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World View: 2016 and the ‘Dramatic Multiplication of Conflicts in the World’


This morning’s key headlines from


  • Angela Merkel urges Germans to see refugees as an ‘opportunity’
  • UN refugee czar Guterres calls for mandatory funding for refugees
  • The ‘dramatic multiplication of conflicts in the world’
  • The Outlook for 2016

Angela Merkel urges Germans to see refugees as an ‘opportunity’

Time Magazine's Woman of the Year, Angela Merkel, gives her New Year's Eve speech (Reuters)
Time Magazine’s Woman of the Year, Angela Merkel, gives her New Year’s Eve speech (Reuters)

Over one million refugees have arrived in Germany seeking asylum in 2015, and it seems likely that there will be another million in 2016. Many people blame the flood of refugees on the welcoming remarks of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier this year. Merkel has been increasingly criticized, even by people in her own party, and her poll ratings have fallen.

In her New Year’s Eve speech to the nation, Merkel stood firm and responded to her critics, calling the influx of refugees an “opportunity”:

Next year is about one thing in particular: our cohesion. It is important we don’t allow ourselves to be divided – not into generations, not into social groups, and not into those that are already here and those that are new citizens. […]

It is crucial not to follow those who, with coldness or even hatred in their hearts, lay a sole claim to what it means to be German and seek to exclude others.

Our values, our traditions, our sense of justice, our language, our laws, our rules, [apply] to all who wish to live here.

[The efforts put in to cope with the challenges would be worth it in the end because] countries have always benefitted from successful immigration, both economically and socially. […]

I am convinced that, handled properly, today’s great task presented by the influx and the integration of so many people is an opportunity for tomorrow.

Her reference to “those who, with coldness or even hatred in their hearts,” referred to Pegida, an anti-immigration party considered by many to be xenophobic, but which has been rising in the polls. Deutsche Welle and Expatica Germany

UN refugee czar Guterres calls for mandatory funding for refugees

After ten years, December 31 is the last day in office for UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres. In an interview with the BBC, Guterres had a great deal of criticism for the European Union and for other nations, who were not responding to appeals for money to provide food and help for refugees.

I take note of the fact that although the audio portion of the interview is available on the BBC web site, there is no transcript available, and even the BBC news stories that quote Guterres only quote two or three sentences. Since I have become an exceptionally jaded and cynical person, I cannot help but wonder if the BBC is playing down the interview because what Guterres said was so fantastical.

At any rate, what follows is my transcription of excerpts from the interview. He starts with harsh criticisms of the European Union, especially those countries that try to make themselves look as bad as possible, so that refugees will want to go to other countries:

For the first time in meaningful numbers, refugees and other migrants came to Europe, and Europe was totally unprepared for that. But not only was Europe unprepared then, it’s still unprepared today. And it was unable to get its act together, and the divisions in Europe do not allow for a European response. to this situation.

The first thing one needs to look at is what the reality is, not what the perceptions are. We reached one million people that have crossed the Mediterranean. But we are talking of the European Union of more than 500 million people.

So we have less than two refugees per thousand people in the European Union. Now if you go to Lebanon, we have one refugee for each 3 or 4 Lebanese. So it is clear that this problem could have been managed, but to be managed it would be necessary to have all European countries assume a common responsibility. First of all, doing their best to address the root causes, doing their best to contribute to the peace in Syria or of other crises.

But at the same time recognizing that many will come, preparing that arrival with adequate reception conditions at entry points, making sure that people at entry points could be welcomed, could be given shelter. This would require an important investment if proper reception conditions would be in place. And a fair distribution of people by plane in normal circumstances to all European countries, this crisis would have been perfectly managed.

Now, what we are seeing is that countries are trying to solve the problem by themselves, trying basically to avoid refugees to come into their borders, and to go into the neighbors’ one. And some countries that are trying to have a regime that is a little bit worse than the neighbor’s regime, to make sure that the refugees go into the neighbors, and not their own country.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, Guterres is wishing for a return to the 1990s, a time when people were wealthier and the mood was egalitarian. Today, in this generational Crisis era, people in America and Europe are sharply divided politically, and nationalism and xenophobia are rising.

Guterres was asked whether he was receiving all the money necessary for his work, and he said that countries have been contributing only about 50% of the needed amounts.

The BBC reporter asked him which countries disappointed him, because they could afford to pay more. He was obviously looking for criticism of the US or Britain, but Guterres surprised him:

Everybody, to a certain extent. There is a number of countries that are now emerging as new relevant economies in the world that are not also coming with their expectable share of responsibility of the new emerging economies. I would hope that they would be able to increase their contributions too.

So Guterres was apparently criticizing China, not the US, which was certainly a surprise to me.

Guterres thinks it is strange that the “global public good” is funded by voluntary contributions, and he is looking for ways to make the contributions mandatory – a “system such that every country in the world has to contribute in way that is predictable and is fair.”

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the most interesting part of the interview was the end, where he described a world spiraling down into total chaos:

It’s important to be aware that we are just looking at just one of the symptoms of a deeper problem, and a central question is, the reason why [the refugees] are fleeing. It’s this dramatic multiplication of conflicts in the world. It’s the fact the international community has lost much of its capacity to avoid conflicts, to prevent conflicts, and then to timely solve them. And this what leads in my opinion to have a “surge” in diplomacy for peace.

Ten years ago, we had about 38 million people displaced by conflict in the world. Now we have about 60 million people.

