Less bombs, more fire brigades

Friday, September 11, 2020

It has now become clear and well acknowledged, thanks to the COVID-19, that if we pay attention solely to the GDP, as advocated by the neoliberal approach, that is, to economic growth at the expense of human development, we will not have at our disposal the human, technical and financial resources to be able to deal with pandemics, fires and other natural disasters, to extreme poverty... and yet we continue to invest huge amounts on military activities and the production and stockpiling of weapons, without questioning the perverse proverb, which we have repeated since the beginning of time: "if you want peace, prepare for war". There are still arsenals crammed with bombs and garrisons of soldiers, while an increasing number of forests are devastated by fire, and there are not enough fire brigades and technical personnel to foresee and to fight fire efficiently…

Multiple anachronistic parades and missions to Mars and the Moon are still being organized -with space excursions for super millionaires included- at a time when "missions to Earth" as well as lack of solidarity, immigrants and refugees call for urgent solutions. I never tire of insisting that it is ethically intolerable to see everyday thousands of people dying from hunger, most of them boys and girls ranging from one to five years old, while more than 4 billion dollars are invested in defence.

The COVID has given us the opportunity to reflect, to become aware of a lot of things that are considered in “normal life” as inescapable, and to see that the vast majority of citizens are not actors but rather mere spectators of what is happening, stunned and abducted by the media, most of which try to encourage citizens to follow the guidelines of publicity and to pay for a consumption and “well-being” that have both been designed at the highest levels of economic power.

Since quite some time now we have been rejecting very sensible proposals urging us to redirect the ongoing trends that have forced us to accept a plutocratic governance and an absolute hegemonic dominance, thus giving rise to a two-pole situation with omnipotent and omnipresent giants (digital companies, in particular) at one end and, at the other, the marginalized, whose number has progressively increased as has the extent of the social gap. But now the radical changes, that have been avoided so many times, have become most urgent than ever because, for the first time in history, mankind is facing potentially irreversible processes -such as the melting of the Arctic Ocean- and today the possibility exists of reaching in just a few years points of no return in the habitability of the Earth. 

Already in 1947 the UNESCO created the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as well as a series of international programmes (geological, hydrological and oceanographic) whose aim was to give consistency to scientifically proved measures that could efficiently tackle these phenomena. The great UNESCO’s program “Man and the Biosphere” was very soon supplemented in 1972 by the first publication of Aurelio Peccei, at the Club of Rome, entitled "The Limits to Growth". In 1979, the United States National Academy of Sciences informed that carbon dioxide emissions had not only experienced an increase but the oceans re-uptake capacity was also significantly decreasing (deterioration of the phytoplankton). This clear warning was not only ignored, but large oil companies -Exxon Mobile- created foundations that were immediately supported by Gulf countries with the evil purpose of spreading adverse messages.

In year 1972 the Summit of the Earth was held in Rio de Janeiro under the auspices of the UN and the smart and enthusiastic direction of Maurice Strong. The Earth Agenda -wisely reflected in the excellent "Earth Charter", presented at the dawn of the century and of the millennium as a major reference for the Earth- was progressively marginalized, as were the Millennium Development Goals for years 2000 to 2015 by precisely those who had entrusted governance on a global scale to oligarchic and plutocratic groups. First to the G6 at the late 1980s. Then to the G7, the G8... and the G20 in 2008 on the occasion of the financial crisis... As always the Republican Party of the United States rejected democratic multilateralism and favoured USA power, including nuclear weapons. During the "cold war", the global fight for power between the United States and the Soviet Union allowed to "justify" the nuclear threat at a global level and the possession of the most destructive war devices. However -I had the opportunity to follow very closely the meeting between President Reagan and President Gorbachev in Reykjavik in October 1986- the unexpected and historic conversion of the USSR into a Commonwealth of Independent States did neither dispel the misgivings of United States nor allow the total elimination of nuclear weapons and the effective functioning of a democratic multilateralism, which is more necessary than ever.

President Barack Obama managed not only to ease global tensions such as the relationship with Islam, etc., but also to get the United States to sign in 2015 the Paris Agreements on Climate Change and the United Nations Resolution "Transforming our world" by means of the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This was a period of hope... that quickly came to an end when, shortly after becoming President of the United Nations, Donald Trump unambiguously announced that he would not implement neither the Paris Agreements nor the SDGs, while giving further impetus to a neoliberal economy based on speculation, production offshoring and war, thus rendering totally ineffective the excellent Lisbon proposal of year 2000 which promoted a knowledge-based economy for sustainable and humane development.

