IN the words of an African proverb, it is the grass that suffers when elephants fight. It is an apt coinage about the consequences of conflict on those who are not directly involved in the confrontation. Just replace ‘grass’ with ‘civilians’ and ‘elephants’ with ‘countries’, and you are pretty much talking of global affairs.

The conflict in the Middle East, and the war between Russia and Ukraine are cases of colossal human sufferings, with civilians facing frayed healthcare, shortages of essential medical supplies, and high rates of acute and chronic malnutrition. The wellbeing of civilians who want nothing but a chance to live normal lives is the last thing on the mind of those leading the war fronts.

Both these conflicts underscore the need for responsible international conduct as well as the protection of human rights, emphasising the importance of peace and the prevention of harm to the most vulnerable segments of society.

The international community, led by the United Nations, was envisioned as a beacon of hope for global peace. Yet, persistent and escalating conflicts paint a starkly different picture.

Often, the international community’s response remains marred by geopolitical complexities. As for the UN, the world body’s efforts have been hindered by the veto power of the permanent members of its Security Council. This leads to paralysis in decision-making, allowing the conflicts to persist and human sufferings to continue.

The UN and all the global powers must prioritise peace and human rights, ensuring that the vulnerable segments are no longer considered ‘collateral’ in power struggles. It is time for the world to embody the principles of unity and peace.

M. Zain Meeran
Faisalabad

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2024

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