Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Micheline Calmy-Rey speaking with Forum attendees from Burma (photo: Adriana Borra)

Micheline Calmy-Rey, twice President of the Swiss Federation, told participants in the Fifth Caux Forum for Human Security, in Switzerland, that dialogue represents the political realism necessary to resolve global challenges. With her was Swiss Ambassador Claude Altermatt, representing the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, who described the Caux center as "a haven of peace and inspiration."

The Forum, which brought together over 250 people from 50 countries, including many Americans, underlined that finally the security of people, whether in wealthy nations like the United States or in poor countries in Africa, requires good governance, inclusive economies, sustainable living and the healing of memories.

The latter was illustrated powerfully by former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and two Aboriginal leaders. Rudd spoke of his public apology in 2008 on behalf of the Australian government to the “stolen generations”, referring to the thousands of aboriginal children forcibly removal from their families. The apology, he said, was offered without any assurance that it would be accepted. It was, and this led to processes of healing that are being implemented and monitored year by year.

Jackie Huggins, an Aboriginal historian, never thought this could happen. Speaking to the former Prime Minister, she said "Thank you so much for giving us our dignity back."

Kevin Rudd (Photo: Marion Bouvier)

Rudd made clear that credit should go to four generations of Aboriginal leaders who had fought on these issues. "We whites are perhaps slow learners," he said. "There comes a time in the life of a people or a culture when telling the truth is not a bad strategy." Referring to the history of healing processes in which Caux had played a part, he said, "Everything is possible if we have the heart to do it. Never underestimate your power as civil society. You can knock down walls over time."

The Forum started with a special one-day event on Restoring Land, Restoring Lives. Host of the event, Luc Gnacadja of Benin in West Africa who is Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, reminded all that "Land degradation is about life degradation, so land restoration is about life restoration."

A high-level South Sudanese delegation, brought to Caux in collaboration with the Swiss Foreign Ministry, led a ceremony celebrating the first anniversary of the independence of their country on July 9. In his speech, Deputy Foreign Minister Elias Nyamell Wakoson asserted that South Sudan "is not out of the woods yet, but we are getting there."

Others in the delegation of 13 included two deputy ministers, a governor and chairs of parliamentary committees. Also attending were a small but significant delegation from Burma/Myanmar and 20 leaders from French-speaking countries of Central and West Africa. The latter were brought by the Swiss government for a workshop on healing the past. It was the third such delegation.

Insights and lessons learned from the five forums will be made available to people in government and civil society.

Video of Kevin Rudd speaking at the Caux Forum

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