The confinement imposed upon us by the COVID-19 may at last redirect the political drift on a global scale, and therefore satisfy the aspirations of so many citizens who are convinced that it is now possible to invent a different future that will prevent us from reaching points of no return, that will put an end to the extremely dangerous outbreaks of supremacism, dogmatism and fanaticism that have emerged everywhere, without taking into account the tragic consequences that such a behaviour had in the germination of the Second World War.

Now that citizens have at last the capacity to express themselves freely, to know what is happening elsewhere, to take action on a totally equal footing without any discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, ideology, belief, sexual sensitivity, lineage... it shall be incumbent on “We, the peoples” -as we are so wisely and prematurely referred to at the beginning of the Charter of the United Nations- to make the decision to participate, to be co-responsible for the global governance.

I do understand how discouraged many can feel when they realize that actions taken to trigger the most urgent changes have do quickly fallen into oblivion and have been inadvertently submitted to “the lumbering pace of so much weary blood”, as accurately set forth by the poet Miquel Martí i Pol (1974).

Only an efficient democratic multilateralism -coupled with a worldwide citizenry who has had the opportunity, during the pandemic, to think about itself and about future generations, and is willing to act as a whole- can achieve the eradication of tax havens, of the various and abhorrent forms of trafficking, and of any behaviour that is not worthy of human dignity.

All of this is part of a new concept of security that concerns not only territories and borders, but also citizens who live in them, ensuring access of everyone to the six priorities of the United Nations: food, water, health services, protection of the environment, education for all throughout life and peace.

We must enter a new era. And this new era must be built on completely different pillars. Not with more bombs. But rather with much more fire brigades, with people trained to deal with the different features of the new world we have longed for, knowing that it is at last the responsibility of each of us to shape the future.

Published in Wall Street International, 31 August 2020 

In the 75th anniversary of the United Nations: radical and urgent reforms for the governance of a new era

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

               “Let us explore what problems unite us instead of belabouring the problems which divide us.”

John F. Kennedy, January 1961.

“The word “impossible” no longer exists in our vocabulary”

Adolfo Suárez, October 1976.


1.    Introduction.

I feel impelled to insist once again on the urgent transition we must make from a culture of imposition, domination, violence and war to a culture of encounter, reconciliation, alliance and peace. This is the main objective of the United Nations since its foundation in October 1945. If we rescue from oblivion the great project that President Roosevelt had on his mind when he established the United Nations System, 75 years ago, the premature and brilliant idea of “We, the peoples” —set forward at the beginning of the Charter of the UN— could finally come true. The United Nations have been gradually set aside by neoliberalism and, therefore, it is now urgent to call for an Extraordinary Meeting of the UN General Assembly in order to implement, with the participation of all countries, a new concept of security and a set of measures allowing us to tackle, before it is too late, the main global challenges, that is: environmental damage, nuclear threat, pandemics, supremacism of any sort, the growing social gap, the plutocratic governance... So that all human beings are equal in dignity and have the right to fully exercise their unique capacities.

UNESCO will also play, as it already did when it was founded in 1945, a leading role in the new “take-off” of the United Nations System. The “voice of the peoples” —that can now be heard and can no longer be ignored— will give rise to radical changes preventing us from reaching points of no return. A democratic multilateralism is urgently needed and it was a big mistake to replace United Nations by plutocratic groups (G6, G7, G8, G20), and ethical values by market values.  Every day thousands of people (most of them boys and girls from one to five years old) are dying from hunger while 4,000 thousand dollars are being invested in weapons and military expenses. The human tragedy of migration flows forced by extreme poverty is the result of the dramatic decline in development funding. The decrease of international solidarity is another big challenge that must be addressed without delay.

2.     From force to word.

The voice of the peoples must be heard, the great popular clamours asking for a transition from force to word, from the sinister adage “si vis pacem, para bellum” to “si vis pacem para verbum”. Citizens will cease to be impassive spectators and shall become actors mobilized by the academic, scientific, artistic communities —in short, by intellectuals— who are aware of the seriousness of the current situation and trends, and who should take the lead in the face of a global situation of humanitarian emergency. But the multidimensional tangle created by the neoliberal drift and the autocratic governance has so far prevented –although some very recent upturns may have a significant impact in this regard— the implementation of measures that filled with great hope —in the fall of 2015— those who were aware of the nature of global threats posed by a world placed in the hands of irresponsible leaders. In fact, the Resolution of 21 October 2015 of the United Nations General Assembly, setting out the 2030 Agenda with 17 Sustainable Development Goals, was entitled "Transforming our world"”[1].. And immediately afterwards the Paris Agreements on Climate Change were signed in the firm belief that, if we bear in mind our descendants, we should understand how urgent it is to take action without delay.

