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Panel 1 Handling the Global Variety of Cultures, Ideologies and Religions

Václav Havel
Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished participants, allow me to welcome you all once again, most cordially, to the 10th Forum 2000. Year by year, the interest in this Forum is growing, which of course makes us very happy. It is a good tradition of these conferences that people speak about things that are of the greatest concern to them, of things which they think about most, things that they are ready to speak about here, to share their concerns, to exchange views. This means that the debate is not narrowed down to very specific issues, this means that nobody will be scolded if they speak about something different than the others would expect.

Nonetheless, we do have a certain general theme which we agreed upon and which should serve as a kind of challenge, a point of departure for today’s session, and that theme is “Co-existence of Diverse Cultures, Civilizational Circles, and Nations in Today’s World,” the prospects of this coexistence and what to do to allow the existence of such coexistence.

So if I may, I will make a short remark. I will express a simple idea which I have been repeating for many years and also repeated when I was President of this country, an idea which I have voiced at the United Nations and in other circumstances. This is an idea which is derived from my experience from traveling. I had to represent our country after the fall of the Iron Curtain as an independent Central European country that was striving for democracy. During my travels, I encountered various cultural traditions, political traditions, customs and others cultures. I traveled to dozens of countries and I was always aware of one thing and that was that the religious foundations, the religious points of departure, the traditions of various civilizational spheres, include something which is common to all. The common denominator is a kind of elementary set of moral imperatives that are modified in different ways and which, in their general form, are valid everywhere. I ask myself whether we shouldn’t search for those things that cultures have in common, something which I call the moral minimum. Should this not be the thing from which the norms of coexistence among nations and supra-national communities grow?

So, the question which I would like to pose to this distinguished conference is whether there is a possibility of articulating such a minimum, whether there is hope that some kind of representative form of this could be adopted and become something official, be it on the soil of the United Nations or elsewhere, whether it will advance further than all the important documents we’ve had so far, like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international pacts and so on, and whether something like that has a hope of having a real influence on the current world.

The different cultures and civilizational spheres must be based on the principle of absolute equality. Gone are the days where one or another sphere was automatically considered to be the dominant sphere and when it was understood that this sphere would export its culture to all the other spheres, sometimes even by force, to compel others to adopt it. So, the question is whether it is possible, in the 21st century, in the current condition of development of civilization in a state of so-called globalization, in a state when the basic entities ought to be equal, to define such a moral minimum, and whether it has a realistic chance of succeeding. I have made such attempts, and I was absolutely unsuccessful. So this is the question that I am posing but, of course, am not forcing anybody to respond to. Thank you.

Mary Robinson
What intrigues me is that we do have, as Vaclav Havel has already mentioned, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 2008, we will mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But it will not be meaningful unless it is embedded in the cultures of every country and speaks to the people at ordinary levels where human rights must matter, “in small places close to home”, as Eleanor Roosevelt reminded us. So it is that link between having the norms and standards, which every country in the world has agreed on, over and over again, and having them be meaningful in all countries, because they are reinforced by the beliefs, by the cultural identities of a country. So I think we have opened up a wonderful area for our discussion, and I am very happy to say that we begin with two very distinguished keynote speakers. I am going to invite them to speak for, if they can, about 10 minutes, so that we can have a good discussion by the panel and then the wider group that is here. It gives me a particular personal pleasure to introduce the first of our keynote speakers, the President of the Republic of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga. We have known each other for quite a long time, and I was delighted that, apart from being the distinguished president of her country, she was a very distinguished candidate for Secretary General of the United Nations. Maybe that is something for the future…

Vaira Vike-Freiberga
Thank you, Mary, President Havel, distinguished participants and guests of this conference. It is truly an honor to be here at such an extraordinary event. I would like to start out with what President Havel was alluding to, the history of his country and mine, which after all, not so long ago, actually were in that big, grey, or red mass if you like, of the zone of influence, or the actual territory, of the Soviet Union. I can remember coming to Prague for the first time in 1974. There were three barbed-wire barriers, there were dogs, guards with machine guns and watchtowers. The Iron Curtain was physically present on the borders between Eastern and Western Europe. It was a continent divided in two, and one in which my country, Latvia, had actually been erased from the map. When the Velvet Revolution came to the then Czechoslovakia, when the Singing Revolutions came to Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, what we were looking forward to were two things: one, of course, was freedom from the oppression and tyranny of an ideology that had been raised to the level of a religion. It was a secular religion that was being imposed on millions of people against their will with the idea that it was the one and only right answer, that nothing else was tolerable, that dissent was punishable by death, and any kind of different position was simply to be eliminated.

It was also an erasure of identity. When President Havel talked about the need to explain to the world where he came from and what it was like, imagine how much more difficult the case was for Latvia. You had had the Czechoslovak Republic on the map; at least there was a name. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia had literally been erased. Across the sea in Sweden, just to avoid tensions with a very powerful neighbor, children never saw these countries in their books of geography in primary school. It was a legend about so many kilometers that equaled so many millimeters on the map. They didn’t even know the names of the countries and the names of the people living across the sea, which is rather sad for enlightened and educated Western Europe. But that was the case in this divided Europe. So freedom from tyranny was the first goal of all the peoples who had been oppressed for so long by this totalitarian, communist ideology. But a second aspect of their effort was to recover their identity, to be able to freely express their culture. Not unlike the Siberian tribes, and I have here a bracelet given to me by a shaman from Tuva, who told me how in Stalin’s time every trace of local and indigenous culture was systematically erased by massacring and killing all the shamans and all those who carried the traditions. So the idea of a new ideology being imposed required the effacing, erasing of the old one.

Maybe a few words about what it means to cling to one’s traditions and what the value of them is. I think it is a part of the human identity and a part of our individual identity and of our collective identity that we have roots in some place in the world, that we have roots in some tradition, both genetic and in the heritage that our ancestors have transmitted. I think culture, if we try to define it in its very, very simplest terms, is the collective body of wisdom, of understanding, of traditions, of know-how, that one generation, having accumulated it, wishes to transmit to the next, and which has then been transmitted across generations. And culture becomes precious, therefore, because it is the distillate of the lives and experiences, the joys and the sufferings, and the collective mistakes, errors and successes of generation after generation of people who have pooled their experience, their wisdom and their knowledge, put it together and transmitted it to their children and to the next generation, to spare them from having to reinvent the wheel, to socialize them into a harmonious way of living, both with their family, their neighbors, and within nature.

