Pacem in Terris Lecture Series

Towards a Just and Sustainable Peace
November 15, 2004

Pacem in Terris continues to uplift, inspire, and challenge our souls, our spirits, our energies.  Its values are ancient, but its insights contemporary.

Hear the words of Pope John the 23rd: “[Peace] is an order that is founded on truth, built up on justice, nurtured and animated by charity, and brought into effect under the auspices of freedom.1

My own twenty-year association with Human Rights Watch and more recent experience at the MacArthur Foundation affirm the power of that vision and its lessons for the uncertain times in which we live.

Both have taught me that we promote peace best by pursuing justice, and that we are all more secure when the rule of law is strengthened by serving the ends of human dignity.

I will begin with some brief background on Human Rights Watch and MacArthur, then share four stories about how American action and inaction impacts ordinary people in remote places, in ways that are contrary to our nation’s interests.  I will conclude with a suggestion about a more balanced approach America might take in the search for increased international security – an approach consistent with the Pope’s vision and everything we have learned in the forty years since it was articulated.

Two decades ago, I became involved with Human Rights Watch as chair of its Europe and Central Asia Division.  That work took me to every country in the former Soviet Union, including Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, all now in the news. Human Rights Watch is active in seventy countries and high on our current agenda are: ethnic cleansing in Sudan; war crimes in Uganda and the Congo; political repression by local warlords in Afghanistan; and human rights abuses committed in the name of counter-terrorism, including the torture of prisoners in Iraq, and indefinite detentions in Guantanamo.

Human Rights Watch’s goal is to hold countries accountable to their own constitutions and to international accords they have signed, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention for the Prevention of Torture.  Our method is to put staff in the field to document human rights abuses and then tell the story to the public, to the United Nations, and to the United States government.

The MacArthur Foundation has a long-standing interest in human rights; indeed, our very first grant was to Amnesty International.  We support major global organizations like Physicians for Human Rights and Interights, but also local human rights groups in Mexico, Nigeria and Russia, important countries undergoing democratic transitions.  Helping build the International Criminal Court and articulate the world community’s responsibility to protect those facing grave abuses have been a major focus of our work.

MacArthur also has international programs in population, principally women’s reproductive rights and health; in conservation and sustainable development; and in international peace and security.  Our domestic grantmaking has a long-standing concern for building healthy urban neighborhoods, creating and preserving affordable housing, and increasing access to capital through community development financial institutions.  We also address system reform in public education, mental health and juvenile justice.

Altogether, we work in 85 countries, giving out $200 million a year to more than 1000 organizations in the United States and abroad.

My remarks tonight will draw on what I have learned on the ground with Human Rights Watch and the MacArthur Foundation.

Of all the words Pope John uses to describe peace in the phrase I began with “order,” “truth,” “justice,” “charity,” and “freedom” – “order” is perhaps the easiest to overlook, but one of the most central. The condition of peace is order, but one premised on the truth, dedicated to justice, nurtured by charity, and built in the service of freedom.

When he wrote those words, an uncertain world was locked in a nuclear standoff, even as much of it was also liberating itself from colonial powers. An old order was passing and a new one just emerging to take its place. Today is another watershed period, as we worry about rogue nations, failed states, terrorist networks; as we question traditional alliances and accepted frameworks for the conduct of international affairs; as we wonder about the prospects for peace.

From its earliest days, MacArthur has had an interest in issues related to peace and international security. Twenty years of grantmaking has helped broaden the field of international security beyond arms control to a greater appreciation for what we now call “human security” – all those aspects of social, economic, and political life that create the conditions of peace, justice, and liberty.

After the Cold War ended, we were one of the first foundations to take an active interest in the dangers posed by weapons-grade material at risk of falling into the wrong hands.  We supported key policy research behind the Cooperative Threat Reduction Initiative (the Nunn-Lugar program), which brings the United States and Russia together to dismantle and secure nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and stockpiles.

In the years that immediately followed the Cold War, progress was steady and the net gains in our security were real.  But there are new challenges now. Some are of our own making, like the failure to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and implement the Biological Weapons Convention. Others loom even larger: 600 tons of unsecured fissile material in Russia and the former Soviet states is a tempting target for terrorists; thousands of nuclear missiles remain on high alert; and North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons reflects the unraveling of the non-proliferation regime.

