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Conflict Prevention: Ten Lessons We Have Learned

Closing Keynote Address by Gareth Evans, President of the International Crisis Group, to the University of Toronto Peace and Conflict Society Conference Before the Crisis Breaks: Conflict Prevention, Crisis Management and Preventive Diplomacy in the 21st Century, Toronto, 4 February 2007

In opening his excellent remarks to the first plenary session of this conference yesterday, Professor Jack Goldstone said that, as an academic, his role was to talk, but certainly not to do. He was gracious enough not to spell out the obvious corollary to that proposition - that practitioners like me should do, but certainly not talk!

But here I am talking to you nonetheless, so let me make the most of my miscasting by first of all thanking the student organizers of this conference for a job splendidly well done. I have to say that as an old warrior of the (sort-of) left in my earlier political incarnations, I was deeply touched by the wonderfully egalitarian, non-hierarchical spirit clearly infusing this whole enterprise: I don’t think I’ve ever before seen a workforce commanded by no less than two Co-Presidents and eight Co-Chairs. I’m not sure what crimes or misdemeanours were committed by the your poor Treasurer and Secretary for them not to have been called Director-Generals of Finance and Administration respectively, but no doubt that slight can be redressed next year. Congratulations to you all – and the volunteers, and the Faculty members and everyone else who sailed with you – for an exceedingly well constructed and stimulating event. It has been a privilege to be here with you.

As the case study breakout groups worked their way around the world’s problems over the last two days – from North Korea to Venezuela, via East Timor, Afghanistan, the Middle East, the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa, the Caucasus and the Balkans; as my own International Crisis Group finds itself now reporting just about every month in our CrisisWatch bulletin that more situations around the world are deteriorating than improving; and as we all find ourselves getting so accustomed and immunized to extreme violence in places like Iraq that yesterday’s horrific suicide truck bombing of a crowded Baghdad market, killing over 120 people, barely rated a mention on page 16 of this morning’s Toronto Star - it’s hard to believe that the world has learned anything at all about how to prevent deadly conflict.

But let me try nonetheless - you may think a little heroically - to offer you a number of reasons why we do still have some reason to look on the bright side. For everything that is still going wrong, we have been learning, slowly and painfully, how to do things better. And there are some lessons that we ought very clearly to have learned from the experience of the last fifteen years, even if some of them are still only just beginning to sink in. Reinforced by the series of excellent presentations in the plenary sessions - starting with Louise Frechette in the opening keynote - and by what I have heard of the equally excellent discussions in the breakout groups, let me try to distil what I think are the ten major lessons we have learned, or should by now have learned, about conflict prevention.

Lesson 1. Conflict prevention effort does make a difference.

The point was made by Mike Lawrence and Max Kelly at the outset of their excellent concepts paper, and by several of the plenary speakers, that as bad as things seem at the moment, it’s important to keep a sense of perspective. Contrary to conventional wisdom, and perhaps all our intuitions, there has been a very significant trend decline – after a high point in the late 1980s and very early 1990s - in the number of wars taking place, both between and within states, in the number of genocidal and other mass atrocities, and the number of people dying violent deaths as a result of them. In the case of serious conflicts (defined as those with 1000 or more battle deaths in a year) and mass killings there has been an 80 per cent decline since the early ‘90s, and an even more striking decrease in the number of battle deaths.

Whereas most years from the 1940s through to the 1990s had over 100,000 such reported deaths – and sometimes as many as 500,000 – the average for the first years of this new century has been more like 20,000. Of course violent battle deaths are only a small part of the whole story of the misery of war: 90 per cent or more of war-related deaths are due to disease and malnutrition rather than direct violence, as we have seen, for example, in the Congo and Darfur. But the trend decline in battle deaths is significant, and highly encouraging.

A number of reasons contributed to these turnarounds, including the end of the era of colonialism, which generated two-thirds or more of all wars from the 1950s to the 1980s; and of course the end of the Cold War, which meant no more proxy wars fuelled by Washington or Moscow, and also the demise of a number of authoritarian governments, generating internal resentment and resistance, that each side had been propping up.