The text of the Charter of the United Nations clearly demonstrates the intellectual and human quality of those who wrote it. As I’ve already mentioned, the first sentence of the Charter is an intergenerational commitment that has become particularly meaningful today: “We the peoples... are determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war". At that time —and since the dawn of time— absolute power was in the hands of a few men. The rest of men and women were submissive, frightened, silent, and obedient. Until a few decades ago the vast majority of human beings were born, lived and died in a few square kilometres. They were intellectually and territorially confined. And women —”the cornerstone of the new era”, as stated by President Nelson Mandela in Pretoria in 1996— did not take part in decision making... Now, at last, they have a voice.  Word at last.

3.     Culture of Peace and equal dignity. “I participate, therefore I exist”.

The Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, approved by the UN General Assembly on 13 September 1999[2] includes several education measures, actions aimed at promoting the awareness and exercise of human rights, gender equality, freedom of speech, a sustainable development... This was the best way to celebrate the 55th anniversary of the United Nations and UNESCO whose main role is “building the defences of peace”.

In 1995, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, UNESCO participated very actively in the Beijing World Conference on Women, it also promoted and contributed to the holding of the World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen; and its General Conference unanimously adopted the “Declaration on Tolerance”[3], whose first article sets forth with great foresight the everlasting foundations allowing all human beings —who are all different from each other and, therefore, unique and who are tied by the “democratic principles” set forth by the Constitution of UNESCO— to live in peace, both as individuals and collectivities. All human beings equal in dignity: this is the key... Herein lies the challenge!

Now we may express ourselves freely thanks to the modern digital technology, we are no longer passive witnesses but have become full citizens who participate and stand up firmly and efficiently for our opinions, instead of being distracted, misinformed individuals, who are manipulated by the omnipotent and omnipresent influence of the “great powers” (military, financial, energetic, media).

Now individuals can participate, this being the foundation of democracy. They know what is happening at a planetary scale... And they have become citizens of the world. And women, with their inherent qualities, are on the stage. They are at last on the political stage. They have gradually reached equality... One of the main foundations of peace is distributive justice, sharing more fairly. The new technologies imply a greater exposure to “distracting” news, which account to a great extent for the “shame” of the “globalisation of indifference” mentioned by Pope Francis.

Restating the words of Descartes, I like to say the following: “I participate, therefore I exist”.  If I don’t participate, I don’t exist as a citizen. People are counted (in elections, in opinion polls) but they are not taken into account. To say what should be said, to participate, to help building sound democracies, we must have access to an education whose aim is to promote daily attitudes and behaviours of conciliation, understanding, listening.

We are lacking of too many things —said Blas de Otero—, but we can still resort on word. Today at last the voice of each and everyone. Today at last a great clamour is possible. Today at last, when we are urged by situations such as the ongoing coronavirus epidemics and the bad omens for the Earth’s habitability, we will be taken into account. The time is about to come to build together the defences of peace —as we were entrusted to do by the Constitution of the UNESCO— based on justice, on the equal dignity of all human beings, on freedom of expression, “on the capacity of each individual to lead his own life” as so precisely and beautifully said by Francisco Giner de los Ríos.

4.     “Democratic principles”

The preamble of the UNESCO Constitution states that humanity must be guided by the "democratic principles of justice, liberty, equality and solidarity". And it clarifies that what is needed is an “intellectual and moral solidarity" because an intellectual approach based on knowledge is not enough, it must inevitably be paired with some ethical references. From now on, those who govern us must have firmly established in their conscience and perspective the equal dignity of all human beings. And now that all citizens can express themselves freely, they must never again tolerate the ethical collapse produced by an unequal and anachronistic system that continues to produce great social pain. In both cases, knowledge (instead of unverified information) and education (instead of training) are the key requirements. It is essential to have a sound knowledge of the present situation because nothing can be deeply transformed without an in depth insight into it. In whose hands has power really been placed? And what about energy sources? To whom do large extensions of land belong? What about the big media? And the huge industrial/armament consortium?

Recently the world has taken a sharp “turn” in many areas: demographics; the social gap; pandemics; new “actors” on the world stage: large multinational private corporations and media magnates at a global and continental scale; domestic conflicts that should require some action from United Nations —and only from United Nations— in the event of genocide, massive human rights violation or the absence of government...

Today it has become clear —and therein lies some expectation of change, albeit tenuous— that it will not be possible to straighten out current gloomy trends if present continues to prevail over future, force over word, economy over politics, arbitrariness over the voice of the citizens.  The other world we long for will not come true unless we establish a new social contract (allowing to immediately tackle the problems of hunger, AIDS, dengue fever, malaria... those "silent wars” that kill thousands of human beings every day); a new environmental contract (with “alliances” enabling us to gather in just a few hours the technical and specialized human resources from several neighbouring countries that are needed to deal with natural disasters such as forest fires, pests, floods, etc. or man-made disasters such as the washing out of waste produced by “cracks” in offshore oil tankers); and new cultural and ethical contracts[4].

