A century ago, President Woodrow Wilson set out fourteen points that were to form the basis of peace negotiations to end the First World War.  Although the world was back at war twenty years later, the Fourteen Points were the basis for many institutions of the international order, including the United Nations and its various bodies and offshoots.  They also pointed the way to establishment of a number of nation states that now exist in Europe.

But are the Fourteen Points still fit for purpose in a world where the United States is no longer the ascending power, where China and Russia expect to be listened to and have their own approaches to international affairs, where the UK and France are no longer colonial powers and their colonies are now nation states?  And how relevant are the Fourteen Points where the threats to peace are very different from those faced a hundred years ago and are increasing and are increasingly complex?

Against this backdrop, a workshop last week at Chatham House, in association with the Meridian International Center in Washington DC, came up with its own list of points for the twenty-first century.  There were seven points, rather than President Wilson’s Fourteen Points, and there were some similarities – for instance, the references to arms control.  However, I was interested to see that the focus of the new list was on communication, equality, the environment and education, rather than carving up territory, recognition of nations and navigation routes.  But the Fourteen Points addressed problems of a colonial era and were designed to end a war that had engulfed too many around the world.  The seven points are designed to prevent another world war.

The seven points are:

1          We shall prioritise diplomacy as one of the most important ways to prevent conflict.  We shall ringfence public diplomacy spending in the way that we do for defence and international aid.

2          We shall establish global norms for tax structures so that every member of every country is subject to fair taxation and inequalities are reduced.

3          We shall re-double global efforts to address climate change and ensure that the Paris Agreement is implemented as fully as possible.

4          We shall re-order and re-frame the international system to be more representative.  Representation for sub-state groups and minority peoples will be included at all levels at the United Nations and its associated institutions.

5          We shall re-charge the United Nations Security Council to ensure that new mechanisms can be established for agreement and ensure that interventions can only take place with full agreement throughout the whole of the UN system.

6          We shall set up in place further measures to prevent conflict and curb military aggression, including increased emphasis on disarmament and arms reduction and controls, including controls on cyber weaponry.

7          We shall increase the international emphasis and commitment to sustainable development and education for all and we shall support good governance practices and funding for education particularly for girls.




There are a number of posts I could write about the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London.  How the best way of retaining your sanity is to avoid television, news websites, the radio and social media, once you’ve got the basic information.  How you need to remember how many people die of diseases and medical conditions that could be treated or avoided if more were spent on research and health and social care.  How it’s essential to keep a sense of proportion.  And how desperately tragic it is for all those affected – the victims and their families and friends; witnesses; the emergency service personnel.

But as I set off for Prague at the end of last week, it occurred to me that a trip to Czechoslovakia would have held more than a frisson of danger 30 years ago.  And now, many consider it safer than London.

I started to work out where else was considered to be off-limits during the 1980s.  Large parts of Central and South America ticked the box, as did parts of New York City.  (I remember my aunt making me promise not to take the subway when I visited in 1991 and I walked so much that I returned home an inch shorter.)  Parts of Yugoslavia and Bulgaria were mainstream holiday destinations for Western Europeans in the 1980s, but I don’t recall anyone going to Romania or Hungary.

Going back a little further, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos were places to steer clear of in the 1970s, but they’re a mainstay of the averagely adventurous traveller’s bucket list now.  China, the same.

Depending on the decade, various parts of Africa have been worth avoiding and some still are.  Egypt is potentially combustible, but was safe enough ten years ago.  The Middle East has been volatile for most of my lifetime, with short intervals when trips have been perfectly feasible.

Many countries and regions go through periods of comparative violence and peace.  Paris is safer now than during the Second World War and during The Terror at the end of the eighteenth century.  The UK is safer than Northern Ireland was during the Troubles of the 1960s, 70s and 80s.  Violence and danger ebb and flow across the globe and over time, even though we want to live in a peaceful world.

I know I’ll struggle to remember that when there’s another attack in the UK, but I will try to do so and I’ll also pray for peace.