I think in traditional cultures across the world, you will see that culture contains an element of practical survival skills. In modern times, in the globalized world, this is increasingly becoming lost, but in many parts of the world, cultural traditions still require practical accumulated knowledge of how you survive in the Kalahari Desert if you are on your own, how you survive in the Far North of Siberia or of Canada, how you survive in the taiga, how you make a living in the temperate zones of this world or in the tropical jungles. This is a crucial element of the knowledge of nature, of man within nature, that allows man to survive without destroying his environment. And I think this is no trivial recognition in an age when we realize that modern technology and modernization have actually put the whole planet and its equilibrium in danger. But culture also has that element of custom, of tradition. It used to be an accumulation of tales, of stories, of poetry. It was a sort of skill in speaking, in oratory. We have it from the most ancient times, and we see it everywhere, on every continent in the world, this respect for the language that is a specific thing, unique to the human being, and the cultivation of language both as a knot, as a skill, and something that you sort of wear proudly, as much as you wear your jewelry and your clothes, and finally, to enshrine customs and wisdom. Practically every culture has developed some link to the supernatural, to nature on the one hand, to society and other people on the second hand, and the third element is the link to the unknown, to the gods or to the spirits. And this, in many cases, then becomes an ideology. In many cultures around the world, it is simply a matter of survival, it is linked to survival. You do this because the gods forbid it, or, modern science would say, you don’t pick these mushrooms, because if you eat them, you are going to die of poison. But then you can express the interdict by saying that the spirits or the gods forbid it, and the two become linked together, the practical and the transcendental. But when cultures reach a level of sophistication where religions also become sophisticated, when they start having prophets who hand down the knowledge that others are to keep, they have sacred writings, they have specialist interpreters of their understanding and wisdom. Then the great danger of that phase is that instead of being liberating to the individual, giving meaning to the individual’s life, and giving structure and morality to society, it becomes a totalitarian system, a closed system which imposes its received values and simply does not allow each new generation to come with the input that the practical things of life have always allowed. No culture has ever been closed to input from practical life. The danger with ideologies, and the danger with codified religions, is that at the moment they become closed systems, they do not allow for feedback from real life. They become fixated, and there is the danger of totalitarian rule.

I think that this is the confrontation that every system faces now, be it secular or be it religious, and will claim its legitimacy on helping society to distinguish right from wrong and helping it survive. The big issues that President Havel was addressing and that the whole conference is addressing is: how is my way of understanding, my morality of what is right and wrong, to cohabit peacefully, without harm, compatible with your understanding of right and wrong and how you may define these things. We all agree that certain things are common, and yet even on those I think there is dissension. Many of us would like to think that human life is sacred, in and of itself, that it is absolutely, a universal value. Look around you in the world, and I am sorry to say it is not. Many of us would like to think that the universal value is the dignity of man, by which I mean humankind, both man and woman. And look around you in the world and you will discover that, unfortunately, it is not so. And many of us would like to think that the truly common feature of every religious system and creed and culture is the respect for the liberty of choice of the individual throughout their life. And again, look around you, and I’m afraid that it is not so. This doesn’t mean that these are not ideals that we shouldn’t strive for, but I think that it sketches out the direction where these difficulties lie. I think I will stop here, Mary, and allow the rest of our colleagues to go on.

Mary Robinson
Thank you very much, Madame President, both for the thoughtfulness and depth of your remarks. As you spoke about identity and culture so well, and then spoke about culture also composed of custom and tradition, one of the problems we have had in the human rights movement is that some of these traditions can turn out to be quite harmful, particularly for women. So this is something we can also come back to. It now gives me personal pleasure to call on the next distinguished keynote speaker, His Royal Highness El Hassan bin Talal.

El Hassan bin Talal
Thank you, Mary. A few days ago, in Kyoto, I addressed the World Conference of Religions for Peace, and I asked our Japanese friends, as I have asked our Indian, Brazilian and our African friends, if and when you get to the Security Council – which, we hope, next year might become a Protection Council -- what, if anything, are you going to do to change the human condition? C.S. Lewis, at St. Mary the Virgin Church at Oxford, my old university, in the first days of World War II, said, “Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun.” Today, the moral minimum that you ask us to define, dear friend, President Havel, was what you called for in Canberra, Australia, in 1995, when you said it is not enough to take the set of imperatives, principles, or rules produced by the Euro-American world, and mechanically declare them binding for all.

And I ask myself, and people at home ask me, during the month of Ramadan, why are you traveling from West Asia to the home of Václav Havel in Central Europe? To my mind, the answer is simple. As an almost lone voice in West Asia, in the heart of the Muslim world, I feel less lonely here with you in Prague – that is, with you, Václav Havel. This is because as a West Asian, an Arab, and a Muslim, my life-long engagement has been to foster, in my part of the world and with our partners in Europe, what is called a metanoia, a drastic change of mind. The dilemmas of global coexistence, the theme of our conference, can only be resolved through a transcendental, genuine universality, based on a global ethos. A drastic change of mind is the prerequisite for such an ethos. If you are talking of disaster, let me remind you that we are facing not only a nuclear bomb in North Korea today; we are facing a demographic bomb. Seventy percent of the world’s refugees are Muslims. And we ask ourselves, why the extremism?

Here I would like to be clear about definitions. Having learned Hebrew at university in the 1960’s, I am the only Muslim member of the Center for Hebrew studies at Oxford University. I had the pleasure of serving with Simone Weil in the early 1970’s, a Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, and I had the pleasure of meeting Wiesenthal. Talking of humanitarian values in a universal context, I have no doubt that the harmony of the rich diversity of nationalities and ethnicities in our part of the world is at the precipice. We could fragment into ethnic and sectarian strife and the hatred industry continues to thrive – and let me remind you, the chief beneficiaries of our Middle East crisis are oil and weapons. I was told by a member of Congress, “Folks like you are bad for business.” Next year I will turn five cycles of twelve, not quite seventy, but ten years off. Can I say Happy Birthday? Is it a congratulation or a condolence? I don’t know. But I do want to tell you that in terms of our region, we at the European Commission of the Trilateral Commission, produced a paper titled “Is There a Plan B for Iran?” And I turned to the first basket of the Helsinki process in asking that question. If you recall, the first basket is the so-called Security Basket. Basic security is all about weapons of mass destruction, including radiological weapons, but not including demography or the environment. So the flip side of Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth”, the environment bomb, is that a lot of us will find our countries under water in a very short period of time. However, a lot of us are going to migrate to wide, open spaces like Canada, Siberia, and Africa. Sudan can absorb 200 million people.

