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H. Badr: Address to World Summit 2013


Prepared text

PhotoI’d like to thank the genuine efforts on the part of the Universal Peace Federation in promoting peace and security around the globe. It gives me great pleasure to address you today at this momentous event at a time when the world is confronting multiple challenges and global crises that require coordinated and multicultural action in order to be effectively addressed.

At the outset, coming from Egypt on the heels of the 12th Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit that was held in Cairo two weeks ago, I would be remiss not to share with you some of the results of the OIC summit. The OIC is the second largest intergovernmental organization after the United Nations, consisting of 57 states from four continents, aiming to speak with one voice while securing the progress and well-being of their peoples in an atmosphere of international peace, tolerance, and dialogue.

In President Morsi’s speech to the summit, he highlighted the need to foster and promote dialogue and understanding between the Muslim world and other countries in a manner to secure mutual respect and enhanced trust while respecting the human and basic rights and freedoms for all humankind.

The Cairo communiqué, which was adopted by consensus at the end of the summit by all Muslim heads of state, reiterated that Islam is a religion of moderation and openness which rejects all forms of intolerance, extremism and introversion. All the leaders who spoke emphasized Islam’s true message of peace.

Topping the summit’s agenda was the Palestinian issue, which remains the cornerstone for any security and stability in the Middle East and the world at large. In this regard, the Muslim heads of state and government called on the UN and the Security Council to bear its responsibility to implement the UN resolution and to see the two-state solution come to reality according to the Arab peace initiative. You will agree with me, especially in this world summit after all we have heard about peace, that the Palestinian people should not be the only people in the world deprived of their freedoms and human rights. I urge all of you to use all your leverage to achieve a solution based on justice. The Israeli-Arab conflict is not a religious conflict. It is a political one. It is a problem of occupation.

The occupation must end for peace to prevail. The continued Israeli settlement activities on the occupied Palestinian land, as well as the illegal Israeli efforts to change its Arab, Islamic and Christian character and depopulate its indigenous population continues as a cancer that undermines peace in our region.

The summit was equally concerned with the Syrian tragedy, as we all agreed on preserving Syria’s unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity while strongly condemning the ongoing bloodshed in Syria and underlining the Syrian government’s primary responsibility for the continued violence and destruction of property. The Muslim heads of state and government called for immediate cessation of violence, killings, and destruction, while respecting Islamic values, human rights, and saving Syria from the danger of an all-out civil war, including its dangerous consequences on the Syrian people, on the region, and on international peace and security.

As I speak today, delegations from various parts of the world are embarking on negotiations towards an international declaration on the right to peace. This demonstrates the realization that all individuals and all peoples of the world are in dire need of this pillar of existence. How can our world prosper without peace?

But we have to determine what we mean by peace. What are we aspiring for? Is it only the absence of war or conflict, or does it entail more than that? What are its preconditions? In addition, how can we attain it? Peace is in itself a precondition for development and the enjoyment of all human rights by everyone.

In order for it to happen, we have always to be in search for understanding – understanding ourselves and understanding each other, within and across borders, through dialogue and respect for diversity. It is unity in diversity that has to guide our work and endeavors towards peace, at the national, regional, and international levels.

As much as peace is the absence of conflict or war, it is also the promotion of tolerance, understanding, dialogue, respect for diversity, and coexistence, which all act as tools for preventing the disruption or breach of peace. Peace is respect for sovereignty and the sovereign equality of states, as well as the territorial integrity and non-intervention in the internal affairs of any state. It is also due diligence and the fulfillment of international obligations towards the peaceful settlement of disputes. It entails refraining from the threat of and use of force. It is international cooperation and the adherence to friendly relations between states. All these are enshrined in and drawn from the purpose and principles of the UN Charter.

We have to always remind ourselves that the main pillars of the United Nations are peace, security, development, and human rights, which are mutually reinforcing and interdependent. Grasping this fact is conducive to a better formulation of our efforts in this regard. We have also to look beyond peace. As much as it is a goal in and of itself, it is also a vehicle towards achieving comprehensive development. Without peace and security, our societies cannot utilize their maximum resources for achieving sustainable development for all on an equal basis. Achieving peace and security in the world will create an enabling environment for the development of peoples and individuals.

