WorldTies: NGO offers fresh perspective on U.N. reform
NGO offers fresh perspective on U.N. reformBy Kathleen Hwang
Special to World Peace Herald
Published June 30, 2005
TOKYO -- Sixty years ago this week, the 50 original countries of the United Nations signed in San Francisco the charter of the organization that promised to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war."
Six decades later, with small wars raging like bush fires across the planet even as the intractable Iraq war grabs daily headlines, discussions are underway in many quarters about the need to reform the organization that has failed to carry out this most fundamental of its responsibilities.
Formal proposals for reform, especially two on enlarging the Security Council, will be debated at the General Assembly to be convened in New York in September.
At the same time, non-governmental groups are putting forward their own proposals, some of them with radical new elements that are attracting a growing amount of interest.
One such proposal was discussed by some 200 representatives of governments and NGOs at a conference in Tokyo from June 26-30. Sponsored by the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace, the conference examined a proposal that the United Nations create a Peace Council comprising religious leaders and representatives of NGOs that reflect the moral and ethical voices of their communities.
IIFWP was founded by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who also founded News World Communications, which publishes World Peace Herald.
"The situation in the world today is extremely dangerous and explosive," Steingrimur Hermannsson, former prime minister of Iceland, told the group. "Capitalism has replaced socialism in much of the world, but market economies have led to greed and frustration. Also we are not sustaining the environment."
Hermannsson called for more understanding and tolerance, as well as aid, from Western countries toward developing ones. He called on the United Nations and the big powers to endorse the proposal for a Peace Council that would bring non-political voices to bear on issues of war and peace.
Wesley M. Johnson, vice chairman of Liberia's national government, called for a "New International Ethical Order" in which an organization such as the proposed Peace Council would set standards of good governance and hold nation states accountable for actions deemed unethical by the council. He called on the conference participants to muster the collective political will and moral courage to implement the proposal for the development of humankind.
"Political and economic power must always be tempered by the moral sense of society," agreed Dr. L.M. Singhvi, senior advocate at the Supreme Court of India. "That is where the charismatic vision of Rev. and Mrs. Moon come in. It is not the wisdom of the past we need, but the wisdom of the present and future."
The Peace Council initiative was the brainchild of Rev. Moon, who first proposed the idea at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000. He did not elucidate what the criteria would be for selecting delegates to the council, nor what principles would be applied in judging the ethical behavior of nation states.
He did propose that the views of men and women of faith and character, who serve as spiritual and moral guides to their communities, might elevate debate at the United Nations above the level of national interest, to that of the interests of humanity.
Six summits on leadership and good governance held in various cities around the world since 2000 have attracted a surprising range of politicians, religious leaders and NGO activists ready to work on shaping the concept into a viable proposal for presentation to the United Nations.
Participants have included representatives from all the world's major religions and from every region of the world. Interestingly, they have also included people from both the left and the right on the political spectrum.
At a working session Wednesday Karen Judd Smith, director of the IIFWP's Office of U.N. Relations, explained that the organization saw itself as neither right-wing nor left-wing, but rather as balancing different views and pointing the global debate in new directions in a process for which Rev. Moon coined the term "head-wing."
In the same spirit, Koji Kakizawa, former foreign minister of Japan, coined the word "glocalization" to describe the need for communities to retain their local identity while at the same time participating in the larger global community, balancing the interests of both.
In a videotaped message to the conference, Annette Liu, vice president of Taiwan, called for a "soft power" approach to global problems, advancing human rights, democracy, peace initiatives and technological progress. "No democracy has ever gone to war with another democracy," she pointed out.
At the same session, Li Qing Zhao from the Institute of International Strategic Studies in Beijing said that China had 3 million informal non-profit organizations, many of which were prepared to play a greater role in helping address regional and global problems. He described China as being in the "primary stage of civil society," and said he felt that international groups were needed to set standards that would help shape developing societies.
At the end of the three-day meeting, the delegates from 82 countries passed a resolution calling for "bold reform" of the United Nations, including urging it to establish a non-political, interreligious body to help resolve conflicts.
The "Tokyo Commitment" also asked the United Nations to engage "non-state actors," or NGOs, as active partners in its work, and committed the IIFWP's global network of Ambassadors for Peace to work on local and regional levels to augment and assist the preventive peace-building efforts of the United Nations.
Damian J. Anderson Damian.Anderson@...