According to the numbers of the first semester of this year, things are still getting worse in 2016. 5% more people displaced, 80% more individuals by requesting help. And worse than that, ten years ago, we were helping one million people go back home every year. Now in the last year, we only helped 130,000 people go back home, which means we are having more and more people forced to flee, and less and less people being able to find a solution for their plight.

We are like a nurse that provides an aspririn to a patient. we are able to alleviate the pain, but we don’t solve the problem. That is the political dimension of the humanitarian crisis. Humanitarians need to be impartial, neutral, to abide by humanitarian principles, not to be political. But we need to be humble enough to recognize that there is no humanitarian solution for this problems. The solution is political.

His desire to have “a ‘surge’ in diplomacy for peace” is somewhat amusing. Of course he is contrasting to the American troop “surges” in Iraq and Afghanistan, and suggesting that diplomats should surge as well. This is something that might have been possible in the 1990s, but is completely impossible in today’s generational Crisis era. BBC and United Nations

The ‘dramatic multiplication of conflicts in the world’

A couple of sentences from Guterres’ interview are worth repeating: “It’s this dramatic multiplication of conflicts in the world. It’s the fact the international community has lost much of its capacity to avoid conflicts, to prevent conflicts, and then to timely solve them.”

He could not have chosen better or more accurate words to describe what happens in a generational Crisis era. Guterres pointed out that the number of refugees in the world now exceeds 60 million, but in the last year his agency was able to help only 300,000 of them, a much worse ratio than ten years ago.

For most countries, the current generational Crisis era began around 2003, 58 years after the climax of World War II, a time when the retirement of the survivors of WW II accelerated and caused them to lose almost all influence over the rising generation, Generation-X.

I happen to have in my archives a Boston Globe article from August 29, 2004, that says that the number of war deaths has been decreasing substantially:

[T]he number killed in battle has fallen to its lowest point in the post-World War II period, dipping below 20,000 a year by one measure. Peacemaking missions, meantime, are growing in number.

“International engagement is blossoming,” said American scholar Monty G. Marshall. “There’s been an enormous amount of activity to try to end these conflicts.”

For months the battle reports and casualty tolls from Iraq and Afghanistan have put war in the headlines, but Swedish and Canadian non-governmental groups tracking armed conflict globally find a general decline in numbers from peaks in the 1990s.

The authoritative Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, in a 2004 Yearbook report obtained by The Associated Press in advance of publication, says 19 major armed conflicts were under way worldwide in 2003, a sharp drop from 33 wars counted in 1991.

The Canadian organization Project Ploughshares, using broader criteria to define armed conflict, says in its new annual report that the number of conflicts declined to 36 in 2003, from a peak of 44 in 1995.

So as most of the world ended its generational Unraveling era, when the last of the WW II survivors were in charge, and entered a generational Crisis era, things changed.

Since then, we have had four or five wars among the group consisting of Israel, Hezbollah, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and Gaza. We have had a huge surge of Muslims killing Muslims through the Mideast, in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Iraq, following the “Arab Awakening.” That includes President Obama’s new Iraq war, following the rise of the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Ukraine’s Crimea, the first such peacetime action in Europe since Adolf Hitler’s Nazi army had invaded, occupied and annexed a portion of Austria (the Anschluss) on March 12, 1938.

There is also the “surge” in Afghanistan, and African wars in Mali, Central African Republic, and South Sudan. We would also have to count the slaughter of Muslims by Buddhists in Myanmar (Burma). And while the world seemed very prosperous ten years ago (the middle of the real estate and credit bubble), we’ve had to endure a financial crisis after the bubbles imploded.

The Outlook for 2016

Will there be any more conflicts in 2016? Almost certainly. Let’s take a look at the current situation:

  • TV financial analysts have been talking all week that 2015 was the year of the global financial slowdown, led by China. Of course, these analysts almost always say that growth will begin again next year, but indications are that the downward trend will continue, and may accelerate into a full scale financial panic and crash.
  • Russia’s recent military intervention in Syria has been a major game-changer, and has substantially increased tensions in the Mideast. Turkey and Russia may be at war in 2016. Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia are increasingly boiling, largely because of Iran’s nuclear deal with the West. A sectarian Sunni vs Shia war could break out in 2016.
  • Young Palestinians in the West Bank have launched a new kind of terrorism against Israelis, using knives to kill in public places. There are also been some violence by young Israelis against Palestinians, in the form of “price tag attacks.” Israel and the Palestinians were last in a major war in 2014, but that could change anytime.
  • China is becoming militarily aggressive in the East and South China Seas, using military power to annex regions historically belonging to other countries, once again following the example of Adolf Hitler. Any one of China’s neighbors, including Vietnam, Philippines or Japan, could have a military confrontation with China that could spiral into war. China also could make its long-awaited move against Taiwan.
  • The last possibility is something unexpected, something that nobody could foresee, but ends up in war anyway.

The thing that makes a generational Crisis era unlike other eras is that, with rising nationalism and xenophobia, something that might be considered trivial at other times could be a cause for war now. In 1914, a Serb, Gavrilo Princip, shot and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, and his pregnant wife Sophie. Assassinations were not uncommon in the world, then or now, but to most of the world’s complete astonishment, this assassination triggered World War I.

A similar thing could happen 2016, in any region of the world.

Happy New Year!

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Germany, Angela Merkel, Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, European Union, Lebanon, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Project Ploughshares, Serbia, Croatia, Gavrilo Princip
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