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Peace Proposal 2001

Creating and Sustaining a Century of Life: Challenges for a New Era

by Daisaku Ikeda
President, Soka Gakkai International

 

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Synopsis

At the start of a new century, it is natural that humankind question what we achieved in the last century and what we can expect of the next.

The twentieth century has seen commendable progress in the fields of science and technology, improvements in health, and advances in human rights. On balance, however, it has been a time of unprecedented tragedy and human suffering, marked by appalling and ceaseless war and conflict, an era of wanton disregard for human life. The advances and progress made in the twentieth century were virtually all material and physical. With regard to the inner realm of the human spirit, it seems undeniable that the era was marked by regression rather than advance. Moreover, the progress of modern science has been premised on a mechanistic view of nature as the object of manipulation and control, essentially separate from humanity. The ties among people and between people and the cosmos are being severed, trapping humanity in a state of spiritual isolation.

To overcome this spiritual crisis, we need a worldview that recognizes the interconnectedness of all beings: that the subjective and objective realms are inseparable and that humanity is an integral part of nature. A renewal of reverence for life is necessary if humanity is to find a clear direction in the new century.

One of the trends especially apparent in contemporary Japan is a profound transformation in the orientation of people''s interests: a search for identity, for a sense of reality at a time when all values, structures, and systems are being questioned at the most elemental level. This change is perhaps being spurred by globalization and the information technology revolution, developments that, despite their great promise, also entail serious problems that we must address: issues about identity, our relationship with each other and with the world around us in the face of ever-expanding virtual reality.

The key indices to characterize the spirit that must animate the twenty-first century if it is to be a century of life are creative coexistence and the autonomous functioning of the inner will. The former parallels the Buddhist emphasis on interrelatedness and interdependence. The latter reflects the Buddhist understanding that everything is contained in the present moment and that the way we approach this moment is crucial and will determine the entire course of our lives. If these values can be made into the driving spirit of the age, we will be able to put behind us the nightmares of the twentieth century and realize a century of life and of peace, a peace that is much more than a mere interlude between wars.

Women will play a crucial role in realizing this kind of world in the twenty-first century. The values, principles, and ideologies that are presently being called into question are all the products of male-dominated societies. The emergence of women in the twenty-first century has a significance that goes to the very core of human civilization.

Turning to the issue of revising the Japanese Constitution, which is currently the focus of much debate in Japan, we must embrace the spirit that underlies war-renouncing Article 9. In any debate on constitutional reform, we must never forget that the ideals of pacifism and international cooperation expressed in the Preamble and Article 9 are the very heart and soul of Japan''s constitution---that which qualifies it to be called a ""peace constitution."" We must breathe new life into and universalize the article''s spirit and principles. Rather than confining itself to what has been dubbed ""one-country pacifism,"" which ignores movements in international society and the concerns of other countries, Japan should take the initiative in creating an effective United Nations-based global security and conflict prevention system in line with the original spirit of the constitution, whose preamble declares the right of humankind to coexist in peace.

To realize peace in the coming century, it is absolutely essential that we replace the traditional ascendancy of competing national interests with an international community dedicated to the welfare of the whole of humankind and Earth. The UN can and must play a pivotal role in this transformation. While the UN Charter clearly accepts the possibility of the exercise of ""hard power,"" including military action, we must bear in mind above all that the UN''s essential nature is to be found in the ""soft power"" of dialogue and cooperation.

New means must be found to establish avenues for expanded cooperation with NGOs and civil society in general in order to ensure greater participation by the people in the affairs of the UN. By bringing together the wide-ranging talents and capacities of ordinary citizens, the UN will be able to enrich and strengthen the humanistic quality that should be its essence. In this regard, the proposals for the creation of a Global Civil Society Forum made at the We the Peoples Millennium Forum in May 2000 should be realized promptly. Similarly, with regard to resolving the UN''s long-standing challenge to securing stable sources of financing, consideration should be given to the creation of a people''s fund for the UN, a body which would actively engage in fund-raising, accepting donations from individuals, organizations, and corporations to supplement existing sources of revenue.

The UN must actively address issues of poverty and the environment. This too requires greater participation by the people: It is crucial to find out from the people themselves what is needed and reflect it in assistance and development programs. To this end, what might be called an ""Earth Forum"" could be established to act as a bridge between the people of the developing countries and the world''s wealthy, bringing their concerns and demands to such venues as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) summits and the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. This could facilitate dialogue and discussion toward a global society that is truly just and equitable.

With regard to the environment, the principles of the Earth Charter, the crystallization of a process of global dialogue, can serve as the foundation for a century of life. It is crucial that the Earth Charter principles take root in each person''s life as fundamental ethical guidelines. The SGI will continue to promote the Earth Charter, working toward its official adoption and encouraging individuals everywhere to make the Charter a personal pledge and commitment.

With the aim of fostering the key concepts of creative coexistence and the autonomous functioning of the inner will mentioned above, it is worth considering the traditions and potentials of China and India, which each in their own way embody spiritual values that have the potential to help bring about an era of soft power. To this end, the current G8 summit should be permanently expanded to include China and India. On the subject of the Asian region, the recent meeting of the leaders of the two halves of the Korean Peninsula is a truly welcome development. The current process of confidence building is a worthy example of the role of dialogue in addressing the world''s problems, and further progress is keenly anticipated.

Another region of key importance to the world in the twenty-first century is Africa. Peaceful solidarity in the continent is of crucial importance, as represented by moves ever since the end of the colonial era toward an African Union. The destiny of Africa and indeed of all humankind in the twenty-first century hinges on the degree to which ordinary people awaken their inner capacities for strength, for wisdom, and for solidarity. It is open dialogue that plays the central part in bringing forth these qualities.

Dialogue has the power to restore and revitalize our shared humanity by setting free our innate capacity for good. It was the failure to make dialogue the foundation of human society that unleashed the bitter tragedies of the twentieth century. We must spread the spirit of dialogue to make it the current and flow of the twenty-first century. In this way we can together create an era in which all people enjoy the fruits of peace and happiness and celebrate their limitless dignity and potential.

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