books on peace, international relations and politics, Roche swears this will be his last. His last word on a subject that has driven his life for decades is that we can have peace in the world, and the progress we’ve seen over the last two generations proves it.

“There is less violence now. There are fewer wars. The economic and social development of people in Africa and Asia is on a steep up-curve. There are many things that are happening that have increased the prospects for peace,” he said.

Roche isn’t looking at things through rose-coloured glasses. He sees the brutal and bloody wars in Syria and the Central African Republic. He knows the threat to peace posed by terrorist groups. He is watching carefully Russia’s power play on Ukraine.

The former diplomat and founder of the Middle Powers Initiative on nuclear arms reduction believes events in Ukraine prove his point. Russian President Vladimir Putin is willing to use media, money and subterfuge to influence events in Ukraine but will not send tanks rumbling across the border. The West in retaliation will use sanctions and persuasion.

“People are searching for diplomatic and economic methods to resolve conflicts, rather than war,” Roche said. “That is an indisputable fact.”

But peace is fragile and progress is not guaranteed.

“People should take that on board and begin to think seriously about how we can institutionalize or make more solid the basis for peace, which leads into the whole question of the human right to peace,” Roche said. “I’m not saying there’s any guarantee of peace. Remember that the world is still spending $1.7 trillion a year on arms. But it would be irresponsible to close our eyes to the effect of new programs coming on stream to build peace.

Though it took 50 years to take hold, Roche attributes much of our progress away from war to Pope John XXIII.

“That influence of Pacem in Terris, where the pope reached out to all of humanity with a cry that war is no longer an acceptable means of resolving conflict certainly inspired a lot of the work that has been done over the 50 years that have transpired,” he said. “Now we have Pope Francis who is what might be called a modern Pope John XXIII.”

Peacemakers is available from the publisher Lorimer for $24.95 as a paperback or $16.95 as an ebook.

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