There has been an extraordinary heightening of tensions around the world since September 11, 2001. In many countries the priority accorded to national security has been used to justify curtailment of rights and freedoms, while energy and attention have been distracted from efforts to address such global issues as poverty and ecological degradation. How can we overcome the crises that face us?
There is, of course, no simple solution, but there is no need to fall into meaningless and unproductive pessimism. These problems are all caused by human beings, which means that they must have a human solution. I am convinced that so long as we do not give up we can be certain of finding a way out of the impasse.
The core of our efforts must be to bring forth the full potential of dialogue, to embrace dialogue as the sure and certain path to peace. Heartfelt, one-to-one dialogue is the essence of humanism. As ripples of dialogue multiply and spread, they have the potential to generate a sea change that will redirect the energies of dogmatism and fanaticism toward a more humanistic outlook.
Fanaticism and dogmatism come in many forms. Although often associated with religion, they can be found across the full spectrum of human activity, as seen in the way the political ideologies of the twentieth century were caught in their snares.
To some extent any ideology embodies an orthodoxy or set way of understanding the world. While this can sometimes be a positive thing, at the same time orthodoxies can bind people’s thinking and judgment to a single, exclusive point of reference. There is an intrinsic danger that this tendency can get out of control and that abstract “isms” will come to hold thrall over real people. This can give rise to fanaticism, resulting in a situation in which human life is grotesquely devalued and death is glorified.
In contrast to such orthodoxies, the most prominent feature of humanism is that it does not seek to impose norms of behavior. Rather, it places central stress on the free and spontaneous workings of the human spirit and on autonomous judgment and decision-making.
The following can be seen as a guideline for a Buddhist-inspired humanism in action: Recognizing that all is change within a framework of interdependence, we see harmony and oneness as expressions of our interconnectedness. But we can even look at contradiction and conflict in the same way. Refusing to discriminate on the basis of stereotypes or imposed limitations, we can engage with the full force of our lives in the kind of dialogue that will transform even conflict into positive connection. It is in this challenge that the true contribution of a Buddhist-based humanism is to be found.
Education for Global Citizenship
Here education holds the key. Education for global citizenship can help transform humankind’s long-standing culture of war into a culture of peace.
The United Nations can serve as a powerful coordinating focus for such efforts. The World Programme for Human Rights Education, initiated in January 2005, provides a vital opportunity in this regard. The year 2005 also marks the start of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, something which the SGI has consistently called for and worked toward. Human rights education and education for sustainable development reflect intertwined concerns and objectives.
There is a pressing need to embrace a vision of dialogue between humanity and nature, a humanism that is not limited to the human. If we lack the humility to heed the messages of the natural world--the evidence of climate change and environmental destruction--arrogantly and recklessly asserting only the concerns and needs of the human world, the natural systems that sustain us will collapse. Indeed, no effort to make the new century an era of universal respect for human rights will be fruitful unless we can expand our understanding of rights to embrace the natural world. It is for this reason that I have for some time urged that a global commitment to harmonious coexistence with nature be reflected in the Japanese Constitution.
Reforming and Strengthening the UN
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has stated that the UN’s aim should be “to create a world that both has fewer threats and greater ability to meet those threats which nevertheless arise.” While the capacity to respond to threats is crucial, preventive engagement with global problems. The soft power of dialogue and cooperation lies at the heart of the UN, and soft power functions most effectively at the preventive end of the spectrum, namely, defining paradigms for addressing global problems, creating collaborative frameworks and so forth.
To strengthen the soft power role of the UN, there is a need for what might be termed a “global governance coordinating panel,” whose work could be supported by a working group of NGOs. Restructuring of the UN requires a strengthening of the partnership between the UN and civil society. The rights of NGOs to participate in and initiate debate should be extended to their relations with the UN General Assembly and the Security Council.
Confidence and Peacebuilding in the Asia-Pacific Region
The establishment of a UN Asia-Pacific office would mark the start of a new effort to advance human security in the region. Further, I would like to see the foundations in East Asia for the kind of regional integration we see in other regions. As a step toward this, issues such as ecological integrity, human development and disaster strategies are amenable to intra-regional cooperation.
Educational exchanges are also crucial. The connections forged by people of different countries in their youth can form the basis for lasting peace. China, Japan and South Korea should develop a program for student mobility that could eventually be expanded to embrace all the countries of Asia.
As well as building trusting relationships with one another through such programs and initiatives, China, Japan and South Korea should work closely together in a concerted quest for a breakthrough in the standoff over the North Korean nuclear arms development issue. A nuclear weapon-free zone should be created in Northeast Asia. The prerequisite for this must be the success of the six-party talks, whose working group set up to discuss specific procedures for the dismantlement of the North Korean nuclear program should be converted into a standing body.
The nuclear powers should initiate prompt moves to reduce and dismantle their arsenals and to strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime. I strongly urge the declared nuclear-weapon states to begin building the framework for disarmament. We need an international nuclear disarmament agency, a specialized agency to oversee fulfillment of the “unequivocal undertaking” by the nuclear-weapon states to totally eliminate their nuclear arsenals.
We also need to revive negotiations of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), urging India and Pakistan as well as Israel to join, thus engaging them in international regimes for the control of weapons-grade nuclear materials.
I would also like to stress the importance of disarmament and nonproliferation education, which can play a vital role in setting our world securely on a path toward peace. We need to actively incorporate disarmament and nonproliferation into school education. Complementing this are efforts to raise awareness in every part of society. For our part, the SGI will persevere in activities to promote disarmament and nonproliferation education.
This year is the thirtieth anniversary of the SGI, and I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm our fundamental spirit. Rooted in an unwavering commitment to peace, culture and education, SGI members everywhere engage in earnest dialogue, seeking to generate a global tide of peace and creative coexistence. Engraving in our hearts the profound spirit of our mentors--that this is the sure and certain path to humanity’s eternal victory--we reaffirm our determination to swell the currents of solidarity among awakened citizens, sharing and spreading a dynamic commitment to peace and humanism.