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Books below are by Vijay Mehta Chair of Uniting for Peace

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Vijay Mehta's Peace Beyond Borders Book Review by Ian Hackett


Review by Ian Hackett, World Federalist Party


Having been writing about climate change and world federalism for over 40 years now*, I was encouraged recently to come across two excellent new books that present up-to-date and persuasive perspectives on these 2 related issues. In the first, The Collapse of Western Civilization – A view from the Future, Naomi Oreskes and Eric M. Conway, science historians at Harvard and CIT, imagine themselves in the 2nd People’s Republic of China in 2393 and, using hard facts and conservative extrapolations, chart our now almost inevitable climate-change-driven collapse from the late 20th Century through to the end of the 21st.

In the second, Peace Beyond Borders, peace activist Vijay Mehta sees climate change as just one of a number of threats to our peace and prosperity, but looks at the evolution of the European Union and the way Europe has been transformed, since 1945, from centuries as the world’s most war-ravaged continent to one enjoying an unprecedented 70 years of relative peace and prosperity, and analyses Europe’s post-1945 evolution as a model for the rest of the world’s regions.

In his Chapter 1, Mehta identifies 10 principles responsible for Europe’s success and goes on, after discussing some ongoing European problems in Chapter 2, to assess the potential for the application of his 10 principles in the world’s 6 other regions (Africa, Asia, South and North America, Oceania and the Middle-East) in Chapters 3-8.
The 10 principles are identified as (1) Enshrined democracy and the rule of law, (2) Economic truce (3) Open borders and human ties, (4) Shared values and soft power, (5) Permanent discussion, dialogue and diplomacy, (6) Financial incentives and support, (7) Consensus building and the power of veto, (8) The solidarity necessary to resist external interference, (9) Multiculturalism and human rights, and (10) Mutual trust; with all these together guaranteeing peaceful co-existence. He adds that “When peace is established, prosperity tends to take care of itself”.

In chapters 3-8, Mehta looks at the other 6 regions in turn, suggesting the ways in which the presence or absence of his 10 principles affect their peace and prosperity.  Some of the examples he uses to illustrate his points are well known; others are deservedly plucked from obscurity. All of them make fascinating and instructive reading, and show an admirable concern for issues affecting the world beyond Europe.

Although Mehta does not list “Decentralization in larger nation-states” as one of his 10 principles, he does recognise it as a problem, particularly in discussing China’s chances of participating in a greater East Asian union and in contrasting the failure of federalism in the ever-centralising USA with its success in Canada, where the meaning of federalism still retains its links to subsidiarity and Provincial autonomy rather than being transmuted into another word for centralization of power at the national level.

In Chapter 9, Mehta moves from the regions to the world and discusses the “Exorbitant Privilege” of the haves as a key barrier to global peace and prosperity; and, in Chapter 10, “The Anglo-Paradox”, he discusses the negative effects of US influence on several EU policies and the danger that, despite US support for a Yes vote in the referendum, this influence could turn out to be counterproductive. Within 2 months of Mehta’s book being completed, his fears about Brexit were realised, and despite his optimism about building peaceful and prosperous regional and continental federations based on applying his 10 principles around the world, as outlined in a “Postscript: Better Together – 10 Steps to Global Peace: Making it Happen”, the chances are that, unless he and the rest of the world wake up to the real dangers of climate change, as recognised by Oreskes and Conway, and far too few others, it will be his fears rather than his hopes that are realised globally too.

*I first discussed the possibility of managing climate change in The Spring of Civilization – Arguments for World Federalism (1973), but, since then, it has become a much more significant issue, replacing nuclear winter as the most likely terminator of our current inchoate and faltering civilization.