When I was working with lepers in Sudan in 1988, nobody was interested in the human condition of the Sudanese people. Suddenly we are told that there are pipelines that can miraculously move oil from the Red Sea to the West Coast of Africa. We are told that wells can be uncapped that have been already put in place in Somalia. Do you remember Biafra? Why did LBJ make his intervention in Biafra? Because the television images were too troubling. There were votes to be garnered at home. Today, there are votes to be garnered at home in a few weeks’ time. I was talking to our host, President Sasakawa, yesterday, saying that anything could happen within the next few weeks, and this morning, we wake up to the Korean bomb, which the CNN expert, a former American general, says: “…is not a weapon.” I don’t know what it is – a bouquet of flowers, maybe?

I would like to thank the co-authors of this “Plan B for Iran”, including the support provided by Ambassador Lubrani of the Office of the Prime Minister of Israel (I know that for the photographers’ sake I have to sit next to Rabbi Melchior, so that we look as though we are getting on very well indeed.), Bill Emmott, former editor-in-chief of The Economist, and Terrence Ward, an expert on Iran. What do they say that is so applicable to Korea today? They say the US must realize the limits of unilateralism and of its monopoly of hard power. To address the Iranian issue, you could say the Korean issue, this year and over the next year, will require that the US leadership carefully blends hard and soft power. As Joseph Nye of the Harvard School of Government introduced the term “soft power,” I would add that hard plus soft power equals “wise power”.

You can talk about a security order, technology order, communications order, but don’t talk about human, humanitarian or humanist. Mary Robinson will remember that she helped us launch a call for a Racial Equality Index. Can this be based on enhanced regional cooperation? I think it can. Yesterday, in Al-Sabah Al-Jadid (The New Morning), the Iraqi newspaper, I called for Christians and Sunni and Shi’a Muslims to work together in the holy month of Ramadan, by building mosques, churches and Hussainiat, as a symbol of our commitment to the common ground that we share. I call, in the presence of Rabbi Melchior, for the creation of a moral authority in Jerusalem to manage holy space. Leave politics for the politicians. I call for the creation in Meccaof a moral authority that can be the point of reference on issues ranging from stem cell research to the war on terror. But we cannot continue without selfless commitment to the noble art of conversation, which, Ladies and Gentlemen, contrary to what I was told by the equivalent of “Hard Talk” on Israeli television, is not a martial art. What should we focus on? The need for humane and ethical global governance, the political meaning of the present global spiritual resurgence, and the too-often forgotten voices of dialogue. I look forward to presenting, with my Jewish and Christian confreres, to the Holy See, to the leaders of Judaism, Islam and the nine faith groups, and indeed to non-believers in a humanitarian and humanistic context, a call for a shared analytical concordance of human values, a quick reference, sharing of a commitment to an updating of the spirit, not only the letter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And that is why I conclude by saying what is important about Prague is that it is a Forum, it is not a negotiation. Our voices are heard, but the test is how they can be heard at the popular level. And it is here that I express to you my gratitude to civil society organizations such as People in Need here in Prague, who have worked in Iraq and are working selflessly in other parts of the world, to Dutch civil society organizations that have helped us create MECA, the Middle East Citizens’ Assembly. It is human dignity and bridging the human dignity divide that I believe we should be addressing.

Mary Robinson
Thank you very much, your Royal Highness, in particular for the very real and very needed note of urgency that you have brought into our discussion here in this Forum. It is striking that the 10th anniversary of Forum 2000 opens on a morning when we have learned of the setting off of an underground nuclear explosion by North Korea, a reminder of the many huge challenges which our world faces. I don’t like to use this military language of bombs, but I think your message was a very effective one. You also invoked your neighbor in this corner, who is one of our panelists, so perhaps I could begin with you, Rabbi Michael Melchior, in a sense linking with the idea of the need to have space for cultures, ideologies and religions. Is it fair to say that your country, Israel, at the moment is feeling less secure, and what would be your ideas or response to the current, rather difficult situation?

Rabbi Michael Melchior
We’ve just marked the fifth anniversary of September 11, and I think it’s timely to ask whether the world is feeling more or less secure. My own view is that the world in general and our region in particular is less secure. I think that many people know what we need to do to attain peace, but increasingly people believe that it’s impossible to achieve.

I would like to open on a more optimistic note, by quoting one of our important Hassidic masters, Rabbi Nachman from Breslov. He said, “If you believe in humanity’s capacity to destroy, then have confidence in humanity’s capacity to rebuild and to repair.” There are many miracles occurring all around us which we don’t notice. Last Friday, for example, Jews celebrated the festival of Sukkot whilst Muslims were celebrating Ramadan. Altogether, there were more than 400,000 worshippers at the mosques and the Western Wall in the old city of Jerusalem. They finished their services at the same time and walked together through the narrow streets of the Old City. No one was killed, no stones were thrown, there wasn’t even a curse uttered. These are miracles that we don’t talk about, but such miracles take place every day.

My friend, Sheikh Talal al Sidr, was one of the founders of Hamas. He renounced terrorism when Arafat invited him to serve as a minister in the Palestinian Authority. On the Friday of Ramadan at the height of the Intifada, I accompanied him to one of the most prestigious mosques in Hebron. In his sermon to the 5,000 worshippers there, he said, “I want to tell you, in the name of the Koran, that to kill a child, be it a Palestinian or an Israeli or even the child of settlers, is the worst crime you can commit”. I was delighted by his words and I was sure that they would appear in the headlines of the next day’s newspapers, but they didn’t even make it to the back page of a single newspaper. As Prince Hassan said, it’s bad for business. I’ve been told by journalists that our work for religious cooperation simply does not sell newspapers; whenever they write about it they lose money.

I would like to make just a couple of final comments. In our global village there is an illusion of dialogue and increased knowledge. But in fact there is less interpersonal exchange, and most dialogue that takes place happens without listening, without depth, without understanding and without intimacy. People talk in order to affirm their own identity without learning about the other and, consequently, they frequently make the divisions even wider.

The founder of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Namir Darwish, and I were once interviewed together on a television program. We were asked about the Danish cartoons. I said that for Jews it was tantamount to blasphemy to offend other people in the name of the freedom of speech. He responded by saying, “Yes, and I wrote to President Ahmadinejad this morning reminding him that we cannot restore respect for Islam by demeaning Judaism.”

