Four Contracts for a New World

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

There are proposals that as time passes continue to be timely and may even become more urgent.

I have re-read the “four contracts” that I proposed in “The World Ahead: our future in the making”, a book published in 2000 when I finished my term as Director General of UNESCO. I had an excellent research and prospective group coordinated by Jêrome Bindé. And I was sure then, as I am now, that with the new century and millennium a new era will commence in which mankind –all human beings and not only a few privileged ones- will be able to fully enjoy the mystery of human existence, with its capacity for creation, reflection and foresight.

The solution lies in political measures, because in genuine democracies political leaders should reflect the demands of their citizens. For that reason, it is so alarming that after having committed the serious error of replacing fundamental ethical principles with the laws of the markets, the markets are now hounding political leaders to the extent that in Greece and Italy it is they who have elected the governments rather than the voters.

I will never tire of repeating that the solution lies in respecting individually and on the national and global levels the democratic principles so accurately and lucidly set forth in the UNESCO Constitution. At present, although the democracies of the European Union still maintain an appropriate separation of powers, their ability to take action has diminished or even been blocked because world governance is no longer in the hands of a democratic United Nations representing all of the world’s countries, but rather is in the hands of groups of 7, 8 or 20 of the most wealthy nations which, as was to be expected, have failed in their attempts at leadership.

It’s quite clear that world problems require a global institution, which warrants an urgent re-founding of the United Nations System that will be up to the task and capable of meeting our current huge and complex challenges.

The four contracts that I proposed were as follows:

-A new social contract. It included tendencies in population, poverty and alienation; changing our cities; life-style changes; the future of urban transportation; the fight against drug consumption and trafficking… The objectives were peace and justice, indispensable ingredients of sustainable development to ensure the equal dignity of all human beings.

-A new environmental contract. It addressed topics concerning environmental quality; science; sustainable development; desertification; food and energy resources… to make it possible to replace an economy based on speculation, de-localization of production and war with an economy based on sustainable development that will guarantee the habitability of the earth for the future generations. Intergenerational commitment is one of the precepts that should guide our conduct daily.

-A new cultural contract: from the information society to the knowledge society. It addressed the new technologies revolution; the future of books and reading; the value of the world’s languages heritage and education on the horizon of 2020. It is clear that we must contribute to educating citizens who will act upon their own reflections, who are “free and responsible”, as educated persons are described in Article 1 of the UNESCO Constitution.

-iii) A new ethical contract. Together with the “dividends of peace”, world security and the United Nations system, this chapter underscored the debt owed for centuries to the black race and particularly addressed the special needs of Africa, which always compensates with its wisdom and creativity any exchanges afforded it toward social and economic development and full emancipation. This very important chapter ends with a study that is socially relevant for the future that is yet to be written, and which urgently demands a transition from a secular culture of imposition, violence and war to a culture of dialogue, conciliation, alliance and peace.

The great transition from force to words. From the raised fist to the outstretched hand.

At the end of each chapter I offer concrete solutions based on popular mobilizations, and on peoples expressing themselves freely and ceasing to be subjects to commence to “manage their own lives”.

As already indicated, all of the proposed actions inevitably require a democratic context on the personal, local and global levels. It is essential to place values (and not stock market quotes!) at the forefront of our daily lives. And to provoke an immense outcry in favor of equal human dignity and to adequately face the challenges which together we can overcome.

The time has come for global citizenship, for peaceful coexistence without borders, for sharing goods, knowledge and experience…

With a reformed multilateral System, we need to put these four contracts into practice. I am sure that we would then be taking an important step towards achieving that new world of which we dream and that our young generations deserve.