Interview with Jonathan Granoff,President, Global Security Institute and 2014 Nobel Peace Prize nominee

What does peace and security look like in practice?

Peace and security are founded on recognition of shared interest. Presently, there are a set of existential challenges that every nation and person in the world is impacted by. These challenges are, to some extent, existential to civilisation, including climate, the varied PH of the oceans, the sustainability of rain forests. They share certain characteristics. In order to protect these common goods, global regimes are required. No nation or group of nations is capable of meeting these challenges. For example, if one nation can dump pollution in the ocean, then other nations will be tempted to dump, using that nations flag. In addition to these, there are global, critically important issues that similarly cannot be ignored or marginalised. These include the stability of financial markets, ending poverty, ensuring potable water, and cyber-security. These again share the characteristic of requiring global cooperation. Very simply, the UN system is the institutional foundation structure, through which the world needs to work to achieve cooperation to meet these challenges.


The identification and advancement of our common goods and interests will enhance our ability to reach human security. Thus far, the debate on security has remained largely dominated by the military establishments of major states, based on the premise that secure states are preconditions for development and the improved quality of life of each state citizen. This preoccupation of one’s own nation is not morally wrong – nor entirely incorrect. It is just not sufficient to meet our shared interests. Also, there are better ways than military force, in many instances, to achieve sustainable security. It is simply inadequate to meet the tasks at hand if our national identities obscure our abilities to identify our current existential situation — which must focus on global shared interests. The Secretary-General has identified the elimination of nuclear weapons and the protection of the global climate as both moral and practical necessities. The UN is a necessary and institutional foundation to achieve this.


What about every child and every woman initiative of the UNSG? Can that factor into world peace?

Great moral thinkers of humanity have consistently identified as a standard for policy how the least amongst us (the weakest and most vulnerable) are threatened. That doesn’t simply mean people who are poor but also includes infants who can’t fend for themselves and must rely on, not just their parents, but the social fabrics of the society of which they are born in. By focusing on the needs of the weak,we are forced to think of the most vulnerable. Too often, planning focuses on financial aspects of human endeavors and overlooks quality of life issues, which directly impact the most vulnerable. By focusing policy on an issue that any sensitive heart can respond to, the Secretary-General of the United Nations has demonstrated not just intelligence but wisdom. I do not consider women to be, per se, amongst the most vulnerable and in fact I have observed the trajectory of women taking their rightful place in society as the full equals to men in most important aspects. The achievement of gender equity is a common good. But infants will always remain vulnerable and it is thus appropriate for all societies to focus on their well-being.


How would you describe how peace is or should be manifest as behaviours and cultures in the international system (including stakeholders), organisation, team and individual?

Moral incoherence breeds instability while moral coherence breeds stability. Nuclear weapons policies of dual standards demonstrate moral incoherence. Some countries say nuclear weapons are good for them but not rest of the world. This double standard breeds instability. Nuclear weapons are no good for anybody and only an insane person would say that nuclear weapons are good for everybody. Under the rule of law, there must be the equality of application of norms and standards. Thus the capacity of the International Court of Justice must be expanded and the International Criminal Court must be strengthened as well as its jurisdictions expanded. Law is an important aspect of peace but must be founded on justice. It isabsurd that under international humanitarian law, dum-dum bullets have been prohibited, but the most egregious weapons of war, nuclear weapons, the use of which cause unnecessary suffering and by their nature impact neutral third parties, remain deployed. Nuclear weapons do not discriminate between civilians and combatants, cause unnecessary and immeasurable suffering, and therefore should be prohibited.

                                          Johnathan Granoff

Jonathan Granoff

In a larger sense, we can learn from history about foundations for peace. An example is that after WWI, crushing reparations were put on the shoulder of Germany, the consequence of which was a totally disruptive society in which Nazism grew. After World War II, the Marshall Plan showed generosity and inclusiveness and the consequence was the spread of democracy, trade and partnerships. To some extent, the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 Development Agenda can serve as basis for a global Marshall Plan based on the same practical successes and insights.


There were great voices within the UN such as Dag Hammerskold and Sergio Vieira do Mello who believed in defending the UN Charter no matter the circumstance. Do you feel current leaders within the UN system can rise to defend the UN charter in the midst of current threats to peace and security?

Within the skeleton of any society can be found its economic system upon which social relations deepened. If the skeleton is weak, the body will suffer. The world spends in excess of 1.5 trillion in military expenditures, which arguably is not strengthening the skeleton of society. A better approach would be larger allocations for schools, roads, hospital, environmentally sustainable practices and other security-enhancing endeavours. A culture of violence breeds fear and insecurity, and insecurity brings more weapons. There are not military solutions to Syria, Ukraine, Kashmir, and Palestine. All of these areas can best be solved through identifying shared interests and diplomacy. This is not to say that there is no value at all of the use of force. But I wish to highlights its limitations and emphasize other routes available if we would but commit the resources. The resources of the UN need to be dramatically enhanced to help bring about transformation on how security is pursued. Militaries have a place but, presently, their place is too large. Many institutions within the UN system need to be substantially beefed up.


For example, the International Atomic Energy agency has never spent more than $150 million a year on its inspections, compared to the billions countries spend to produce nuclear arsenals. Inspections, verifications, and monitoring structures do far more to build confidence and trust then threatening each other with annihilation.


The spiritually wise, through human history, have consistently admonished us to see the human family as one. It is interesting that the business community has long ago transcended national and religious borders and treated the human family as one market. We need to see the human family not just as a market but, indeed, as one family.



Leave a Reply


GVI produces publications on substantive issues from a values perspective, and linked to current events on the UN agenda. GVI also solicits and hosts articles by UN system actors, so you can hear your own voice in the conversation.

The Blog

Twitter Feed


Support us in supporting you. GVI is a tax exempt 501(c)3 organization so your contributions are tax deductible. We invite you to make a safe online donation.