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Globalising Human Rights: a new Humanism for the XXI century


Franco Frattini: Globalising Human Rights: a new Humanism for the XXI Century


It is for me a great pleasure to address such a distinguished international audience and I would like to thank the organizers of this International Forum for giving me the opportunity to speak about the global challenges, which are impacting on international security, and about the need for a new approach based on inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue, freedom, values and identities to be respected, a solid financial architecture, and for a transition to a new system of international governance.

Just look around, and you can see many areas of instability. We can all see widespread insecurity and injustice, inequality and intolerance.

In today’s increasingly interconnected world trans-national and non-conventional challenges are mushrooming everywhere: energy, environment, illegal mass migrations and traffic on human beings, the financial and food crises, to mention just a few. The international scenario is increasingly multi-faceted, with technological, economic and financial power centres having spread out widely over the last fifteen years.

But a more interdependent world can also be a more fragile one.

What we are witnessing today, in fact, is a diffusion of power. New regional, sub-regional and non-state actors have emerged and claim a role. The interconnection of fragile states and globalization also points out the link among economics, governance and security.

The global crisis, whose contagion has spread progressively from finance to sovereign debt, and therefore to states, with a particularly virulent effect on the euro-zone, is obviously not a subject of study and work exclusively for economists.

We are, in fact, dealing with a political crisis with global ramifications.

People are very worried about joblessness, inflation and public debt, and their fears are fuelling much of the uncertainty and negativity. Our duty is to respond to these frustrations and yearnings.

This crisis should impose (or rather, should have already imposed) an adjustment of recipes that the preponderant ongoing change has rendered obsolete. The recipes inspired by pure liberalism, or by pre-globalization liberalism, no longer work. The crisis will not be short, nor will its effects disappear soon after a return to normality.

Today, knowledge – and therefore the dissemination and sharing of technologies – travels around the world instantaneously. New competitive players have emerged. The West has lost the traditional advantage of “first comer”.

Even the dynamics of the labour market at a global level have changed radically.

The economic crisis is showing that risks but also opportunities are interconnected.

Thus, this condition should lead to find common interests pursuing them together and joining forces beyond the old concept of security.

Security means thinking global and pooling resources or leading processes instead of simply reacting to wake-up calls coming from the emerging world.

The increasing globalization of the oil market too has increased the pace of exploration and production, thereby highlighting the need for energy security.

Building a global human community

Globalisation affected values and produced uncertainties and disorientation raising questions about our common sense of cultural identity and feeding dangerous dynamics between religious faiths, between different cultures, between localism and universalisms, between individual and community.

With the globalisation of human rights, it is necessary to consider whether rights are relative or absolute. The human person above all else: human dignity and human rights are universal. And religious freedom, protection of minorities from abuse and discrimination – which, for example, has seen millions of Christians forced to flee the regions and countries where they grew up, in Middle East or Africa.

There has been a gradual and progressive shift of power from the west. That movement could be considered a positive, in that there is now a wider range of countries able to shoulder international power,but it is essential that universal rights should not be compromised.

The Community of all States has a vital role to play in defending the integrity of universal rights, such as the right to freedom of expression, especially for the weakest and most vulnerable, including women, children and religious minorities. The rights to attend school and to enjoy a healthy environment are also fundamental.

The promotion of universal rights should involve close co-operation between religions and cultures so as to enable those rights to be properly integrated. The cultural diversity has to be safeguarded.

The role of rights is central to the discussion about identity and immigration. There have been mistakes in the past and it is necessary to look to the future.

The multicultural approach based on group rights rather than individual rights is not working. The rights of individuals have to be protected above the rights of groups: the pre-eminence of the rights of groups could mean that a Muslim girl in Europe might be treated differently from a Christian or Jewish girl.

It is important to ensure dialogue between cultures, without eroding fundamental principles, and to promote security and solidarity, while respecting the rights of all people.

It was difficult to grapple with the complex web of public hopes and fears; it was difficult to convey to the public the issues surrounding different religions and life styles. There needed to be dialogue. If a mosque were built, it should also be possible for a church to be built.There needed to be freedom of all religions. The focus should be on tolerance, diversity, democracy and solidarity. The lessons of history about developing friendship amongst different peoples needed to be learned.

Promoting a new humanism

Nowadays societies are multicultural and multi-ethnic, and their diversity is a positive and enriching factor. 
Unfortunately, racist and xenophobic forms of conduct persist around the world and events in different parts of the world show the continuing existence of racist and xenophobic attitudes.
 Racism and xenophobia are a direct violation of the principles of dignity, liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

A new humanism is required to oppose these perverse phenomena, only the centrality of human person is an antidote that will defeat fanaticism and intolerance. It means using culture, in all of its diversity of expression, as a tool for rapprochement and for crafting a shared vision.

We must rediscover the common founding values of peace, freedom, equality, democracy, rights, tolerance and solidarity and promote a new humanism that restores the dignity of the human being to the centre of each and every policy and strategy. We must promote human rights and democracy through mutual respect, ideas and dialogue.

Now more than ever before, our task is to work towards building an ideal community, beyond our diversity, we all share one common human culture. Let’s build bridges between North, South, East and West and strengthen the human community to take up our challenges together.

There are limits nobody can trespass

We meet at very turbulent times. Our values stem from our humanistic heritage: a heritage that affirms the human being as the measure of all things. Regimes, which disregard the right to life can never be acceptable to us. No political leader in any region can build and maintain his power at the expense of the lives of his own people. There are limits nobody can trespass without falling into the abyss of disaster and international rejection.