But, as argued by Andrew Mack’s Human Security Centre in Canada, the organisation which compiles and publishes all this data in its Human Security Report, recently updated to the end of 2005, the best explanation is the one that stares us in the face, even if a great many don’t want to acknowledge it: the huge upsurge in activity in conflict prevention, conflict management, diplomatic peacemaking and post-conflict peacebuilding activity that has occurred over the last fifteen years, with most of this being spearheaded by the UN itself (but with the World Bank, donor states, a number of regional security organisations and literally thousands of NGOs playing significant roles of their own.) Conflict prevention is a frustrating business to be in, but those of us engaged in it - as policymakers, as researchers or as activists – are not wasting our time.

Lesson 2: The Best Way to Stop Wars is Not to Start Them

It has taken the continuing catastrophe in Iraq, and the lesser but still painful one of Israel’s confrontation with Hizbollah last year, to drive this point home. For most high security risk situations, whether cross-border or internal, the military force option should be absolutely the last measure contemplated – with other strategies, whether they be political and diplomatic, or legal and constitutional, or economic and developmental, or involve non-coercive military measures like security sector reform, being far more likely to be productive, and not absolutely counterproductive.

Enthusiasm for preventive warfare - preemptive strikes to deal with non-imminent threats – remains undiminished in some dark and unlovely corners of the US and some other administrations around the world, and we cannot assume that the bottom has entirely dropped out of the market for a strike on Iran’s still very early stage nuclear installations. But my sense, from successive visits to Washington – most recently last week – that after nearly four years of experience in Iraq, there now a fairly complete understanding of not only the range of demons, both regionally and globally, that we would be unleashed by preventive strikes, but also the limited and short term nature of the gains that would be achieved. Life is a learning experience, even for neo-cons.

None of this means that we should swing to the opposite extreme and foreswear military responses in situations where this is both legal, as a matter of international law, and legitimate, as a matter of morality and decency: there are in fact two big problems with military force, not just using it when we shouldn’t, but not using it when we should (as was obviously the case in Rwanda and Srebrenica). The responsibility to protect doctrine – to which the world is at least now paying lipservice – does now clearly acknowledges the legitimacy of coercive military force, if only in the most extreme cases. That said, one of the many pieces of unfinished business in relation to R2P, is the absence of an agreed set of guidelines for when the most extreme of all forms of reactive measures should, and should not, be mobilized. A model set of guidelines were set out in the ICISS Commision report, and both the High Level Panel and Secretary-General’s reports in the lead up to the 2005 World Summit, but the Security Council has so far remained unmoved.

The argument for such agreed criteria, is not that their application will produce push-button consensus, but they will concentrate everyone’s attention, both decision makers’ and publics’, on the critical issues: (1) whether the situation is prima facie serious enough to justify even the contemplation of force, (2) whether the primary reason for the proposed attack is really the stated one and defensible as such, (3) whether other remedial options are reasonably available and if so have been exhausted, (4) whether the nature of the force proposed is proportional to the harm being stopped or averted, and (5) – often the real show stopper – the balance of consequences: whether the proposed coercive military intervention will in fact do more harm than good.

Lesson 3. Conflict is cyclical: the trick is to stop the wheel turning.

One of the things we now understand most clearly about conflict is that the countries and regions most likely to lapse into it are those that have been there before. There is not a straight line sequence between the anticipation of conflict and attempts to prevent it breaking out; the resolution of conflict, by negotiation or force, when it has broken out; and then post-conflict peace-building. Rather there is a cyclical process, in which each post-conflict environment contains the potential seeds of the next round of destruction.

Viewed this way, post-conflict peacebuilding is not the end of a process of conflict resolution, but the start of a new process of conflict prevention: as Louise Frechette reminded us, the worst horrors in the Angolan civil war came after the Bicesse Accords in 1990, and the Rwandan genocide exploded just a year after the Arusha Peace Agreement of 1993, in each case because manifestly inadequate arrangements were made for peacekeeping and general implementation follow through. We’re now doing much better at getting this right – and the fact that more existing conflicts are being settled, then staying settled, is clearly a key factor in the trend decline in the figures for the number of conflicts and battle deaths, as the latest UBC Human Security Report makes clear.

There is a little bit of a disposition to say that post-conflict peacebuilding is not real conflict prevention, which means doing what’s necessary to stop violent conflict breaking out where it has not occurred before. But one can agree that much more remains to be done to energise effective responses, particularly longer term structural measures, while still recognizing the huge preventive significance of the new emphasis on peacebuilding.

Lesson 4. One size analysis doesn’t fit all: every conflict is different.

