Reordering Priorities - Swords into Ploughshares

The title of this presentation is taken from a statement from the Old Testament which reads:

“They shall beat their swords into plough shares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

The world unfortunately is still a cruel and a violent place.

One billion people live in absolute poverty; 900 million cannot read and write and twice as many have no access to water. Millions die yearly not from armaments but from our perverted global priorities in bringing to humanity not even a decent life, not even survival.

Six Ways to Spend US $25 Billion

One of best examples of the perverted state of global priorities was stated powerfully in a recent United Nations report.

The  “State of the World Children’s Report - 1993” by UNICEF states that, US$25 billion extra a year is what it would take to meet the most basic needs of all the world’s children by the end of this decade. What are we spending our money on? The UNICEF report gives some examples:

Smoke and Drink: $25 billion is less than half America spends on cigarettes every six months and Western Europe spends on alcohol every three months.

Aid for Russia: $25 billion is a little more than the 1992 support package for a single nation, Russia, agreed to by the “group of seven” rich nations.

An airport for Hong Kong: $25 billion is a little more than the estimated cost of Hong Kong’s new airport.

Wages of war: $25 billion is about as much as the developing world spends every six months to pay the wages of its soldiers.

A new road for Japan: $25 billion is less than the government of Japan has allocated, in 1992, to the building of a new road from Tokyo to Kobe.

What We Can Do

As this is a physicians’ conference, I’d like to use as my framework, the great Chinese special diagnostic and therapeutic tool - acupuncture. Acupuncture needs the understanding of firstly a map which indicates critical points in our body. Secondly, needles to trigger those points and thirdly people trained to prepare and read the maps and use the needles effectively.

The Map - a Vision

Nothing great happens without a vision and if we look at today’s world, it is characterised by three malignant cultures:

The Culture of Violence - Both structural kind that through neglect of provision of essential services, cause death and misery, and the technological kind emanating from armaments and other products, processes and wastes that maim and kill. Over a million people die each year due to the use of chemical pesticides in the third world. (And these pesticides as you know were largely a product of the armaments industry.)

The Culture of Manipulation  - Both from the machines of bureaucratic propaganda and behaviour control exercised by unbridled advertising techniques. These can prevent the free and informed expression of peoples’ participation.

The Culture of Waste - Garbage has become a good measure of mal-development. Green peace estimates that some 3.2 million tons of waste are exported to developing countries which are playing a role as garbage dumps. About 1.2 billion of the world’s 5.5 million people are “over consumers” and they are responsible for 70 percent of the damage to the environment.

The new alternative vision could instead embody three benign cultures:

·         Firstly a culture of balance and harmony, representing the cycles and systems so well established by the law of nature.

·         Secondly, a culture of trusteeship and stewardship of this earth. We are only guardians of this earth.

·         Thirdly a culture of accountability, not only in the political sense but also to the future and for many of us to God Almighty.

The Needles - Our Key Points

We need to rethink our concepts of progress and development. There are many ideas and I’d like to share with you, some that have been articulated recently in one of the most important books of  this year. It is called the Human Development Report 1994 and prepared by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It calls for a fundamental rethink on planet hood management. Among other things, it calls for a radical transformation of both thinking and global institutions. It calls for:

·         A new concept of security.

·         A new paradigm of development that puts people in the centre of development –sustainable human development. It means being pro people and pro nature, pro poor, pro women and pro jobs.

·         A new design for development cooperation.

The report says global military spending has been falling by 3.6 percent a year since 1987, yielding a cumulative ‘peace dividend’ of US$935 billion during 1987 -1994. But this dividend has not been harnessed to meet human needs, and the report warns this opportunity should not be lost in future years.

The report says those encouraging the arms trade in developing countries are the very nations that have been charged with global security policy - the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

James Gustave Speth, Administrator of UNDP has stated that” A large part of the blame for this trading in death rests with the industrial countries who, while giving aid on the order of US$60 billion year, earn in compensation an estimated US$125 billion per year from military expenditures of the developing world.”