As the lingering shadows of the devastating impacts of the two World Wars fade away, it is timely and incumbent upon us to alert current and future generations to the importance of maintaining peace and to underline the relevance of the lessons learned from those horrible human experiences. The existence of peace should not be take for granted but has to be worked for.

Our world today, however, presents a different image. The threat now is not embedded only in world wars. There are also the threats of terrorism, intra-state conflicts, and environmental degradation, as well as food and financial crises, just to name a few. Addressing those challenges requires identifying and eliminating the root causes of discontent and anger that lead to acts of terrorism and violence, disrupting the peace of societies and their stability. It also requires concerted world action towards finding solutions to the current global context of emerging challenges threatening the development of nations and their peoples, and thereby rocking the foundation for peace. To reiterate, peace, security and development are mutually reinforcing and interdependent.

Having said so, one cannot underestimate the role of religion in promoting peace and tolerance. In this context, I recall the President of UPF International, Dr. Thomas G. Walsh’s presentation at a conference on Religion and Peace in the Middle East, under the title of “The Significance of Interfaith Cooperation,” in which he mentioned that there are two primary social trends that give rise to such importance. One is the immediate presence of the other, the existential fact of diversity or social pluralism, which is everywhere. Secondly, the fact is that religions are not withering away. There was a time when some thought that religions would gradually fade away like quaint old languages or disproven scientific theories. Yet, throughout the world, religion remains a viable and energetic force.

Different as their theological grounds or practices may be, all faiths in the world have a common message of peace. One cannot consider religion without addressing peace, for religion does not only help individuals to achieve inner peace but more importantly teaches them to live in harmony and concord with their environment and with others. Indeed, all the work and effort exerted in the dialogue between civilizations and religions is built around this truth.

As we pursue dialogue and cooperation, we should be alert to the growing sense of superiority that some have, based on a flawed assumption that their values, cultures, and social and legal justice systems are superior to others. Politicization, selectivity, and double standards should be avoided. No one has the monopoly of wisdom and all cultures have contributed to today’s civilization.

I come from a region that is witnessing a rare and difficult moment of rebirth. It is a historic moment, when peoples of the region rose to defy years of stagnation and expressed their development aspirations. During the climax of the January 25 revolution in Egypt, Egyptians raised their voices calling for better standards of living, freedom and social justice. These are the component parts of development requiring an enabling environment for their attainment. It is through peace – national, regional and international – that this environment can be created. Attaining development will then reinforce peace and promote its sustainability.

As you have observed, the route is long and fraught with challenges. However, faith, persistence, and adherence to the principles of respect and dialogue can and will carry us through.

Egypt throughout its history has been known to promote and support action towards peace and peaceful coexistence within and between nations. For this purpose, we were founders of the Non-Aligned Movement, at the height of the cold war. Egypt is a firm believer in the founding principles that encompass the respect for fundamental human rights and for the purposes and principles of the UN Charter: respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations; recognition of the equality of all races and nations; abstention from intervention or interference in the internal affairs of states; refraining from acts of threats of aggression or the use of force; and the peaceful settlement of disputes. It is committed to the promotion of a dialogue among peoples, civilizations, cultures, and religions; the effective implementation of the right of peoples to peace and to development; condemnation of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and systematic and gross violations of human rights; rejection of and opposition to terrorism; promotion of multilateralism; and respect for the political, economic, social, and cultural diversity of countries and peoples.

We believe it is through the implementation of those principles that we can create and sustain world peace.

Egypt definitely changed course on January 25, 2011 and there is no going back. Inspired by the popular revolt in Tunisia, Egyptians took their fate into their own hands, turning over the shady pages of their recent past with the hope of building a new future based on equality of all citizens before the law and respect of human rights for everyone. Mishaps and difficulties happen, especially in light of the volatility of transitional situations. However, we in Egypt are determined to respect the rule of law and not to repeat the mistakes of the past. More importantly, triggered by our previous experiences and local challenges, we aim to establish the necessary safeguards to guarantee free and fair elections.

There is a new and unique development in human history that is taking place around the world that is unprecedented in reach and volume – a global political awakening. The term was coined by Brzezinski, who said in a speech he delivered three years ago before the Arab revolutions began that “for the first time in history, almost all of humanity is politically activated, politically conscious, and politically interactive.”

