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Poverty, Disease, Environmental Decline Are True 'Axis of Evil'

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE JANUARY 13, 2005 9:38 AM
	CONTACT: World Watch Institute 
 http://www.worldwatch.org/press/news/2005/01/12 
Darcey Rakestraw
e-mail:  
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

http://www.commondreams.org/news2005/0113-01.htm

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 
concludes.

"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 
nonviolent way."

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 
fueling conflicts.

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 
following actions:

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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