To understand how to prevent - and resolve - conflict it is necessary to understand what causes it, and one of the products of the much enhanced focus on conflict prevention is much more academic and institutional analysis than we have ever had before on what generates conflict. There is a whole literature now, for example, on the economic causes of war within, as well as between states, and the respective roles of greed and grievance in fostering and sustaining violence. We have had a number of references to that and other research on causation during the course of this conference, and I won’t stop to summarise any of it here.

The short point I would make is that such general analysis has become extremely helpful in getting us to ask the right questions, but it is a mistake to think it can provide all the answers. Every conflict does have its own dynamic, and there is no substitute for comprehensively understanding all the factors at work. Everything starts with having an accurate take on what is happening on the ground, the issues that are resonating and the personalities and local dynamics – political, economic, social, cultural and personal - that are driving them.

For a variety of reasons, mainly security and budgetary, traditional diplomats are not performing this function in as much breadth and depth as they traditionally have – it’s hard to get out and about when you are locked up in a fortress or have minimal staff resources - and both early warning and effective conflict prevention capacity have become more at risk as a result. Filling this gap – providing the kind of detailed field-based analysis that is absolutely critical for effective conflict prevention and resolution - has been really the primary rationale for the creation and work of my own International Crisis Group: but that will be my last piece of advertising!

Lesson 5. Conflict prevention requires complex strategies: one-dimensional fixes rarely work

As a result of the much more systematic focus on conflict prevention since the early 1990s we now have a much better understanding not only of the causes of conflict but the repertoire of measures available to deal with them. There are many different ways of categorising and classifying them, and there is a voluminous literature on the subject, but the simplest way of getting one’s head around the options available in any given situation may be to think of a toolbox with two trays – for structural prevention and more direct operational measures respectively. It’s generally the case that structural measures tend to be longer-term in focus and direct operational measures shorter term, though not always, as some speakers have rightly pointed out.

Each tray in turn has four basic compartments for, respectively, political and diplomatic measures, legal and constitutional measures, economic and social measures, and security sector and military measures. And there are sub-compartments within each of these – for example direct economic measures might have separate slots for positive incentives , negative incentives (or sanctions), and focused humanitarian aid.

The crucial thing is to recognise not only that each situation has its own characteristics, and that one-size spanners don’t fit all, but that each situation is likely to require a complex combination of measures. And the balance between them is bound to change, and to have to change, over time as circumstances evolve. Conflict prevention is a business for the fleet of foot, not the plodders – but unfortunately in international affairs, as in life itself, the latter usually have the numbers.

Lesson 6. Conflict prevention requires effective institutional structures.

These are necessary at the global, regional and national government levels, and this issue has had good attention at this conference. . Globally, there are at least three major structural problems, only one of which was seriously tackled, and even then only partly, in the 2005 World Summit– that was the establishment of the new Peacebuilding Commission, to ensure that there would sustained and effective international focus on, and resource commitment for, the crucial post-conflict phase.

A second big problem is the Security Council, not just ensuring its commitment and effective delivery, both of which have often been problematic, but in ensuring its continued legitimacy, when its structure is so manifestly a reflection of the world of 1945, not the 21st century. The complacency of the Permanent Five veto-wielding members is misplaced: their powers will be a diminishing asset unless the credibility issue is seriously addressed before much longer, but following the collapse of the 2005 efforts there is little or no sign that it will be.

A third issue is Secretariat reform: getting more resources into the peace and security area, ensuring their quality, and enabling the Secretary-General to have available to him a large store of early warning and analysis capability – a function that has been largely denied it so far by member states anxious not to be seen as suitable cases for treatment.

Regionally, while significant progress has been made in recent years, especially by the African Union (although its doctrine and rhetoric remains a long way ahead of its operational capacity, as we have seen so acutely and alarmingly in Darfur), much more needs to be done to strengthen conflict prevention and resolution capability, which in many parts of the world is non-existent, or so deeply reluctant to become involved in the security problems of the neighbourhood that it might as well be.

So far as national governments are concerned, increasing efforts have been made to develop structural arrangements both ‘mainstreaming’ conflict prevention – requiring all relevant policy officers to give attention to this dimension in developing aid and other external policies – and also specifically ‘tasking’ it by giving particular individuals or groups within the government the specific responsibility to think about prevention, and devise and recommend up the decision-making food chain appropriate policy responses. And that is all a Good Thing.

Lesson 7. Conflict prevention requires application of resources.

