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Grigory Yavlinsky

Speech at the Forum-2000 Conference

Wednesday, October 17, 2001

I want to express my personal thanks to President Havel, who has organised this conference and is giving us the opportunity to speak to the world from Prague. I think that this is really a very important event, all the more so, as this forum takes place at a moment which is immensely important for mankind.

If this conference had taken place before September 11, in my opinion we would be discussing a lot of real institutional problems that are on our agenda today. We would be discussing how international institutions operate and the situation with human rights. I think that it would include some of the topics that the previous speakers touched upon - Mr. Weizacker, for instance, the inherent difficulties of the UN’s structure and the ability of the UN to implement their policy, which is based on human rights in the world. It would also be very important to discuss in this context why the conference on racism failed and why it proved impossible even to achieve any serious outcome at this conference and why the level of misunderstanding of the situation was so high.

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 is perpendicular to what is termed call human-rights politics. It would also be important to discuss why the parliamentary assembly of Europe is so inefficient in such complicated and important cases as the Chechen conflict in Russia and why its influence is diminishing from month to month.

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 ever so obvious. Speaking specifically of Russia I want to say that I think that one of the problems is that national states and bureaucracies are sometimes creating a false democracy, a quasi-democracy, a manageable democracy or as we like to 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 change our approach to the institutional issues a bit.

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. War usually means that both sides are using almost the same methods and tools against each other and this is the pre-condition for victory. From my point of view, the events we face today are absolutely different and I will explain what I mean. Terrorists have no limitations, except for technical limitations, while we are extremely restricted in our actions by our principles, values, views and everything that we term human rights. We should underline at this forum once again that the war with terrorism is not an excuse for anyone to use it as an umbrella for anything that would destroy humanity’s achievements in this field. Nobody may be allowed to use this for purposes that are extremely far from the real fight with terrorism and would! be aimed at suppressing the political opposition or reaching any other political goals. What I am saying at the moment is that if we don´t watch this very carefully, we will soon see the first signs of such attempts. The conclusion could be expressed in the following way: fighting terrorism without compromising the basic values of human rights in our countries and societies world-wide – this must be the main goal and the main motto of international institutions at the moment. But since we are facing such a serious situation in the world, I think that it would certainly be important to also hold a practical discussion about some important issues.

Today I have 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 simply want to say that it will always be like this: we will always have rich and poor. Hundreds of years ago we had some poor people, although they were very different from today´s poor. 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 and 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 act of murder of innocent and disarmed people, that is not possible at all! But what can we do at the moment – at this forum, today – in order to have some impact? On one hand, to overcome the terrorist outbreak and attacks and on the other hand to make some impact and take some positive steps in human rights, which is very much what this conference is about?

First of all I want to suggest that the Prague Declaration must make a point about education. I think that the first thought that comes to my mind in association with human rights and terrorism concerns educational problems. As an economist I know my figures and I am sure that the world has enough money to immediately start education programmes everywhere around the globe. Education is the shortest, most effective and most significant way of preventing recent developments. It is possible to start thinking of this even today, the money is ready, it is there and we must do it! It is complicated, but then I don’t think that there are any easy solutions. The argument saying that this would be complicated is not really an argument at all, as there simply isn’t any easy solution.

The second issue, which I think should be included in the declaration of this forum, is a practical one, it is one of the ways that this forum can help. It is the issue of starvation, the issue of hunger, the food problem. I don’t mean just food aid, but a food programme. I find it strange that humanitarian aid – food aid - is only coming after the start of the war. From the point of starvation there are many places like Afghanistan in the world. Why should we wait with our aid until a war starts?

One more issue, which I think is very important\today. Even discussion of the first two topics would help in the fight against terrorism. Now I would like to touch upon yet another topic –last but not least. I heard what I believe to be very good news from our chairman – namely that there will be a meeting of religious leaders in New York very soon which will discuss some issues like this. First of all I want to say that I like New York very much and that I agree with ex-President Clinton that it is a model of people living together, even if they are of different religions, races or whatever … However, I believe that such a conference should take place in Amman, and not New York. It is that type of day. I also think that one of the most important tools could be theological solutions, theological conclusions and theological explanations, which must back as soon as possible all the anti-terrorist activities in the world. This must happen at a very high! level of all confessions and the Islamic confession in particular. I want to hear the things that His Royal Highness said here today. 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 - together with others who are at the same level in other religions – 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. This is extremely, extremely important and if we really want to do something, we mustn’t close our eyes to it. I think that this is something that is really related to our discussions today.

Before I conclude I would like to point out to you that Afghanistan is a country that has almost all its borders with countries that are nuclear powers – Pakistan, India, China, Russia. Two other nuclear powers – the United States and Britain – are taking part in the military action against it. The recent events here and also in the United States (I mean the anthrax situation – literally the events of yesterday) 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 here in Prague would be most useful if we had some kind of practical agenda.

Thank you very much.

See also:

Acts of Terror in the US

Grigory Yavlinsky will participate in the international conference “Forum 2000”

Grigory Yavlinsky proposes several measures to fight the reasons for terrorism

Wednesday, October 17, 2001

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