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J. de Venecia: Address to World Summit 2017

Address to World Summit 2017, Seoul, Korea, February 1 to 5, 2017


Eight Men as Rich as Half the World

At the launching of the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP) at the UPF International Leadership Conference in Washington D.C. in early December last year, and at the earlier conferences of UPF and of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), I cited the 2016 report of the British international anti-poverty organization Oxfam, which provides a shocking revelation: that the richest 1 percent controls half of all global wealth.

The 62 richest individuals in the world together own $1.9 trillion, “nearly the same amount shared by the 3.5 billion people who occupy the bottom half of the world’s income scale.”

Two weeks ago Oxfam released a new study showing that the gap between the superrich and the poorest half of the global population is starker than previously thought. Just eight men—yes just 8 men—are as rich as half the world, or own as much wealth as 3.6 billion people.

Oxfam said: “it is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of so few when 1 in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day. Inequality is trapping hundreds of millions in poverty; it is fracturing our societies and undermining democracy.”

It warns that “public anger against this kind of inequality will continue to grow and lead to more seismic political changes.”

How then could we in UPF, IAPP and ICAPP, and we, the parliamentarians of the world, gathered here in the Korean National Assembly in Seoul, contribute, even in small ways, to the battle against widespread poverty and massive inequality?

Promoting Broad-based Economic Growth

We in UPF, IAPP and ICAPP, parliamentarians and leaders of political parties, government, the economy and civil society should perhaps focus on promoting broad-based economic growth and reducing economic inequality. Despite all our progress in Asia, economic inequality in our region is still among the worst in the world.

Despite rapid development in many areas, parts of Asia remain locked in grievous, grinding poverty.

And the key challenge in our Asian region and in the global community is to make sure the benefits of economic growth are broadly shared, and that our governments, parliaments, political parties, and private sector deliver concrete results for our peoples.

Global Anti-Poverty, Micro-Finance Fund

We have been advocating and we now renew our call for the establishment of an Asia-wide “Asian Anti-Poverty Fund,” or better still, an enlarged “Global Anti-Poverty Fund,” or “Global Micro-Finance Fund,” to help fight poverty and inequality and help lift the poorest peoples in our region and in the world.

South Korea and the intrepid Korean people, despite war and destruction, have done it, and have done it exceedingly well. In  so short a time, South Korea became a developed nation, and we pray that in God’s own time, unification of the two Koreas may come to pass and can be an exemplar power in Asia and the world.

Indeed, by uplifting the world’s poorest people from poverty and helping them take part in humankind’s adventure of development, the Asian and global community can remove poverty as a source of conflict.

Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Programs

The Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programs, began in Brazil and Mexico in the 1990s, which provide monthly small subsidies to tens of millions of families if they keep their children in school, must be dramatically enhanced and substantially enlarged a thousand-fold in many, many countries to benefit many, many more poor people.

The Philippines and some Latin American countries, led by Chile—I believe not more than 30 countries—have already achieved some success in lifting people out of poverty and reducing inequality through the program.

The CCT programs help protect poor families from the impact of economic meltdowns, natural disasters, and other crises; ensure that children grow up healthy and stay in school; empower women and girls; and create jobs.

Trillion Trees Program: A Jobs-creating Economic Activity

I also believe reforestation and tree farming—on the scale and intensity the planet needs—can become a significant jobs-creating economic stimulus for developing countries, if not for all countries, that the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the China-led Asian Investment Infrastructure Bank (AIIB), the regional banks, parliaments, political parties, and civil society should champion.

The Scandinavian countries, Finland, New Zealand and Canada have been farming tens of millions of trees for decades, as a sector of their pulp and paper industry.

Indeed, massive tree planting can become a virtuous circle, a forever cycle of planting, cultivating, harvesting, processing timber and replanting that can generate tens of millions of jobs for poor young men and women in emerging countries. It can address food shortage and expand upland agriculture and, perhaps more importantly, contribute in a most significant and major way to the battle against climate change and environmental degradation.

