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International Forum-2000

Speech of Grigory Yavlinsky

Prague, October 16, 2001

Last week a meeting of the international conference “Forum-2000” was held in Prague. This is the fifth year that the President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel has brought together the decision-makers in international politics who influence the decisions taken by their countries - to discuss the key problems in world politics.

This year the Forum focussed on the problem of human rights in view of developments in the world after September 11, 2001. The conference invited the former President of Germany, Richard von Weizsacker who signed the treaty on the re-union of Germany, former President of South Africa Frederik Willem de Klerk who put an end to the apartheid era, former President of the USA Bill Clinton, the leader of the Iraqi opposition H.E. Sheikh Mohammed Mohammed Ali, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, philosopher and political scientist Francis Fukuyama.

The Prague Declaration sums up the results of the five years of work of the Forum. It addresses the states, international institutions and all the “people of good will”. The text of the Declaration includes an amendment made by Grigory Yavlinsky:

Article 10

Basic Education for All

The United Nations, together with other international organisations and member states, should implement a worldwide programme to guarantee free basic education to all children of the world as one of the main conditions for overcoming ignorance, want and the terrorism that feeds on them.

Implementation of this article would be a global achievement. In his speech at the Forum Yavlinsky justified the need for an education programme (published in brief).

Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for the invitation to speak at the forum at such a high level. First of all I want to express my personal thanks to President Havel.

The topic of this part of the forum is entitled “International Organisations and Institutions, and Human Rights”. If this conference had taken place before September 11, in my opinion we would be discussing the institutional problems of the world politics, interaction between international organisations, structural problems of the UN and the ability of the UN to implement its policy, which is based on human rights in the world.

I also think that it would be important to discuss why the institutions in Europe and politicians try to speak about human rights so much, while we continue to see so much of the so-called “realpolitik“, which clashes with the values they so like to state.

It would also be important to discuss why the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is so inefficient in such complicated and important cases as the Chechen conflict in Russia and why PACE’s influence has been diminishing. Speaking of institutions, we would also have to discuss the main problem of an institutional approach to human rights, namely the relationship between human rights policies and national states. The crisis in this area is so obvious. In particular, it would be important to discuss such a problem as the creation by the state bureaucracy of a false democracy, quasi-democracy, manageable democracy or as we say in Russia – Potemkin´s villages. We would have asked how to fight this.

In my opinion these things are enormously important, but now after September 11 we must discuss different things.

In my opinion terrorism in terms of substance is a challenge to the concept of human rights. It is a challenge to that concept which is the foundation of almost all European countries and nearly half the entire world.

During a war both sides use virtually the same methods and tools against each other. The strongest wins.

Today we face events of a different kind. Terrorists have no limitations, except for technical limitations, while we are restricted in our actions by our principles, values, views and everything that we term human rights. War with terrorism should not ruin all the achievements of mankind in this field.

There can be no excuse for those people who would like to use the war with terrorism as an umbrella for suppression of the political opposition or the attainment of any other political goals. If we don’t watch out carefully fordevelopments in the anti-terrorist operation, we will see soon the first signs of such attempts.

We should firmly insist on the following: the fight with terrorism should be conducted without compromising the basic values of human rights. This must become the main goal and the main motto of states and international institutions.

…Today I heard a discussion about the rich and poor states and about the resulting problems. I don’t want to offend anybody but I want to say that this thought is correct and banal at the same time. I think it will always be like this: we will always have rich and poor. But today’s poverty differs from that of three hundred years ago. Three hundred years from now, I think, we will also have this situation. This is the nature of mankind. I think it is simply natural for us. It is not good or bad, it is a fact of human life, some people are more capable, some people are less capable, some people are two metres tall, others are 1.60 m tall. So what can we do about it? People are different. These differences have been with us since the very beginning of civilisation.

Nevertheless, in connection with today’s discussions, I want to say that there is a principle that must be accepted by everybody: “There is no excuse – either religious, political or any other – for killing innocent an disarmed people!“ This must be the starting point for any discussion. It would be absolutely unproductive, even counter-productive, to start explaining that there are poor and rich people in the world and that this is the justification for many developments. Yes many things have a justification, but not the murder of innocent and disarmed people. That is not possible at all! That is not possible at all! In this sense the terrorism is not attributable poverty, but rather some vile act.

But what can we do at the moment at this forum, today, in order to avert the spread of terrorism and simultaneous preservation and consolidation of human rights policies? The seriousness of the situation obliges us to discuss practical solutions of some important problems.

First. I would like to suggest that the Prague Declaration introduced a point about the accessibility and gratuitousness of primary education for children all over the world. Education is the shortest and most effective way to prevent terrorism. As an economist I can cite my own figures that prove that the world has enough financial resources to immediately start education programmes around the globe. “The accessibility of primary education for all the children of our planet, without any exception.” We should start thinking about this today, we have the money, the problem has been indicated and we must solve it! It is complicated, but then I don’t think that there are any easy solutions.

Second. The issue on the food programme for the poorest countries should be included in the Declaration. Here I mean not simply food aid, but a food programme. It is strange that humanitarian aid - food aid - is only coming after the start of the war. Why should we wait until a war starts?!

Even discussion of these two issues could help in the fight against terrorism.

Another very important issue. A meeting of religious leaders to discuss the fight with terrorism will take place in New York very soon. But I think that such a conference should take place somewhere in Amman or any other Muslim country, and not in New York. Such is the moment now. I also think that one of the most important tools could be theological interpretations and explanations. This must take place at the top level of all confessions and especially in the Islam. I think that the people who have the highest position in Islam, one of the greatest religions in the world, should again and again explain at the highest level that killing people has nothing to do with Islam and cannot be rewarded in any way or form neither today nor in a thousand years. All the ambiguous interpretations of the Holy Writ of Islam should be removed. This is extremely important and if we really want to do something, we mustn’t clo! se our eyes. I think that this is directly related to our discussions today.

In conclusion I would like to draw your attention to the fact that Afghanistan borders on nuclear powers – Pakistan, India, China and Russia. Two other nuclear powers – the United States and Britain – are taking part in the military action against Afghanistan. All this together - the acts of terror in the USA, the spread of anthrax and the war in Afghanistan demonstrate the situation in the world .

I think that it is time not only for discussion or only for military action. I think that our forum would be most useful if we put some intellectual solutions and practical steps into the agenda.

Thank you.

See also:

Acts of Terror in the US




Prague, October 16, 2001

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