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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 37, May 1999

The Hague Appeal for Peace

The Hague Appeal for Peace Conference, The Hague, 11-15 May 1999

Editor's notes: the Conference was held to commemorate the 1899 First International Peace Conference in The Hague. Extensive coverage of the Conference can be found on the website of the Hague Appeal at http://www.haguepeace.org, the source of the material reproduced below.

The Agenda for Peace and Justice in the 21st Century: Preamble

The Hague Appeal for Peace Agenda for Peace and Justice in the 21st Century

"The world is emerging from the bloodiest, most war-ridden century in history. On the eve of the new century, it is time to create the conditions in which the primary aim of the United Nations, 'to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war', can be realized. This is the goal of The Hague Appeal for Peace.

Skeptics will say that it cannot be done. The Hague Appeal challenges this assumption. This century has seen unimagined changes. Society now has the means to cure disease and eliminate poverty and starvation. The twentieth century has also seen the creation of a set of universal norms which, if implemented, would go a long way toward making war unnecessary and impossible. We have witnessed inspiring and successful experiments with active nonviolence in struggles for independence and civil rights by unarmed peoples' movements. And this century has seen the replacement of authoritarian forms of government by democratic governance and the increasing role of civil society in the affairs of humanity.

Recent years have seen outbreaks of genocide in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Kosovo, brutal attacks against civilians and the spread of horrendous weapons of mass destruction capable of ending life on much or all of the planet. Indigenous populations continue to be denied their rights to self determination. In a great many cases, the world's governments have manifestly failed to fulfill their responsibility to prevent conflict, protect civilians, end war, eradicate colonialism, guarantee human rights and create the conditions of permanent peace.

Therefore, this historic mission and responsibility cannot be entrusted solely to governments. The Hague Appeal proposes a citizens' Agenda for Peace and Justice for the 21st Century. This will entail a fundamentally new approach, building on the recent model of New Diplomacy in which citizen advocates, progressive governments and international organisations have worked together for common goals. We will embrace the moral imagination and courage necessary to create a 21st century culture of peace and to develop national and supranational institutions which ultimately must be the guarantors of peace and justice in this world.

There is already much to choose from. Civil society has flourished since the end of the Cold War and launched campaigns aimed at eradicating landmines, reducing the traffic in small arms, alleviating third world debt, ending violence against women, abolishing nuclear weapons, protecting the rights of children, stopping the use of child soldiers and building an independent International Criminal Court. These grassroots efforts are having a major impact. They are succeeding because they mobilize ordinary people, because they integrate different sectors (human rights, the environment, humanitarian assistance, disarmament, sustainable development, etc.) and because they invite the full participation of women, youth, indigenous peoples, minorities, the disabled and other affected groups.

These campaigns have generated unity and cohesion and demonstrate what can be done when people are listened to instead of talked at. The Hague Appeal for Peace intends to listen, learn and then to build. Out of this process will emerge a new citizens' Agenda for Peace and Justice for the 21st Century. It is a vital and realisable goal."

Presentation of The Agenda for Peace and Justice

'Ten Fundamental Principles,' Conference Press Release, 14 May 1999

"On Saturday, May 15th Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the UN, Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasani of Bangladesh and Queen Noor of Jordan will be presented with The Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice for the 21th century. The Hague Appeal agenda demands ten fundamental principles for a just world order:

1. Every Parliament should adopt a resolution prohibiting their government from going to war, like the Japanese article number nine.

2. All States should - unconditionally - accept compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.

3. Every Government should ratify the ICC [International Criminal Court] and implement the Landmines Treaty.

4. All States should integrate the New Diplomacy, which is the partnership of governments international organizations and civil society.

5. The world cannot be bystanders to humanitarian crises; every creative diplomatic means possible must be exhausted before resorting to force, then under United Nations authority.

6. Negotiations for a Convention Eliminating Nuclear Weapons should begin immediately.

7. The trade in small arms should be severely restricted.

8. Economic Rights must be taken as seriously as civil rights.

9. Peace education should be compulsory in every school in the world.

10. The plan for the Global Action to Prevent War should become the basis for a peaceful world order. [Editor's note: see Disarmament Diplomacy No. 34, for a detailed summary of the Global Action to Prevent War programme.] ..

Hague Appeal President Cora Weiss says: 'We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of commitments to insist on a war free future. The cries from Kosovo, East Timor, Colombia, Sudan, Somalia, Kashmir and Chechnya have been heard. We are ready to take action. We will take the Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice to our local communities, to our national governments and to the international community. We will tell Secretary General Kofi Annan that the United Nations cannot ignore us. The United Nations needs civil society to prevent the scourge of war. Every government should integrate the New Diplomacy.' Young people from Belgrade and Kosovo will hand over the Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice at the closing ceremony at Saturday 15 May in the congress building in The Hague. ..."