This prophecy has come true. The Middle East is now at the epicenter of this political awakening. The revolts that took place in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and other countries represented a truly monumental worldwide rallying cry for freedom and human dignity that is socially massive and politically radicalizing. Weighing the full extent of the words in light of developments in the Middle East since the revolts provides an overwhelming insight into how crucially important the outcome of this phase of the region’s history will be to the future geopolitical course of the world and the survival and growth of human freedom in general.

One thing is certain, regardless of the final results of past awakenings, or the wished-for results of the current awakenings in the various countries, what is fundamental is the population, the people, taking on a political and social consciousness and, subsequently, taking part in massive political and social action aimed at generating a major change in the political, social, and economic realms.

We have more questions than answers, and some pundits are now calling the Arab spring the Arab season. Whatever it is, the Arab season or even the four seasons, it is now clear that transitions are never designed, but emerge through difficult and contentious political processes. However, when they work, they should produce systems in which differences can be managed through peaceful and democratic means.

There are a few things we have clearly learnt throughout those nearly two years of elapsed time since the revolutions. One is that not only have the people spoken, they are still speaking as we gather here today, and they will continue to speak. People in our region are increasingly defining what they desire in reaction to what they perceive to be the negative impact on them of policies and decisions. The process of change we are witnessing may be chaotic, but it is definitely irreversible. In differing ways and degrees of intensity in the different Arab countries, people dislike the old status quo, and they are susceptible to being mobilized against the powers-that-be that they perceive as self-interestedly preoccupied with that status quo. The Arab people’s participation in politics at the mass level is here to stay and this represents a landmark departure from the past.

Second, the youth in the region are particularly restless and resentful. The rapidly expanding population of people under 25 is creating a huge mass of impatient young people who represent a political time-bomb, unless quick employment opportunities are provided and this enormous potential of the internet generation youth be harnessed.

Third, politically awakened populations crave political dignity, which democracy can enhance. But political dignity also encompasses vast human and social rights – all in a world now very much aware of economic and social inequalities. It is not secret that the majority of the world’s people live in poverty and social dislocation. This is the result of the globalized world order that has been and is being constructed. As that world order is being further institutionalized and built upon, people are being thrown into the awakening like never before. When people have nothing, they have nothing to lose.

Fourth, the international community has a role to play in assisting Arab Spring nations on the long journey toward societies based on civil tolerance and individual rights. But it can only do so effectively if it stays clear of attempts to drive the process and focus on the required economic assistance for the evolution of this process to become a success. Outside support in terms of stating of universal values to which all should adhere is welcome, but there must be a parallel awareness that Arab countries will have their own styles of participatory democracy in accordance with their particular cultures.

Less corrupt and more democratic governments in the Middle East will be of tremendous benefit not only to the peoples of that region, but to the international community as well, since such governments are often more immune to radicalism and are more moderate, stable, and inclusive. So far, most of the Arab Spring mass movements have been motivated by domestic issues of poverty, corruption, unemployment, and lack of democratic institutions. It is vital, therefore, that major powers engagement and policy towards the region be geared to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Ownership must remain with the peoples of the region.

Fifth, we realize that successful institution-building will be the deal-clincher in our part of the world. The squares of Arab capitals will always be there, but it is the building of a democratic architecture that will create the appropriate political and institutional channels to air public grievances and will pave the way to true democracy. It is the successful building of these participatory and inclusive institutions that will pave the way to the second spring, the Arab spring of ideas, of intellectual fervor and economic vitality and of empowerment of all elements of society.

Sixth, the rise of electoral Islamist politics is a fact on the ground and will define the shape of the new landscape. We have to accept this. What is important is that all parties, no matter what their affiliation, must respect the rule of law and the popular will.

Seventh, the gates of the era of pluralism in the Arab world have been pushed open once and for all. After decades, indeed centuries in some cases, of authoritarian rule of one voice, today there are as many voices as there are people. The challenge will be how to be able to respect the newly emerging differences of opinions and perspectives, accept them, and indeed live with them. There is no better example of this pluralistic and participatory engagement than the recent deliberations on the new Egyptian constitution. It has been said that Egypt currently has almost 80 million constitutional lawyers; if this reflects anything, it is the awareness of a population eager to shape its own destiny and future.

Due to time constraints I would like to quote and I will not find a better way than to quote from the Qur'an: "Peace be upon you."

For more information about World Summit 2013, click here.