All represent profound challenges to global security.  When considered in the context of metastasizing criminal and terrorist networks, they take on even greater significance – raising the possibility that nuclear or biological weapons could be used in a catastrophic attack on civilians.

Although the danger from terrorism is great, the United States’ current focus on Iraq and on fighting the war on terrorism principally through military and intelligence – so-called “hard” power – is not a sensible balance.

The U.S. needs to do more to secure the materials that make terrorists even more deadly. We must invest greater political and financial leadership in Cooperative Threat Reduction Initiatives to secure and dismantle global stockpiles of nuclear weapons and material. We need to reinvigorate multilateral programs to prevent nuclear proliferation. And we need to lead a global effort to keep dangerous pathogens out of the hands of terrorists and prevent the exploitation of powerful new biotechnologies.

Beyond these important defensive measures, we need to balance military interventions in the war on terrorism with aggressive efforts to promote universal ethical norms and to win the respect and friendship of people across the world.

Let me develop this argument by starting with some troubling statistics.

A recent Marshall Center poll showed that 76% of our European allies – both “old” and “new” – disapprove of current U.S. foreign policy. A Pew Survey this year recorded sharply increased unfavorable views about the United States elsewhere: 65% in Turkey and 93% in Jordan, for example, both of which have been historically important allies in the Middle East.  The report found that since the beginning of the conflict in Iraq, at least half the population in countries ranging from Pakistan to Russia to Great Britain have less confidence that the United States is trustworthy, and less faith that it really wants to promote democracy globally.

Numbers like these should alarm us.  They suggest that the United States may be losing three assets: the moral leadership it has enjoyed since its founding as a shining city on a hill; the legitimacy it needs when projecting its power on behalf of justice and liberty elsewhere in the world; and the credibility it must have if we are to choke off terrorist networks that feed on disillusion.

Given this complicated, changing landscape, it is disappointing that the recent presidential campaign added little to the articulation of a new security paradigm suitable for current realities – for the world as it is, not the world as we wish it were.

We heard a lot about “military strength,” “strength of resolve,” “strong adherence to American values.”  We heard almost nothing about international norms that galvanize moral action and restrain immoral behavior, or about strengthening the global institutions that are our best hope to realize Pope John’s vision of a world ordered by the core concepts of justice, charity, and freedom.

We badly need a national conversation about the future that goes beyond the war on terror and homeland security, a conversation that engages people around the world in a positive vision of international justice and order.  We need to be open to the possibility that military strength, if unaccompanied by widely accepted and jointly enforced norms, is not the best route to the security we seek.

And we need to recognize that the development of effective international norms depends on our leadership and participation – not only on major treaties, but on issues that affect the daily lives of ordinary people in remote places.  In today’s inter-connected world, what we do – and fail to do – is widely understood, almost everywhere.  Our proximity to the lives of so many has enormous potential that has so far gone underappreciated – and is ignored at our peril.

Let me illustrate that point with four stories from places I have visited and ask you to think about the larger lesson to be learned. The stories may seem unrelated but bear with me.

Let us begin in Uzbekistan.

I have been to Uzbekistan seven times, most recently weeks before the attacks of September the 11th. Civil society groups have a hard time in Uzbekistan. Their leaders are harassed and jailed, sometimes tortured. There are no free elections, no independent media, no political opposition, no independent human rights groups.

In 1998, I visited Tashkent as part of a Human Rights Watch delegation looking into the problem of students expelled from the universities for practicing the Islamic faith, wearing head dresses, growing beards. I recall vividly a meeting with twenty students banished from Tashkent State University and the Institute of Eastern Studies.

I asked the students if they were part of a campus organization or had engaged in any political activities. “We have the right to express our ideas,” one student responded. “If we speak our minds the government calls us fundamentalists,” said another.

Finally, one young, bearded man, destined to become a leader, said, “Karimov wants to keep power, playing on fear of fundamentalism in his strategy. But he will make Islam an oppositional political force, a force for protecting our rights.”

Since then, the al Qaeda-linked rebel group, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, has gained force – just as the students had predicted. It would not surprise me if one or two of them had been driven to the IMU.

At that time, they were looking for help from us.  They asked me why the United States did not put more pressure on Uzbekistan to protect fundamental rights, especially for Muslims, and use its influence at the World Bank to demand adherence to international human rights covenants. U. S. pressure on Uzbekistan has been an on-and-off again policy, less since 9/11, but never very effective.