Let’s not fool ourselves: the reform we need isn’t just a “technical” issue. It will have to be based on democratic principles. This is the only way to succeed in transforming fear, pain and indignation into an individual action, the daily decision to strengthen democracy through citizenship participation, understanding, dialogue and an attitude of permanent search, with the confidence based on our capacity to think, to anticipate, to innovate and to create that are unique to mankind.

With their best will, some citizens offer a helping hand to those most in need. This is great and it should happen more often. But what we need is global politics regulated by United Nations, because what the poorest expect from us —and deserve— is justice, to be counted and to be taken into account.

Only a strong and well coordinated System of the United Nations can guarantee the security of peace in every country. The peace of security is equal to silence, fear, suspicion and distrust. To achieve the security of peace, it is essential to place the best armies under the blue flag of United Nations, whenever a military action is unavoidable. And to have available the most advanced intelligence services so that compliance with international laws can be ensured with the most sophisticated punitive mechanisms. To ensure that all agencies of the UN System are fulfilling their original mission; that they lend an ear to the peoples; that they receive the best counselling to be able to foresee, to prevent. This would be an extraordinarily important step in the history of mankind; and of the democratic United States of America. It would mean that the dream of Presidents Wilson and Roosevelt has been fulfilled. And, more importantly, the dream of billions of human beings[5].

5.     A duty of memory

It is essential to apply on time the lessons from the past. To remember after the storm what could have been done and was not. The scientific community has in this respect an irreplaceable role to play to ensure that appropriate measures are timely taken to deal with global ecological, health and nutrition threats... We have today the pressing and unavoidable duty to stop the gradual deterioration of ecological conditions, the quality of life on Earth.

We are facing a situation that allows no deferment or shortcuts. UNESCO has played a very important and somehow visionary role, In 1947 UNESCO created the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and it later launched the Geological, Hydrological, Oceanographic Plans...the great programme “Man and the Biosphere”...; In 1972 Aurelio Peccei, founder of the Club of Rome, warned about the “limits of growth”; and in 1979 United States National Academy of Sciences informed that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses emissions had not only experienced a dangerous increase but —what was even worst— the oceans recapture capacity was significantly decreasing... The most serious issue today is the trivialisation of the irreversibility of processes that can cause an irretrievable deterioration of conditions which are essential for a normal life. 

“Commit yourselves!” was the final message from Stephan Hessel. “You will have to change direction and embark on a new ship”, added José Luis Sampedro. Well, the time has finally come for young people to raise their voices and to participate. In demonstrations, but specially though their proposals. There are reasons for hope because everything seems to indicate that these radical changes are beginning to take hold among young people. The time has come for solutions. There’s no need for further diagnoses...

The time has come to lend an ear to scientists, to trust them and take the urgent measures that any potentially irreversible process requires. Using electric cars and renewable sources of energy, reducing the huge military expenses and reassigning them in caring for the Earth and in the big priorities mentioned above that are typical of a sustainable and humane global development.

A duty of memory. The time has come to look ahead. To look into the eyes of boys and girls, and be ready to take firm action and never give up. I often quote Eduardo Galeano’s account of a school trip: while getting off the bus, a girl, who sees the sea for the first time, pulls up her teacher's skirt and says: “Help me see!" Helping each other to look at the children and teenagers so that they become our source of inspiration, the constant reference of our daily behaviour.

We are currently facing a coronavirus pandemics —COVID-19— and we should not forget the many lessons this global crisis has taught us[6]. When the world still remains "confined"... dispositions are already being taken to see that, in a situation where so many things should change, nothing changes. Health is the most important asset, and both its treatment and prevention aspects should be taken into account, always dealing with them with the highest professional expertise, and leaving aside any other consideration. Because health is a universal right. Big progress has been achieved in medical science, but just a small portion has been shared. The big challenge is being able to share and enlarge knowledge.

Gradually, epidemics —which have always existed and will continue to exist— will become very serious pandemics because “human mobility” will keep on growing. Until some decades ago, their propagation was very scarce because the vast majority of mankind was confined to small spaces and the transmission of disease outside its borders was unlikely...

In the “Letter to the G20” that has just been signed by “world leaders as a response to the global coronavirus crisis”, the measures agreed upon are exactly the same as those implemented to tackle the 2008 financial crisis, that is, the same measures which led to the present situation and proved that markets cannot solve global challenges. To be able to cope with global threats, a proportionate response from “We, the peoples” is needed. Only a democratic multilateralism —and not the plutocracy that represents the power of one sole country— will allow us to rise to the occasion. The letter should have been addressed to United Nations to reinvigorate the multilateralism and not to its main opponent. It’s clear that if progress continues to be confused with the GDP, there will be no heaven left for human beings, except tax heavens.