If we agree that the hatred, intolerance and lack of respect are the sicknesses of our generation, then we must give our children an antidote, just as we give them medicine against sicknesses. We have to create a package of education of respect, dialogue, cross-cultural and cross-religious coalitions. When I fight against Islamophobia, and my friend Namir Darwish fights anti-Semitism, we spark people’s imaginations and start to make a difference. I believe it’s possible. I believe that a conference like this can create the agenda necessary for the paradigm shift which will enable us to make a difference. We will be able to get to that point only if we fight the clash of civilizations within our own communities, drawing strength from those in other civilizations who can act as our coalition partners.

Mary Robinson
Thank you very much. I think you have rightly mentioned those who work so constructively and don’t get much recognition. In a way, this Forum is that spirit of trying, through dialogue, conversation, and thoughtfulness, as we are hearing in the contributions. But you also placed great emphasis on inter-religious dialogue. I was just reflecting that there is probably more discussion and more space given to inter-religious dialogue now than there would have been ten years ago, when this Forum was started. I want to pose a rather provocative question, as to whether we have almost too much inter-religious dialogue of a certain kind but maybe not of the kind that you’re talking about, and I thought maybe Ernesto Zedillo might like to, from a different perspective, speak to the idea whether we hear a lot about the importance of religions in our troubled world today. Are we actually seeing too much influence in some quarters of the voice of religion?

Ernesto Zedillo
Thank you, Mary. I thought I was going to speak later, and I was waiting to listen to my colleagues here, but now you have forced me to be provocative. And yes indeed, I want to address a point that will sound as if I were a contrarian today. The issue is a very simple one. I am very worried about this increasing tendency to overlook the many identities that we human beings have and reduce our identities to only one dimension. More specifically, I am very worried when we start speaking about categories such as the Western world, or the Islamic world, or the Asian culture, or the Asian values. Because it is only one step from that kind of a statement to start producing ideas which sound like a grand theory, but that can be very dangerous, such as the clash of civilizations.

I, for one, believe that I don’t belong to any particular civilization. When I prepare my trade theory course, and I have to use, for example, algebra. Well, I cannot forget that it was an Arab, a Muslim person, who invented algebra, which I use almost every week to prepare my class. When I read books, I cannot help thinking that it was a Chinese who invented the printing devices from which we have inherited the capacity to have and to read books. So I don’t see myself as a part of any civilization, and I think we should be careful in defining such a thing as civilization, particularly if we are going to use only one dimension. I think we can define ourselves from many perspectives – where we live, what nationality we have, what profession we have-- but I think it’s a terrible mistake when we start to reduce our identity to only one category. But I insist it has become particularly dangerous when we start to speak only about the religious dimension of our identity. This is nowadays being done by political leaders, by some intellectuals, and of course, by some religious leaders, and unfortunately, by some fanatical leaders, that would like to use religion to create hate and division in the world. And I think that sometimes good people, like people in this room, make the same mistake. We start to speak about the importance of this dialogue among civilizations, this dialogue between religions, as if it were the solution to some problems that concretely have to do with development, politics, with political strategy.

I think we have to keep things clearly separated and perhaps go back to some principles that, for a long time, we have believed. I am so happy that President Havel reminded us that we have had for almost sixty years, a document, which is this Declaration of Human Rights. My suggestion is that we should question whether we have been too politically correct in accepting some terms of reference of the discussion. And of course, I insist I’m not being original. I would say that I have two fundamental intellectual sources -- Professor Amartya Sen, holder of the Nobel Prize in Economics, who has been writing lucidly about this, and John Lennon. Make your own choice. You can read Amartya Sen or you can recall the wonderful song that was sung by Joan Baez last night – “Imagine”.

Mary Robinson
Thank you very much, Ernesto. In fact, I was about to make a reference myself to Amartya Sen, as I heard about the layers of identities that we all have, and I think this has been a common theme so far. I wanted to come back to some of the urgency and the kind of challenges that Prince Hassan was talking about, the demographic problems, the inconvenient truth of the climate change, the greed of our world, the divides. I wanted to ask you, Kim Campbell-- you are Secretary General now of The Club of Madrid, what we call “exalted has-beens,” meaning elected presidents and prime ministers who no longer hold office and are no longer powerful -- How do we have a sufficient political as well as moral leadership that can bring about that paradigm shift, that change that has been called for?

Kim Campbell
Well, Mary, I think, first of all, we have to be scared out of our wits. President Havel asked the question, “Can my truth and my reality coincide with yours?” I happen to live in a country where, I think, we have created a system where that can happen. (For those who don’t know, I am Canadian.) But I think that the ability for countries and people to live that way have come out of great crises. The source of the Enlightenment was fatigue at the killing of Christians by Christians for a hundred years in Europe. I see myself very much as a product of the Scottish Enlightenment that came out of the revulsion of thinking Scotsmen and women after the execution of a young man named Aikenhead, who made a frivolous comment that was seen as blasphemous. The religious authorities of Edinburgh arranged to have him tried and hanged. Ernesto Zedillo spoke this morning at breakfast about a multi-lateral system, which also, as we know it today, grew out of a period of enormous fatigue and realism that arose out of the huge killing and destruction of World War II. So I think that we have, in the past, created systems which have allowed us to live together, and I think that democracy is very much a part of that. The program of the Club of Madrid is, in and of itself, an example of intercultural dialogue. We come from all over the world. We have different political systems and different religions. Each of us in our own country is a passionate partisan, but we come together because we believe that the rule of law, the ability of people to choose their governments, and constraints on the power of governments, are the most fundamental guarantees of these things that we are talking about--the ability of different truths and ideologies to coexist and the ability of people to reach their full potential. Many of us have felt, at least in my own adult lifetime, that many of those battles were won, that there was an understanding that people could live together, that different religions could coexist. But now we are seeing people in the world who have power but who reject the notion that there should be a place of privacy.

It isn’t just democracy that makes coexistence possible. I spend a lot of time in Spain, as a Secretary General of the Club of Madrid, and there was a time in the Iberian Peninsula under Muslim rule when there was the famous co-existence of Christians, Jews and Muslims, to the great advantage of that part of the world. The cultural flourishing included many of the advancements in mathematics and science that came out of the Moorish community there. There have been leaders throughout the world who have created the space in which people of different religions could live together, and those have been great periods in world history. Now we are recognizing that even in countries or parts of the world where we thought the battle had been won, there is a growing questioning of whether religion should be a domain separate from the state. I see this as someone who has lived, for a considerable part of my life, in the United States. It is shocking to me to see Americans questioning the separation of church and state, failing to understand how important it has been in enabling people to live together.