Like many other worthwhile public policy activities, conflict prevention struggles to get its share of public resources. Part of the problem is that it doesn’t generate immediately visible returns: as a number of speakers here have lamented, you succeed most in conflict prevention when nothing happens, and nobody notices. And for most people in public office performing good works without anyone noticing it is like having your teeth pulled.

But there is no doubt a formidable case can be made for conflict prevention on pure financial cost-benefit grounds alone. As Australian Foreign Minister in the early 1990s I estimated, with the help of my Department, that the first Gulf War, which cost the allied coalition some $US 70 billion to wage, could conceivably have been avoided through more effective preventive diplomacy - which in the institutional form of six small but highly professional regional conflict prevention centres around the world would have cost the whole international community just over $20 million a year. Similar calculations have been made in many other contexts.

That kind of calculation has been done repeatedly in the US, where for example a New York Times published study in August 2004 showed that the $144 billion already then spent in Iraq (and that figure is now closer to $400 billion!) could have paid for, among other things, the more or less complete safeguarding of US ports, airports and airliners ($34 billion); the security from theft of the world’s stock of weapons-grade nuclear materials and the deactivation of warheads (another $34 billion); the complete rebuilding of Afghanistan, including drug crop conversion ($20 billion); the recruitment to the military of another 65 000 U.S. troops, if anyone thought this a good idea ($40 billion); plus another $10 billion in development assistance (which would fill, for one year anyway, about 20 per cent of the annual gap to be plugged if the Millennium Development goals relating to poverty, disease and the like are to be met).

It is not only additional money that is needed for conflict prevention and resolution, but a more intelligent application of money already being spent, not least on the armed forces themselves. A critical resource problem constantly facing planners is the availability of deployable military assets of the necessary quality for peacekeeping, peace enforcement and peacebuilding tasks. A major part of the problem in the developed world is the lingering on of Cold War configurations in force structures. For example, though it’s insidious to single out any single country when the problem is so endemic, in Germany, where on figures I saw not long ago, of 250 000 men and women currently in uniform, only some 10, 000 are deployable at any given time on international peace operation tasks. One recent broader estimate is that of the 2.5 million personnel nominally under arms in Europe, at most 3 per cent are deployable. A good many of the rest are presumably still waiting by their tanks for the Russians to come. And even with Mr Putin at his most adventurous, that doesn’t seem terribly likely.

Lesson 8: recognize that there is no substitute for cooperative internationalism.

We know, even if some countries who think they have the capacity to go it alone are not always quick to admit it, is that it is simply not possible to respond effectively to security threats, whether global or regional or in many cases even local, whether coming from state or non state actors - aggressors, or proliferators, or terrorists – without effective international cooperation, whether on early warning and intelligence, effective preventive strategies, conflict management and response strategies, or – as the has become particularly evident in Iraq and Afghanistan - post conflict reconstruction.

There are limits to any country’s capacity, even the U.S’s, to do anything without allies, friends or supporters, or by extension, working through international and intergovernmental institutions, starting with the UN Security Council. And it’s in every country’s interest, not just small or medium sized ones like my own, to operate in a rule-based rather than raw power-based international order.

Lesson 9. Conflict prevention requires the mobilization of political will.

This is the bottom line in just about every area of public policy: unless the relevant decision makers, at the national or international level, want something to happen it won’t. We can have the concepts right, the analysis right, the resources and capacity available, but still remain totally inert in the face of situations which seem to cry out for active response.

What we perhaps still need to learn (as a number of speakers here have sensibly emphasized) is that merely lamenting the absence of political will – as so many commentaries do, stopping the analysis right there - doesn’t help very much: what we have to is work out how to mobilise it, recognizing and squarely dealing with all the institutional dynamics and personalities and interests involved. And that requires a combination of good institutional structures – of the kind I have earlier discussed – and good arguments.