Healthcare must be comprehensive and available for everyone. The time for passivity and fear is over, and we must proclaim loud and firmly that society will not make any concession when it comes to issues on which many times life itself depends[7].

We are at a turning point. We must all speak out in order to build the real democracies that are required at a local and global scale. The growing social inequalities, the environmental deterioration, the cultural, conceptual and moral debacle... all call for a radical change in current trends. There are times when we have to use our imagination and courage to make come true what seems wrongful to those who are stuck in inertia and still intend to use old remedies for new pathologies. Every good ruler should pay attention, in the first place, to processes that can lead to irretrievable damage.

It is an essential issue. The awareness about intergenerational solidarity. Millions of women and men all over the Planet must make it clear that they will not tolerate any irreversible damage to our ecological environment. The future is still to be done. Every unique human being capable of creating, there lies our hope.

6.     Efficient multilateralism: this is the solution.

Because I have a deep knowledge of potentially irreversible processes —in 1968, I decided to put in place the detection and treatment of metabolic disorders responsible for severe neural deterioration— I already warned some time ago which were going to be the big challenges humanity would have to face and I mentioned that they would only be solved with a democratic multilateralism allowing us to start a new era where the power of reason will prevail against the power of force, and weapons shall be replaced by words, thus allowing us to assume our unavoidable intergenerational responsibilities at a global scale.

The present time calls for our intergenerational solidarity. It is essential to reach every agreement required to prevent us from reaching points of no return and, thus, from making an inconceivable historical mistake. President Obama urged prompt action when he said: “We are the first generation confronted with this challenge —the climate change— and the last one that can cope with it”. And Pope Francis stated, in his Enciclical “Laudatio Si” about the ecological situation: “we must take action because tomorrow might be too late”.

In the Anthropocene, ensuring the habitability of the Earth and a dignified life for all human beings is an essential responsibility because the foundation of all human rights is the equal dignity regardless of sex, skin colour, religion, ideology, age... It would be a historical and irreparable mistake not to do everything possible to prevent the legacy of the Anthropocene from being a seriously deteriorated standard of life, with totally inefficient governance systems entrusted to plutocratic groups consisting of 6, 7, 8 or 20 countries, under whose cover lies the worldwide hegemony that has always been pursued by United States Republican Party.

Faced with the threefold challenge of climate change and the deterioration of the biosphere, the extreme poverty and the nuclear threat which all require the immediate implementation of a new concept of security and labour, a new lifestyle— we are living purposeless and without a path to follow. Instead of promoting the search for balanced alternatives, instead of having each day a larger number of responsible citizens who are the actors of their own destiny rather than mere impassive spectators of events... Instead of raising our voice through a big popular clamour, now that we can freely express ourselves... we are easily intimidated, dazzled, and we walk aimlessly. It is clear to the wise that the biggest problem humanity must face is not the difference but rather the indifference, not the recognition of the equal dignity of all human beings but rather supremacism and racism.

The other possible world we all long for and deserve is today, more than ever, possible. The mobilization of citizens should fill us with hope.

As a scientist, I insist that a deep knowledge of reality is essential. Otherwise superficial and biased information and appraisals will continue to convey to the public a distorted image of facts and, therefore, a distorted image of the measures that must be taken. We need solutions. Firm steps towards the design of the new world.

It would be a very serious irresponsibility to preserve the current patterns. The solution is a genuine democracy at every scale: global (efficient multilateralism), regional, local and individual. We must make without delay the transition from force to word, and drastically reduce expenses on the security of a few in order to be able to ensure a dignified life for everyone (food, health...).

We must pay attention to people who have moved from the squares and avenues to the cyberspace and who may, if they make an appropriate use of the new information and communication technology, mobilize thousands of citizens and help them become actors instead of mere witnesses.

We must listen to them. We must pay attention to what they say because they are and will fortunately be the leading actors of the “new dawn”.

We are living in a time of global crisis that has highlighted, more than ever before, the errors of political, economic and social systems. States have not been able to keep the markets under control and politicians have failed, in general, in their role as mediators and guarantors of the common good, thus casting doubts about their real mission; the disproportionate ambition and selfishness of some “big merchants” have prevented them from contributing to the well-being of citizens; and society has not reacted appropriately when faced to their trickery and fallacies, while most citizens have remained distracted and easy to manipulate, without clearly rejecting the neoliberal consumerist system.

What can we, the "peoples", the billions of citizens relegated to the role of mere puppets, do? We can speak. We can use our voice first of all to be heard and then to listen.