This doesn’t mean that religion is done away with. What I would say is that we are capable of creating societies in which many truths can coexist. Ideological tolerance is difficult because ideologies are explanations of the world. They include views of human nature and the appropriate relationship between citizens and government. But in democratic societies, ideologies contend in the democratic arena. Religious tolerance is one of the most difficult kinds of tolerance to create because it involves our most fundamental values and eschatologies that often make us feel that our divinities will punish us if we don’t make sure that everybody else lives by the rules that we think they’ve laid down for us. Religion is now becoming something that we have to look at. Madeleine Albright has written a book, The Mighty and the Unmighty, where she states very clearly that when she became Secretary of State she never dreamed she’d be thinking about religion. But I think it is because we realize what a risk this poses to security, to stability, to peace in the world, that we are now in a position to harness the political will to address these issues, and these issues will be addressed at the most intimate levels. There is an article in yesterday’s Financial Times about the work the American ambassador in Germany is doing to bridge these gaps, and they will be addressed on intergovernmental levels. But the very fact that we are talking about religion means that we are frightened about what it could mean for the world not to ensure that our truths can coexist.

Mary Robinson
Thank you, Kim. Could I come back, then, to the question that President Havel posed? As he was posing his question that he has been in a search for what cultures have in common and whether we can find a moral minimum, he was modest enough--and has always been very modest, about his own contribution-- to say that he has not been very successful. So I’d like to pose this question explicitly to Theo Klein: can we find that moral minimum? I think that we’ve been touching on it, but I’d like to hear what you might have to say.

Theo Klein
I have come here with the idea of listening. Listening seems to me to be, in fact, an answer to the problem with which we are dealing. To listen is to give the other the chance to express himself, and to take the time to do the things necessary to give a comprehensive significance to his or her expressions, and to take his or her view into account in the expression of one’s own position. Listening, therefore, seems to me some kind of abiding by the rules that will, perhaps, bring an indirect response to the question posed by President Havel. But in looking at the assembly here, I dispute the notion that we represent in our physical beings, even in the diversity of our physical beings, the fact of globalization, because we are all absolutely similar. In a way, in our physical selves we represent the possibility of an opening, the possibility of a mutual breathing, the necessity that we concern ourselves with one another and that we create a society in which each one of us has the liberty to express himself.

This global phenomenon of the physical, physiological man is as important as the man himself, who has traversed time and created diversity, who has seen as an end the creation of a completely unique religion or a society or language. And the question which was posed can be, maybe, to know whether there isn’t an extraordinary richness in this uniqueness that it is necessary to protect, and how to arrive and to overcome that which, in this uniqueness, carries the risk of opposition to us--or only the risk that we have opposed--in religious wars, in multicultural conflicts, in all sorts of difficulties that we have ourselves created, sometimes forgetting that in the face of the other we can find a response.

So you have asked me, Madam Robinson, for a suggestion. I would like to draw on a verse of the Bible that is important because it occurs at the beginning of the biblical story. Two brothers, Cain and Abel, the first human beings to be born of a man-woman relationship, clashed over the possession of a piece of land. Cain wanted to cultivate the land, but Abel wanted to use it as pasture where his flocks could graze. Everyone knows that the dispute ended with Abel’s death, but what I retain from this episode is that most important question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Yes. I believe the response to the question is fundamentally that each one of us is our brother’s keeper. And there is in that concept a fundamental problem that can also be translated into the idea of a responsibility that is not only self-responsibility but the responsibility for the other. And there is also a correlated obligation -- the necessity for mutual respect. For each one of us to be the guardian of all the others is perhaps a part of that, an ethical concept that enables us to survive and, maybe, to develop the beginning of a response to the question posed.

Mary Robinson
Thank you very much, first of all, for reminding us of the power of listening. As you were describing what you mean by listening, you reminded me of an Irish moral theologian, who explained to me that you have to “listen across.” And when I asked what he meant, he said “You have to not only hear what the other person said, you must put yourself into their shoes and you must be able to listen to what they expect from you, because you have been listening – listening across,” which I think you described very well. You also reminded us, in your answer to the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and again, we’ve heard the General Assembly of the United Nations take that a step further, in the commitment to the “responsibility to protect.” But where are we? Look at Darfur, getting worse and worse by the day, and this responsibility to protect becomes more rhetoric than reality.

Our next speaker is Kanan Makiya, the distinguished writer from Iraq.

Kanan Makiya
Thank you, Madam Chairwoman. I will actually turn to a point you made, which may be somewhat controversial, so my apologies, but this is in the spirit of stimulating a debate. The question I would like to put to the distinguished panelists here is the following: this is in the context of the title, which I am taking very seriously – Handling, the emphasis on the word handling, Global Variety. Ought one, in this very difficult matter of handling global variety, ought one to cater to the lowest common denominator in religion, culture, or ideology, simply because it happens to be a common denominator at one particular point in a culture or religion’s history? Or ought one to demand of that religion, culture, ideology, etc., that it live up to the very best in itself, even if that best happens to be temporarily eclipsed at this same moment in time that we are talking about? This, it seems to me, is a very direct, and I admit, very political, perhaps somewhat contentious way of putting the issue of handling. But it is how I would like to formulate the issue facing this panel.

So for instance, let’s be concrete. When the Pope, or more recently, Jack Straw, made their now infamous remarks about Islam or veiled women, I personally believe that however badly formulated, they were trying to do the latter, not the former. They were asking of Muslims, of whom I am one, that they live up to the very highest ideals, not the basest ideals, of their own religion. And we have here, to accept as a starting point, to be very frank with ourselves. Inside every great religious tradition, and most, but certainly not all ideologies, the very high and the very low coexist in conflict and in tension, perhaps, of course, in varying degrees, but in all times throughout. This is how it is inside that great religious tradition of Islam, inside of which I was born, and that is how it has always been in all the great religious traditions. Popes have waged war and popes have waged peace and reconciliation, all in the name of religion. The very particular problem of Islam today, which is on our minds, however little we have actually so far talked about it, is that the forces that represent the worst in that particular great religious tradition, are at this very particular, and notice the emphasis, at this very particular historical junction, these forces are in the ascendancy. Similarly, the forces that can, or should be combating them from within the religious tradition, from within the inner resources of the tradition, are correspondingly, today, at this particular point in time, weak or too timid to actually wage the fight that needs to be waged.

