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E. Hennicot-Schoepges: Address to World Summit 2020

Address to World Summit 2020, Seoul, Korea, February 3-8, 2020


In addressing the Political and Economic Dimensions of Peace, let me start by quoting Samuel Huntington’s final conclusion of the debate on his book “The Clash of Civilizations?” that was published in 1993. Indeed, the “paradigms of the post-cold war world” and the analyses of the Eaton Professor and Director of the Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University might help us find some answers to the questions linked to the actual political situation of the global world. The author’s reply to his critics in “the Debate” concludes with a question: “If not Civilizations, What?” and its final paragraph is the following:

"History has not ended. The World is not one. Civilizations unite and divide humankind. The forces making for clashes between civilizations can be contained only if they are recognized. In a world of different civilizations each will have to learn to coexist with the others. What ultimately counts for people is not political ideology or economic interest. Faith and family, blood and belief, are what people identify with and what they will fight and die for. And that is why the clash of civilizations is replacing the Cold War as the central phenomenon of global politics and why a civilizational paradigm provides better than any alternative, a useful starting point for understanding and coping with the changes going on in the world."

Looking at the changes that have occurred since the publication of Huntington’s thesis, one major change was the global impact of the digital revolution. Governance of society is submitted to the World Wide Web. But whereas information is omnipresent, its comprehension depends on the capacities of understanding of the individuals, as well as their interpretation of all kinds of information, such as tweets, pictures and fake news. Addressing the interpersonal: the education of people is of the utmost importance.

Some member states of the EU celebrated last year the end of the Second World War. My country, Luxembourg, was severely damaged by the very last attack of the German troops by Rundstedt in November 1944 and 8,000 American soldiers died for our liberation, while the war was already lost for the Germans. Such memories remind us of the tribute to pay in armed conflicts. The fall of the Berlin wall 30 years ago was one more occasion to look back at the history of the end of the Cold War, and the dismantling of the Soviet Union later on.

In the meantime, new walls are built in the US, the Middle East and even in European Hungary, not for ideological reasons, but to prevent the immigration of refugees and migrants. Addressing the political I say: Walls are not a solution for solving conflicts.

The European Union is not a homogeneous gathering of 27 Nation States, but 70 years of peace are the result of the Union. Three years of debate about Brexit could not convince the British voters to reject it. Is this the beginning of the dismantling of the EU, while this long period of peace and economic growth was an incentive to new member states to step in? Actually, the new enlargement of the Union has no majority; the political situation in some member states is in rather bad shape at this moment. Low participation in democratic votes is the expression of a serious crisis of governance and political stability. The rise of antisemitism in Germany is proven by the analysts. Extreme right political parties are flourishing; their speeches remind us of those before the Second World War. Trust between people and their leaders has vanished.

The economy is dominating political decisions and its possible clash ahead stimulates selfishness and egocentrism. Facing the increase of poverty and migration as well as the effects of climate change, the behavior of the individual will have a very great impact on our common future. The last century had set the goal to banish worldwide poverty.

Whereas Culture, such as defined by UNESCO in 1982, or Civilization as mentioned by Huntington, is not really addressed in the political and public debate, Cultural diversity in the EU is showing how big its influence is on the behavior of people.

At this very moment, some conflicts based on this diversity are at the origin of a possible dismantling of the European project. The challenge of a better knowledge of the history and the culture, the language, the music and the religion of our neighbors is preliminary to understanding their attitudes: those of the 27 Nation states.

What is it, however, that makes people stay together? What provides identity and roots? What is a Nation and a Nationality?

Let me quote Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks who in his great speech in the European Parliament in 2009 said the following:

"You can have a society without a state – that has happened at various times in history – but can you have a state without a society, without anything to hold the people together? I do not know. You can hold people together in many different ways: by force, by fear, by suppressing cultural differences, by expecting everyone to conform. But when you choose to respect the integrity of many cultures, when you honour what I call the dignity of difference, when you honour that, then to create a society you need a covenant. A contract is about interest, a covenant is about identity. Covenant restores the language of cooperation to a world of competition. It focuses on responsibilities, not just on rights. Rights are essential, but rights create conflicts that rights cannot resolve: Rights without responsibilities are the subprime mortgages of the moral. We must respect others if we expect others to respect us. We must honour the freedom of others if they are to honour ours. Europe needs a new covenant and the time to begin it is now."

This is a speech we should share in difficult times.

Rabbi Sacks also told a story I will repeat to you:

"The Prophet Isaiah foresaw a day when the lion and the lamb would live together. It has not happened yet. Although there was a zoo where a lion and a lamb lived together in the same cage and a visitor asked the zookeeper: “How do you manage that?’ The zookeeper said: ‘Easy, you just need a new lamb every day!’"

And to conclude, Lord Jonathan Sacks said:

"There was a time when the lion and the lamb did live together. Where was that? In Noah’s Ark. And why was that? It was not because they had reached Utopia but because they knew that otherwise they would both drown. I dare ask today, who is the lion, who is the lamb and where is the zookeeper? Is the boat on which we are in still safe, or has it some leaks? The Tower of Babel collapsed because people no longer understood each other’s language."

Aren’t we together on Noah’s Boat or Ark? Of course, those who do not know this story will not understand its message. Why should we save the planet if we have not learned how to live peacefully together?



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