PEACE THROUGH UNDERSTANDING THE OTHER

LEVANT Initiative for Global Peace

 

Emil Constantinescu

President of Romania 1996-2000

President of Academy of Cultural Diplomacy Berlin

 

We have gathered here, in New York, at the United Nations, representatives of all the nations in the world to share our thoughts and personal experiences in search of a common ideal: Peace.

Allow me to begin with a confession: I was born in 1939, close to a XVth century fortress, at that time near the former Soviet Empire border. It was the year in which the Second World War started. Since childhood, I knew foreign occupation, refuge drama, then brutal right-wing military dictatorship, and communist dictatorship oppression. I have participated in the anticommunist revolution and I faced, in the transition to democracy, inter-ethnical conflicts, threats of civil war in my country and regional war at our borders. In the last seven decades, millions of people have lived similar experiences in Eastern Europe, but my generation has succeeded in surpassing them, transforming the pedagogy of suffering into a pedagogy of reconciliation. Even if the horrors of the Second World War have not been repeated, this experience could be useful to the younger generation of today, confronting itself with new challenges that are threatening the world peace.

Geology is my profession. For thousand millions of years, Earth is the gigantic scene of permanent confrontation between concentration and disintegration tendencies of the mineral matter. We recognize the same forces governing the history of living world, of humans and nations. It is essential to forever replace any kind of violent confrontation with calm ideas confrontation and peaceful dialogue. High-Level Forum of the General Assembly on Culture of Peace is maybe the most appropriate place to remind ourselves to cast away the arrogance, which breaks communication and to avoid prejudice or verdicts on people and conceptions we are not accustomed enough with. We should carefully and respectfully approach the mysterious and profound nature of different human civilizations, of the multicultural world in which we are destined to spend a moment and dream of eternal spirituality. Our duty is to identify old layers, accumulated over centuries of civilization, use their wisdom, rediscover the tradition of peaceful exchanges and subtle negotiations between nations, belonging to civilizations so different, but at the same time so complementary. 

The stake of present discussions must not be a new way of organizing the relationship between friends and enemies, but it should be finding the best way of living together, around a common project to establish and consolidate Peace. The freedom of conscience, tolerance and pluralism are the values, which can help us find our way out from the darkness of hate and revenge, in order to build new bridges between very old cultures and civilizations. In this mission, the three religions that originated in the Levant: Judaism, Christianity and Islam can play a vital role. They can jointly reveal what ties us together, not what separate us as a foundation for global peace.

Many could ask why the Academy for Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin and the Inter Parliamentary Coalition for Global Ethics have chosen Levant to name a new Peace initiative.

In my opinion, Levant is the cradle of cultural diplomacy and has thousands of years of intercultural dialogue experience and cultural exchanges. Why should we talk now about something that seems to belong only to a faded past? First of all, because the recent popular movements in Tunisia, Egypt, or Syria, have drawn the attention to the Mediterranean and the absence of a dialogue, of an efficient diplomacy, in favor of mitigating the causes of the conflict. If we will create a visionary political project in the space of Levant, prepared to face the great challenges of our present, we will help give a new identity to this region, in the greater European and World context. The Levant Initiative of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Global Ethics and the Academy for Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin may be the first step.

Preventing conflicts or managing post-conflict situations requires a comprehensive balanced vision, which takes into consideration the interests of various ethnic and religious communities, the rights and obligations of independent states’ citizens, the conjectural and the long-term interests of the regional actors. This vision cannot be developed without the involvement of representatives able to understand and express the plurality of voices, questions and desires of millions of people.

Not understanding „the other’s” motivation led, during history, to many wrong decisions in foreign policy, triggering conflicts or wars. This is why the ”common values” objective seems to me so important today within the new structure of foreign relations.

The great popular movements for freedom, democracy and human rights occurring nowadays in Northern Africa and in the Middle East will change not only the face of these countries, but in the near future might change the whole world. What we are seeing here is an opportunity to establish a security and peace guarantee system, based on what we call “soft power” and cultural diplomacy.