The obligation on all of us, both inside and outside government systems, who are concerned about better conflict prevention is to provide those arguments. The most relevant ones are:

  • financial arguments, of the kind I have just mentioned (preventive action is likely to be cheaper by many orders of magnitude, as we have already seen, than responding after the event, whether through military action, humanitarian relief assistance, post-conflict reconstruction, or all three);
  • national interest arguments (bearing in mind the risk posed in an interdependent and highly mobile world that fragile, conflict ridden states – even small ones far away of whom the Neville Chamberlains of this world continue to know nothing - pose for others in relation to terrorism, health pandemics, refugee outflows and damaging environmental spillovers);
  • domestic political arguments (of a kind which appeal to parties in power, and these can include shoring up a political base as much as getting through to waverers: the Bush administration’s preoccupation with its Christian right has certainly been an important element in its wholly desirable commitment to peace processes in Sudan); and
  • last but not least, moral arguments (because however base and self-interested their actual motives are governments always like to be seen as acting from higher ones);

This leads me to make the point that the most effective foreign policy for any country, whatever its weight, is one that balances realism and idealism – that in effect makes idealism realistic.

This is an ever-recurring debate in international relations and its certainly alive and well right now in the US. With the neo-con confessionals now overflowing after the conspicuous failure of the Bush administration’s adventures in bombing for democracy - combined with its undoubted success in uniting as one a previously almost completely disunited ‘axis of evil’ - hard-headed foreign policy realism is back in business in a big way in the U.S.

My Crisis Group Board member colleague Ken Adelman – a fierce supporter of the Iraq war (he was the one who said it would be a ‘cakewalk’), and the rest of original Bush 43 administration mission –is one of those who now laments this. In the current issue of Vanity Fair, he says that after Iraq ‘the idea of a tough foreign policy on behalf of morality, the idea of using our power for moral good in the world’ is ‘not going to sell’ for a generation. If he means the particular kind of idealistic foreign policy that has been pursued over the last six years - impervious to demonstrable facts, naïve in its assumptions, crude in its application of military power, and totally bungled in its general execution - then we should be grateful to be spared any more of the same.

But if idealism has its limits, the alternative is not a crude and one-dimensional brand of foreign policy realism either. A foreign policy that is founded only on hard-headed realism is a policy that can all too readily descend into cynical indifference: the kind that enabled successive previous US administrations ( both Bush 41’s, whose foreign policy performance in many other ways I much admired, and Bill Clinton’s) to shrug their shoulders about Saddam Hussein’s genocidal assaults on the Kurds in the north in the late 80s and the Shiites in the south of Iraq in the early 90s, or to find reasons for ignoring the rapidly unfolding Rwandan genocide in 1994, or to talk the talk but fail to walk the walk when it comes now to Darfur.

What the U.S, like every other, needs, and what all the polling evidence suggests all our publics will support, is a foreign policy based on a principled and judicious mixture of both idealism and realism. And one crucial element in that mix is a willingness to accept and embrace, without ifs, buts and maybes, the principle of ‘the responsibility to protect’, which have been referred to many times during this conference. The concept - which had its birth in the Canadian-sponsored Commission I co-chaired in 2001 – is a simple one: that while the primary responsibility to protect its own people from genocide and other such man-made catastrophes is that of the state itself, when a state fails to meet that responsibility, either through incapacity or ill-will, then the responsibility to protect shifts to the international community – to be exercised by measures all the way up to, if absolutely necessary, military force.

We can, if we need to, always justify making R2P a reality on hard-headed, practical, national interest grounds: states that can’t or wont stop internal atrocity crimes are the kind of rogue states, or failed or failing states, that can’t or wont stop terrorism, weapons proliferation, drug and people trafficking, the spread of health pandemics and other global risks.

But at the end of the day the case for R2P rests on our common humanity - the impossibility of ignoring the cries of pain and distress of our fellow human beings. For any of us in the international community - from individuals to NGOs to national governments to international organizations - to yet again ignore that distress and agony, to once again make ‘never again’ a cry that rings totally emptily, is to diminish that common humanity to the point of despair.

Lesson 10: recognize there is no substitute for leadership

Of course what I’m talking about here is not just any leadership: just before Christmas I spent a weekend in Nuremberg, sampling not just the delights of Europe’s most wonderful Christmas market, but reminding myself – standing where Hitler screamed his obscenities from the crumbling podium of the Zeppelinfield, and where Goering stood trial in the eery familiarity of Courtroom 600 ¬– how monstrously, horribly astray a country can go when it succumbs to the collective belief that the only thing that matters in a chaotic environment is leadership strength.

