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Peace Education

Former Secretary-General Says UN Must Change

France-2009-03-31-Former Secretary-General Says UN Must Change


Paris, France - “The League of Nations was created after World War I, and the United Nations was created after World War II. After the Cold War, we should have drastically reformed the existing structure, or better, we should have created something new.”

Such bold changes in international institutions were advocated not by a young idealist nor by a rebel. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, one of the smartest minds of our times, now age 87, was forcefully addressing an audience of 120 people gathered for a banquet on the 7th floor of the UNESCO headquarters in Paris on March 31, 2009. The event was organized by the Universal Peace Federation and jointly sponsored by the Permanent Delegations of Oman, Ethiopia, and Kenya to UNESCO as well as several NGOs.

Speaking for about 15 minutes without notes but with fire, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations (1992-1996) gave some reasons for the need of a new institution.

“The first nuclear attacks took place after the inception of the UN, not before. At that time, there was already something obsolete in the new institution. Moreover, the number of member States has more than tripled, and the issues we are now facing are unprecedented. But the problems facing the UN are not just technical, for instance, increasing the membership of the Security Council.”

“The main point," he stressed, "is globalization. And what does globalization mean? It means the emergence of a world civil society. Unless we democratize globalization, we shall have no peace.”

The ambassadors, scholars, religious leaders, NGO leaders, and all other guests in the audience listened to him very attentively. Speaking both with the authority of experience and with a passionate vision for the future, Boutros Boutros-Ghali said to everyone, “Who will bring these changes in the United Nations? It is you, all of you gathered here tonight.” He said that the democratization of globalization will only take place if we all feel personally responsible.

Before he had taken the podium, H.E. Ms. Tadelech Haile-Mikael, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ethiopia to France and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, had already prepared the ground. She spent 12 years of her life in the jails of Addis Ababa (1979-1991). Behind bars, she provided education for all the inmates. “I am not talking to you as an ambassador tonight, but as a simple woman. What I know about peace-making I learned not from books but from the living example of my mother who educated all her seven children in a spirit of sharing. For me, the culture of peace starts in the family, when you treat everyone with respect and love.” Her speech reminded us that if mankind is to become “one family,” we should start with one family at a time.

In a more academic way, Professor Jacques Barrat had also prepared the way for Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who actually often referred to his remarks. Professor Barrat, a scholar and diplomat teaching at several universities and institutes, said that globalization is inevitable and should not be demonized. Globalization is not without risks or dangers, but overall it has more positive than negative aspects for everyone and for world peace. He also stressed that more and more trends in today’s world are transnational, and not just international. Informal networks that transcend borders and territories are often bypassing the power of sovereign States. He also talked about the growing role of NGOs. Provided their transparency and good governance are guaranteed, they should be encouraged.

In his speech, Professor Barrat, however, warned about the danger of erasing the horizontal landmarks (family, village, nation) as well as vertical landmarks (ancestors, traditions, and so forth) that existed in the past.

Providing new landmarks was a central point in the speeches of both Dr. Thomas G. Walsh and Rev. Dr. Chung Hwan Kwak, who spoke after Boutros Boutros-Ghali. After Dr. Walsh, Secretary General of UPF, briefly sketched why the UPF is seeking partnership with the UN and UNESCO, UPF Chair Rev. Dr. Kwak gave the keynote address of the evening, “One Family under God: A New Vision for Peace in the 21st Century.” Whereas former speakers had all emphasized the need for globalization to become much more democratic and human-centered (“one family for all”), Rev. Dr. Kwak’s speech addressed the need for spirituality in globalization (“One Family under God”). Tapping into the spiritual resources of all religions and promoting interreligious dialogue, UPF stresses the need for universal principles and values.

The chairman of UPF also emphasized the crucial role of the family as a school of love, so that “One Family under God” also means “one family at a time.” Finally, he said that volunteerism is a very important element for world peace. People should be encouraged not just to assert their rights but to serve others lovingly.

The UNESCO meeting was a good balance of objective information and innovative vision. The main information was about the real meaning of globalization. Despite all the disinformation and misinformation, globalization is inevitable. It will serve peace if reformation takes place in our lives, especially in relation to spiritual and family values, and if this internal reformation helps us reform existing institutions or create new ones.

The message was well received. “It was a very high-level meeting,” H.E. Émile Derlin Henri Zinsou said. The former president of  Dahomey (now Benin) and founder of the African Union, now age 91, stayed until the very end. Several ambassadors were eager to strengthen their partnership with the UPF.

Links to speeches by Dr. Thomas G. Walsh and Rev. Dr. Chung Hwan Kwak.

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