HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal: A PERSONAL VISION
Here are the foci of my own personal vision which I have tried, over the past three decades or so, to transform into tangible and concrete realities:
First and foremost, the concept of humanitarianism, as elaborated in the Report of the Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues which I had the privilege of co-chairing with Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan. Humanitarianism is a basic orientation toward the interests and welfare of people that encompasses both humanism and human rights, while going beyond the confines of existing humanitarian law. It hinges on an ethic of human solidarity. The cornerstones of the corresponding conceptual framework are the values which from time immemorial have been a part of the collective consciousness of the human species, which have ensured their survival and well-being, and which have stood the test of time:
- Respect for life;
- A responsibility towards future generations;
- Protection of the human habitat;
- Altruism nurtured by a sense of mutual interest and a recognition of human dignity and worth.
The challenges presented by humanitarian questions engage both the mind and heart, but thoughts and feelings are not in themselves any substitute for decisive action. Recent years have witnessed a steady decline in the short-term benefits that unilateralism and bilaterilism bring. Perhaps now is the moment to devote additional energy to the promotion of multilateralism, the principle which underlies the United Nations and other international institutions. In this context, I had the honour of introducing the New International Humanitarian Order resolution which was adopted without a vote by the UN General Assembly on 9th. December, 1987.
Second, the necessity for a culture of peace. The new millennium is about to dawn on a world plagued by simmering conflicts and outright conflagrations. The time is long overdue for the construction of a peace culture that employs pragmatic and effective methods to eliminate strife and give people tangible proof of the viability of peace. Although agreements and treaties have long been recognised as essential instruments for regulating the conduct of states, far less attention has been given to a more comprehensive approach engaging individuals - the citizens of those same states. A vital component of this approach entails a reconsideration of the meaning commonly given to the term 'security'. Security must not be restricted to its military definition; for social and economic security are also among the prerequesites for stability. All people have the right to a dignified life, free from terror and despair. Thus states must be encouraged to respect and enforce basic human rights if their citizens are to avoid political, ideological or other forms of exploitation. Just as important, however, is a global initiative employing all imaginable political, economic, technological and cultural resources to improve local conditions and advance scenarios of reconciliation. Particularly at risk are the young, who presently make up the majority of the developing world's population. It is the recognition of this fact which gives us one possible starting point - the promotion of a global peace culture among young people. If the culture of peace can become a modus vivendi that permeates all aspects of their lives, it will represent a high-yield investment in our common future. Violence and terror are often born out of political and economic despair since extremism thrives when people believe they have no future. Peace is born out of hope. Surely we can give our children the very thing that they symbolise to us: faith in the future.
Third, a strong emphasis on dialogue. Dialogue is an effective tool that can build bridges of cooperation between representatives of different cultures and faiths by unmasking stereotypes and clarifying misconceptions. Sometimes, too, exposure to different perspectives serves to enlarge areas of agreement. But, most valuable of all, dialogue encourages the holders of conflicting opinions to recognise that neither side has a monopoly on the truth; rather, the two share the truth between them and each has a vision which is incomplete without the other. In this respect, the late Yehudi Menuhin's Parliament of Cultures serves as an example to us all and one which, I believe, deserves further encouragement. In Jordan, I had the honour of founding the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies in 1994. Originally established as a centre for the study of Christian and Jewish traditions in the Arab world, it has since broadened its scope to include cultural or civilisational interaction world-wide, recognising that regionality can no longer afford isolation in the contemporary world.
Fourth, a recognition of the importance of knowledge and innovation. Globalisation is no longer an option to be accepted, or rejected, but a fact, and facts must be faced squarely. The real challenge, then, is its effective management to meet our present needs while leaving open as many options as possible to future generations. Part of the answer lies in innovating mechanisms to minimise globalisation's impact upon the labour market and the environment in each of our diverse - and divergent - cultures and societies. Thus, although transnational borders are losing their significance and civil society stands at the brink of transformation, we must recognise that we have the power to shape the evolution of the structures which we, in fact, created and take responsibility for them. More importantly, if knowledge is truly the new economic capital, we must ensure that each individual has access to it: in other words, education must become our highest priority. But, in today's world, education means more than classrooms, textbooks and qualified teachers: it means access to the latest developments in computer technology. Clearly, this requirement brings with it new challenges, including the necessity of harnessing the global information revolution through some form of global governance that is environmentally, economically, socially and politically sustainable.
In my capacity as the newly-elected Chairman of the Policy Advisory Commission of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), I cannot help but observe that the contemporary global market gives developing countries no choice but to enforce intellectual property rights in order to strengthen their own economies. At the same time, however, it is imperative that developed countries join in some form of comprehensive international cooperation to help alleviate the negative socio-economic impact which such enforcement will necessarily incur.
I have worked for over thirty years to help create a world in which dialogue, cooperation and peace are so commonplace that they excite no comment; but the world I seek still eludes me. Today I invite you to join in my quest. Together, let us pursue the vision of a world beyond discrimination, in which each and every individual has the right and the opportunity to develop without prejudice, intolerance or oppression of any kind. Let us hold sacrosanct Franklin D. Roosevelt's four freedoms - from fear and from want, of belief and of expression. Let us add our voices to the call for a human charter, allied to the ethic of transnational human cooperation, to foster the conviction that the proper focus of politics, economics and security is the individual human person. For however the collectivity may be expressed - as community or culture, civilisation, society or state - it is composed of individuals, each with unique needs, abilities and aspirations.