Safe Passage into the 21st Century

October 2-4, 1997

Common Values for Common Survival

The principles contained in the Preamble to the United Nations Charter continue to stand as a universal moral document needing renewed affirmation at the threshold of the Third Millennium:
"To save succeeding generations from the scourge of war . . ."To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignityand worth of the human person . . ."To promote social progress and better standards of life in largerfreedom . . ."To practice tolerance and live together in peace . . .
The drafters of the U.N. Charter held out a vision of one world in which all people are neighbours. Though the world has developed, technologically speaking, into a global community, the full implementation of the charter principles has yet to occur. Therein lies the crux of the moral challenge humanity faces today.

Through the United Nations and its systems, we possess, for the first time in the history of the world, a catalogue of information about how our planet works, and treaties to protect the rights of individuals and the environment itself. Both people and governments are learning that they must cooperate for many purposes: to maintain peace and order, expand economic activity, tackle pollution, halt or minimize climate change, combat disease, curb the proliferation of weapons, prevent desertification, preserve genetic and species diversity, deter terrorists, ward offfamines, etc.

All this has prepared us for the formulation of a new global ethic, which can be essentially expressed as a new attitude of discharging our responsibilities for caring for one another and for the earth.

Every day, newscasts bring further evidence of humankindıs wrenching away from the bipolar world of the Cold War. The path forward is unclear, cluttered as it is with regional and ethnic conflict, poverty gaps, and huge migrations of peoples. Yet the advance toward globalization, led by the spectacular progress of technologies, is unmistakable.

It is now urgent to develop a vision of the world as a community. The old nationalisms are incapable of producing true human security in a world now interdependent in every major aspect of life. A new form of management of the planet, based first of all on cooperation, is essential. Such cooperation can open the way to the discovery of common values of East and West, North and South in the joint search for enduring peace.

The expression of a new global ethic of sharing and stewardship might seem, to some, overly ambitious in a world still torn by the effects of long histories of greed and dominance. Yet agreement on common values for common survival is the most pressing challenge facing the international community.

The document closest to the expression of a new global ethic, in my view, is the "Declaration on the Occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the United Nations," issued in 1995. In this document, the member states pledge to give to the 21st century a strengthened U.N. to achieve four main objectives identified by the U.N. Charter which "We the peoples of the United Nations" are determined to achieve: peace, development, equality, and justice. The document is, in a sense, a modern scorecard of how the moral principles enunciated in the Charter are being applied. I will examine what the new U.N. document says in each of the four areas, and contrast it with my view of what is required for the implementation of a new global ethic.


The U.N. Declaration on the Fiftieth Anniversary begins by addressing the large canvas of peace in the world. It calls for enhanced capabilities of the U.N. in conflict prevention, preventive diplomacy, peace-keeping and peace-building. It professes support for U.N., regional and national efforts on arms control, disarmament and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction "in pursuit of our common commitment to a world free of all these weapons."

As a guideline to peace, the Declaration is reasonable. But it stops far short of what needs to be done. The only way the General Assembly could issue a consensus statement was to purge it of specific actions or even a critique of the real obstacles to peace. The essential obstacle to peace in the world is the present impasse between the nuclear-weapons States (NWS) and their allies and the non-nuclear weapons States (NNWS) centered in the non-aligned movement on negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons.

On July 8, 1996, the International Court of Justice (World Court) issued an Advisory Opinion that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally contravene the principles and rules of humanitarian law. Although the Court believed it could not determine definitively whether there might be a circumstance of extreme self-defense in which nuclear weapons could be used lawfully, they did decide that all use and threat of use of these weapons must comply with international law. Also, the highest legal body in the world said, unanimously and clearly, that governments must not only pursue but conclude negotiations leading to total nuclear disarmament.

Some may wonder why the Court did not itself declare nuclear weapons illegal. Actually the Court took the position that, inasmuch as there is no existing law either authorizing or prohibiting nuclear weapons, it could not invent such a law. Moreover, in the present state of world development, the Court has no mandatory powers of enforcing its opinion.

