<> Embracing Our Common Humanity

Security and Prosperity in the 21st Century

H.E. William Jefferson Clinton

February 27, 2005, Taipei

 

Thank you very much. Thanks for the introduction. Thank you for the warm welcome.

Mr. Chairman, dignitaries, ladies and gentlemen.

 

   I’m glad to be back here. When I was a young governor, I came to Taiwan for four times between 1979 and 1988. I watched all the changes on this island. I watched your remarkable economic growth and your political growth. And I have watched the development of your democracy with great appreciation and admiration.

 

   This foundation was formed to support and promote democracy, not only in Taiwan, but also around the world. That is important work, work that I try to advance in the late years I served as president. If I might, tonight I would like to put the growth of democracy within Taiwan in the larger context of what is going on in the 21st century world and suggest some things that I think this Foundation could do beyond your borders to fulfil its mission.

 

   In the 1990s, everyone knows we saw a remarkable growth in the globalization of the economy. We became more dependent on international trade and investment. There was an explosion in information technology. We began to cooperate in other ways, in unprecedented ways, in science and technology. In my last years of presidency, I was able to announce the sequencing of human genome, a project that succeeded because of amazing and unprecedented international scientific cooperation. We put a space station into the skies through international cooperation.

 

    I can give many other examples but there were two other things that happened in the 1990s, particularly important to democracy which were often not noted in the press. First of all, in the decade of the 1990s, for the first time in all our human history, more than half of the people in this world were governed by those who they had voted for in free elections. And secondly, there was an explosion of civil society across the globe through non-governmental organizations now known everywhere as simply NGOs.

 

    Organizations which give people in rich countries poor countries alike a chance to pool their efforts as free people to change the lives of those within their concerns.

 

   The 21st century, I believe, can be best summed up in a word, that is not globalization, because globalization has for most people been an economic meaning. I believe a better word is interdependence. For interdependence can be good or bad; or it can be good and bad. It simply means we can not escape each other. On September 11th 2001, the United States got a big shock of negative interdependence when the Al Qaeda terrorists killed three thousand people from 70 countries in the United States by using the forces of global interdependence open borders, easy travel, easy immigration, easy access to information and technology. Two hundred of those who died were also Muslims.

 

   In the aftermath of the 9-11, I saw the forces of positive interdependence. My wife, who is now a US senator of New York, and I visited an elementary school in Manhattan where children have been forced out of their buildings by the damage of planes. There were 600 children there from over 80 different ethnic groups in one school. When I stood in line trying to console the family members of those who have been killed, I saw a man, a very large man about a head taller than me, with tears in his eyes, and I asked him if he has lost a family member. He said no. He had only come to offer his grief. I would never forget what he said. He said, "I’m an Egyptian and I’m a Muslim and I’m an American. And I’m afraid my fellow Americans will not trust me anymore because of what other people did. I hate them, more than you do." 

 

    He was an example of positive interdependence. In the Middle East, I have watched, when I was a president, as we had seven years of progress for peace. Then I watched four years of disintegration. In the four years of conflict, more than four times as many Israelis were killed by terrorists in the entire eight years I was president. But in the bad years, the Israelis and Palestinians were no less interdependent than they were in the good years. It just shifted from positive interdependence to negative interdependence. As you might imagine, even though I’m not president any more, I watched the events in China and in Taiwan and the relationship between the two very closely. There was an amazing article in the British magazine, the Economist, a couple of weeks ago pointing out the explosively increasing economic ties between the two, saying that more than ten million people on mainland China now work for companies owned by Taiwanese people. I noted that there have been some direct air flights recently.  So I see continuing negative tension over political differences and positive economic and personal contact.

 

   What does all this tell us about the world we are living in? We can not escape each other. China and Taiwan, the Israelis and Palestinians, the Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, the different ethnic groups in Bosnia, in Kosovo, the Tamils and the Buddhists in Sri Lanka, the Muslims, the Acheh separatists, and the main government in Thailand and in Indonesia.  All these things we are seeing, positive or negative, going on in the world remind us we can not escape each other.  Therefore I believe that the great challenge of the 21st century is to move from an interdependent but unstable world to more integrated communities in which we share.  We share responsibilities.  We share benefits and we share basic values. Every person matters and there is a chance.  Every person has a responsible role to fill in this society.  Competition is good but we all do better when we work together. Our differences are important.  They make life interesting and they matter but our common humanity matters more.

 

   How can we move from an interdependent to an integrated world? I will suggest five things. First of all, we must fight the enemies of integrated communities. We must reduce terror and war and the threat of weapons of mass destruction. Second, we must build the world with more partners and fewer enemies by bringing the benefits of globalization to the fifty percent of human beings on the earth who have not received them.