I think it probable that Uzbekistan and other repressive regimes will produce tomorrow’s terrorists, shielded by ordinary people whose human rights have been denied. Open societies should be promoted whenever possible because doing so is in our national interest since they are less likely to nurture terrorists.

Come with me now far north of Uzbekistan to Iqualit, the capital of Canada’s northern province, Nunavut. The province comprises one-fifth of Canadian territory but has a population of only 29,000, 85 percent of which is Inuit.  It is a traditional society that depends on hunting and fishing for its livelihood, but problems are on the horizon.

Last August I met with the Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, an NGO that speaks on behalf of the 155,000 Inuit who live in four countries, including the United States (Alaska), Canada, Greenland, and Russia.

Because the Arctic is on the frontline of climate change in the north – Inuit hunters describe the ice caps shrinking – its people are highly vulnerable to events that happen in the south, which determine the emissions of greenhouse gases and the level of the international response. The Inuit leader told me of the difficult time she has had working with representatives from the United States on the Arctic Council, a forum for eight countries touching the Arctic circle, which also includes representatives of their indigenous peoples.

When we visited, the Council was preparing for the release of an important scientific report it had commissioned on climate change, which found that the Arctic is warming at an alarming rate, almost twice the global average. We were told that American representatives to the Council were trying to delay the report’s release, challenge its scientific conclusions, and remove policy recommendations accompanying the assessment. As you may have seen in the Washington Post, the report was released last week, but without the policy guidelines, as our hosts had feared.2

This is not a minor matter to the Inuit.  As one leader put it:  “To Inuit, human-induced climate change is a threat to everything we are and hope to become, and to our age-old relationship with the natural environment. For us, climate change is a matter of survival.”

Here again, a story of ordinary people in a remote place looking for American help, but bitterly disappointed.

Let us move along to Africa, where MacArthur is known for its work in population and reproductive health.

The United States has a strict policy toward family planning organizations that receive U.S. government funds: they are prohibited from offering, counseling about, or advocating for safe abortion services. The provision is known as the “global gag rule.”

The effects are direct and widespread. Most public and non-governmental health organizations in Africa not only assist with family planning, they also provide pre- and post-natal care for mothers and newborns, often saving the lives of those injured during childbirth. They inform their clients about contraceptives, about pregnancy, and about HIV and AIDS prevention. Many offer information about abortion when asked; they see it as a public health obligation: too many women they know have been injured or died from botched procedures.

All of these services are vital. Over 200,000 women die in Africa every year in childbirth or from related complications. Forty times more women die in Africa from pregnancy- and birth-related causes than in Europe.3 At least 12% of all maternal deaths in Africa – almost 30,000 annually – are the consequence of unsafe abortions.4

One of our grantees, Population Action International, has collected stories about the gag rule, which is having terrible effects in Africa.5  In Ethiopia, the Family Guidance Association, a long-time partner of USAID, lost 37% of its funding. In Kenya, five family planning units closed, almost entirely eliminating access to essential services in some communities. In Zambia, the Planned Parenthood Association, the country’s largest family planning organization, lost a quarter of its budget.

The people I meet are angry. And they are disappointed that the United States, often a source of hope and progress for healthcare in their countries, has become an obstacle to the quest for safe motherhood.

Finally, come with me now to a magical place, the small Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, located between India and Tibet.  A MacArthur delegation traveled there in January to learn about our twenty-year investment in protecting one of the most beautiful places on earth, rich in biodiversity.

Long leery about participating in world affairs, the Bhutanese Parliament recently ratified four international conventions, including its membership in the International Criminal Court.  But Bhutan quickly came under pressure from the U.S. to enter into a separate agreement that would exempt U.S. citizens in Bhutan from extradition to the International Criminal Court (ICC).  The United States is pressuring nations around the world to make these separate agreements as part of its strategy to undermine the credibility and strength of the ICC.

When I had dinner with a Bhutanese cabinet minister, he was resigned to the agreement; it is difficult for small nations like Bhutan to resist the world’s only superpower.  But the idea of the U.S. playing by a different set of rules was clearly offensive. It raised further doubts about whether international accords of any kind are fair to small nations – and perhaps second thoughts about being part of the international system.

In the last few minutes, we have heard stories from a Muslim student in the heart of Central Asia, an Inuit leader in Canada’s Arctic, healthcare providers in Africa, and a cabinet minister in isolated Bhutan.

