I was asked by a primary school pupil on Friday, whether I thought that the world was likely to reach the 17 Sustainable Development Goals intended to be met by 2030. These are the set of goals that all developed nations are supposed to be supporting to bear down on global poverty, unfairness and damage to our planet.
My answer was negative, although tempered by the fact that I was talking to a group of nine year olds, albeit very bright and well-taught ones. I said we would make progress but the outcome partly depended on whether or not we experience further major conflict, which consistently undermines any progress towards greater global prosperity. I guess Syria, 10 years ago one of the most sophisticated countries on the planet, and now a pile of rubble, is a tragic example.
The harsh reality is that in every century since records beganthe world has experienced major warfare. Look at what happened in the 20th century, two world wars, a holocaust, appalling loss of life in Vietnam and the slaughter of their own people by Stalin and Mao. Why would we imagine that just a few decades later we have all somehow transformed into peace-making human beings? Sadly, the human condition that compels us towards selfishness and conflict continues unabated.
It is the job of all democratic politicians to work for peace, but we do not help our cause if we fail to learn from history and understand political realities.
Keep a close eye on China for the catalyst of future conflict. It has a leader who is unimpeachable for the next 20 years. They have deep-seated rivalries with neighbouring Japan and Taiwan (not to mention a long-term arm wrestle for global supremacy with a decaying USA) and live disputes over access to the busy South China Sea shipping lanes. They are pouring enormous sums of money into military assets and we all know of their skills in cyber activity. Doubtless their military leaders are itching for an opportunity to test their modern capabilities.
This is one reason why we have to keep our own defences fully up to date and ready for anything the future has to throw at us. It is one reason why we have to maintain a very close link with the USA and within NATO.
I would love to see a world without war, but any student of history or human psychology knows better.