 

   I was driving through the streets of Taipei on the way to the speech tonight, thinking about the very first time that I came here more than twenty-five years ago; thinking about how the city had changed; thinking about how a small number of people have built almost three hundred billion dollars in cash reserves and companies that sustained the globe and a vibrant, political and educational as well as economic system. And it was almost impossible to remember that tonight, half the world’s people live on two dollars a day or less. A billion people live on less than a dollar a day. A billion people would go to bed hungry tonight. One in four people have no access to clean water. One in 4 people who die on earth all over the world this year from all causes natural and manmade will die of Aids, TB, malaria and infections related to diarrhea. Most of them are little children who never got a clean glass of water. Ten million children die every year of completely preventable child!hood diseases. 130 million children on earth never go to school a single day.

 

   We must bring them into the system that has been so good for you, for all of Asia, for the United States. There are lots of things we can do. We know it wouldn’t cost much money to put all the children in the world in school and would have the benefit of taking them out of the jobs that their parents could then fill. We know we could speed economic development of many poor nations if we also combat the challenge of global warming and develop a whole new energy economy based on solar energy, wind energy, energy conservation technologies and other energy options that are out there now. There is a one-trillion-dollar untapped market in clean energy and energy conservation technologies waiting to be born that would have the corollary benefits of making it easier for very poor countries to develop economically much more quickly.

 

   The third thing we have to do is to build institutions of sharing and cooperation at every level. The strength in the global ones like the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, is to support regional cooperation through things like the European Union or APEC or ASEAN or any number of other regional groups that are forming around the world, and to support national cooperation by helping the new democracies, not simply to have honest elections but to have honest governments that are also capable governments, and here is what I think your foundation could make a big difference.

 

   I spent a lot of time to date working in the former Soviet Union. I’m going in the two countries with my eighth project or the Caribbean, which is relatively poor, which has a big Aids problem right on the America’s backdoor. I go to Latin America a lot where the per capita income is very dramatically low, and I work in Africa where most of the countries with big Aids problems also have income of less than a dollar a day.

 

   In the places where I go, there is always an elected president who won a fair election but very often these presidents who won fair elections can sit in their offices and issue orders and nothing happens. Very often newly elected parliaments like you, Mr. Speaker, they pass laws but nothing happens because they don’t have the organized institutions that carry out the laws are the executive officers, orders of the President or the Prime Minister. They do not have the institutional capacity to translate the benefits of human freedom expressed in elections into the lives of the people who are voted and this is one of the most ignored problem in the twenty-first century world and so I have decided to spend quite a bit of the rest of my life, trying to figure out how to do this work. It never grabs the headlines. It’s not so interesting figuring out how to pass transparent legislation or a property right legislation or build the bureaucracy for this or that or the other departm!ent. But unless you have a government that functions, people lose faith in democracy.

 

   I belong to a group of former heads of government and heads of state called the Club of Madrid. And a couple of years ago, we had a meeting and we weren’t sure many people would come and basically it was about building the effectiveness of democratic government. It wasn’t an inflammatory topic. It wasn’t a controversial topic. We were mobbed by leaders of governments of these new democracies who came to us honestly saying that there were people who have lived under repression for so long, so these people want an election and they couldn’t get anything done for them because they had no institutional capacity to advance the public interest. So it’s something that I think maybe you should look at because your powers of organization in delivery are legendary as you know.

 

   Finally, I think we have to strengthen the strength of this nongovernmental organization movement around the world. You mentioned that I was working in Tsunami-affected areas. One of the most interesting things about my new job is that I have to coordinate all the work being done by the home governments, the international organizations, the national agencies that are helping like USAID and hundreds of NGOs, literally hundreds of them from all over the world. But this is a good thing. So we have to reduce the threats to interdependence, make the world with more partners and fewer enemies, increase institutional cooperation.

 

   The fourth thing that we need to do is to look for concrete ways to cooperate. In your introduction to me, you mentioned that I had reminded every one that I wanted a peaceful resolution to the differences between China and Taiwan agreed to by the people on both sides of the strait. Every time a new factory opens, a new investment is made, a new person gets a job, some new hope is bound in the life of some person who didn’t have a job or didn’t own the business before. You move closer to a peaceful resolution and further from conflicts.

