THE FOURTH WORLD
- NATIONS WITHOUT A STATE
Cold Comfort in World Order
Ana Parajasingham, The West Australian Newspaper
- Tuesday May 6, 1997
Most of todays wars are civil wars. Most of the casualties are
civilians sometimes "caught in the cross fire", but most
often victims of governments efforts to suppress the rebellions through the
use of unbridled terror. According to the Oslo -based International Peace Research
Institute, between 1990 and 1995 there have been 97 such wars. Many are still continuing
because the issues which gave rise to these wars remain unaddressed.
The International Peace Research Institute estimates the numbers killed to be five
and a half million and the numbers displaced to be well over forty million.
Inevitably there is the collapse of economies as Governments spend exponentially to
maintain military supremacy over the rebels. The overwhelming number of these
"internal wars" are fought in pursuit of self-determination by
smaller nations within states dominated by larger nations.
Examples include the war of independence waged by the Chechniyans against Russia, the
Tamil uprising against the Sri Lankan Government, the Kurdish offensive against the Iraqi,
Iranian and Turkish regimes, and closer home, the war by the Bougunvillians against
the PNG Government, and the ongoing Timorese struggle against the Indonesian regime.
It is the collapse of artificial ideologies which held together diverse nations and
often dominated by larger nations, which has led to many of these wars. The
end of Communism gave rise to an explosion of several new states, some through peaceful
means, many through wars of secessions. Examples include the dismantling of
the Soviet Union dominated by the Russian nation and the end of the
Yugoslavian state dominated by the Serbian nation.
Similarly, the end of colonial rule gave rise to many states whose borders had been drawn
by colonial rulers for their own administrative convenience with little regard to
the differing ethnicity of the population.
As a result, some of the "States" which came into being encompassed more than a
single nation each, where the numerically larger nation dominated the others.
Consequently, those who replaced the colonial power were invariably from the
Unfortunately, many of these politicians were inclined to consolidate their own positions
through advocating chauvinistic ideologies, brute force and the blatant
exploitation of the principle of majoratarian rule. Not surprisingly, this
gave rise to secessionist wars as the smaller nations encompassed within these states
began to assert their right to nationhood.
Sri Lanka is a classic example. It is an Island of two nations - (comprising a
numerically larger Sinhala nation and a smaller Tamil nation) which has today become
embroiled in a bloody civil war because of the decision of the departing British to grant
independence to the Island under a constitution which blatantly favoured the
"majority" nation ¾ the Singhalese.
The wars fought by these "stateless nations" to transform their homelands into
fully-fledged states have proved to be very nasty business indeed.
This is because of the nationalistic sentiments which underpin these struggles.
To the dominant nation the prize is dominance itself, while to the dominated
the struggle means their very survival as a distinct people. These struggles therefore are
not just about economic prosperity or access to employment. They are essentially
about group identity and the groups place in the scheme of things.
There are several reasons for the failure of the International Community to address these
Firstly, because they are still treated as internal matters.
Secondly, because the International Community has generally acted in such a way as to
preserve the status quo by tacitly or otherwise supporting the dominant nations.
Thirdly, because many regard these conflicts to be resolution resistant.
However, there is a growing school of thought which regards these conflicts and the
turmoil to be the birth pangs of a new world order, an order no longer dominated by large
nation-states, but composed mainly of regional associations of smaller countries.
The solution to these conflicts therefore lies in promoting such a world order. This
could be realised only by persuading the dominant nations to re-define their
relationships with smaller nations encompassed within the existing state.