Friday, July 16, 2010

The Third Caux Forum for Human Security closed on Friday 16th July with a ‘call to action’ to address the urgent problems of poverty, hunger, climate change, resource depletion, war and conflict. The Honourable Clare Short, who was Secretary of State for International Development in the UK, from 1997 to 2003, and has worked tirelessly for development and poverty reduction, is the chairperson of a steering council that will mobilize a broad ‘coalition of conscience to take specific actions.

Clare Short

Clare Short, who spoke at the Initiatives of Change Caux centre yesterday, was a Member of the UK Parliament from 1983 to 2010. She said: ‘We’re facing monumental crises if we don’t change course. There is a better way available. We could secure a decent life for every human being.’ She called on the participants to face up to the seriousness of the situation in the world, ‘and the tantalizing possibility that it could all be so much better.’ A strength of Initiatives of Change, which had organized the Forum, lay in bringing people from conflict regions together, she continued, ‘but if the underlying causes are not dealt with, there will be more conflict. We can avoid it, we can and must do better.’(You can listen to her full speech by clicking on this link)

The 350 participants of the Forum came from more than 50 countries. Among them were active and retired politicians from all continents, representatives of NGOs like Paul van Tongeren from the ‘Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict’, Scilla Elworthy from Peace Direct, peace activists, people from the military like General John Sanderson, the former Chief of Staff of the Australian Army, specialists in the field of sustainable development like Hans Herren, Director of the Millenium Institute and a World Food Prize Laureate in 1995, and Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). During 7 days, the Forum dealt with themes of ‘Just Governance’, ‘Inclusive Economics’, ‘Living Sustainably’, ‘Healing Memory’ and ‘Intercultural Understanding’.

Participants working on the 'call to action'

Clare Short had first come to Caux two years ago because of her respect for Mohamed Sahnoun and Cornelio Sommaruga, both of whom had served as Presidents of Initiatives of Change International, and who had together launched the Caux Forum for Human Security. ‘I came to this magical beautiful place, this fantastic collection of people,’ but, she went on, ‘if the world is going to hell, it’s not enough. We need to be more ambitious, to create the kind of world we long for. It is a tantalizing moment. The challenge is enormous, but the dangers if we don’t rise to the challenge are even more enormous. The future may get very ugly indeed.’ Homo sapiens could destroy itself, she warned, if we don’t try to change course. Mohamed Sahnoun, the Chairman of the Caux Forum for Human Security, supporting Short, called for ‘inclusive governance, inclusive economics, and an inclusive world’.

A statement supporting a Caux ‘call to action’ was endorsed by Forum participants. It highlights the extraordinary moment in history, ‘a tipping point’ where ‘for the first time there is the technological, social and economic capacity to meet everyone’s needs, and enable all to live fulfilled lives’. ‘Once in every few generations comes a moment when the world has to choose between major transformation or clinging to the status quo,’ the statement says, warning that if the chance for breakthrough is missed, breakdown will follow. It claims that ‘a future of low carbon prosperity’ is possible and that ‘economically enfranchising the poor will boost wellbeing worldwide’. The signatories commit themselves to ‘living the change we long for, listening to conscience and working with integrity and generosity’. They further dedicate themselves to ‘build a movement of people to bring about the global transformation that is so desperately needed’.

Earlier in the Forum, Frederico Mayor, the Spanish former Director-General of UNESCO, shared a similar conviction that diagnosis and treatment were urgent before irreversible damage is done. ‘It is time for radical change. It is time for action. Initiatives for change – this is exactly what we need today,’ Mayor said. The President of the Culture of Peace Foundation suggested that there was now a new global awareness of the problems, and so we are better equipped to express solidarity. For example, some one billion people have no access to water or sanitation. ‘This is more than a feeling, it’s a responsibility to put in train actions that can lead to the equal dignity of all human beings,’ he insisted. All human beings have a capacity to create, to invent the future, Mayor said, so ‘a world in which brotherhood can be a reality’.

This Third Caux Forum for Human Security is part of a five-year series which has received support from the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The Forum is now followed by four other sessions running until 17 August, on ‘Trust and integrity in the global economy’, ‘Everybody counts – a dialogue across generations’, and training in the skills needed to ‘Lead change for a sustainable world’. The full programme of the Forum as well as the short biographies of the speakers and much more information about the International Caux Conferences 2010 can be found on

>> Podcast of Clare Short's speech

>> Download the statement in support of a Caux Call to Action

>> Video of Scilla Elworthy, speaking about the 'call to action'

>> Video of Otis Moss, speaking about the 'call to action'


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