Many Visions for Peace
By Gustavo González
Sustainable development is not viable at the same time as increased militarism, agreed pop star Ricky Martin, Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón and former Costa Rican president Oscar Arias, who joined 30 other panelists in Puerto Rico Aug 12-14.
SAN JUAN, (Tierramérica).- More than 30 artists, experts, lawmakers, activists and Nobel laureates united their voices against war, although from different standpoints on development and environmental policies during the "Peace in Peacetime" conference held last week in the Puerto Rican capital.
The differences reflect the diversity of viewpoints, nationalities, cultures and expertise represented at the meet, which was the intent of the dialogue organized by the Puerto Rican Senate and the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress, founded by former Costa Rican president and Nobel Peace laureate Oscar Arias.
The Puerto Rico Declaration included a call to resolve the profound economic inequalities of the planet, and will be brought before the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which begins Aug 26 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
"We, the so-called creators of illusion, have the primary obligation to carry forth the highest human values and translate them into a message favorable to well being, happiness and peaceful coexistence, and the sustainable development of humanity," said Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin.
Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, who rose to fame when his extradition request put former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet under house arrest in London for more than 500 days, urged those gathered for the Peace in Peacetime conference to give their full support to the International Criminal Court, which he described as the first major initiative for justice and peace since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Twentieth-century history is based on violence, expressed in wars, guerrilla movements, and by terrorists of all kinds, said Garzón.
The lowest form of violence is terrorism, a widespread phenomenon in the 20th century, though it was born before that, he said. It is more intense in some countries than in others, such as Spain, "where terrorism has been a plague for more than 30 years," stated the judge, in reference to the actions of the Basque separatist group ETA.
"Terrorism as a defense of political ideas using weapons is a characteristic of all countries, but no one seemed to realize that until September 11," Garzón said.
The panelists at the conference generally agreed that there is no peace without development, just as international harmonic coexistence is impossible in the context of the exclusive globalization process that deepens the gap between rich and poor.
It is necessary "to create an ethic that is able to harmonize human consumption patterns with the integrity of the environment and the consequences of rampant militarism for world peace and sustainable development," stressed the president of the Puerto Rican Senate, Antonio Fas Alzamora.
The lawmaker denounced "the ecological destruction and the terminal illnesses caused by military and war practices," in light of the U.S. navy bombing training on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques.
Today's world is one of "destruction and unrepentant consumption, in which 12 percent of the known species are in danger of extinction and the world reserves of petroleum and natural gas may be exhausted in the next 50 years," said Costa Rica's Arias.
The former president lashed out at the industrialized economies that are demanding that the developing world open its doors to free trade while they themselves continue to subsidize production, undercutting the poor nations' ability to compete.
"The problem is not free trade, but that trade is not free. I am convinced that successful sustainable development must be based on the elimination of barriers that protect the markets of the rich countries," stated Arias.
Meanwhile, for Maneka Gandhi, a lawmaker from India, trade "is an assault on nature", both for its mechanisms of distribution and for the violence entailed in maintaining "armies of enslaved children" to manufacture trinkets "that we think we need".
The legislator, daughter-in-law of the assassinated prime minister Indira Gandhi, spoke out against the world's demographic explosion, saying it aggravates poverty. She proposed a moratorium on births for a certain number of years, or incentives to limit the number of children in each family.
* Gustavo González is an IPS correspondent.