Although almost unnoticed today, 75 years ago, on 24 October 1945, the probably most important international treaty, the United Nations Charter, came into effect. Its aim was not only to end WWII, but to save, once and for all, succeeding generations from the scourge of war. In San Francisco, the victors against Nazi Germany pledged that not military power, but international cooperation and human rights, should govern future world affairs. For a generation that went through two World Wars and unimaginable human suffering and atrocities, the UN Charter brought hope for a lasting peace. Three years later, the Charter was complemented with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Taken together, the global ban to use military force and the universal respect for fundamental human rights were historical breakthroughs for humankind. As of today, 193 countries have signed the UN Charter.
Despite many setbacks, the world has indeed become more peaceful. Over time, wars among UN Member States – the Charter’s core concern – have practically ceased to exist. Except for minor local clashes, national armies or military alliances no longer fight each other in battles. Today’s violent conflicts are almost exclusively intrastate armed conflicts involving belligerent non-state actors – a type of conflict the UN Charter was not designed for. But even if we include intrastate armed conflicts and the effects of foreign interventions in them, the risk for anyone in the world to be killed in a war or armed conflict today is less than 2% of what it was in the 1950s.
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