If some irresponsible rulers decide, as President Donald Trump has done, not to cooperate in reducing the risks that could lead to irremediably deteriorating the habitability of the Earth, there will be no other choice, as mentioned before, but to call for large popular clamours, both in the streets and in the cyberspace, so that it is "the peoples" who take the reins of our common destiny into their own hands and, by restoring democratic multilateralism[8], finally exclude the oligarchic groups of neoliberalism from world governance, whose drift is leading to ecological and social upheavals (with a focus on supremacism) that must now be dealt with urgently. We urgently need to build a new concept of security. We urgently need a radical change in our lifestyle.

We know how urgent it is and we must dare do it. Otherwise —and these are words written by Albert Camus that have had a great impact on my life— we would run the risk of future generations despising us because "we could have done so much, and we dared to do so little".

In the “Earth Charter: Values and Principles for a Sustainable Future”[9] —which should be available in all classrooms of every educational institution and be thoroughly understood by members of parliament, rulers, members of municipal councils and the media, because it is one of the key documents that can inspire and guide the change of direction that has now become so urgent— we can read the following in the Introduction: “... We must join together to build a global sustainable society based on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice and a culture of peace”... And we can also read in “Principle 16: promoting a culture of tolerance, non-violence and peace... encouraging and supporting mutual understanding, solidarity, cooperation among all peoples both within and among nations... recognising that peace represents the integrity resulting from the right relationship with oneself, with other individuals, with other cultures, with other forms of life, with the Earth and everything we are a part of”...

Sometimes we are afraid to recognize that everything is in the end an ethical problem. The financial crisis is only one visible part of a deep crisis of democratic principles, which requires daring, imaginative and inclusive solutions. A radical and urgent change based on human and environmental sustainability has to be made so that all individuals who breathe the common air of the Earth can exercise their right to have a dignified life.

Arsenio Rodríguez quoted Ernesto Sábato in an excellent article of last 31 October 2019 in the “Wall Street International” that I read in “Othernews”: “When we finally take the responsibility for the pain infringed to others, our commitment will give some sense to us as individuals and will place us beyond the inevitability of history...”. Only if we can assume this commitment and be aware that we must join millions of voices and millions of hands, will we be finally able to make the peoples, the individuals, each one of us take the reins of our destiny into our own hands, because we might be irrelevant as far as quantity is concerned but extremely significant qualitatively.

It’s time for action, for an active resistance. Let’s follow the advice given by the great Mario Benedetti to his son: “Son, / never surrender / please / don’t give up. / ... Because every day / is a new beginning”.

Federico Mayor Zaragoza

28 April 2020

A New World — Proposals for Urgent Changes

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

As time goes by there are some proposals that are still up-to-date and can even become more pressing.

I have just read again the “four contracts” I advocated for in my book “A New World” published in 2000 when my tenure as Director General of UNESCO came to an end. I had at that time an excellent team responsible for information and prospect, coordinated by Jerôme Bindé. I was then and I am still convinced today that the new Century and Millennium will bring a new era in which humanity as a whole —all human beings and not only a few privileged individuals— will be able to fully live the mystery of human existence, by using their capacity of creating, thinking, sharing, anticipating.

The four contracts I thought were essential for a new world were the following:

1.     A new social contract. It included population, poverty and marginalisation trends; changing the city, changing our way of life; the future of urban transport; the fight against drug consumption and drug trafficking;... The targets of this contract were peace and justice, as critical ingredients of a sustainable development allowing the equal dignity of all human beings.

2.     A new natural contract. It dealt with topics such as environment; science; sustainable development; desertification; food and energy sources;... from a perspective aimed at replacing an economy based in speculation, offshoring and war by an economy based in development and ensuring the habitability of the Earth for generations to come. The Intergenerational commitment should be one of the cornerstones which guide our daily behaviour.

3.     A new cultural contract: from the society of information to the society of knowledge. It reviewed the revolution in new technologies; the future of books and reading; the global heritage value of languages and education on the horizon of year 2020... It should be clear that the aim is to help raising citizens whose actions are rooted in their own reflections, who are “free and responsible” as educated people are referred to in article 1 of UNESCO Constitution.

4.     A new ethical contract. This chapter dealt not only with the “profits of peace”, planetary security and the United Nations System, but also focused in a very special way on the debts contracted over many centuries with the black race, the special needs of Africa, a continent that always offsets with its wisdom and creativity the exchanges made for the sake of its socio-economic development and full emancipation. This very important chapter concludes —and it is worthwhile stressing it— that the future is still to be built, that the transition from a century-old culture of imposition, violence and war to a culture of dialogue, conciliation, alliance and peace is urgently needed.

