A preview of the unpublished book A CIVILIZATION WITHOUT A VISION WILL PERISH: AN INDEPENDENT SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH by David Willis. CHAPTER 1: INDIFFERENCE (Part 34). This blog is an abridgment of a speech by James D. Wolfensohn, President, The World Bank Group
A PARTNERSHIP FOR DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE
The following is an abridgment of the keynote address given by James D. Wolfensohn at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, in Washington, D.C. on March 6, 2002.
Unless justice be done to others it will not be done to us
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to be here at the Woodrow Wilson International Center addressing this event cohosted by the Bretton Woods Committee. Eighty-four years ago in this city, Woodrow Wilson spoke of war and peace to a joint session of Congress. “What we demand” he said, “is that the world be made safe for every peace-loving nation which, like our own, wishes to live its own life, determine its own institutions, be assured of justice, and fair dealing by the other peoples of the world. All peoples are partners in this interest, and for our own part we see very clearly that unless justice be done to others it will not be done to us.’”
Rarely has there been an issue so vital to long-term peace and security
In two weeks in Monterrey, Mexico, leaders from across the world will meet to discuss financing for Development, when we must all hope that the words of President Wilson will resonate. Rarely has there been an issue so vital to long-term peace and security, and yet so marginalized in domestic politics in most of the rich world. Our challenge, as we go forward to the Monterrey Conference and beyond, is to persuade political leaders why that marginalization must end; why justice must be done to others if it is to be done to us; why “all peoples are partners in this interest.”
We will not win the peace until we redefine the war
Never perhaps has the chance for concerted action been greater, or the prize more worth winning. The horrifying events of September 11th have made this a time of reflection on how to make the world a better and safer place. The international community has already acted strongly, by confronting terrorism directly and increasing security. But those actions by themselves are not enough. We will not create that better and safer world with bombs or brigades alone. We will not win the peace until we have the foresight, the courage, and the political will to redefine the war. We must recognize that – while there is social injustice on a global scale, both between states and within them; while the fight against poverty is barely begun in too many parts of the world; while the link between progress in development and progress toward peace is not recognized – we may win a battle against terror but we will not conclude a war that will yield enduring peace.
Poverty is our greatest long-term challenge
Poverty is our greatest long-term challenge. Grueling, mind-numbing poverty – which snatches hope and opportunity away from young hearts and dreams just when they should take flight and soar.
Poverty – which takes the promise of a whole life ahead and stunts it into a struggle for day-to-day survival. Poverty – which together with its handmaiden, hopelessness, can lead to exclusion, anger, and even conflict. Poverty – which does not itself necessarily lead to violence, but which can provide a breeding ground for the ideas of those who promote conflict and terror.
The imaginary wall fell on September 11
On September 11, the crisis of Afghanistan came to Wall Street, to the Pentagon, and to a field in Pennsylvania. And the imaginary wall that divided the rich world from the poor world came crashing down. Belief in that wall, and in those separate and separated worlds, has for too long allowed us to view as normal a world where less than 20% of the population – the rich countries in which we are today – dominates the world’s wealth and resources and takes 80% of its dollar income. Belief in that wall has too long allowed us to view as normal a world where every minute a woman dies in childbirth. Belief in that wall has allowed us for too long to view the violence, disenfranchisement, and inequality in the world as the problem of poor, weak countries and not our own. There is no wall. There are not two worlds. There is only one.
The process of globalization and growing interdependence has been at work for millennia. As my friend Amartya Sen has pointed out, a millennium ago it was ideas – not from the West – but from China, India, and the Moslem world that gave the intellectual basis for much of science, for printing, and for the arts. There is no wall. We are linked by trade, investment, finance, by travel and communications, by disease, by crime, by migration, by environmental degradation, by drugs, by financial crises, and by terror. Only our mindsets continue to shore up that wall; we are too set in our ways, too complacent, or too frightened to face reality without it.
It is time to tear down that wall
It is time to tear down that wall, to recognize that in this unified world poverty is our collective enemy. Poverty is the war we must fight. We must fight it because it is morally and ethically repugnant. We must fight it because it is in the self-interest of the rich to join the struggle. We must fight it because its existence is like a cancer – weakening the whole of the body, not just the parts that are directly affected. And we need not fight blindly. For we already have a vision of what the road to victory could look like.