So, I put it to you as a panel, how does one handle global variety in such circumstances as the ones we live in, and what are the reasons for the dilemmas and the crises? I thought I would recount an inadequately known story that took place during the historic negotiations that I am sure many panelists are familiar with that President Bill Clinton led in the summer of 2000. At some point during those negotiations, as I am sure many of you will recall even if they did not make very big headlines at the time, it was reported that Yasser Arafat denied the existence of a Jewish temple on the site of the Haram al-Sharif, otherwise known to Jews as the sight of the Temple Mount. I do believe, or so the anecdotes surrounding the story go, that President Clinton tried to correct Arafat by pointing to certain passages in the Bible. Arafat, as we know, refused to be convinced, resting, as he no doubt was, on the whole new Arabic literature – and I underline the word “new” – generated by Arab nationalists in recent decades. Now, the incident appears disconnected to the failure of that historic enterprise, those negotiations of the Arab-Israeli settlements. It seems to be just one more useless argument over history. However, in so many ways, and in relation to our panel, it seems to me it goes to the very heart of that failure.

As it so happens, modern, largely but not completely secular, scholarship has shown, nearly irrefutably, that the Dome of the Rock, the symbol of Jerusalem par excellence for both Arabs and Jews, Muslims and Jews is, by the way, the first and oldest monument of Islam. It was built by 7th century Muslims, using Byzantine craftsmen to celebrate what those 7th century Muslims thought of as a Jewish Rock, laden with a set of traditions that they themselves knew were derived from the much earlier Jewish tradition. The purely Muslim tradition that all of you who have visited this important site know about, that the Prophet ascended to Heaven from this particular rock, is clearly, according to the scholarship, a later tradition that emerged after this magnificent structure, this symbol for everyone of Jerusalem, was built and was certainly not as a cause or justification for its construction.

For a Muslim like myself to say something like this today, and to say it to the Arabic and the Muslim world, is a very dangerous enterprise. To tell millions of Muslims today that the sanctity they feel towards the holiest site in Jerusalem rests on the same grounds as the sanctity that millions of Jews feel towards Jerusalem, and that the two do not make sense today in the absence of one another, to make this connection, to insist upon this early historical nexus is a good thing and not a bad one. To say such things is positively dangerous. Does that mean we should not say them? In the spirit of Václav Havel’s whole enterprise and intellectual project, I say more and more of us should be saying those kinds of things, however unpleasant they may be, and that dealing with or handling global variety is about telling unpleasant truths.

Mary Robinson
Thank you very much. Initially, you brought us back more closely to the subject the panel has been looking at -- how do we handle the global variety of cultures, ideologies and religions; and as I listened to you, it seemed that you were offering to President Havel not a moral minimum, but that there should be a willingness to uphold the highest principles and the highest truth, and the sense of excellence of the religions. That, I think, is quite an interesting way of responding. I am now going to encourage a more open discussion, because we’ve heard some very rich interventions.

El Hassan bin Talal
I would just like to make a very quick remark on Kanan Makiya’s last intervention. When Henry Kissinger, who I understand is now advising the present President, was advising in the early 70s on the shuttle diplomacy on Jerusalem, I said, “Why don’t we have a multi-millennial solution for Jerusalem?” He asked what I meant, and I said that every archeological layer represents a thousand years, so we can start with the Muslim layer and then go all the way down to the Hebrew and maybe the pre-Hebrew levels. He said: “Really? How much does it cost?” And I said that if it was a question of cost, we wouldn’t have a problem, but it is a question of trust. So it is all very well making these brave statements, my dear brother, but I think that the main issue today is how do we build trust? And this goes back to the question of separating politics and religion, and I would strongly recommend to anyone who is interested, a brilliant study by Professor Dumper of the University of Exeter, titled “Managing Holy Space”, which is not about just managing buildings, but about how we make religion once again effective in hospital care, in health care. In Africa, for example, we had a program and an agreement between Coptic churches and Muslim mosques, but the World Bank said we had to send World Bank missions instead of using these people who are there on the ground. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say religion murders people and, at the same time, not give them the means to do something useful for humanity.

Mary Robinson
We are certainly getting some very good titles. Kim Campbell mentioned The Might and the Almighty of Madeleine Albright, and now we have “Managing Holy Space.”

Ernesto Zedillo
Well, simply to reiterate this principle that we’ve just heard -- it is so important to separate politics from religion. I think the most important and pressing example that we have in front of us is the Arab-Israeli conflict. I think religious leaders can discuss religion, but I think politicians with responsibility have to take responsibility, and address, at last, this conflict that has caused so much pain, not only in that region of the world, but that is constantly a threat for humanity at large. And I say that because we just went through a very traumatic episode again of what a celebrated author of twenty or so years ago called the “March of Folly.” We had our own March of Folly during the summer when we saw again a regional war that brought devastation and human pain inflicted on both the Israeli and the Lebanese people. The question is, for how long are we going to go down that road before we have to pay an even bigger price? Some of us really believe that the time has come for political leaders, not only of the countries involved directly in the conflict, but the political leaders of the great powers, to take more responsibility, and at last, do what it takes to solve this conflict. Therefore, I take this opportunity to bring to the attention of this wonderful audience and those around the table, one little manifesto that a group of former leaders published only three or four days ago. Some of the people that signed this manifesto, this proposal, are in this room. I can see a lot of people here that have signed this document, and I want to ask all of you to become advocates of this idea, that indeed there is a solution. There is a solution if there is political will. There is a solution if we think about what has already been lost in terms of human life, in terms of deepening this hatred, but also if we think about the consequences if this problem if not addressed now and we wait for the future.

Mary Robinson
Thank you very much, Ernesto, for focusing in on what we all know is a very key situation that is more a part of a wider insecurity of our world than just talking about the Israeli and Palestinian people coming to an agreement. It matters for peace in our world so much, and I am glad that you referred to the initiative particularly supported by Gareth Evans and the International Crisis Group, which many of us have signed recently because of this urgency, and indeed because we know, as Michael Melchior said in his initial contribution, more or less, what would be the acceptable solution. It’s how to get there. I now have three people, I am glad to say, on my list, beginning with you, Madam President.

