Sunday, February 15, 2015
Common Humanity: Shared Lives, One Destiny
[It is said that dreamers are achievers. Therefore, I, BAKAMPA BRIAN BARYAGUMA, imagined that I were the speech writer of the United Nations Secretary-General (or better still, the UN Secretary-General himself), tasked to write a speech to be delivered before the UN General Assembly, based on Article 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with particular emphasis on mutual rights and duties arising from our growing global interdependence. Below are my ideas.]
Opening Remarks by the United Nations Secretary-General, at the Opening Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Common Humanity: Shared Lives, One Destiny
On 10 December 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This landmark document declares fundamental human rights and freedoms to be legitimately claimed by people everywhere, from their fellow human beings elsewhere, including the creation of, ‘... a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized,’ as enshrined in Article 28 thereof. Apparently, the framers of the UDHR foresaw a dependent and interconnected world, under our mastery. Since rights and responsibilities are correlative, the UDHR accordingly stipulates mutual rights and responsibilities, particularly towards our non-compatriots.
For these reasons – our growing interdependence, giving rise to mutual rights and responsibilities, leading us to one destiny – I entitled my speech, Common Humanity: Shared Lives, One Destiny. I highlight our global connectivity, necessitating global creativity, to generate global views, for tackling global challenges.
2. International Trade
Historically, trade is inextricably wound up with all social aspects – politics, economics and culture. The power of the market to empower people and lift them out of poverty is well established. In our age, trade’s historical role is hampered by inbuilt exploitative mechanisms within multinational trading systems.
We should therefore, establish an effective, efficient and fair international trading system that augurs well with our global interconnectedness, by eliminating these and more impairments to progress of the world’s poorest regions. Proper regulation is critical, because the 2008 global financial crisis teaches us that without regulation, markets are bound to waver and turn disastrous.
3. Climate Change
Climate change threatens our existence on earth and remains a common concern of humankind, as acknowledged in the preamble to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It hinders future economic growth and increases chances of pandemics.
We must be conscious of global warming, due to carbon emissions that deplete the ozone layer and poison the atmosphere. Industrialization should be regulated, other human activities like poor land use and deforestation avoided.
Everyone should make the necessary contribution to stabilize climate, basing on equal rights for all, using available options – clean development mechanisms, adaptation and mitigation technologies.
4. Global Economy and Finance
The global economy has flourished for the last two to three decades, notwithstanding the chilling 2008 global financial crisis. Low income countries are part of this trend, for the first time. This show of remarkable broad based convergence is welcome, because global cooperation will be more meaningful if a majority of our global citizenry feel its benefits. To continue this trend, we need very strong macro-economic performance, with a vast mature cycle of savings, investments, growing trade and macro-economic resilience. Equally important is more coordination, disclosure and transparency.
But these changes in the global economy should be reflected in its governance arrangements. Under-representation of low income countries on international decision making bodies puts them in a disadvantageous position and marginalizes them. This problem should be addressed by increasing their representation on major institutions like the International Monetary Fund, by reducing the membership of over-represented regions like Europe.
Pandemics pose great risks to our health, security and humanity. We need to maintain public trust and confidence in the capacity of our health authorities and systems to effectively manage and contain diseases.
Fortunately, there is improved disease surveillance today. We are better equipped to deal with pandemics. Nevertheless, capacity challenges persist.
We need a more balanced approach to these truly globalized risks; first, tighten the International Health Regulations (2005) and other regulations; second, enhance global action to enforce the regulations; third, step-up international coordination of institutions, particularly with the World Health Organization; and fourth, address disease mutations and drug resistance on intensive farms.
6. Nuclear Arms
Nuclear weapons are a menacing reality, constantly threatening global security. Humanity is truly increasingly imperilled by its own actions. We must urgently cease nuclear proliferation. Nuclear-weapon states should destroy their nuclear arsenals, while non-nuclear-weapon states should refrain from acquiring nuclear weaponry.