But there should be such a law, and governments, through an international treaty, are the only instrument that can create one. The Court said:

"Š any realistic search for general and complete disarmament, especially nuclear disarmament, necessitates the cooperation of all States."
It is now left to the judgment of the peoples of the world whether they will be freed once and for all from nuclear terror or continue to be enslaved by a technology with the capacity to destroy humanity. The Court has sharply delineated the competing positions on the future of nuclear weapons. One side holds that as long as nuclear weapons are regulated by the law of armed conflict, they are not prohibited. The other side says that recourse to nuclear weapons, with their indiscriminate consequences, can never be compatible with the rules of humanitarian law and must therefore be prohibited. The Court showed its disdain for nuclear weapons by stating that such weapons seem "scarcely reconcilable with respect for the requirements of the law applicable in armed conflict."

However, the Court could not lose sight of the fundamental right of every State to survival and thus its right to self-defense in accordance with Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. Nuclear retentionists will seize on this statement as justification for maintaining the strategy of nuclear deterrence. But in the post-Cold War era, how can they show a need for nuclear weapons to deal with -- as the Court put it in describing the only admissible conditions -- "an extreme circumstance of self-defense, in which [the Stateıs] very survival would be at stake"?

The Court warned that the stability of the international order will suffer from the continuing difference of views on the legal status of nuclear weapons. Nuclear disarmament is the best means of resolving this dilemma. Accordingly, the Court points to the famous Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), obliging nations to negotiate in good faith on nuclear disarmament. It is not enough to promise to negotiate: "The obligation involved here is an obligation to achieve a precise result -- nuclear disarmament in all its aspects."

A few months after the World Court decision, the General Assembly was presented with a resolution calling for negotiations to begin in 1997 leading to the early conclusion of a Nuclear Weapons Convention which would prohibit the development, production, testing, deployment, stockpiling, transfer, threat or use of nuclear weapons. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 115 in favour, 22 against and 32 abstentions. (General Assembly resolutions are not binding.) Most of the NATO States voted no. The three Western nuclear western weapons States -- the U.S., the U.K., and France -- are particularly hostile to any move in the U.N. or the Conference on Disarmament that would set out a program or timetable for nuclear disarmament; in fact, each has declared its intention of carrying nuclear weapons into the 21st century -- the end of the Cold War notwithstanding. NATO, ignoring the World Court decision, said on December 17, 1996 that nuclear weapons continue to be "essential."

The belligerent conduct of the two superpowers, the U.S. and the former Soviet Union, abetted by the three other nuclear powers, the U.K., France, and China, in building up stocks of strategic nuclear weapons during the Cold War, flouted the U.N. for four decades. There are still 40,000 nuclear weapons in existence -- eight years after the end of the Cold War.


Turning to development, the U.N. Declaration makes the point that, notwithstanding past efforts by the international community, one-fifth of the worldıs 5.7 billion people live in extreme poverty. The U.N. has developed an integrated agenda reinforcing all the components of sustainable development at the core of which is the recognition that the human person must be the central subject of development. In other words, people have a right to development. In order to foster sustained economic growth, social development, environmental protection and social justice, the U.N. members pledge to promote an open and equitable multilateral trading system, transfers of technology and "enhance cooperation in the areas of development, finance and debt."

There is no doubt that over the past 15 years, the world has seen spectacular economic advance for some developing countries, bringing rapidly rising incomes to more than a quarter of the worldıs population. But the same period has seen unprecedented decline or stagnation reducing the incomes of another quarter of the worldıs population. The world has become more polarized and the gulf between the rich and poor has widened even further. Of the $23 trillion global GDP in 1993, $18 trillion is in the industrial countries -- only $5 trillion in the developing countries, even though they have 80 percent of the worldıs people.

In 1960, the richest fifth of humanity had an income thirty times greater than the poorest fifth of humanity. In 1990, thirty years later, the richest fifth of humanity had an income sixty times greater than the poorest fifth of humanity. The gap is widening between the rich and the poor. Perhaps the most startling example of this disparity is contained in the 1996 Human Development Report: the assets of the worldıs 358 billionaires now exceed the combined annual incomes of countries with 45 percent of the worldıs people.

When the Fiftieth Anniversary document says that the new agenda must greatly reduce and eventually eliminate poverty, one naturally wants to applaud. But how will we "greatly reduce" poverty unless a great deal more of the resources now available are put into the alleviation of distress, the development of the human person at the local level through education and health? How are we going to get any form of equity established unless more of the resources are aimed at developing people who are at the bottom of the economic ladder?

