THE FOURTH WORLD - NATIONS WITHOUT A STATE
Cold Comfort in World Order
Ana Parajasingham, The West Australian Newspaper
- Tuesday May 6, 1997
Most of today’s 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
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
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
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 dominant nation.
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 group’s
place in the scheme of things.
There are several reasons for the failure of the International Community to
address these conflicts.
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
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.