Monday, November 30, 2009

Mohamed Sahnoun, tireless advocate for the human family

Article sur Mohamed Sahnoun et le Forum de Caux pour la sécurité humaine, dans le quotidien français La Croix, 27 novembre 2009, par le journaliste François d'Alençon

The diplomat and former UN Special Envoy in Africa, is working on a draft declaration on human security, drawing on the resources of civil society.

François d’Alançon writing in the French daily La Croix, November 27, 2009

‘The real issue is ignorance of this basic point: no people can remain isolated, protected in a kind of fortress against the deteriorating living conditions in the rest of humanity. We haven’t quite grasped yet that we are all in the same boat. Some live in staterooms, others in the hold, but when the ship goes down it affects us all.’

In Paris for the presentation of the Jacques Chirac Foundation award for conflict prevention to two Nigerian men of peace earlier this month, Sahnoun tirelessly repeats his message that in the face of the challenges of ‘human security’, solidarity must prevail over selfishness.

‘We often talk of climate change and the global financial crisis as if these were passing phenomena. But the link between international security and global poverty is very clear,’ says the former ambassador. ‘Look at Somalia, a failed state where maritime piracy has become a means of survival.

The United Nations predicts a world population of 9.15 billion inhabitants in 2050 against 6.8 billion today – 98% of this growth will occur in developing countries. At the same time, according to the International Institute for Peace Research in Stockholm, arms spending reached 1,464 billion dollars in 2008, while development aid amounted to less than 100 billion dollars. We spend 15 times more on killing each other than on helping each other.’

Former special adviser to Kofi Annan for the Horn of Africa, Mohamed Sahnoun founded and chairs the Caux Forum for Human Security, organized by Initiatives of Change International, a Swiss-based NGO in Special Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council. Each summer since 2008, diplomats, politicians, businessmen, academics and peace activists from five continents meet for five days on the shores of Lake Geneva, to share their experiences, their beliefs and their plans.

In July 2009, 50 delegates from India and Pakistan conducted discussions on the issues that divide their two countries. Similarly a group of Palestinian and Israeli activists decided to form a committee to organize meetings between Israeli and Palestinian opinion shapers.

To encourage the search for better governance, the next forum, scheduled for July 2010, will discuss a draft declaration on human security, which would then be adopted at the international conference. A former co-chair of the International Commission that produced the report ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (see box), Mohamed Sahnoun has more confidence in the role of civil society to change attitudes than in politicians who are, he said, ‘not interested in root causes and focus on managing short-term interests’.

This son of a Sufi, Sahnoun – a former agitator for Algerian independence – never ceased believing in the power of the spirit. ‘Populations are becoming more and more vulnerable, even within developed countries,’ he insists. ‘National and international governance progresses through economic development, education and knowledge. This process has to go through certain stages. In order for people to hold their politicians accountable, they must be able to worry about more than just daily survival. This crisis is a wake-up call for us, in the hope that these storms can precipitate a time of spiritual growth. We must change our ideas and re-evaluate our priorities as members of the human family.’

Box

December 2001, the principle of ‘responsibility to protect’

Co-chaired by Mohamed Sahnoun and Gareth Evans, former Foreign Minister of Australia, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, established at the initiative of Canada and a group of major foundations, reported on its work in December 2001 to the UN Secretary General at the time, Kofi Annan. Made up of 12 independent people, the Commission developed the concept of a ‘responsibility to protect’. States have the sovereign responsibility to protect their own citizens against preventable disasters but when they refuse or are unable to do so, this responsibility lies with the international community. This principle was adopted in 2005 by the General Assembly of the United Nations.

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