Vaira Vike-Freiberga
I’d like to go back to what Prince Hassan mentioned, about the practical aspects of interventions internationally, which are, in a way, being covered by formal verbal presentations in the name of an ideology or religion, as the case may be, or both. This is something that we have had throughout history. My own country, Latvia, as it happens, lost its identity as a country when in 1198, Pope Innocent III, having lost the Holy City of Jerusalem, having seen the previous crusades fail, decided that there was still a place where crusades could happen, and that was in Northeast Europe, where the pagans still dwelt. But it was not a movement that was started just for the saving of their souls and converting them to Christianity. It was a movement that actually took the lands of the local kings and put them under the direct authority of the Pope, paying taxes directly to the Pope in Rome. At the same time, Innocent III also declared a crusade against Christians, actually, in Southern Europe, that is the Albigentian Crusade, a crusade against the Cathars. Supposedly, this was again to save their souls, because they had swayed from orthodoxy in terms of the dogma presented by the Church in Rome, but one of the things about the Cathars was that they refused to pay taxes and refused to have priests and so that, of course, was not tolerable. And on top of that, the King of France was also looking to having these territories under his domain, and then he would be collecting taxes rather than the Pope. These are two examples from the past that do not carry the same emotional charge as present-day examples, but I bring them forth to remind you that frequently we have to distinguish what really has to do with religion, with individual conviction, with a link of the individual consciousness and soul to what they conceive of as being the divine, the luminous, the spiritual, the moral guidelines in their life, and the sometimes very crass practicalities of international power, of international natural resources. I think so many countries have been cursed by having natural resources, rather than blessed by them, because this has been one of the sources of unrest and conflict in their lands and territories.

Mary Robinson
Thank you, Madam President. As you were talking about the very interesting early example, I was certainly reflecting that the word “crusade” was used much more recently, even if it was dropped. As you say, we have to be very aware of how religion can be distorted for more political ends. My next speaker is Michael Melchior.

Michael Melchior
I would like, respectfully, to disagree with some of the comments which have been made about the role of religion and religious and cultural leaders. Fundamentally, the conflict between Israel, the Arabs and the Palestinians is not a religious one. It is a conflict between two peoples who claim the same land. It can only be solved by political measures which will create an appropriate compromise. I hope that in two states, the State of Israel and the State of Palestine, people will live in peace and security side by side. The politicians have to take ultimate responsibility for making this happen, but so far they have been unsuccessful because they have ignored religious issues which are a major factor in people’s identity. I was and remain a great fan of the Oslo Process, but from the outset a fundamental mistake was made; the discussions ignored the religious issues. When you ignore important factors, they don’t just disappear; they blow up in your face. This happened again and again following Camp David, until eventually the whole thing exploded. I emphatically agree with the words of my neighbor here. The second Camp David negotiations did not fail because of borders or because of refugees, not even because of the lack of leadership. The negotiations failed because of the discussions regarding Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. The preparation which should have been done did not take place. I personally offered Prime Minister Barak to arrange a joint Jewish, Muslim, Christian agreement on many of the issues which I knew would come up, but he refused to deal with them because he felt that discussion of religion and culture would only damage the peace process.

Kim, you talked about countries like America where there is a sharp division between state and religion. But actually, there is no country in the world where religion plays a greater role in the formation of people’s political opinions and in how the country is governed than in America. So I think that this division is partly an illusion. I support the concept of secular governments, but I think that we shouldn’t delude ourselves. Anybody who read Madeleine Albright’s book, The Mighty and the Almighty, will know that she concedes that by ignoring these factors, the American administration made mistakes and was unable to draw on all the expertise and leadership of moderate religious leaders who could have made a significant difference in the work of building peaceful societies.

Mary Robinson
I have four speakers, but I also have a plea to respond. Ok Ernesto, the floor is yours.

Ernesto Zedillo
In no way do I want to diminish the importance of religion or dialogue about religion, but my very strong point is that we should reject this insistence on defining human identity through only one aspect. As a former politician, I want to warn very clearly that over the last few years there has indeed been a movement to emphasize that we human beings are best defined by our religious beliefs. From there, we jump to the conclusion that in order to fix the problems of the world, we have to achieve understanding between religions. And that, dear friends, I think is illusion. It’s something wrong that can lead to very dangerous circumstances. I think that by neglecting the rich plurality of our identities, we are opening a very dangerous space to fanatical religious leaders and also to fanatical political leaders. So, that is my only point -- to recognize that we, human beings…

Michael Melchior
… that space is open, in any case.

Ernesto Zedillo
But that space is being closed more and more, because we speak about the Islamic identity or the Christian identity. I think that’s terrible. Every year, when I get together with my fellow economists from fifty developing worlds, we get together to review our research on the development in the developing world. There we have Buddhists, Islamists, Christians, agnostics like myself, and I never speak about religion. We get together to discuss development problems, poverty problems. And in that precise moment, our identity is to be economists, or political scientists, or sociologists. I think this is a very important point. And every year, more and more, under the impulse of certain politicians and certain religious leaders, we are being taken back to a time to which we shouldn’t go back. I think the separation between religion and politics is absolutely important.

Mary Robinson
And now, James Zogby, you have the floor.

James Zogby
I want to come someplace in the middle of this conversation, to both pull apart the two realities, and then see how we put them back together again. I have been struck by the conversation in London and by the problem in the first place. Why is it that a generation of Muslim women, born in England, whose identity ought to be British, have now adopted the niqab, which is not worn in most places in the Muslim world? The solution is not to find a religious discourse, but to get to the root cause of the alienation that has caused a generation of first, second, and third-generation Muslims not to find identity as British. Extremism in Europe, whether in Germany… why is it that a third-generation Kurd, born in Germany, is still a Kurd? We do not have the same problem in the United States. We have many problems, but this is not a problem we have, because with the passport there comes an identity and an absorption into a broader culture that transforms you and transforms the country that you’re in. The Israeli-Palestinian issue -- why is it that it is part of the culture? It is because there is a root cause to the problem that has made it impossible for Palestinians to accept the role of Jerusalem in this Jewish history, because this Jewish history has supplanted their presence in Jerusalem. The palliative is not religion, the palliative is justice. Justice ought to be the precedent. By establishing justice, religious discourse is transformed. I respect you both, and in particular Rabbi Melchior, for what you’ve done in creating these dialogues. Kanan, you have taught me so much about Arab history and about the conflicts within, but I’m on the side of President Zedillo, in that the issue here is that we have to solve the problems that create the transforming of religious discourse into this hostile and confrontational discourse, and not rely on the religious discourse to solve the problems. It’s a confusion of cause and effect, I think, to work the other way.