 

   One of the things I’m trying to do with Tsunami relief is to keep people working in a positive way. In Indonesia and northern Sumatra, which had the greatest loss of lives, a staggering one hundred thousand people have been buried and about one hundred and forty thousand are still missing. They have had a violent separatist movement, but in the aftermath of all this human loss and the devastation of the capital of Acheh and the devastation of all these fishing villages, I went to a village where six thousand and five hundred people lived and only a thousand survived. In the aftermath of this, people put their political differences aside to work on rebuilding the communities, and the president of Indonesia has set up a committee in which his adversaries, the people who wanted to separate from the country, are part of the committee. They are making decisions together about how much would be spent, together about what would be done first, second, and third. They have something to look forward to, positive things to work on. I believe if we can keep this going for the three to five years that it will take to rebuild these areas, they may find a way to resolve their differences.

 

    He same thing is true on the island of Sri Lanka, off the coast of India; if those of you who know it, Colombo is basically in the southwest part of Sri Lanka. The tsunami damage mostly started in the southern part at a place called Gal. Many of us saw on television a train, an entire train loaded with people, swept away in the water and thrown up on the land. The only survivors were people who crawled through the top of the opening of a train car and clung to the roof of a building. But the damage then goes on around the eastern coast of Sri Lanka up to the northern part, and the north of Sri Lanka, twenty percent or less is controlled by the Hindu Tamils and they have had differences there that were quite bitter. Thousands and thousands of people have been killed in their civil strife. For three years they’ve had the ceasefire and the killing is on the way down. But no serious talks have taken place in the last couple of years. Now they are working together to rebuild the area, making decisions together. How would the money be spent? How would the aid be handled? What would be done and in what order? If we can keep that going over the next three years or so that it will take to rebuild the area perhaps they’ll find a long-term solution to their differences.

 

   In the Middle East, we have a new hope for peace. A coalition government have been elected in Israel, new elections have been held in the Palestinian territories, but the Palestinians have grown larger and poorer, more numerous and younger in the last twelve years since I began working on this problem. They need something to do and something to do with Israelis while they work through political issues. President Bush has proposed to Congress to give them three hundred and fifty million dollars in aid. I think it’s a good first step for approximately a billion dollars, which is not a lot of money. We can restore Palestinian economic growth to where it was before all the territories were closed and Palestinians couldn’t go into Israel to make a living any more.

 

   The fourth thing that we need to do is to look for concrete ways to cooperate. In your introduction to me, you mentioned that I had reminded every one that I wanted a peaceful resolution to the differences between China and Taiwan agreed to by the people on both sides of the strait. Every time a new factory opens, a new investment is made, a new person gets a job, some new hope is bound in the life of some person who didn’t have a job or didn’t own the business before. You move closer to a peaceful resolution and further from conflicts.

 

   One of the things I’m trying to do with Tsunami relief is to keep people working in a positive way. In Indonesia and northern Sumatra, which had the greatest loss of lives, a staggering one hundred thousand people have been buried and about one hundred and forty thousand are still missing. They have had a violent separatist movement, but in the aftermath of all this human loss and the devastation of the capital of Acheh and the devastation of all these fishing villages, I went to a village where six thousand and five hundred people lived and only a thousand survived. In the aftermath of this, people put their political differences aside to work on rebuilding the communities, and the president of Indonesia has set up a committee in which his adversaries, the people who wanted to separate from the country, are part of the committee. They are making decisions together about how much would be spent, together about what would be done first, second, and third. They have something to look forward to, positive things to work on. I believe if we can keep this going for the three to five years that it will take to rebuild these areas, they may find a way to resolve their differences.

 

   The same thing is true on the island of Sri Lanka, off the coast of India; if those of you who know it, Colombo is basically in the southwest part of Sri Lanka. The tsunami damage mostly started in the southern part at a place called Gal. Many of us saw on television a train, an entire train loaded with people, swept away in the water and thrown up on the land. The only survivors were people who crawled through the top of the opening of a train car and clung to the roof of a building. But the damage then goes on around the eastern coast of Sri Lanka up to the northern part, and the north of Sri Lanka, twenty percent or less is controlled by the Hindu Tamils and they have had differences there that were quite bitter. Thousands and thousands of people have been killed in their civil strife. For three years they’ve had the ceasefire and the killing is on the way down. But no serious talks have taken place in the last couple of years. Now they are working together to rebuild the area, making decisions together. How would the money be spent? How would the aid be handled? What would be done and in what order? If we can keep that going over the next three years or so that it will take to rebuild the area perhaps they’ll find a long-term solution to their differences.

 

   In the Middle East, we have a new hope for peace. A coalition government have been elected in Israel, new elections have been held in the Palestinian territories, but the Palestinians have grown larger and poorer, more numerous and younger in the last twelve years since I began working on this problem. They need something to do and something to do with Israelis while they work through political issues. President Bush has proposed to Congress to give them three hundred and fifty million dollars in aid. I think it’s a good first step for approximately a billion dollars, which is not a lot of money. We can restore Palestinian economic growth to where it was before all the territories were closed and Palestinians couldn’t go into Israel to make a living any more.

