The Human Right to Peace


271 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 2-89507-409-7
DDC 327.1'72





Reviewed by Graeme S. Mount

Graeme S. Mount is a professor of history at Laurentian University. He
is the author of Canada’s Enemies: Spies and Spying in the Peaceable
Kingdom, Chile and the Nazis, and The Diplomacy of War: The Case of


Douglas Roche is a former Progressive Conservative member of Parliament
who for five years (1984–89) served as Canada’s ambassador for
disarmament. In 1988, he chaired the United Nations Disarmament

This book begins with some shocking statistics. Twentieth-century wars
(250 of them) killed some 110 million people—six times as many as died
in 19th-century conflicts. In 2001 alone, there were 37 conflicts in 30
countries. More than 600 million small arms circulate and kill 500,000
each year. This is quite unnecessary, Roche argues. Too many governments
spend lavishly on weapons but plead poverty when it comes to building an
infrastructure, promoting health, or protecting the environment. While
war produces profits for the armaments manufacturers and merchants,
civilians die in unprecedented numbers. Roche estimates that 800
children die or suffer injuries each month from land mines. Girls now
head 60,000 households in Rwanda, and Balkan women have become
prostitutes in Western Europe in order to survive. The U.S. Air Force
has bombed large numbers of Afghans by mistake, but CNN management
circulated instructions to minimize the horror. Roche deplores the way
the George W. Bush administration has rejected or repudiated various
treaties, and he finds the 2003 invasion of Iraq totally unnecessary and
undesirable. Conventional warfare devastates the planet; nuclear weapons
threaten life itself.

Roche’s heroes are Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson
Mandela, all of whom successfully promoted peaceful improvement. Apart
from the United States and Somalia, he says, all nations have ratified
the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Although limited by its
members, the United Nations remains the best forum for peaceful
resolution of conflicts and for fostering improvements in the lifestyles
of the world’s poor. Despite failures in Rwanda and Somalia, it
averted bloodshed in Lebanon, Georgia, Western Sahara, the Ivory Coast,
and elsewhere. “More international law has been developed through the
UN in the past five decades than in the entire previous history of
humankind,” says Roche. On pages 224–225, Roche lists 50 ways in
which individuals can make a difference.


Roche, Douglas., “The Human Right to Peace,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 14, 2024,