The report makes a number of other telling points. At the beginning of this century, about 90 percent of war casualties were military: today, about 90% are civilians; of which 82 conflicts in the last three years, 79 were within nations; many nations have sacrificed human security in favour of more sophisticated arms; all military assistance, military bases and subsidies to arms exporters should be phased out over a three year period; aid should undergo major restructuring so that the richest 40 percent of the world’s population no longer gets twice as much aid as the poorest; there should be a serious study of new institutions for global governance in the 21st century, including a World Central Bank, an International Investment Trust, and a World Anti-Monopoly Authority.

A Seven Point Agenda for Transformation

The Human Development Report 1994 has proposed to the World Social Summit (scheduled to be held in Copenhagen in March 1995) the following seven points agenda:

A World Social Charter to arrive at a new social contract among all nations and all people.

A new development paradigm of sustainable human development: economic growth centered around people which is sustainable from one generation to the next.

A reduction of three percent a year in future global military spending, with 20 percent of savings by the rich nations and 10 percent by the small nations, earmarked for global human security.

A 20:20 global compact for human development - to provide basic education, primary health care, safe drinking water and essential family planning services to all people - by earmarking at least 20 percent of the existing developing country budgets and 20 percent of donor aid allocations to those basic human priority concerns.

A global human security fund financed from global taxes such as “Tobin Tax” on speculative movements of the international funds, an international tax on consumption of non-renewable energy, global environment permits and a tax on arms trade.

A new framework of development cooperation, to graduate from the present aid relationship to a development partnership, by including trade, technology, investment and labour flows in a broader design to be negotiated among nations.

An Economic Security Council in the United Nations, as the highest decision-making forum to consider basic issues of human security such as global poverty, unemployment, food security, drug trafficking, global pollution, international migration and a new framework for sustainable human development.

Taking Action-The People

We have seen a map of a cruel world. We have seen many creative strategies that can act as needles. But in the end it is peoples action that will make the difference.

I would like to share with you seven action areas that can help to develop our strength to make the transformation needed.

Firstly, think Power and Politics - understanding the nature and structure of power and politics in our society, know how decisions are reached and fully utilise the pressures that make politics work for you.

Secondly, think Multiplying Leadership - we have to create not just more followers but more leaders especially among women and youth.

Thirdly, think Lateral - link with other groups -mass media, women, ecology, youth and religious groups. Such alliances make powerful synergy.

Fourthly, think Everywhere - encourage the proliferation of autonomous self-reliant groups at all levels and all places. Little victories have a way of creeping up to become national revolutions.

Fifthly, think Action - there must be a constant stream of simple, high profile, do-able activities that must be specific and have visible targets.

Sixthly, think Structural - look at the root cause of the problems, not just at the symptoms. There is a story I would like to share that helps us to remember this:

A man sees a baby drowning in a river. he jumps in and saves the baby. As he is bringing the baby ashore, he sees another baby floating down the river and he rushes in to save the second one. And then he sees a third, a fourth, and a fifth. He is busy saving the drowning babies that he has no time to look up the river to see the person throwing the baby into the water.

Seventhly, think Long Term -social problems are not going to disappear easily or quickly. We have build frameworks, institutions, resources and people who will ensure the stamina for a long struggle.

Conclusion -The Three “Peaces”

As physicians, I ask you not to just be healers of the people but also healers of the earth, for mother earth or Gaia (pronounced Ga-Yah) the Greek word for the planet, is also a living, moving complexity.

We have ransacked mother earth in the name of development. We have raped Gaia many times over to satisfy our lust for materialism and sheer greed.

Today it appears to us as if Gaia, mother earth itself, is suffering from AIDS. It is as if her immune system are being devastated:

·            Her circulation systems - the water, the air, are being poisoned.

·            Her lungs, the forests - are being wantonly destroyed.

·            Her skin - the ozone layer and soil, are being seared and scraped.

All this devastation may go down the paths from which there may be no return.

Can we do something to reverse this madness, can we create a new paradigm of development and happiness that enable three kind of peace?

·            Peace with ourselves

·            Peace with other people and

·            Peace with mother earth

We can make these three peaces, and we must. Little people doing little things in little places everywhere can change the world and make it happen. Let us work together and make it happen quicker.

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