Poverty, Disease, Environmental Decline Are True 'Axis of Evil'
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE JANUARY 13, 2005 9:38 AM
CONTACT: World Watch Institute
phone: 202.452.1992 x535
Poverty, Disease, Environmental Decline Are True 'Axis of Evil'
State of the World 2005 Calls for New Approach to Global Security
WA$$$HINGTON -- January 13 -- The global war on terror is diverting the
world's attention from the central causes of instability, reports the
Worldwatch Institute in its annual State of the World 2005. Acts of
terror and the dangerous reactions they provoke are symptomatic of
underlying sources of global insecurity, including the perilous
interplay among poverty, infectious disease, environmental degradation,
and rising competition over oil and other resources.
Compounded by the spread of deadly armaments, these "problems without
passports" create the conditions in which political instability,
warfare, and extremism thrive. They could lead the world into a
dangerous downward spiral in which the basic fabric of nations is called
into question, political fault lines deepen, and radicalization grows.
Tackling these challenges demands a strategy that emphasizes
prevention-focused programs rather than military might, the report
"Poverty, disease, and environmental decline are the true axis of evil,"
says Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin. "Unless these threats are
recognized and responded to, the world runs the risk of being blindsided
by the new forces of instability, just as the United States was
surprised by the terrorist attacks of September 11."
In the State of the World 2005 foreword, former Soviet Union President
and Green Cross International chairman Mikhail Gorbachev calls for a
"Global Glasnost—openness, transparency, and public dialogue…" and "a
policy of ‘preventive engagement'…to meet the challenges of poverty,
disease, environmental degradation, and conflict in a sustainable and
Among the many destabilizing pressures examined, State of the World 2005
highlights the following as particularly critical for efforts to build a
more peaceful world:
OIL: Continued heavy dependence on oil carries with it enormous costs
and risks. It fuels geopolitical rivalries, civil wars, and human rights
violations. The economic security of supplier and buyer nations is
compromised by severe swings in price and supply. And oil's role in
undermining climatic stability poses grave threats to human safety.
WATER: Water agreements have made cooperation rather than conflict the
norm among neighboring states. But within countries, water shortages are
fueling violent conflict. Worldwide, 434 million people currently face
water scarcity. Insufficient access to water is a major cause of lost
rural livelihoods, compelling farmers to abandon their fields and
FOOD: Worldwide, nearly two billion people suffer from hunger and
chronic nutrient deficiencies. Food security is often undermined by
factors such as water availability, land distribution, poverty, and
environmental degradation. Among the major food security threats on the
horizon are climate change, the loss of diversity of plant and animal
species, the rise of foodborne illnesses, and food bioterror.
INFECTIOUS DISEASE: Several known diseases have reemerged or spread
geographically and many new ones have been identified over the last
three decades. HIV/AIDS has become a major killer, and an estimated 34
to 46 million people are infected with the virus. The world's
economically least-developed countries are the most affected by the
pandemic. In sub-Saharan Africa, the disease is devastating education,
weakening militaries, and undermining political stability.
YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT: More than 100 developing countries worldwide are
currently experiencing a "youth bulge" (a situation where people aged 15
to 29 account for more than 40 percent of all adults). Economic
opportunities are particularly scarce in the Middle East and sub-Saharan
Africa, where 21-26 percent of young people are unemployed. Worldwide,
the more than 200 million young people worldwide who are either jobless
or do not earn enough to support a family—especially young men—can be a
destabilizing force if their discontent pushes them into crime or into
joining insurgencies or extremist groups.
To confront these challenges to global security, State of the World 2005
calls for a strengthening of the civilian institutions and systems that
are best equipped to address them. A range of strategic investments in
sustainable energy, public health, protection of ecological systems,
education, jobs, and poverty alleviation will assist in this transition,
write the report's authors.
"The current fixation on fighting terrorism has overshadowed the graver
threats that now loom over us, said State of the World 2005 Project
Directors Michael Renner and Hilary French. "A more sustainable and
equitable world is a more secure world. Rather than continuing to build
military muscle, governments need to redouble their efforts to safeguard
human and environmental security, enhance disarmament and post-conflict
reconstruction, and redesign the United Nations for the security
challenges of today and tomorrow."
In particular, the report calls on governments and others to take the
STRENGTHEN AND BROADEN INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION The permanent
membership of the U.N.'s Security Council must be expanded to make it
more representative of today's world. The U.N.'s ability to respond
effectively to underlying threats to international peace and security
such as poverty, disease, and environmental decline also needs
strengthening. U.N. institutions and other mechanisms of global
governance must also be redesigned to better harness the energy and
insights of civil society.
FULLY FUND AND SUPPORT THE MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS (MDGs) AND THE
WORLD SUMMIT ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT (WSSD) TARGETS In 2000, the
members of the United Nations agreed to reduce global poverty, disease,
and societal inequities significantly by 2015. These goals were
complemented two years later by a series of sustainable development
targets adopted at the WSSD. Shifting just 7.4 percent of donor
governments' military budgets into development assistance would provide
the $50 billion a year in additional funds that analysts estimate are
needed to achieve the MDGs.
BOLSTER ENVIRONMENTAL PEACEMAKING Governments should build on the
growing array of joint environmental initiatives, including peace parks,
shared river basin management plans, regional seas agreements, and joint
environmental monitoring programs that are helping to promote
cooperation among traditional political adversaries. As such initiatives
gain momentum, they will reduce international tensions while also
protecting the environment.
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