Common to all is sophistication about a cooperative approach to world affairs – in the environment, health, human rights, justice – and a sense that their destinies are intertwined with and dependent on international institutions and agreements.

And common to all is a disappointment – mildly and politely put – that the United States is part of the problem, not the source of the help they need.  Whether by undermining the International Criminal Court, weakening the Cairo agreement on Population and Development, blocking the recommendations of the Arctic Council on climate change, or failing to speak out on local human rights abuses, the U.S. is squandering the good will and respect it has earned over its history as the shining city on a hill; as a nation showing the way to a world ordered by the principles of justice, a society of charity and respect and freedom.

If you believe, as I do, that the war on terrorism cannot be won by top-down military and intelligence measures prosecuted only by states, then you might ask, as I do: can we afford to diminish – in some cases, lose – the support of ordinary people around the world?

I am not talking simply about our popularity, but about profound respect for our values, for our society – for our principles in addition to our power.

If terrorist networks are as nimble, adaptable, and pervasive as some believe they are, then the general population is susceptible to their creed unless a powerful, competing vision makes sense and has credibility. That alternative ideal will be built through grand covenants and treaties, but also through the steady, day-by-day enforcement of the economic, political, and human rights commitments the international community has made.  And in that tough battle to translate visionary principles into practical reality, the world desperately needs the United States to lead by an example that reflects its own noble history and core values.

We should not accept rising anti-American sentiment as inevitable, but nor should we dismiss it as the momentary fallout from the war in Iraq.  We can change these perceptions, but only if we change our behavior — once again become the symbol of what is good for the common, not what is best for us; once again be in the vanguard strengthening international instruments to seek a fair and just world, not a force that undermines humankind’s best efforts.  This is not to say that we must always agree, or never advance our interests.   But let us make better choices; pick our battles more wisely; be willing to compromise; lead through the strength of long-term confidence, not a strength that betrays our momentary insecurities.

We need to make cooperation the cornerstone of our approach to the world.  And we need to balance the exercise of power with the pursuit of justice and the practice of charity — all in search for the order and freedom of which the Pope spoke forty years ago.

The fact is, a strong majority of Americans agree. 78% of the public thinks the United States should do more to solve international problems together with other countries. 76 % favor the United States’ participation in the International Criminal Court. 71% support our adherence to the Kyoto agreement. 66% think the U.S. should be willing to make more decisions within the United Nations. Yet, according to a new study by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, only 30% of our leaders believe that the public supports such positions.6

The American public is far more disposed to cooperative and “multilateral” solutions than many give them credit for. Too many of our leaders think we are more provincial than we really are, more inward looking, more selfish, less sophisticated about international affairs and less willing to make sacrifices – economic, political, human – on behalf of the greater good for all humankind.

It is in America’s long-term interest to take advantage of this reservoir of good will, good intentions, and common decency. We are a cosmopolitan society animated by independent spirits and openness to others. Our best path to long term security depends on earning and maintaining the respect of ordinary people across the globe – from the height of the Arctic Circle, to the depths of Africa; from the central Asia metropolis of Tashkent to the quaint streets of Timpu.

Pope John charted the course forty years ago: we the people need the commitment, the confidence, the courage to follow his practical and moral wisdom – and we must bring our government along with us.

1.  Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris: Encyclical of Pope John XXIII on Establishing Universal Peace in Truth, Justice, Charity, and Liberty, April 11, 1963, 27.
2.  Juliet Eilperin and Rick Weiss, “Report Sounds Alarm on Pace of Arctic Climate Change: Warmth, Glacial Melt Linked to Humans; Wide-Ranging Effect on Environment and Industry Forecast,” The Washington Post, Sunday, October 31, 2004, p. A08; Editorial, “Arctic Thaw,” The Washington Post, Tuesday, November 9, 2004, page A26.
3.  The Africa/Europe maternal mortality ratio is 695 (versus 18) per 100,000 live births.
4.  Unsafe Abortion – Global and Regional Estimates of the Incident of Unsafe Abortion and Associated Mortality in 2000, 4th edition, World Health Organization, Geneva, 2004.
5.  Population Action International, Access Denied: U.S. Restrictions on International Family Planning, September 2003.
6.  Global Views 2004: American Public Opinion and Foreign Policy, The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, 2004.