At the end of each chapter specific solutions were suggested, based on the mobilization of the people, personal involvement, freedom of speech and not acting anymore as mere subjects but rather as “masters of our own life”...

It is clear that expectations have not been met, and some of them are even more difficult to achieve than they were at that time.

I must insist once again that there is no other solution than to observe the “democratic principles” which are so clearly established in the UNESCO Constitution, at a personal, national and global scale.

The current crisis calls for the urgent re-founding of a strong United Nations System with the moral authority that is typical of any institution capable of bringing together all countries of the world. The hegemonic ambitions that led to the belief that the world could be ruled by plutocratic groups of 6, 7, 8 or 20 countries must now give way —as a response to a global clamour that will no doubt soon arise— to multilateral cooperation. A new General Assembly and new Security Councils (a Socio-Economic Security Council and an Environmental Security Council designed to complement the existing one) should enable —specially when the global governance is at stake— the full exercise of those functions that require the availability of adequate international structures. As stated in the Charter of United Nations, action must be taken as soon as possible to see that “the peoples” —and not only the States— are represented in the General Assembly, in order for scientific progress to allow a dignified life for all inhabitants of the Earth, by ways of an economy that addresses the priorities that were clearly established a long time ago by the United Nations System: food (agriculture, aquaculture and biotechnology); general access to drinking water (collection, management, desalination. ...); quality health services; care for the environment (CO2 emissions, renewable energies, etc.); education and peace.  An education aimed at providing everyone with global awareness. This is a crucial point: our fellowmen can be perceived as equal or different from us. And taking care of the environment should not be limited to our surroundings but must rather be extended to the whole planet, because we all have a common destiny.

It is essential to put values —and I am not referring to stock market values!— back in the centre of our daily lives and to properly address challenges that can be met if we work together. The solution lies in political measures because, in genuine democracies, politicians must take on the will of the people.

It is unacceptable that every time that security is at stake, we still continue to believe that military power is the sole expression and reference for “security”. This is a very serious mistake, a costly mistake that usually causes great sorrow due to human losses and material damage. To think in such a way can only make us have a wrong vision and deal exclusively with war issues, thus neglecting many other aspects related with “human” security, which is —in any case— the only thing that really matters.

The difference between means devoted to potential conflicts and resources available to face recurrent natural disasters (fire, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis...) clearly demonstrates that the concept of “security” (http://federicomayor.blogspot.com/2016/08/urgente-un-nuevo-concepto-de-seguridad_29.html) which is still favoured by major arms manufacturers is not only obsolete but also highly prejudicial for humanity as a whole and it, therefore, requires a “security contract”.

I must insist over and over again that we cannot constantly see arsenals crammed with rockets, bombs, war planes and ships, submarines... and not feel compelled to raise our voice and say that there are thousands of human beings who are dying from starvation everyday, who live in extreme poverty conditions without having access to adequate health services... and not take action when confronted to this harsh reality and to the gradual deterioration of the Earth’s habitability. We must take action without delay because we are getting close to points of no return in essential issues related with the intergenerational legacy.

Let’s raise our voice... Now that “We, the peoples” have become for the first time in history men and women, and we can freely express ourselves. We can at last set up a specific time and date when millions of cell phones will be used to condemn the unacceptable decisions taken by the same leaders who are saying that they will not observe the Agreements on Climate Change and Sustainable Development Goals, thus jeopardizing the quality of life of the inhabitants of the Earth.

The time has come for worldwide citizenship, for living together across the borders, for sharing goods, knowledge, experience and for courage… for standing up against those who are caught by inertia, who keep  using old remedies for new pathologies. Today’s leaders show signs of an irresponsible short-sightedness. Every good ruler should pay attention, in the first place, to processes that can lead to irretrievable damage. Millions of women and men all over the Planet must say loud and clear that they will not tolerate any irreversible damage to our ecological environment.

The word “sharing” —which was the key concept of the United Nations System in the 1950s and 1960s— has been gradually ousted and, instead of strengthening countries in greatest need by means of an integral, endogenous, sustainable and humane development, development aids have been reduced up to unsustainable limits and the World Bank for Reconstruction and Development has “lost” its surname and is now a tool at the service of large financial institutions; and the nation-states have been weakened by gradually transferring their resources and power to huge multinational structures.

We cannot remain silent any longer. We cannot continue to be impassive spectators of what is happening, because we would become accomplices. The scientific, academic, educational, artistic, intellectual and, in short, creative communities must be at the forefront of a popular mobilization (https://aeac.science/pacto2019/).  They must take immediate action, without delay, to guarantee the quality of life of citizens once they stop being manipulated by the omnipotent and pervasive influence of the “great powers (military, financial, energetic, media).