The only fundamental requirement is a consistent renunciation of nuclear armoury as a matter of principle. As a practical matter, it is impossible to battle nuclear weapons and, at the same time, use them to further our own interests. I invite all states to sign and adhere to the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
7. Values in an Interdependent World
We live in a world of great diversity, numerous differences and characterized by competing individual and group interests, which may be sources of tension and conflict, if poorly managed. Our global interdependence should therefore, be shaped by certain minimum values, to serve as safety valves against excessive tendencies.
The golden rule, which advocates kindness to one another, offers an acceptable universal standard: the need to satisfy other people’s needs, as the primary way our lives can acquire significance and connect to something greater. While we cannot help everyone, everyone can help someone. That way, we shall advance our global wellbeing.
8. Global Governance and Global Public Goods
Our global dependence and interconnectedness is premised on non-excludable and rivalry-free interstate structural belongings and mechanisms available to the whole world or a significant portion of it.
Technically known as public goods, the internationally acknowledged ones include, strengthening the international trading system; tackling climate change; enhancing international financial stability; preventing the emergence and spread of infectious disease; achieving peace and security; and generating knowledge.
Due to limited international capacity, which leaves room for free riding, with no significant costs to free riders in terms of wealth and sovereignty, many challenges are involved in providing these universal necessities. I call upon all states to cooperate fully in ensuring their adequate provision.
9. Global Inequality
The world is extremely unequal, due to the exclusive European and North American concentration of the economic benefits of peace and stability, following the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the beginning of the industrial revolution, both of which facilitated phenomenal wealth creation. The effect of this exclusion today is extreme global inequality, which, though declining, is still acute enough to hinder future economic growth.
Easing migration of people from poor countries to rich countries, where there are more incomes, will tackle global inequality. This will globalize Europe’s and North America’s impressive growth by facilitating worldwide income redistribution and enable the emergence of a global middle class.
10. Global Poverty and Development
Poverty and underdevelopment are still high. Reductions in global inequality do not mean obvious decrease in global poverty. Your Excellencies should do more to eliminate rampant poverty.
The last two to three decades witnessed remarkable global economic growth, which marked extraordinary reduction in global poverty, particularly in China and other East and South Asian countries, which registered startling success in this regard, having lifted millions of people out of poverty at unprecedented levels. These countries’ development models should be closely studied and emulated, albeit with necessary modifications.
What Europe and Japan needed for rapid development, soon after the destruction caused by World War II – improved human capital, effective public institutions, industrial and technological progress, and global consumer markets – is needed for the economic growth and development of developing countries today.
11. Responsibility to Protect
The world has suffered numerous horrendous conflicts. Usually, the concerned states were either unwilling or unable to halt the suffering caused to innocent people, yet the world community looked on helplessly, influenced by Westphalian indifference, post-UN Charter institutionalized non-interference, and the 1990s humanitarian intervention consensus-free ideology.
Subsequently, however, world leaders devised mechanisms for strategic intervention in internal state matters, notably humanitarian intervention, the responsibility to protect and the responsibility while protecting, to save civilians from the scourge of war.
Today, we are obliged to prevent and stop human suffering everywhere on the globe.
12. Global Justice
There is growing interconnectedness in global crimes like terrorism and their horrible human rights violations and atrocious breaches of international peace and stability.
We should do everything possible to guarantee international justice, peace and security by jointly prevailing upon international crime. The International Criminal Court (ICC) will be very helpful in this regard, and deserves total support. With its establishment, enormous progress has been made. Justice and peace are not only compatible, but justice is actually an important factor in restoring peace and security.
I therefore, request all states to cooperate with the ICC through adequate funding and surrendering accused persons to it upon request, while continuously improving their national judicial systems.
Individual persons are no longer mere spectators in the myriad of international developments. They make meaningful contributions in the multilateral arena. The United Nations should enlarge this forum for individual participation in global affairs.
While Article 28 of the UDHR enshrines this as a right for our people everywhere, it accordingly enshrines it as a responsibility for their leaders. I invite Your Excellencies to honour this obligation, in order to realize its corresponding right.