Just as valuable, these new forests can control mountain erosion; prevent the silting of streams and rivers; and save human life from destructive floods that overflow rivers, destroying crops, fish farms, livestock, cities, townships, villages and hard-won economic gains.

I propose these programs be organized through what we may call the “Hundred Billion Trees Foundations,” managed by civil society groups and strongly supported by governments, parliaments, and political parties, or perhaps, even better, undertaken by governments themselves, and actively supported or even managed by the private sector.

Roosevelt’s Tree Army

As you know, in 1933, during the Great Depression, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt formed the Civilian Conservative Corps (CCC), composed of 6 million young jobless Americans, mostly from the East, which, in less than 10 years, built more than 800 parks and planted 3 billion trees nationwide.

“The CCC Corpsmen also dug canals and ditches, built over thirty thousand wildlife shelters, stocked rivers and lakes with nearly a billion fish, restored historic battlefields, and cleared beaches and campgrounds.” (

Roosevelt put the then young Douglas MacArthur, before he became the legendary hero of World War II and later of the Korean War, in charge of the Civilian Conservative Corps, or Roosevelt’s Tree Army, before the advent of World War II.

From Social Liabilities into Social Assets

In my country, the Philippines, it is my hope that the government under President Rodrigo Duterte, can mobilize the reported 4 million drug users—mostly idle youth—for massive tree farming and reforestation, and thus keep them away from the narcotics menace, provide them [with] some employment, and make them productive citizens.

We thus can help convert them from “social liabilities” into “social assets.”

Summit on Narcotics

President Duterte has faced some criticism, but he has decisively launched an increasingly successful nationwide battle against drug syndicates, including some 4 million drug users, out of a population of 102 -million.

We urge Asian governments, parliaments, political parties, and civil societies to join efforts in an intensified campaign against the narcotics trade which has pillaged the Asian region and the global community.

We hope the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) can take the lead in launching an “ASEAN Plus India Plus China Plus SAARC” coalition to crush the “Golden Triangle” opium network in Southeast Asia and the large-scale opium growing by Afghan farmers and led by the drug warlords of Afghanistan.

We in UPF, IAPP and ICAPP and our friends in the Korean National Assembly also propose and urge the convening of a Global Summit Against Narcotics because drugs are being produced and distributed at an alarming rate in Latin America and Asia and are penetrating the United States and European markets on a large scale.

A New Economic Ideology for the Developing Countries

In 2009, in the aftermath of the Wall Street meltdown, I proposed, before the Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C., a re-think of the dominant global political and economic system.

I also made a similar proposal at the International Institute for the Alliance of Civilizations of the United Nations University in Barcelona, Spain in 2011, which I repeated at the 6th Global Forum of the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations in Bali, Indonesia in 2014.

Best Elements of Capitalism and Socialism

I suggested then that there might be merit in bringing together the best elements of both capitalism and socialism in a new applied art of governance—based on what works best for a particular society over a specific historical period, considering the persistent huge gaps between rich and poor in our time.

I pointed out that the concept could also integrate the finer features of Germany’s “social market” economy, and should operate under the aegis of a liberal constitutional democracy committed to free elections, free markets and a free press.

Deng Xiaoping, hero of China’s successful modernization and opening to the world, advocated—in fact started off—a Chinese economic system that was neither Marxian socialism nor Adam Smith-type capitalism, but something in between that has been called “socialism with Chinese characteristics” or “Confucian synergism.” This system has worked exceedingly well for China, lifting more than 500 million people out of poverty, and China has become a leading economic power in the world. President Xi Jiping is continuing the successful program and further enlarging and diversifying it into South Asia and Central Asia toward Europe under the 21st Century One Belt – One Road Program.

