British leader challenges world community
Most media reports of British Prime
Minister Tony Blairs speech last week to the Labor Party focused on his
ringing call to arms against terrorism. This is a battle with only one
outcome. Our victory, not theirs, most press reports quoted him as
saying. However, buried beneath those words were others: challenges to the
international community. Grasping the larger potential of a moment in history
and rallying support for the common good is what leadership is about. In this
sense Blair was leading as he spoke out on:
- Double standards: People say we are only acting because
its the USA that was attacked. Double standards, they say.
tell you if Rwanda happened again today as it did in 1993, when a million
people were slaughtered in cold blood, we would have a moral duty to act there
- Africa: A Partnership for Africa between the developed
and developing world based around the New African Initiative is there to be
done, if we find the will. On our side: provide more aid, untied to trade;
write off debt; help with good governance and infrastructure; training the
soldiers, with U.N. blessing, in conflict resolution; encouraging investment;
and access to our markets.
On the African side: true democracy, no more
excuses for dictatorship, abuses of human rights; no tolerance of bad
governance, from the endemic corruption of some states, to the activities of
[Zimbabwe President] Mr. [Robert] Mugabes henchmen in Zimbabwe. Proper
commercial, legal and financial systems.
- Environment: Kyoto [treaty] is right. We will implement
it and call upon all other nations to do so. But its only a start. With
imagination, we could use or find the technologies that create energy without
destroying our planet; we could provide work and trade without deforestation.
If humankind was able, finally, to make industrial progress without the factory
conditions of the 19th century; surely we have the wit and will to develop
economically without despoiling the very environment we depend upon.
- Middle East: We could breathe new life into the Middle
East peace process and we must. The state of Israel must be given recognition
by all; freed from terror; know that it is accepted as part of the future of
the Middle East.
The Palestinians must have justice, the chance to
prosper and in their own land, as equal partners with Israel in that
- Globalization: I realize why people protest against
globalization. We watch aspects of it with trepidation. We feel powerless, as
if we were now pushed to and fro by forces far beyond our control. But
theres a risk that political leaders, faced with street demonstrations,
pander to the argument rather than answer it. The demonstrators are right to
say there is injustice, poverty and environmental degradation. But
globalization is a fact and, by and large, it is driven by people. Not just in
finance, but in communication, in technology, increasingly in culture, in
recreation. In the world of the Internet, information technology and TV, there
will be globalization.
The issue is not how to stop globalization. The
issue is how we use the power of community to combine it with justice. If
globalization works only for the benefit of the few, then it will fail and will
deserve to fail.
- World community: The critics will say: But how can
the world be a community? Nations act in their own self-interest. Of
course they do. But what is the lesson of the financial markets, climate
change, international terrorism, nuclear proliferation or world trade? It is
that our self-interest and our mutual interests are today inextricably woven
- Freedom and justice: So I believe this is a fight for
freedom. And I want to make it a fight for justice, too. Justice not only to
punish the guilty, but justice to bring those same values of democracy and
freedom to people round the world. And I mean freedom not only in the narrow
sense of personal liberty, but in the broader sense of each individual having
the economic and social freedom to develop their potential to the full.
Our hope, of course, is that these words are more than rhetoric.
We hope they could encourage wider discussions aimed at looking further into
the causes of anger, hatred and war.
National Catholic Reporter, October 12,