The kind of leadership I’m talking about is what we can all recognize when we see it, and lament it when it goes missing. That recognizes the big turning points in national or global history, and makes the right calls, and delivers the right responses – as Roosevelt did in the 30s, or Truman and Marshall after the war; or as Dag Hammarskjold did in inventing peacekeeping and keeping the UN flame at least partially burning during the worst of the Cold War years; or as Gorbachev did in Russia, seeing the impossibility of sustaining the Cold War, or as Deng Xiao Ping did in China, at least in setting a wholly new economic course for the country in the chaotic and desolate aftermath of Mao; or as George Bush Senior did in leading, through the UN, the unequivocal response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991, the first big post Cold War test of the system of international order. Or above all, perhaps, as Nelson Mandela did with his towering moral and political leadership of South Africa’s transition, completely avoiding – with crucial support from another leader, in FW de Klerk, who came to understand, late but not too late, what the moment demanded¬ - what just about everyone feared would be an unavoidable racial bloodbath.

The kind of leadership I’m talking about doesn’t always have to be delivered in a spectacular way to be effective, and it doesn’t always have to be delivered by the biggest figures or the greatest powers. I’m thinking of the kind of leadership that was shown by Canada, for example, and its Prime Minister Paul Martin, who worked away diligently behind the scenes for months in the run-up to the 2005 World Summit to ensure that the ‘responsibility to protect’ norm would be embraced: an example which, if followed by a few more leaders in a few more capitals, would have saved a good deal more of the outcome we hoped for from that summit, which turned out a huge missed opportunity for the international community.

I believe it’s also the leadership that Kofi Annan has shown throughout his ten long and difficult years as Secretary-General, building on the insufficiently acknowledged intellectual legacy of Boutros Boutros-Ghali, in bringing back into prominence, and some kind of balance, the three great roles of the UN in peace and security, development and human rights, and in being a constant voice – even if not heeded as much as he should have been – for doing the right thing. To be effective, an SG has to have practical intelligence, particularly in his personnel choices, an iron constitution, emotional resilience, good friends, and good luck - but if he is to be great, he must also have an abundance of moral courage.

At the end of the day of course an S-G can only deliver what the member states allow him to deliver. But he must never stop making clear what they should be delivering, not least when it comes to their responsibility to protect the world’s most vulnerable people. It is, as so many have said, a more or less impossible job that Ban Ki-Moon is taking on, having to, inter alia, meet expectations on the one hand that he will be the kind of secular pope that Kofi Annan was often described as being (at least in his first term), and on the other having to deal with the clear preference of the Permanent Five that he be more secretary than general. I just hope that Ban does come quickly to recognize not only the constraints and limitations, but the opportunities, that go with this great office.

We all know, without me needing to take the time to spell it out, where international leadership has spectacularly failed us in recent years, most obviously in the Middle East, where it’s gone astray when it hasn’t gone completely missing, and where its been shown over and again, if we needed to be reminded, that tenacity is no substitute for intelligence; in Africa, where a succession of celebrated leaders of a new continental renaissance have turned out to have feet of clay; in Europe, which continues to punch well below its weight across a spectrum of global issues and is showing alarming signs of completely losing the plot on Turkey; and on weapons of mass destruction, where none of the P5 nuclear weapons states seem to begin to understand that the rest of the world is fed up with double standards, and non-proliferation can only begin to get back on track if disarmament is taken seriously.

We know all too well that when it comes to this crucial ingredient of leadership, there is an awful lot of pure chance in play. So much does seem to depend just on the luck of the draw: whether at a time of fragility and transition a country finds itself with a Mandela or a Milosevic or a Mugabe; an Ataturk or an Arafat; a Rabin who can see and seize the moment, and change course, or someone who never will. Despite all our best efforts, that has always been so, and I suspect it always will be. Looking around the world at those individuals who currently matter most, we just have to express the fervent hope that even if leaders are not always born, and only on very rare occasions are elected, they can at least on occasion be made.

Of all the lessons we have learned about conflict prevention the need for good leadership is probably the single most obvious and the single most important. But it remains the hardest of all to get right. And maybe at the end of the day, the responsibility for getting it right – in voting democracies like ours at least – is something that we cannot pretend belongs to anyone but ourselves as ordinary, individual citizens.

My generation has not covered itself in glory either in our performance as leaders or in the choices we have made as voters. It’s up to the next generation to do a lot better. And on the evidence I’ve seen here in Toronto at least over the last few days, with some of the best and brightest of the new voting and leadership generation showing us what they are capable of in their organization and management of this conference and their debating and questioning contributions to it over the last two days, I think the world is in pretty good hands.