Mary Robinson
I now have four speakers on my list and very little time indeed. I must ask them to be very brief. We started a little bit late, so we may have very little time left. We will use this little time to hear these four, but I must really close the book. Kim, you have the floor.

Kim Campbell
Well, very quickly, just to respond to Rabbi Melchior’s point, there is a difference between understanding religion and religious values as a political reality, which one must in a country like India, in a country like Israel, and providing political power to those who also wield religious power, as priests or whatever. It is the willingness to separate that provides the space that guarantees everyone the ability to practice his religion. When John Kennedy was a candidate for the presidency of the United States, it was a big issue whether he would be doing the Pope’s bidding, and he insisted he would not. He is also the only Catholic who has ever been President of the United States. When I became Prime Minister of Canada, people were surprised when I said I was the first Protestant to be Prime Minister in about 30 years. Why? Because most Canadians assumed that if you are French-speaking, you are Catholic, and if you’re English-speaking, you’re Protestant, We happened to have had two English-speaking Catholics who served as Prime Minister. But it was not an issue. Why? Because there is simply a clear understanding that it doesn’t make a difference. And that is what I was getting at, not that religion is irrelevant. Obviously there are religious issues that come into the political arena, but they are solved by “secular” politicians. In the case described by Rabbi Melchior, you could argue that they were not solved so wisely.

Mary Robinson
Prince Hassan?

El Hassan bin Talal
I would just like to say, in conclusion, I would plead to you all to bear in mind that a moral minimum or maximum should include, as in the Declaration of Southeast European Muslims, the value of life, faith, freedom, property, and dignity. Secondly, I want to plead with you to bear in mind the wonderful work of Joseph Stieglitz, who says to us in this study of Columbia University that for sums less than the direct expenditures on the war, and he was referring to the Iraq war alone, we could have fulfilled our commitments to provide 7 percent of our GDP to help developing countries, money that could have made an enormous difference for the better. Actually, the cost of the war would have covered the whole of the world’s debt problem. Thirdly, I would plead with you to bear in mind Niall Ferguson’s The War of the World. We are not talking about Manchuria and Poland today, but Palestine and Mesopotamia. We are also potentially talking about Northeast Asia. He says, “The 100 years of butchery have not ended. They started in 1914 and will end in 2014, unless we do something.” And this is where the moral imperative is so important. So the stability pact of Europe, which included a charter for media freedom, gender equality, and regional approach to infrastructure, not privatizing, these are the issues: to take the moral high ground, to look at the big picture, to call for a weapons of mass destruction-free zone, from the Caspian to the Straits of Hormuz. This is what it requires, without pointing a finger at specific countries; because the arms race is definitely on, and the rat race is winning. Thank you.

Mary Robinson
Thank you. Professor Hung-mao Tien.

Hung-mao Tien
Thank you very much. I am Hung-mao Tien from Taiwan. Our conference deals with the issues of global existence, and this particular panel addresses culture, ideologies and religions. I would like to call your attention to the fact that over fifty percent of the world’s population is in Asia, and their religions, cultures, the worldviews are worthy of more attention. I am referring to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, among others. These are issues that, I hope, we will have the opportunity to explore. Religion’s interactions with politics and culture are also far-reaching in this region.

I also would add another point regarding the connections between religion and politics in the United States. The rise of the evangelical Christian movement in the United States has effects on global politics. We should be interested to hear their views about how to construct a peaceful world.

Mary Robinson
Thank you very much, especially for reminding us that we are handling the global variety of cultures and religions, and it is important to understand and know of the significant religions and their importance in Asian countries, and as you mentioned, particularly in China. There is just one last speaker. Mr. Yokota, you have the last word from the panel.

Yozo Yokota
Thank you very much, Mary. A lot of people talk about the need for a change of mind, a paradigm change, and a different way of understanding the different cultures, civilizations, and religions. This has been stressed in past decades in various meetings of this kind, and somehow we haven’t succeeded in getting conceivable results. My proposal is that perhaps we should also establish our hopes for the future generation. That means we also have to think of how to teach children to understand different cultures, different religions, while we also teach the importance of our own culture and religion. Somehow, I don’t think we have developed a very good textbook for children to understand not only their own civilization and religion, but also different religions and cultures and civilizations in other parts of the world. I think that perhaps the United Nations, UNESCO, and some other international bodies should put experts from different civilizations and religions together to develop a good textbook for children to understand different religions and civilizations, and it should be available in as many different languages as possible, because children speak different languages.

Mary Robinson
Thank you very much for ending on what I think is a very relevant note, and that is the nature of our world. Prince Hassan mentioned that one of the grave problems is the “demographic bomb” as he called it. I don’t use that language myself, but those are his words. The three billion people that will be added to this planet will mainly live in the very poorest countries. Some of these very poor countries already have large populations with well over half of the population under 25, sometimes half of the population under 19. So this is a huge issue and problem. It also means that we, who are wise-ish around this table, are also of a generation that cannot speak effectively to and about young people. So I suggest that if Forum 2000 continues, we need to improve the demographic configuration of those who speak at this table. There should be the voice of the young, and indeed I would say younger than young, in the sense of not just in their twenties, but actually those who are younger than twenty; because their perspective is vital, and I would very much agree with you.

I am not going to even attempt to sum up the very rich conversation we have had. I understand I may be invited to make some remarks at lunch, and I may go back to some of the, I think, very deep and relevant themes. I really thank Prince Hassan for underlining the sense of urgency which a number of others have talked about. I just reflect that we all have our texts, I think. Mine is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And when I was trying to give leadership to the United Nations and make human rights more accessible to people, which they are not at the moment, I discovered that we don’t even have a fixed idea of the definition of “human rights.” People think of different things-- of refugees, of political prisoners, of Darfur, of Iraq-- different images come to mind. We need to go back to Article One, which is highly relevant to what we were talking about. Article One of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights begins very simply: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” I have tried to explain that I see “dignity” as encompassing all those layers of identity, including, importantly, faith or humanism, whatever is the very deep motivation of the individual. All that is included in dignity, but also respect, respect for who I am, as an aboriginal person, as a Native American woman, as part of a minority, and the “rights” are the rights that governments subscribe to. And interestingly, relating to children, we do have a wonderful document, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which, for the first time ever, emphasized that children have a right to participate in discussions about their rights and to learn by that participation to respect the rights of others. So I thank, in particular, our two very distinguished keynote speakers, who raised the level of this conversation by going deeply into what we need to talk about, and our panelists and indeed all of you for listening.


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