Why do we need cultural diplomacy, this new concept, which the Institute in Berlin tries to promote with so much passion and engagement? My answer is: because the world is changing. And if the world is changing, politics, in its higher meaning of serving the community interests, must change too. The famous German strategist Clausewitz considered that war is a continuation of politics with other means. I believe that peace can also be a result of politics, obtained through other means. One of these means is cultural diplomacy – which without intending to replace the traditional diplomacy of dialogue between parties having different interests, supported through different types of pressure and force threats – can complement it with a new element: dialogue based on understanding the other part and, in a wider meaning, a better understanding of the world we live in.

In order to prevent conflicts or manage the post-conflict situations, political structures should be supplemented by civil society structures dedicated to world security issues. Only such a process of consolidated respect for human being, democracy and common security may reach the depth which only peoples’ true will can guarantee.

The preventive vocation will be the keystone of diplomacy in the future. This involves a raising complexity of the analyses and action ways. The repetitive crisis have shown that, unfortunately, punctual preventive interventions are not enough and should be inserted in a complex of long term actions which need to take into account the overall aspects of some regions and the overall aspects of the problems that might destabilize them, from economic difficulties to the stereotypes anchored in divergent mentalities, from poor communication channels to unconventional risks for security.

Cultural diplomacy could function as a laboratory where the political culture of global security through mutual trust, negotiation and cooperation is created. It can identify major risks, could elaborate and implement programs of cooperation, both inside countries with high conflict risk as well as in areas with conflict potential.

The greatest contribution of the preventive cultural diplomacy at the world’s architecture of security will be wars which will not happen anymore, mainly due the creation of  democratic mechanisms based on dialogue and collaboration with the civil society.

International politics, as well as classic diplomacy, were built on power and force relations and will continue to be so a long time from now on. The concept of "soft power" is far from being functional. Cultural diplomacy is still in its infant stage. I want to be well understood, I do not plead for replacing classic diplomacy with the cultural one. It would mean for me to encourage a dangerous utopia. I plead though for a combination of them. From my experience gained as a scientist, as a man of culture and as a statesman, I can say that cultural diplomacy is in the same relation with classic diplomacy as is the non-Euclidean geometry with the Euclidean geometry, the relativistic physics with the Newtonian physics, the principle of included third party with the principle of excluded third party of the Aristotelian logic, the modernism with the post-modernism, the classicism with the neoclassicism in literature, music, art, and so on.

The conference we are taking part in today proposes a new vision, which originates from the religious foundation of our conscience. It reminds us that the fundamental books of the three big monotheistic religions, which were born in the Levant area, the Torah, The New Testament and the Quran, are about peace and understanding between people.

We must not overlook the fact that the concept of religion assumes the existence of a real communion, beyond the differences that separate each other. On the same line, culture involves above all the existence of a dialog where everyone has something to learn. In fact, the common denominator is the human being in all its aspects, and, in this respect, the Muslim, the Christian or the Jew can work together to understand the great mystery of this world: THE HUMAN.

For the moment, the world powers, the international organizations UN, UNESCO or the civil society are trying to create a political culture of security through negotiation and cooperation. In order to promote peace and understanding throughout the world we are looking for the lowest common denominator on which everybody can agree. My belief is that we should plan for more. If we want to make real peace and understanding between people, we must focus to identify not the lowest common denominator, but we should relate ourselves to the highest common denominator.

Twenty years ago, people in Eastern Europe were ready to fight and to die for freedom and democracy. In a new millennium, let us rediscover faith. Not in order to use it against each other, like it happened so many times in our history, but to understand our reason for existing in this world. Peace is the name of God for all Christians, Muslims, Jewish, or believers in Asian religions. Only man’s arrogance made him forget the message of God, no matter how His name is called.

If we desire a world of PEACE, we should build it, fight for it, knee only for praying and we should not be overwhelmed by the fear of some evil considered inevitable. If globalization cannot be avoided, then it should be molded.

Multiculturalism must be promoted and lived in respect for diversity, for pluralism of traditional identities, for human rights and for everyone’s freedom of conscience.

We shall survive in this still divided world not through what we possess, but through who we are.

 

September 9, 2015