The vision of opportunity presented in this report is based neither on blind hope nor on scientific projection. Mere wishing has no power to accomplish and science has not evolved far enough for projections with regard to the complex processes that govern global political, economic and social development. And although it is true that very often our hopes have been disappointed, it is equally true that frequently our fears have proved misplaced. Our attempt has been to present what is imminently possible, not what is immediately inevitable – though we believe that much of what we have written will inevitably come to pass in one form or another, because it represents a natural fulfilment of social movements that have been preparing for a long time and continue to gain momentum.
The next two years are a propitious time for creating the leadership in thought that leads to purposeful collective action. Three major events will bring together world leaders from both governmental and non-governmental agencies to develop strategies for meeting the major challenges confronting humankind. At the International Conference on Population and Development and the World Conference on Women, concrete steps must be taken to generate greater educational, training and employment opportunities for the poor, and most especially for females – the best-known methods for eradicating poverty and bringing down the rate of population growth. In the absence of effective measures, expanding population will pose increasing threats to human security worldwide. Therefore, substantial resources must be transferred now from defensive military preparedness for some possible future conflict to an all-out war on poverty today. That is the best investment in the future security for all people.
Fifty years after the founding of the United Nations, world leaders will come together in Copenhagen in March 1995 to examine the impact of the UN on global politics, economics and human security, and to develop strategies for converting the unfulfilled social aspirations of the UN into reality. Issues of international governance are now pressing and ripe for action. Although they may be too complex and important to be dealt with comprehensively at the Social Summit, the occasion should be utilized for placing the restructuring of the United Nations and the international security system at the top of the international agenda.
Strong measures are needed at the national level to generate sufficient employment opportunities in both industrial and developing countries. But international cooperation and coordination are essential to ensure we are actually creating more jobs and not just intensifying competition for those that already exist. The Social Summit is also the right platform for launching a World Employment Programme to generate one billion new jobs worldwide during the next decade.
Ironically, the passing of the Cold War has heightened the incidence of violence in human affairs, partly because of greater freedom and removal of the external constraints that had earlier prevented people from expressing pent-up frustrations over their unfulfilled expectations. Tolerance of diversity and pluralism is an essential foundation for the exercise of democratic freedoms and achievement of economic prosperity. The greatest achievement of the twentieth century has been the growing recognition of the pre-eminent value of the human being. In recognition of the need for promoting greater tolerance in societies around the world, the UN has declared 1995 the Year for Tolerance. This can only be achieved by recognizing that the forces which oppose us are not other people, but our common enemies – ignorance, egoism, poverty and greed. As world leaders at the Earth Summit in 1992 supported a Convention on Biological Diversity designed to protect and preserve genetic diversity in the living world, at the upcoming Social Summit a similar Convention on Human Diversity should be adopted to protect and preserve the rich variety of human cultures, which are the finest fruit of civilization and the moving force for our future progress.
Governments alone cannot accomplish these goals. It is the collective responsibility of all humankind. The advance guard of those who have already achieved high levels of prosperity in both the industrial and developing countries have a special responsibility to assist the rest of humanity to do so as well. Nor is it any longer feasible for a portion of society to benefit to the exclusion of the majority. A world in which 20 per cent of the population enjoy 84 per cent of the income, while another 20 per cent struggle for survival on a mere 1.4 per cent, can never provide a secure and sustainable way of life for humankind. Poverty is the greatest source of instability and strife and it will not honour any boundaries. We have all the resources necessary – intellectual, financial, technological, and organizational – to arrive at a system that guarantees the right of each individual to human security in its widest meaning – peace, food, employment and education for all. Those who now possess and enjoy affluence hold it temporarily in trust with a responsibility to use it to build a better world for all. An investment by the one billion people already living in affluence in all countries of $1000 per capita could form a trillion dollar Trust Fund to create a world without poverty.
Looking back over the past decades, centuries and millennia, we certainly cannot say that our progress has been as rapid as it possibly could have been. What we have achieved by the last decade of the twentieth century could have been accomplished decades or perhaps even centuries earlier. There was no compelling necessity that we fight two world wars before recognizing the need for global governance. It was not inevitable that we fabricate more than 50,000 nuclear weapons before realizing that they have robbed us of the very security we sought to achieve by them. We cannot say that the collapse of the Eastern European economies was an essential and unavoidable step in their transition to greater freedom and prosperity.
On the other hand, wherever humanity has set itself with determination to achieve something great, sooner or later it has accomplished its goal. In fact, that inner determination and commitment seem to create external resources and opportunities where earlier there were none. The intense effort of countless dedicated individuals and institutions to grow more food at a time when explosive population growth threatened the world with unprecedented famine leading to the creation of the high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice is a consummate illustration of this truth. So too, in looking forward, what justification do we have for saying that it need take decades to eliminate war or hunger or poverty from the face of the earth, just because it has not gone more quickly in the past?
It is this latter truth that we would wish to become the guiding principle of the next millennium. Instead of waiting for calamity to compel our progress, we can consciously and collectively develop the inner determination not only to overcome the problems that presently confront us but also to seek out every opportunity to better our present accomplishments and discover more of our as yet unborn human capacities.
The choice is ours and, if we choose, what would otherwise take decades or centuries can be accomplished much sooner. Standing on the verge of the third millennium, we have the capacity to bring the future towards us by seeking with greater eagerness and determination to discover more of the infinite resources within ourselves.