To attack poverty, as Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former U.N. Secretary General, noted in his document, "An Agenda for Development," we must deal with the provision of basic social services, employment generation, food security, drug and transnational crime control, and access to credit, technology, training, and markets. That is a large agenda. The idea of a Security Council for Development to parallel the existing Security Council, which deals with peace and security questions, is a good one. A Security Council for Development dealing with all the development issues in an integrated manner would give them a higher priority and call into question the exorbitant amounts governments are still spending on weapons to the detriment of human development.

There is a dynamic triangular relationship between disarmament, development, and security. The more you advance disarmament and development, the more security is enhanced and strengthened. Resources released from disarmament ought to be applied to development. But there is resistance in the North to recognizing that the resources applied to defence procurement and weapons buildups -- even with the end of the Cold War -- are constraining their ability to put the same resources into development in the name of security. Most nations havenıt yet made the mental leap that security today requires the development of the human being, not the preparation for war.

There are fresh ideas for new sources of money to stimulate the development process. Boutros-Ghali (one reason for his unpopularity with the U.S. government was the challenges for changes he presented) points to a fee on speculative international financial transactions. Because of the $1.3 trillion that are traded every twenty-four hours in the global trading market, the smallest taxation, which would hardly be noticed, could finance all the U.N.ıs development programs. He has referred to a levy on fossil fuel use or its resulting pollution which would certainly be a new source of funding. He also suggested earmarking a small portion of the anticipated decline in world military expenditures; also, utilizing some of the resources that could be released through the elimination of unnecessary subsidies. And, finally, a tax on international travel. Those are ideas that would foster, were they to be implemented, a greater sharing of resources between the developed and developing world in ways that would not hurt the developed world.

Just mentioning these areas where new money for development purposes could be obtained points up the dilemma we face: how to develop a shared vision of the instrumentalities to support the common desire for peace and security. This subject returns us to the spiritual dimension or the ethical basis of the human security problems. It is not that we lack money for development. It is not that we are short of resources. It is not that we do not have enough information on how to do this. What we lack is the will, the love, the humanity to move forward together. To achieve a balance between the rich and the poor is to bring us directly to the spirituality of the human being.


Speaking of equality, the U.N. Declaration affirms the universal nature of human rights, "which are inherent to all human beings," and pledges to strengthen laws to protect women, children, the handicapped, migrant workers, indigenous people and refugees.

At the outset, one would think this an easy element to handle in a consensus declaration, given the fame of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the two covenants on civil and political rights and economic and social rights. The basis for universal human rights has been particularly strengthened by the 1993 Vienna Declaration on Human rights. Yet, equality is perhaps the most difficult of all the elements. We do not yet have an understanding of equality in the world.

Of course, we are not all equal in the world. Some people are born with high intelligence and some are born with low intelligence. Some are born with handicaps, some are born without handicaps. There is a distinction between equality and sameness. I interpret the word equality to mean equitability. There is a distinct lack of equitability, shown most dramatically in the split between the North and the South. The population of the world will reach 8.2 billion or so in the next twenty years; approximately 7 billion will live in the South and 1 billion in the North. There is a worsening ecosphere stress factor: approximately one-fifth of the world in the North has access to and control over three-quarters of the capital and technology and resources of the world while four-fifths living in the South have access to only one quarter of the capital and technology.

This leads to the ultimate question the world has to face as to the carrying capacity of the planet, given the exploitation that persists at the hands of the minority. As a minority, we in this planetary boat are resisting the importunities of those who are clamouring to get into the boat and looking for a common means of managing the planet. It is the determination of the strong to maintain their position by whatever means necessary, whether military or financial or political, that is the basis of the systemic inequality in the world.

The North resists even a dialogue on global economic negotiations to take in such questions as resources and raw materials and trade and finances so that the South would have equitable access to these means of ensuring the fulfillment of basic human needs on a universal basis. This perpetuates great divisiveness in the world.

My contention here is that we have not yet begun to understand the full meaning of human rights, despite their proclamation in rhetorical ways. I do not dismiss the need for declarations and the need for articulating a concern. But when it comes down to it, we are tolerating a violence against people, we are tolerating an intrusion of human rights every day. It is violence to have 30,000 children dying daily because of waterborne diseases and malnutrition and easily controllable things. It is violence against our planet to have the ozone layer depleted by industrial states, which put industrial development before the good of the environment. It is certainly violence against me personally to be subjected to the effects of weapons of mass destruction having the power to decimate huge areas of the world.

