Commentary by Dr. Palanisamy Nagarajan
In the present environment, it is a harsh reality that the prospects for a sustainable economic recovery with robust employment growth and equitable income distribution remain elusive. “Global growth prospects for 2013 have been marked down repeatedly over the last year, global rebalancing is incomplete, regional disparities remain wide, and unemployment, particularly among the youth, remains unacceptably high. Despite our actions, the recovery is weak, and risks remain tilted to the downside,” said the Group of 20 leaders in their final communiqué after the Saint Petersburg Summit last week. Also, they agreed that it is critical for them to focus all their “joint efforts on engineering a durable exist from the longest and most protracted crisis in modern history.”
In fact, the G20 summit, which is supposedly an economic forum, was overshadowed by the specter of a crisis in Syria. Consequently, the summit failed to focus on the global economic recovery. As things stand now, a growing economic sluggishness in emerging economies, the recent free-fall of their exchange rates, and increasing volatility in capital markets, coupled with a nightmare Middle East situation, could plunge the fragile global economy into another slump with devastating consequence.
Both China and Russia are strongly opposed to U.S. military strikes, saying it would push up oil prices and trigger an economic downturn. Pope Francis has urged all the leaders to overcome their differences on the Syrian crisis and agree to abandon “the futile pursuit of a military solution.”
Given the present economic and geopolitical conditions, one thing is absolutely essential. We need the wisdom and foresight in grappling with the perplexing and multifaceted long drawn-out Syrian civil war. It is a matter of shared global responsibility and global challenge to address this crisis. All the leaders in the corridors of power should urge the President Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2009 for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” to stop the drumbeat of war to launch strikes against Syrian regime, even if he gets the green light from the US Congress. It is the responsibility of the UN, not the US, in addressing the horrific crisis in Syria.
At this critical juncture, while the whole world is wondering and pondering how the President would deal with the messy Syrian crisis in the coming days, it is worth mentioning what the Norwegian Nobel Committee said: “Obama has as a President created a new climate in the international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with the emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts… [Obama’s] diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.”
Let us hope the President Obama will not disappoint the expectations of the Nobel Prize Committee. Let us hope he will reconsider his intention to undertake a “punitive” action against Syria for an alleged chemical weapons attack last month. Any ill-judged U.S. military strike against Syria would be illegal without the approval of the UN Security Council, and it would fan the flames of the Middle East conflict. Its consequences would be disastrous.
The international community should focus their attention in dealing with the horrendous human tragedy of the Syrian civil war. Antonio Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner responsible for refugees, said: “Syria has become the great tragedy of this century a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history.” More than 100,000 people have been killed in the bitter civil war. More than 2 million Syrians have fled to the neighboring countries as refugees, and more than half of them are children, according to the UN figures. In fact, the number of people fleeing the country has been escalating in recent months. If the present trend continues, more than 3 million would have fled the country by 2013. In addition, more than 4 million people are displaced inside Syria. On the whole, about a third of the Syria’s population has become victim of the catastrophic civil war, directly or indirectly.
Given the unfolding humanitarian crisis, it is imperative to find a political settlement to the Syrian civil war by exploring all the available options through the United Nations, while securing the needed humanitarian aid to relieve the pain and indescribable sufferings of the Syrians.
Dr. Palanisamy Nagarajan is Emeritus Professor of Economics & Research Associate of the Institute of Island Studies, University of Prince Edward Island.