Promoting Peace and Reconciliation

With the multiple conflicts and extremism in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa, the terrible tolls on human life, more than ever, I say, we—in UPF, IAPP, ICAPP, our friends at the Asian Peace and Reconciliation Council (APRC), governments, parliament, political parties, and civil society—must get our act together and work together to promote dialogue, peace, reconciliation, pluralism, and poverty-breaking initiatives to tackle the incredible gap between rich and poor.

Revival of 6-Party Talks and Korean Unification

We believe that the lingering conflict and potentially dangerous flashpoint in the Korean peninsula with North Korea, now nuclear-armed and continuously testing improved nuclear weaponry—and perhaps even missiles launched from submarines—could perhaps be resolved peacefully through sustained, non-stop diplomacy; cooperation and multilateral dialogue; and direct talks between officials of the North and South.

Two Germanys, Two Vietnams

More than ever, we urge as well the revival of the long-postponed Six-Party Talks among the U.S., Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, and North Korea which could contribute to enhancing political stability and security not only in the Korean peninsula but also in the Asia- Pacific region. Most importantly, we hope this could lead eventually to reconciliation between the two Koreas, forswear war, and a building of a strong, united prosperous first-world nation for the Korean peoples in the first half of the 21st century.

It had been done before with the two Germanys and the two Vietnams. At some point, with God’s blessing, and with strong, enlightened mutual will in having sustained, sincere and patient—even long drawn-out—negotiations, the inter-Korean family might perhaps emerge someday united in a unique, federated system under common inclusive leadership,  which will surely lead to a modern prosperous first-world power in Northeast Asia.

Rev. Moon and Madame Moon: Founders of UPF

The founders of the Universal Peace Federation, the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon and Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon have, over the years, built genuine goodwill in Pyongyang and among the Koreans in the North, and donated their hotel and erstwhile automobile factory that they established in Pyongyang to the North Korean government and people.

Today, we urge nations of goodwill to contribute to the modernization and development of North Korean agriculture, because of the occasional recurrence of drought and famine there, and invest in the development of North Korean industries, exports and jobs-creating community enterprises. The successful dynamics of North Korea’s nuclear breakthrough could perhaps be channelled as well to economic mobilization. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has his plus point as a strong leader, propelling his country to high military status.

But what I remember distinctly when I led a parliamentary mission to Pyongyang in 1990 as a young congressman is the memorable, more than an hour meeting we had with Kim Jong Il’s grandfather, North Korea’s founder, President Kim Il Sung, at his mountain home outside Pyongyang. I asked him if there was any truth to press stories that he planned to attack the South.

He replied: “If we attack the South, the South will be destroyed. But we will also be destroyed.” I believe there is merit in continuing the most difficult but not impossible task of reconciling the two Koreas.

Support for Action Against Terrorism and Extremism

I recall when Spain’s then prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, and Turkey’s prime minister, now president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, were starting to organize an international action group against extremism through inter-cultural, inter-religious and inter-civilizational dialogue. We in UPF and the International Conference of Asian Political Parties were among the first to speak on their behalf—and to bring these proposals to the halls of the U.N.

Iran’s fifth president, the statesman Mohammad Khatami, was also known for his proposal of a
“Dialogue Among Civilizations,” which was declared by the U.N. in 2001.

These “Inter-Faith Dialogues” called on all peoples—irrespective of race, religion, culture or country—to promote together a global culture of peace and mutual understanding.

Madrid made a historically appropriate site for the third of these ‘Inter-Faith Dialogues’—a conversation between Christendom and Islam.

During their first 350 years of co-existence—beginning early in the eighth century—Spain had been the region where their greatest contact and interaction occurred.

Spanish Islam enriched both the classical Arab civilization and Europe’s emerging Christian culture. Toledo—then the Spanish capital—was the first center for the transmission across civilizations of culture and learning—including the Greek and Roman legacy the Arabs had preserved in translation throughout Europe’s Dark Ages.