 

   By contrast, the United States has spent two hundred billion dollars in Iraq. So for basically half or one percent of that, we can dramatically increase the chances that the peace initiatives would be successful by giving people something positive to do, something you take for granted now that people can have a job, start a business, make an investment. All those things that have been taken from the Palestinians, and yet there are no poor Palestinians anywhere in the world outside their homeland. They control the flower trade in Chile; they have the highest per capita income in the country of Ecuador, which had a Palestinian president in my time; and there are lots of Palestinians in America. They are all either millionaires or college professors; they are only poor in their homeland. It would make a big difference if they had something positive to do. As I said, that’s what I’m going to be trying to do in working for Tsunami relief.

 

    Let me make one last point. The entire history of humankind since people first rose up on the African Savannah, somewhere between one and one hundred and fifty million years ago can be seen in part as a struggle to define life in terms of our differences or our common humanity. When families first came out of caves and formed clans, and then came in contact with other clans, should they fight or cooperate? Usually, they fought until they found some bases to cooperate on, and this pattern repeated itself all through human history with wider and wider and wider circles of cooperation, but also with more, and more and more dangerous weapons until the twentieth century, when we had unprecedented cooperation but unprecedented power to kill. We have had two world wars and atomic bomb was dropped, manslaughters in the largest countries of the world. We narrowly escaped our own extinction in the twentieth century even though we knew then far better than in past centuries we had an interest in cooperating.

 

   Now in spite of the threat of terror, in spite of the threat of weapons of mass destruction, on the whole the world is in a better place. The cold war is over. No country expects one country to drop a nuclear weapon on another and start a war that will lead to the extinction of the planet, and for the first time in all human history, we have the ability if we can master the wisdom to build a global system of integrated communities. We don’t pretend we don’t have differences. If we did that, all progress would stop because there will be no debate. The reason democracy has been the most enduring form of government is that it fosters debate. Those of us who are in it don’t always like it especially when we lose. I have won and lost. I like winning a lot better than losing. But I’m quite sure that the debates move us closer to the truth, to a just resolution of a problem or to a good way of moving forward. Now we have that chance and I think that’s what we ought to do.

 

   But it requires those of us who believe in democracy also to believe that while our differences are important, our common humanity matters more and this is very, very hard to do. Gandhi, father of modern India, was murdered in his 78th year not by a muslim fighting for Kashmiri separation from India. He was murdered by a fellow Hindu who thought Gandhi was not a good Hindu because he wanted India for the Muslims, and the Sikhs, and the Jains, and the Jews and the Christians and everybody else. On perhaps the darkest personal day of my presidency, my friend Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister of Israel, who had given his entire life defending his native land, was murdered not by a Palestinian terrorist but by a young Israeli Jew who thought he was neither a good Israeli nor a good Jew because he wanted the Palestinian to have the home land where they could raise their children in peace and security and prosperity and cooperation with Israel, but it required them to give up the West Bank and share the land in the future. My friend, the former prime minister of Lebanon, Mr. Hariri, was murdered a few days ago in a horrible bombing in Beirut that brought back the dark memories of the civil war of the seventies. Only about a week to ten days ago, we spent an hour and a half together talking about his dreams for Lebanon and for a peaceful Middle East. He was not killed by an Israeli. He was killed certainly by some group of his fellow Arabs who preferred division and discord and death and destruction.

 

   So it is easy to say but hard to do. One thing I’m sure of and the progress of Taiwan since I first came here so long ago proves it: the more people have positive things to do, the more they have something good to look forward to when they get up in the morning; the less likely they are to fall in destructive patterns and the more likely they are to lead their communities, their nations, and the world to a better place. So I say again I’m glad to be here. I congratulate you on the work of your Foundation, and I hope through this Foundation you’ll find a way to help people in other countries who love freedom and democracy, but don’t have your prosperity or organizational capacity to get it because we have to preserve humanity gains until we can move from interdependence to a truly global community.

 

   Thank you very much!

 

 

About alwayscola18

*Always be misunderstood. *Majored in business administration, but contributing to satisfaction of primary living needs. *Prefer to speak out, and enjoy silence. *A Mandarin speaker, but not a grand-China nationalist; a Hokkien dialect speaker, but not an aggressive grass-root activist; an English reader, but not negative to my homeland; a baby Christian, but not a confrontationist to the God of earth. *With personalities of patience, cleverness, discernment, toleration, self-confidence, and friendliness.
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