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Addressing conflicts, peace, and order in International Order

Published: 22nd Nov, 2021


The world of today consists of nearly 200 states, which are also known as countries. They are similar in many ways. Each enjoys independence, with a government to administer an army to protect the country against a foreign invader.

Conflict, peace, and security are some of the enduring concerns of the Peace Research Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.  Nowadays, they have become integrated into the dominant disciplines of international relations (IR) and political science and now are also part of most of the social science disciplines.


What is the meaning of world order?

  • ‘Order’ indicates a condition in which everything is in its correct place. It also refers to respect for and enforcement of rules.
  • Day-to-day activities would be normal and peaceful if an order exists. In world affairs, order brings a certain method in the way one country conducts its affairs with another state.
  • The method can be noticed in the form of a set of rules and principles, which are commonly accepted and respected by governments.
  • It means that one country should not interfere in the internal affairs of another state, that force should not be used or even threatened in bilateral relations, that prisoners of wars and refugees should be treated humanely, etc.

Are states equal in their size and strength?

  • Though the states are supposedly equal in a formal sense, there are gross inequalities among them. And some of these inequalities have been recognized in the form of veto power conferred on five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
  • Countries often compete for resources and influence, they suspect each other’s intentions and ambitions, and they quarrel about borders, trade, and several other issues.
  • Right now a dozen wars are going on in counties of Asia, Africa, and Europe causing death to millions and destruction of valuable property.
  • Moreover, problems arise not just between states but also within those states. Many states are fighting civil wars.
  • Sri Lanka is a good example of countries fighting a civil war. Linked to this aspect are the spread of terrorism, which causes fear among common people through indiscriminate violence and inhumane killings.

What was the ‘bipolar order’ during World Order?

  • Europe remained the theatre of world affairs up to the Second World War. European countries maintained peace by forming alliances to ensure that no single country (like France, Great Britain, Germany) could dominate the rest. The system so prevailed was known as the balance of power.
  • The Second World War ended with the defeat of Germany, Japan, and Italy in the hands of the alliance comprising mainly Great Britain, Soviet Russia, and the United States of America. In the last stages of the war, the United States produced and dropped nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • The United States with its economic wealth and military strength, no doubt, made a matchless contribution to the victory in the War. It was felt that the strengths and leadership of the United States would be needed to maintain peace in the post-War world, too.
  • Soon after the Second World War, the erstwhile allies, viz. the United States and the Soviet Union developed differences about working together for the peace and stability of Europe. There were political and ideological reasons for these differences.
  • The United States practiced and preached democracy and free-market enterprise as the desirable model of governance. On the other hand, the Soviet Union believed in and sought to spread the merits of governance by a single (communist) party and of a state-controlled economy.
  • These two leading countries of rival camps were clubbed under the exclusive, new category of “super powers”.

What are ‘super powers’?

  • The term “super powers” is distinct from the term “great powers”. Whereas the world identified only two countries, viz. the erstwhile Soviet Union and the United States as the super powers.
  • The super powers individually possessed military capabilities and economic resources far superior to other countries in the rest of the world.
  • With nuclear and other destructive weapons in their possession, they were able to influence events in many parts of the world and the policies of many other countries.

Was there any positive effect of the bipolar world order?

  • There were also some positive effects of the bipolar world order. Foremost, movements for independence from European colonial rule gained great momentum in Africa and Asia, as both Cold War blocs feverishly encouraged the trend to gain the goodwill of the native people.
  • New independent countries did not want to join NATO and hence they launched the “Non-Aligned Movement” which tirelessly advocated world peace, nuclear disarmament, and economic advancement of the less developed countries. (India played a leadership role in this effort.)

Which country suffered defeat in the Cold war?

  • The fall of the Berlin Wall and the unification of the two Germanys set in motion a series of stunning developments in Europe. Mobs in Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and other countries in Eastern Europe rose against socialist dictatorships.
  • The Soviet Union broke up into Russian Federation and 14 other Republics in 1991. All these new states abandoned socialism and embraced the Western ideology of democracy and a free-market economy. It was regarded as a grand victory for the United States.
  • The US became the single remaining super power with the fall of socialism and the break-up of the Soviet Union. To illustrate the domination of the United States, it may suffice to cite just one area, arms exports.

Did the emergence of the unipolar world help the functioning of the United Nations?

  • The United States has no challenger in claiming the top slot. The erstwhile enemy, the Soviet Union, is now an ally, a partner of the United States in matters of arms control, international security, settlement of regional conflicts, trade, and investment.
  • The new power realities are aptly brought to bear in the functioning of the United Nations – a body designed to work for democratic and just world order. The United Nations began playing an “activist” role in restoring peace and security.
  • Transparency and democratic functioning of the UN suffered. The role of the United Nations during the first Gulf War to vacate the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in the early 1990s stands out as the best example of the new trend.

Did the unipolar era spell stability in the world order?

  • Regrettably, peace and stability in the world do not accompany unipolarity. An important feature of the post-Cold War times is the multiplicity of challenges to the nation-state.
  • For example- Regimes in many countries are fighting a civil war against one or more rebel groups, and as a consequence state machinery has ceased to function or even exist in these unfortunate countries. Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia are among the victims of this kind of instability.

Security- Multidimensional Aspect

  • In short, these aspects of instability point to the need to look at security in a new way. The scope of security has expanded; it includes not only the absence of foreign aggression but also internal stability.
  • Security does not just mean building up a strong military force to protect the state; it has to ensure the economic, social, environmental well-being of people.

What is the role of the UN? How does the UN maintain international peace and security?

  • The United Nations was created in 1945, following the devastation of the Second World War, with one central mission: the maintenance of international peace and security.
  • The UN accomplishes this by working to prevent conflict, helping parties in conflict make peacedeploying peacekeepers, and creating the conditions to allow peace to hold and flourish.

The main function of the United Nations is to preserve international peace and security. UN Charter provides for the pacific settlement of disputes, through the intervention of the Security Council, by means such as negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and judicial decisions.

Different steps are undertaken by the UN:-

  • Preventive Diplomacy and Mediation-The most effective way to diminish human suffering and the massive economic costs of conflicts and their aftermath is to prevent conflicts in the first place. The UN plays an important role in conflict prevention, using diplomacy and mediation.
  • Peacekeeping- Today’s multidimensional peacekeeping operations are called upon not only to maintain peace and security but also to facilitate political processes, protect civilians, assist in disarmament, support constitutional processes, and the organization of elections.
  • Countering Terrorism – To coordinate the global fight against terrorism. In September 2006, UN member states adopted the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
  • Disarmament- To advance international peace and security through the pursuit of the elimination of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.


The notions of conflict, peace, and security had undergone a sea change over the decades and the need is to usher in a more humane concept of peace and security, where individual rights and liberty are safeguarded and socio-economic inequalities are reduced.

It will only ensure the various facets of human security—that is, social security, economic security, food security, health security, environmental security, political security, and community security.

Only then, people-centric human security will be embedded both in theory, that is, security discourses as well as in practice. 

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