The need for a new understanding of the roots of violence in the post-Cold War era is perhaps seen most clearly in this concept of equality. How we are to have equitability built into human and thus State relations is a huge challenge as we enter the new Millennium.


Respect for the rule of law is stressed in the U.N. Declaration, which commits nations to: There is undoubtedly a widening of the understanding of the need for international law. Indeed, we are living in the decade for international law in the 1990s. But I also believe that the world is still at a primitive state given the need for enforceable law to manage the planet.

For example, would you live in a community where your two neighbours on either side fill their houses with ammunition, dynamite, and train their guns at each other right past your front window? Of course, you wouldnıt, and you donıt have to because in virtually every society there is local law to prevent desperadoes or outlaws from stocking their houses at your peril. And yet, globally speaking, that is exactly how we have lived all through the Cold War -- and continue to live.

The evolution of the planet has brought us to a stage where my neighbour is not just the person with whom I am in geographical proximity: my neighbour is the person on the other side of the world. Technology has made me aware of that and also enabled me to communicate and to reach that person. It follows for me that just as I expect justice for myself and justice for my neighbour, I have to expect justice for people wherever they are.

This means a world system of law. But the opponents of global legal justice see what they would call the specter of world government. It is because they oppose allowing an international body to apply the concepts of law with the penalties for conviction that they resist enlarged justice.

The U.N. promotes common security and the integral rights of individuals. There is a logical extension of this that requires a universal law, maintained by a universal authority that is itself responsible internationally to some authority. Who is this authority? The closest is the Security Council of the United Nations, which itself is not representative of the modern world. Moreover, the powerful nation-states maintain veto power to stop that which they do not like. The development of enforceable world law to establish and maintain the conditions for human security based on disarmament and development and environmental protection is denied us by the forces of the strong and the powerful who see their power threatened.

No more striking example of the rebuff the most powerful nations, the nuclear weapons nations, give international law is their rejection of the World Courtıs call for successful negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons. For a peaceful world in the next century, the World Court must be provided with mandatory compliance.

Nuclear Weapons: The Paramount Moral Issue

I want to return to the subject of nuclear weapons because this is the paramount moral issue of our time. A meeting in new Delhi May 2, 1993 of prominent world figures launching the Rajiv Gandhi Memorial Initiative declared:

"Nuclear Weapons pose the greatest threat to human civilization and to humankindıs survival. Their elimination is, therefore, the first pre-requisite for the advancement of human civilization."

Nuclear weapons threaten the continuation of Godıs planet; they contradict everything the United Nations stands for. This issue has for too long cried out for moral leadership. Now a new moment has arrived in which a synthesis of values can be identified.

From a strategic viewpoint, the case for elimination of nuclear weapons is based on these major arguments: the uselessness of nuclear weapons, the risk of accident and terrorism, the repercussions of the disparity among nuclear haves and have-nots.

While the strategic arguments against nuclear weapons I have cited above are compelling in their own right, I do not believe they will by themselves convince the NWS to make an unequivocal commitment to abolition. Rather, we must concentrate on the pre-eminent fact that nuclear weapons contravene humanitarian law, which has been accepted through the centuries as the only basis for civilization to endure. Here the legal and moral arguments against nuclear weapons intertwine with the strategic: since nuclear weapons can destroy all life on the planet, they imperil all that humanity ever stood for, and humanity itself. This is why the president of the World Court, Mohammed Bedjaoui of Algeria, called nuclear weapons "the ultimate evil." In fact, he added, the existence of nuclear weapons challenges "the very existence of humanitarian law." During the acrimonious years of the Cold War with the emphasis on the military doctrine of nuclear deterrence as a constant justification for the nuclear arms buildup, the public seemed blinded to the horror of what nuclear weapons were all about. But now, in the post-Cold War era characterized by an East-West partnership, there is no excuse for shielding ourselves from the assault on life itself that nuclear weapons represent.

It is necessary to state -- again and again if necessary -- what nuclear weapons do. They are not just an advanced form of ordinary weaponry. They have the power to decimate the natural environment which has sustained humanity from the beginning of time. In a separate opinion attached to the World Court decision, Judge Christopher Gregory Weeramantry of Sri Lanka holds that the use of such weapons is unlawful in all circumstances without exception because nuclear weapons:

This is a staggering compilation of damage that no amount of military obfuscation, such as referring to "unintended collateral damage" can cover up. The words of the U.N. General Assembly, in its "Declaration on the Prevention of Nuclear Catastrophe" (1981) aptly summarize the entirety of the foregoing facts:

"All the horrors of past wars and other calamities that have befallen people would pale in comparison with what is inherent in the use of nuclear weapons, capable of destroying civilization on earth."

