The results are in for our 2018 Peace Essay contest. View the winning submission by Emediong Francis Boniface below:

How Can We Obey the Law Against War?

“This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a final Note stating that, unless we heard from them by 11 o’clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us. I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently this country is at war with Germany.” An excerpts from British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain speech that effectively declared the beginning of the World War II on September 3, 1939.

While many will know that Nazi Germany’s expansionist and global occupation plan was an aberration of International Law, very few until today will believe the declaration of war on Germany also had elements of illegality about it. Eleven years earlier, the Americans and French had negotiated the Kellogg-Briand Pact (or Pact of Paris) officially, General Treaty for the Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy. An agreement in which signatory states promised not to use war to resolve “disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them.” Ironically, both Germany and the United Kingdom were among the original signatories to this agreement in 1928, and the law had been effective since July 24, 1929.

Even more alarming was that all major state actors on both the Axis and Allied fronts, such as United Kingdom, United States of America, France, Germany, Italy and Japan were all original signatories to this agreement. The side-stepping of a binding international agreement by these countries who were mostly the great powers of World War I, founders of the League of Nations and negotiators of the Pact of Paris itself contributed to the decline in recognition and enforcement of the Kellogg-Briand Pact. In essence, those who created the agreement were effectively the first to violate it and the World has never fully recovered from the divisions that World War II created globally.

We now live in a dilemma, were various countries spend billions in formulating the strategy and acquiring the resources for war but very few live in the reality that the world still has a strategy for peace and that war is basically and illegal practice.  The hardships the Cold War caused in its various theatres such as the Korean Peninsula, Angola, Mozambique, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau, the Balkans, Central America and the Middle East has not taught us enough about the destructiveness of war and its general effectiveness in promoting sectarian violence, poverty, social tensions, insurgency, inequality and terrorism etc.

How do we then obey the law against war?  Re-education and re-orientation will play a large part in helping this course. Educationally, most of the theories and ideologies our diplomacy are based on evolved with the Just-War-Theory. A doctrine, which was to ensure that war, is morally justifiable through a series of criteria, all of which must be met for war to be considered just. The criteria includes “the right to go to war” (Jus ad bellum) and “right conduct in war” (Jus ad bello). This doctrine has definitely outlived its usefulness and it is saddening that most of the world’s foreign policy is still based on it. It is very reactive than proactive in its promotion of peace. We need to change this and educate our current and next generation more about doctrines that encourage conflict prevention instead of the diplomatic intolerance and exhaustive conflict management practices we currently favour.

The United Nations and the Security Council who are principally the organizations in charge of maintaining world peace will need to take a more proactive lead. They should ensure that the provisions of the United Nations Charter in Article 2, Paragraph 4, are binding on all nations. Defaults should also attract deep consequences and sanctions for all erring countries no matter their size and influence.

The minds of our current and next generation of youths need to be trained from an early stage that there is no alternative to peace. Authorities in various countries have to replace all Machiavellian and Nationalists theories that spur violence and adopt a more pacifist approach to education in delicate areas such as politics, defense, economics and history. There is a need for elements of the Kellogg-Briand Pact to become compulsory for all students in elementary schools, high schools and universities.

A bottom-up approach such as this will give us more chances of seeing the Pact of Paris gain more traction and influence globally as a basis for foreign policy. We can institutionalize peace in our minds this way and from experience; I know it is very difficult to decommission a mindset.


BBC Archive (1939, September 3). The Transcript of Neville Chamberlain Declaration of War. Retrieved April 14, 2018 from http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/ww2outbreak/7957.shtml?page=txt

United Nations (1945, June 26). Charter of the United Nations. Retrieved April 14, 2018 from http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/chapter-i/index.html