The West alone can no longer call the shots, the role of emerging powers has been increasing, and the developing countries are also legitimately calling for a bigger say in the management of the global agenda. Russia, and its Asian partners, for example, can play a bigger role on that.

We should improve the effectiveness of the system of the global governance: we need to give concrete responses to the most urgent problems, in particular the economic crisis. We also need to make the major stakeholders of the international system more accountable.

Effective governance implies that commitments are met.

The lessons of the crisis are clear: there is a ‘governance gap’ that we have to fill as soon as possible. We urgently need a new set of rules for financial and economic governance.

Furthermore, there is a growing need to prepare our societies for cyber emergencies and for our states to develop strategies to manage successfully cyber crises that will necessitate both technical and political responses and which will require coordination across states, as well.

No country can successfully address alone the global security challenges of today’s complex world. By building a new culture of cooperation in the security sphere on a multilateral level, we will be able to work together more effectively in order to promote better conditions of international security, stability and peace.

We call for dialogue and we should direct our joint efforts towards “human global security” in real time, now, not the distant future.

Trust and respect for rules: what we need to do

The economic crisis and food crisis now facing us are primarily due to a lack of respect for rules, whose lowest common denominator is a lack of deeper respect for human nature.

The shortfall that contributed to these crises, have to do with the absence or low degree of transparency from public and private players, both institutional and independent and the lack of ethics in the financial markets.

The only way to re-establish trust is to accept responsibility for the real economy and acknowledge the basic needs of human nature. The economic crisis underway is due to a lack of respect for consumers and savers, in a word: disrespect as a philosophy of action.

Once again, we must all be aware of the need to improve democratic governance in accordance with the growing cultural diversity and religious pluralism of our present-day societies. A shared duty that calls for coordinated approaches and policies at international, national and local levels.

For the first time the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted on 24 September 2012 a historic Declaration aimed at strengthening the rule of law at the national and international level stressing on the urgent need to further implement its inter-relationship with peace and security, development and human rights.

We shall have neither peace nor development without respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Vision of a better world

A better and easier access to information, new tools of communication (to begin with internet and social networks), growing aspirations for a “better life” and more “human security” and the perceptions of change elsewhere raise frustration and discontent with bad governance, over-regulation, corruption and repression in many countries of the world. These reasons are those behind the turmoil and the search for a different future, which are changing politics and societies in the Arab world.

The Arab Spring has clearly changed the geopolitical balance in the wider Middle East. In fact, the previous and “dividing” Middle Eastern balance of power (where western-leaning status-quo powers were faced by an axis of revisionist states and organisations) is rapidly vanishing or, however, significantly changing. Such a change (still in progress) has facilitated the emergence of a number of new emerging actors that are pursuing their own regional goals and interests.

As the Commissioner for Enlargement Štefan Füle admitted “Europe was not vocal enough in defending human rights and local democratic forces in the region. Too many of us fell prey to the assumption that authoritarian regimes were a guarantee of stability in the region. This was not even Realpolitik. It was, at best, short-termism —and the kind of short-termism that makes the long term ever more difficult to build.”

We should focus on promoting and encouraging, though intercultural dialogue, better integrations among countries in West Asia and North Africa, not necessarily through closed regional institutions but through multilateral, open and widely participated partnerships (especially when sensitive issues are at stake like right to water and energy).

We must grasp the challenges of building a sustainable global society.

Fostering a “sustainable world” means voicing the problems of the poorest and most vulnerable populations. It also means taking on the serious issues threatening the survival of our planet and its inhabitants, starting with climate change, the food and water crisis, and health emergencies. Education, communication, culture and the sciences are closely-linked disciplines that propose together a global, sustainable response to the challenges faced by humanity. The new humanism means a better grasp of our environment, it entails protecting biodiversity along with cultural diversity.

And lastly, fostering a “sustainable world means re-starting the world economy on the bases of new, just, equitable and agreed rules.

This new global governance in fieri, must not imply a “dilution of values” or a change in the way we interpret the fundamental rights of the individual and the respect for human rights.

Once again we should never forget that a better world is above all a more peaceful world and that peace is based and cannot exist without freedom, respect for human dignity, democracy and justice.

Accordingly, only by promoting these common values and helping to establish structures committed to social justice, democracy and market economy, our key foreign policy goals will be sooner or later achieved.

This is the reason why it is fundamental that we all share a common space of values where respect for individuals and diversity, for individual freedoms and national solidarity, are the cornerstones. There is no real and lasting stability without a true community of values.

Religious freedom is a cardinal principle of our civilisation. The first principle to underscore is that religion cannot be a mean to justify violation or abuses.

We are each of us called to help, prevent and avert all cases of intolerance through the only two tools that are truly effective: dialogue and multilateralism. We are living at a time when it is urgent to mend the global fracture between, on the one hand, an open and tolerant conception of human co-existence and, on the other, totalitarian pressures that are reluctant to accept the diversity that is inherent to our world. That is why recourse to the spiritual dimension offers us an unrivalled instrument for dialogue and mutual understanding. At international level, naturally, but also at the national level.

Inspired by the speech delivered by Pope Benedict XIV to the German Bundestag “we must listen to the language of nature and we must answer accordingly. Yet I would like to underline a point that seems to me to be neglected, today as in the past: there is also an ecology of man: Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. The culture of Europe arose from the encounter between Jerusalem, Athens and Rome – from the encounter between Israel’s monotheism, the philosophical reason of the Greeks and Roman law. This three – way encounter has shaped the inner identity of Europe. In the awareness of man’s responsibility before God and in the acknowledgement of the inviolable dignity of every single human person, it has established criteria of law: it is these criteria that we are called to defend at this moment in our history.”