Humanitarian law is built on the religious and philosophical ideas reaching back thousands of years through many civilizations -- Chinese, Indian, Greek, Roman, Japanese, Islamic, Modern European, among others. These ideas reflected the effort of the human conscience to mitigate in some measure the brutalities and dreadful sufferings of war.

Humanitarian law prohibits unnecessary suffering, limits damage to no more than necessary to secure a military objective, discriminates between combatants and non-combatants, respects the territorial sovereignty of non-belligerent States, prohibits genocide, and bans lasting damage to the environment. In short, humanitarian law prohibits weapons which cause unlimited damage to people. This body of general principles is found in the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, apart from numerous other conventions on such matters as chemical and bacteriological weapons. As Judge Weeramantry observes: the effects of the nuclear weapon and the humanitarian principles of the laws of war are a contradiction in terms.

Humanitarian law is in essence moral law. Morality cannot tolerate human obliteration. It is argued by nuclear retentionists that nuclear weapons are needed to contain the "evil" in the world manifesting itself in tyrants (e.g. Hitler, Saddam Hussein). But how can it be moral to use "the ultimate evil" to counter a partial evil? It is the enforcement of international law, with its requisite verification regime, that is needed to counter evil -- not the destruction of humanity.

A United Christian Voice?

The importance of religion in expressing a moral condemnation of that which would destroy Godıs creation is self-evident.

Vatican Council II taught: "Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation." (Para 80, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World). Though they elaborated their concern that a universal public authority be put in place to outlaw war, the Fathers of Vatican II rather grudgingly accept the strategy of nuclear deterrence. The accumulation of arms, they said, serves "as a deterrent to possible enemy attack." Thus "peace of a sort" is maintained, though the balance resulting from the arms race threatens to lead to war, not eliminate it. The Catholic position on nuclear deterrence was re-stated by Pope John Paul II in a message to the U.N. Second Special Session on Disarmament in 1982:

"In current conditions, Œdeterrenceı based on balance, certainly not as an end in itself but as a step on the way towards a progressive disarmament, may still be judged morally acceptable. Nonetheless, in order to ensure peace, it is indispensable not to be satisfied with the minimum which is always susceptible to the real danger of explosion."

In this statement, it is readily seen that deterrence, in order to be acceptable, must lead to disarmament measures. Consequently, deterrence as a single, permanent policy is not acceptable. The American Bishopsı Pastoral Letter on War and Peace, published in 1983, took up this theme. Though expressing a strong "no" to nuclear war, declaring that a nuclear response to a conventional attack is "morally unjustifiable," and expressing skepticism that any nuclear war could avoid the massive killing of civilians, the bishops gave a "strictly conditioned moral acceptance of nuclear deterrence."

In a five-year follow-up to their letter, the bishops set out criteria to be met in order to continue this morally justifiable basis for deterrence. For example, the bishops said that, in order to be acceptable, nuclear deterrence could not be based on the direct targeting of urban populations. But starting with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, policy-makers have never excluded the targeting of cities. To destroy the war-making capability of a country, the attack cannot exclude the countryıs valued economic assets, which are located in the industrial-urban complexes. Also, the bishops opposed weapons combining size, accuracy and multiple warheads in a credible first-strike posture. Actually, new weapons now being tested and deployed are enhancing, not lessening, first-strike capability; the modernization process is not just to be able to retaliate against the opponentıs strike but to increase the ability to strike first if the need arises.

The World Council of Churches, at its Sixth Assembly, in Vancouver in 1983, took an unequivocal stand:

"The concept of deterrence, the credibility of which depends on the possible use of nuclear weapons, is to be rejected as morally unacceptable and as incapable of safeguarding peace and security in the long termŠ The production and deployment of nuclear weapons as well as their use constitute a crime against humanityŠ"

The new period of history the world has entered enables fresh insights into the fundamental policies of nuclear deterrence that continue to hold sway. A united Christian voice, joining with the leaders of other world religions, would be possible if the Catholic Church now recognized that Western governments consider nuclear deterrence not temporary but a permanent condition and hence no longer qualifies for moral acceptance.