We must realise that we have entered a new era in which human beings will no longer be territorially and intellectually confined; in which longevity will provide us with a vast experience —an experience we should make the most of, while placing executive functions in the hands of less elderly people—; in which young people, who have a deep knowledge of the Earth and a global awareness and citizenship, will contribute with their imagination and nerve to finally make come true the other possible world we have longed for. Inertia is our greatest enemy. It's time for action. We don’t need any more diagnoses: the time has come to put into practice the solutions...

The current situation impels us more than ever to approve a Universal Declaration on Democracy (ethical, social, political, economic, cultural and international - https://declaraciondemocracia.wordpress.com/), as the only framework allowing the full exercise of human rights and duties. Democracy at a local, national, regional and planetary scale; this is the solution for everyone and everything. The force of reason instead of the reason of force, and the evidence of the immense and distinctive creative capacity of the human species, which cannot be reduced to small spaces or short-sighted objectives.

We must invent our future. “Invent” the future with the growing participation of citizens from all over the world, who are now able to know each other and to connect through online social networks which have become increasingly important, have a greater mobilisation capacity and may bring new solutions for different problems, thus becoming a relevant part of democratic performance at a local and planetary scale. Political, economic and social innovation. Eradicate without contemplation tax evasion, tax havens and corruption, also using alternative sources of financing, such as the tax on electronic financial transactions; taxes that are strictly proportional to income; a conceptual and practical review of labour and employment, typical of the digital age...

This “new beginning” will require a quick and wise action in order for benefits obtained from the exploitation of natural resources to be appropriately shared among the owners of the technology and the inhabitants of the areas where the resources are located.

Another equally important challenge that requires a “contract” is the issue related with drug trafficking which represents a real and very serious threat to worldwide stability and which after so many years has moved towards the worst scenario: it is accepted as a "side effect" of the economic system, of the uneven and confusing global governance that has placed the market, instead of democratic principles, in the forefront of planetary politics.

The price of drugs does not have the slightest dissuasive effect. The individual who falls into the huge trap of drug-addiction will do everything to obtain the funds he needs; tearing families and friends apart, stealing... His uncontrolled desire cannot be solved with weapons but rather with an adequate health approach.  It is a public health problem rather than a security problem.

A large campaign should be made with the cooperation of mass media and the society involved so that awareness is raised against drugs.

Eventually, taking into account the dimensions of drug trafficking and its impact on economy and crime, the consumption of drugs affects society as a whole. Addicts are in need of help to rebuild their lives, to regain their self-control, to start "being” again, living once more the mystery of human life. And drug dealers must be taken to court and, even better, we must do our best to make them disappear by taking all steps required to see that their “stuff” has no value.

As in the case of alcohol and tobacco, this is an issue with deep pathological implications, and extensive campaigns should be carried out to educate potential consumers and duly alert society, so that they know beforehand what they are risking, and they are later taken care of —as is done with those affected by tobacco or alcohol— in the corresponding hospital facilities. We must appeal to the responsibility of society as a whole because it is a tragedy that gradually affects everyone...

To sum up, 20 years later, with the experience and awareness acquired, and the reflections made during the coronavirus confinement, it has become clear that governance must be multilateral and it is up to “We the peoples” to actively participate in the “new beginning” as established in “The Earth Charter”, an excellent worksheet for the times ahead… There are reasons for hope: the voices of women and young people, in the streets and the cyberspace, will foster the essential and urgent changes that are needed.

In the autumn of 2015, after a few years of desirable changes and an adequate approach to many international issues (Islam, ecology, mediation...), President Obama, an Afro-descendant, achieved a period of hope when he signed the Paris Agreements on Climate Change and the Resolution approved by the United Nations General Assembly on the 2030 Agenda with 17 Sustainable Development Goals, entitled “Transforming our World”, with future generations in mind... After 4 and a half years of inaction due do the irresponsible behaviour of his successor, President Donald Trump, the horizons currently overshadowed by the COVID-19 require an urgent clarification. The opening words of “The Earth Charter” make full sense: “We stand at a critical moment in the Earth's history, a time when humanity must choose its future...”

Let’s make it clear to all those who are now responsible for the implementation of decisions that go beyond borders: a new worldview with new lifestyles is urgently needed. The greatest challenge —both at an individual and collective scale— is transforming our way of life. The world is entering a new era. There are many things that must be preserved for the future and many others that must definitively be changed. At last the peoples. At last the voice of the people. At last citizen power. At last word and not force. At last a culture of peace and non-violence, and never more a culture of war.

The great transition from force to word. From the armed hand to the outstretched hand.

The time has come for world citizenship, for living together without borders, for sharing goods, knowledge and experience...

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