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South Asia Peace Initiative

Chennai Conference Addresses Prospects for Democracy

Chennai, India - The Universal Peace Federation of India organized an International Leadership Conference (ILC) under the theme, “A New Paradigm of Leadership and Good Governance” at Hotel Savera, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, on July 31, 2008.

The ILC was honored to have H.E. Dr. P. C. Alexander, the former Governor of Maharastra and Tamil Nadu, with a distinguished record of public service spanning over 60 years, as Chief Guest. Dr. Alexander delivered a thought-provoking Keynote Address on “Prospects for Good Governance and Democracy in India,” highlighting some of the key challenges confronting the nation, especially, the rule of law, reducing gross inequalities, and the elimination of corruption.

He referred to the growing threat of Naxalism [activities by the Communist Party of India] as a real danger to the future of the country. Dr. Alexander emphasized giving equal opportunities to disadvantaged youths. He also underlined shortcomings in the democratic framework such as the absence of a sound and healthy party system, the absence of democracy within political parties, lack of accountability, opportunism reflected in frequent defections, the need for civic and political morality, and the need to inculcate the consciousness of liberty among all sectors of the people.

Dr. P. C. Alexander was presented with the Leadership and Good Governance award in special recognition of his outstanding services to the cause of integrity, good governance and development.

Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, the eminent author of India’s Green Revolution and internationally renowned expert on development, delivered the Keynote Address on “The Meaning of Inclusive Development and How to Achieve it.” He described the main components of inclusive development as harmony between the individual and nature, eliminating poverty, and building an inclusive society in which there are no winners or losers. He referred to Gandhi-ji’s appeal to the rich to see themselves as trustees and share their wealth with the poor as the only way to create a more equitable society. Dr. Swaminathan described maternal and infant malnutrition as the cruelest forms of inequality and called for an end to practices such as killing female fetuses. He described climate change and bio-diversity loss as threats to children yet to be born.

The Conference received with joy and enthusiasm a heartfelt appeal for love and peace, rendered in speech and song, by the renowned singer Mrs. Vani Jairam, who was awarded a Special Ambassador for Peace Award for her outstanding contribution to Indian music.

The conference discussed major issues including the sensitive but effective handling of the Naxalite problem, efforts to motivate youth to improve the quality of life for people living in slums, and ways to achieve the Millennium Development Goals through individual transformation, leadership, and good governance. It described the programs initiated by Loyola College as models worth of replication throughout the country. UPF service projects in various parts of the country, including Tamil Nadu, were also deeply appreciated.

The conference agreed on the urgent need to revise and expand education syllabi to include character education as a means to inculcate the values of love, responsibility, respect for diversity, and peaceful means for resolving differences among the youth. Conference participants strongly endorsed the UPF emphasis on “the family as a school of love and peace,” urged the media to promote peace-building, and expressed appreciation for UPF's focus on good governance. It also urged religious and spiritual leaders, civil society leaders, and policy makers to harness the power of religion and spirituality in promoting inclusive development and sustainable peace.

Chennai, formerly known as Madras, is on India's southeast coast. India's fourth largest metropolitan area, Chennai is an electronics manufacturing hub and home to much of India's automobile industry.

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