The moral crisis humanity faces in tolerating the continued existence of nuclear weapons was poignantly summed up by George Kennan, the U.S. diplomat who originated the policy of containing Soviet Communism:

". . . the readiness to use nuclear weapons against other human beings -- against people we do not know, whom we have never seen, and whose guilt or innocence it is not for us to establish and, in doing so, to place in jeopardy the natural structure upon which all civilization rests, as though the safety and perceived interests of our generation were more important than everything that has taken place or could take place in civilization: this is nothing less than a presumption, a blasphemy, an indignity -- an indignity of monstrous dimensions -- offered to God!"

Values for the Global Neighbourhood

It is very interesting that the report of the Commission on Global Governance, after its opening chapter describing the post-Cold War world, turned immediately to an elaboration of "Values for the Global Neighbourhood."

We believe that all humanity could uphold the core values of respect for life, liberty, justice and equity, mutual respect, caring, and integrity. These provide a foundation for transforming a global neighbourhood based on economic exchange and improved communications into a universal moral community in which people are bound together by more than proximity, interest, or identity. They all derive in one way or another from the principle, which is in accord with religious teaching around the world, that people should treat others as they would themselves wish to be treated.
The Commission urged the international community to unite in support of a global ethic of common rights and shared responsibilities. This would "provide the moral foundation for constructing a more effective system of global governance" and close the present gap between governments and citizens. A global civic ethic also requires democratic and accountable institutions and the rule of law. The concept of national sovereignty must be enlarged as states realize that there is no longer such a thing as a self-enclosed security system. The virtue of cooperation has become a necessity.
If tragedies are not to be multiplied one-hundred-fold, concern for the interests of all citizens, of whatever racial, tribal, religious, or other affiliation, must be high among the values informing the conduct of people in the world that has now become a neighbourhood. There must be respect for their rights, in particular for their right to lead lives of dignity, to preserve their culture, to share equitably in the fruits of national growth, and to play their part in the governance of the country.
Discussion on ethics frequently tend to become esoteric, not to mention divisive. But a new global ethic can be expressed sharply, succinctly and irrefutably, as the 1993 Parliament of the Worldıs Religions did:
Every human being must be treated humanely!

The Parliament, made up of representatives of nearly all the worldıs religions, adopted a statement on the need for a global ethic to advance the intrinsic dignity of the human person, the inalienable freedom and equality of all humans, and the necessary solidarity and interdependence of all humans with each other. The ethical consensus reached in the Parliament could be affirmed by all religions despite their dogmatic differences and could also be supported by non-believers.

A new global ethic requires some humility. It requires an appreciation of diversity, a concern for justice, tolerance of uncertainty, a capacity for creativity and, most especially, world awareness, holistic thinking and a respect for life. "If a new world order is to exist," Han Kung, the prominent theologian and ecumenist, says is his monumental study, Christianity: Essence, History, and Future, "it needs a minimum of common values, standards and basic attitudes, an ethic which, for all its time-conditioned nature, is binding in all senses of the word on the whole of theworld. . . ." Elsewhere, Kung poses the challenging questions society must take up if we are to escape from the present human crisis:

"On the threshold of the third Millennium the cardinal ethical question is raised all the more urgently. On what basic conditions can we survive, survive as human beings, on a habitable earth, and give human form to our individual and social life? On what presuppositions can human civilization be rescued for the third Millennium? What basic principles should be followed by the leading forces in politics, economics, science and the religions? And on what basis can the individual, too, achieve a happy and fulfilled existence?"

These questions have long been taken up by the best religious thinkers. A wealth of analysis and admonition exists in the social teaching of the Catholic Church, particularly the papal encyclicals of the past century; the statements of the World Council of Churches; the World Conference on Religion and Peace; the Temple of Understanding, a global interfaith association based in New York. All this material underlines the sharing and stewardship necessary for an enduring peace. These are traditional sources of inspiration.

What is surprising is the number of contemporary analysts calling for an ethical response to the planetıs problems. One of the most notable of these was a U.N.- sponsored seminar on the ethical and spiritual dimensions of social progress, held as part of the preparations for the World Summit for Social Development. Convened at Bled, Slovenia, in October 1994, the 35 members of the seminar attempted to advance ethical understanding of poverty, employment and social integration and "pave the way for a more holistic perception of international cooperation."