Institutionalizing the Inter-Faith Dialogue

We in UPF and the International Conference of Asian Political Parties campaigned in the U.N. General Assembly, in the U.N. Security Council, and in the halls of the U.N. for an inter-faith, inter-cultural and inter-civilizational dialogue, proposing the creation of an Interfaith Council in the U.N., or at least a focal point in the Office of the U.N. Secretary General, at a time when discussion of religion was somewhat taboo within the U.N. system.

To institutionalize these dialogues, I proposed, as Speaker of the House of the Philippines, on a visit to the U.N., before the General Assembly, setting up an “Interfaith Council” within the United Nations system.

If creating a new council is overly difficult—as some legalists have warned—then, perhaps, we could write an interfaith mandate in the mission order of the Trusteeship Council of the U.N. which has anyway run out of trust territories to supervise.

From these “Inter-Faith Dialogues,” we should expect no miracles—except those epiphanies that result from open hearts, the willingness to see the other side’s viewpoint, and a multitude of patience.

Sunni-Shi’ite Dialogue

On the raging Sunni-Shiite issues, one cannot discount the magnitude of the barriers the intense doctrinal separation has raised between these two great schools of Islam.

In my earlier letters to Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah and Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, we said, it would be of great relief to our region and the world, if the two leaders of Islam, representing the Sunnis and Shiites, respectively, of the Muslim world, could perhaps meet in Mecca and bring about the beginnings of reconciliation and the end of violence in the lands of Islam.

An early leader against religious extremism had been King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia.

No statesman realizes terrorism’s global threat more acutely than he does—since his kingdom lies in the vortex of an imagined “clash of civilizations.”

The late King Abdullah initiated a series of “Inter-Faith Dialogues,” first, in the holy city of Mecca, then in the key western cities of Madrid, Geneva and the Vatican, among others.

I had the privilege to speak in both the Madrid and Geneva dialogues—on the invitation of Saudi Arabia’s Rabitah, the Muslim World League.

Recall how the schisms that broke out within Christianity in the early sixteenth century took many centuries to temper.

Appeal to Iran and Saudi Leaders

Perhaps it is the right time for us to now appeal to Saudi Arabia’s current and equally great king, His Majesty Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, whom I had the privilege to meet some years ago with his brother, the late minister of interior, Prince Nayef bin Abdul-aziz, father of the current Crown Prince Mohammad bin Nayef, and King Salman’s son, the dynamic young Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, to lead with the great leaders of Iran, the spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, in bringing together an unprecedented, historic meeting in the holiest city of Mecca of the great leaders of divided Islam—the best hope for peace in the Arab world, the Middle East, Africa, South and East Asia, and indeed the global  community

Tri-Continental Meeting in Sudan

Before I close, let me report that in three weeks, from February 24 to 26, 2017, the first meeting of the Coordination Committee among the International Conference of Asian Political Parties, the Permanent Conference of Political Parties of Latin America and the Caribbean (COPPPAL), and the Council of African Political Parties (CAPP), representing political groups in the three continents, will be held in Khartoum, Sudan. It is our fondest hope that the tri-continental fraternity will now be possible, and lead eventually to a global gathering of our political parties with the political parties of Europe and North America.

In the midst of tensions and conflicts; threats of extremism, negativism and populism; Brexit; grave dangers of climate change; and confirmation of the damning news that eight men own 50 percent of the wealth of the world—today, more than ever, we need even small pieces of positive news.


Hon. Jose de Venecia, Jr., Speaker, House of Representatives (1992-1998), (2001-2008), Philippines

Hon. Jose de Venecia, Jr. is Chairman Emeritus, Universal Peace Federation. He serves as Co-Chair of the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace. Hon. de Venecia was elected five times as Speaker of the House of Representatives, Philippines (1992-1998), (2001-2008). He is the Founding Chairman and Chairman of the Standing Committee of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties, composed of more than 350 ruling and opposition parties from 52 countries in Asia.

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