Statement by UN Secretary-General

UN Press Release SG/SM/6995, 17 May (speech delivered on 15 May)

"The United Nations, as you know, is an association of States. Some unkind people have even called it a trade union of governments. But, I have always believed it needs to be much more than that, if it is to make any real difference in the world. Not for nothing did our founders begin the Charter of the United Nations with the words 'We, the Peoples'. They knew that States exist to serve peoples, and not the other way round.

At that moment, the world was just emerging from a war in which over 50 million people had died; in which whole countries had been laid waste; in which great cities had been reduced to mile upon mile of smouldering rubble. Our founders knew that people all over the world were looking to them to make sure that such a nightmare would never be repeated. It was that hope, that expectation, which they captured so unforgettably, in words that echo down to us across the decades: 'determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war'. … I cannot pronounce those words before you this morning without a feeling of deep frustration. We all know how far, far short of fulfilling that great expectation we still are. Forgive me if I think first of all my fellow Africans, who are feeling the scourge of war today, even as we speak. The genocide in Rwanda and the subsequent conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have at least received worldwide publicity, even if far too little effective international action.

But other wars, hardly less murderous, have been almost completely ignored. For instance: In Congo-Brazzaville, a conflict that has gone almost unnoticed by the world has claimed thousands of lives; in the first four months of this year alone, the renewal of civil war in Angola has displaced 780,000 people, bringing to some 1.5 million the number who have been driven from their homes; the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, where human wave attacks have produced thousands of battlefield casualties and deaths, has displaced over 550,000 people; some 440,000 refugees have poured out of Sierra Leone into Guinea and Liberia during an eight-year conflict, characterized by brutality, rape and murder - and a further 310,000 people are displaced within Sierra Leone; in the Sudan, since 1983, Africa's longest running civil war has caused nearly 2 million deaths.

In Africa as a whole, there are now some 4 million refugees, and probably at least 10 million internally displaced persons. Africa has the largest share of conflict today. But, no part of the world is immune. This morning, our minds focus especially on what is happening here in Europe. At the end of this century, the scourge of war has returned, with a vengeance, to the continent which produced two world wars in the first half of the century. During this decade, we have witnessed, in the former Yugoslavia, scenes which Europe thought it had left behind forever in 1945. And in the last two months, in Kosovo, those scenes have reached a ghastly climax… Who among us, seeing or hearing of these things, has not burned with indignation? Who among us has not felt that something must be done to stop it - something swift, forceful and effective? And yet, who among us is not also troubled by the implications for world order, and for the United Nations itself? ...

No one ever promised it would be easy to rid the world of the scourge of war, which is so deeply rooted in human history - perhaps, even in human nature. No one ever said there would be no setbacks. No one ever promised us that the road would always be clear, or that those sincerely committed to peace would not sometimes be deeply divided. We all want peace. We all want justice. No one wants to choose between the two. All of us feel instinctively that they must go together. Is not injustice one of the main causes of conflict and war? Can there be true and lasting peace without justice?

In a broad sense, I am sure there cannot. If people's just grievances are constantly denied or ignored, sooner or later their anger will boil over into violence. We all know that. But don't we also know that sometimes to insist on perfect justice is to insist on perpetuating conflict? Don't we all admire the choice that the new South Africa has made, in settling for truth and reconciliation rather than absolute justice?

What hope of peace would there be if we insisted on full justice for every wrong done to indigenous peoples all over the world, in 500 years of colonialism? In truth, we can never really make amends to the dead. All the dead can ask of us is that we do our utmost to spare the living, and those yet unborn, from repeating their ordeal.

Yes, we must insist on ending the culture of impunity. We must, and we will, give our full support to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, based here in this city, which has a legal obligation to prosecute all those responsible for crimes against humanity. And we must push ahead with the creation of the permanent International Criminal Court. Let me acknowledge once again the magnificent contribution made by voluntary groups from all over the world, many of whom are represented in this hall today, in getting the Statute of the Court adopted in Rome last year. Let me also welcome the campaign launched by Amnesty International, the International Federation for the Rights of Man, and Human Rights Watch, calling for United Nations Member States to ratify the Statute of the International Criminal Court.

We do all these things for the sake of the future, not the past. We do them to secure peace, not to perpetuate war. The conflicts still raging in Africa, in Europe, and elsewhere must not discourage us. It is not true that we are getting nowhere. Many conflicts have been ended. Many others have been prevented, because disputes were settled peacefully. Precisely for that reason we do not think about them - we may not even have heard of them. … So you see, my friends, it can be done. Disputes can be resolved peacefully. Wars can be ended. Even better, they can be prevented. It takes wisdom and statesmanship on the part of political leaders. It takes patient and skilful diplomacy. But, perhaps most important of all, it requires a deep change in civil society - the development of a culture in which statesmen and diplomats alike know what is expected of them. They have to know that, in the eyes of their fellow citizens, the ultimate crime is not to give away some real or imaginary national interest. The ultimate crime is to miss the chance for peace, and so condemn your people to the unutterable misery of war. My friends, it is you - and people like you, all over the world - who are slowly bringing about that deep and essential change."

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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