The U.N., being by definition a place where it is hard to find a common denominator, has customarily avoided discussions of spirituality, even though two of its Secretaries-General, Dag Hammarskjold and U Thant, were intensely religious men. But this special seminar took as a working assumption that the spiritual is an integral part of reality and that compassion, altruism, and generosity have the power to move societies away from fear, despair, selfishness, arrogance, and violence. It criticized the "Social Darwinism" spreading through the world as the strong, getting stronger, marginalize the weak.

"The same Promethean philosophy, deriving from a concept of Man as master of the universe, has resulted in extensive damage to the planet and destruction of its wealth. In addition to the dangers which this situation presents for the survival of humankind, it demonstrates a lack of respect for the environment which is related to the various forms of violence afflicting contemporary societies."
Fundamental freedoms and civil and political rights represent basic achievements of humanity, "but individual freedom is meaningless and dangerous when not rooted in an ethic and enlightened by the Spirit." Human dignity, "the very nature of the human being as created by God," must be safeguarded by political action and the exercise of power. Thus a new ethic, based on hope not fear, should make it possible to transcend the North-South dichotomy. "This moral and spiritual renewal is a matter of urgency."

It will take more than one seminar on spirituality to turn around political and diplomatic thinking at the United Nations. But the contribution made by UNESCO in organizing a meeting on "The role of Religion in the Promotion of a Culture of Peace" and the continuing work of the Values Caucus, a group of U.N.-accredited NGOs promoting ethical and spiritual values as part of international decision-making, shows the widening support to achieve a moral consensus which would be a catalyst for action. Religiously based NGOs are another fact in this movement. Certainly, religions have a special responsibility for this work. A sign of the times is the growing quest for more human security, based, it not always so articulated, on the recognition of the mystical integrity of humanity.

The principles contained in the Preamble to the U.N. Charter, which I have commented on above, have been trampled upon by governments, greed and wars through the past half-century. As our examination of the principal themes of peace, development, equality and justice shows, the development of human security in the coming Millennium is our greatest challenge. Fortunately, we have an institution, the United Nations, that can lift up the human condition provided the U.N. is strengthened and given the full support it deserves not just from the weak but the strong.

Left to itself, the political process is probably not strong enough to shore up the pillars of human security. But a synergy of energy is sweeping through the world in the civil society movements. All this work must sensitize the political process and root it in a new global ethic as a base for public policy formation. Though an intellectual analysis of the human condition is essential, it is just as important to bring our hearts with us into the 21st century. Do we care enough to end the pervasive violence that has characterized the closing Millennium? If, as we begin the new Millennium we can muster sufficient strength to push the political process toward enduring human security and the eventual abolition of war as a means of conflict resolution, then my personal optimism will increase.


  1. "Declaration on the Occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the United Nations." The document is available on the U.N.ıs Home Page on the Internet:
  2. ICJ Press Communique No. 96/23. Available on Internet:
  3. U.N. Document A/C.1/51/L.37.
  4. NATO Press Communique M-NAC(DM)-3(96)172.
  5. Human Development Report 1996, Published for the United Nations Development Programme by: (New York) Oxford University Press, 1996.
  6. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, An Agenda for Development, United Nations, Sales No.E.95.I.16, 1995.
  7. World Conference on Human Rights, The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, June 1993. U.N. Document DPI/1394-39399, August 1993-20M.
  8. Rajiv Gandhi Memorial Initiative for the Advancement of Human Civilization, New Delhi, May 1-2, 1993, p. 131.
  9. Gathered for Life, Official Report of the Sixth World Assembly of World Council of Churches.
  10. George Kennan, The Nuclear Delusion.
  11. Our Global Neighbourhood (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 49.
  12. Ibid., p. 75.
  13. Parliament of the Worldıs Religions, A Global Ethic, Chicago, September 4, 1993.
  14. Hans Kung, Christianity: Essence, History, and Future (New York: Continuum, 1995), p. 788.
  15. Hans Kung, Global Responsibility: In Search of a New World Ethic (New York: Crossroad, 1991).
  16. United Nations Publication, Sales No. E.95.IV.Z, Ethical and Spiritual Dimensions of Social Progress, 1995.
  17. UNESCO, Declaration on the Rule of Religion in the Promotion of a Culture of Peace, Barcelona, December 18, 1994.
  18. The Values Caucus, 431 East 57th Street, New York, NY, Fax (212) 750-2774.
Doug Roche