Nobel Peace Laureates speak in the Frauenkirche

As a place that promotes tolerance and peace between all nations and people, the Frauenkirche Dresden feels constrained to late Alfred Nobel's idea to support international peacemakers. Thus the Frauenkirche Foundation invites Nobel Peace Laureates to speak in the church. Their pathbreaking ideas for a more peaceful world shall be heard in order to become a source of inspiration for mankind.

In 2018, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf spoke

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate of 2011 and former President of Liberia, has chaired the United Nations High Level Panel on Migration since 2017. She played a central role in shaping the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The text of this Global Compact, which at the time of her speech in the Frauenkirche was about to be approved by the UN member states, was later endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2018. Speaking in the Frauenkirche in November, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf chose to powerfully dwell on the topic of migration. herr speech was entitled »Transforming the Narrative on Migration and Global Development« and explained the underlying principles and implications of the Migration Pact. 

Read the full lecture »Changing the Narrative on Migration« here

»Changing the Narrative on Migration and Global Development«


Lecture by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

»Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Lecture«
Frauenkirche, Dresden, Germany
12. November 2018

Remarks as delivered

Dr. Meis, Deputy Bishop,
Pastor Feydt,
Officials of Saxony and of the Federal Republic of Germany,

I am extremely delighted to be here this evening and I thank you so much, Minister-President, for your kind introduction.  It is one of my great honors to be a Nobel Laureate who has a small way hope to make the world a better place. I am deeply humbled that I have the opportunity to be here. And I would like to say a big thank you to all of those who have been so courteous since I arrived. Those who have arranged this event and have been with us for the past two days as we tried to explore a little bit of Dresden, going to the Opera, going to the Green Vault, being able to walk across here in the church. What a wonderful experience for us. We are going back with such strong sentiments of the couple of days we have been here.   

In January of this year, after twelve consecutive years of peace succeeding two decades of conflict, I led a peaceful transition, the first in my country, the first over eighty years.

In the twelve years of my presidency, Liberia experienced a rebirth, reestablishing relationships with our bilateral and multilateral partners, obtaining relief from a $4.7 billion external debt, rebuilding destroyed infrastructure, restarting dysfunctional institutions.

There were good years that led to growth peaking at 9 percent at the end of 2012 with mobilized direct foreign investment on the order of 4 billion US dollars.  There were bad years when the Ebola virus hit us in 2013 and drove our GDP down to virtually zero. It took us two years to bring back the confidence of those who had left out of fear.

But throughout the good years and the bad years, Germany has been a trusted friend, helping our reconstruction and rebuilding our health care system. We thank especially Chancellor Merkel who always responded to our call. We thank the many organizations and individuals, perhaps some of them right here in this room, who provided medical material during our epidemic. And we thank the German people for being a strong partner to Liberia.

Tonight I will speak about migration and hope to correct some of the misinformation that migration leads to the so-called “migrant Crisis”.

Migration has always been a driving force in world history. Indeed, people the world over, nations, at some point in time, have all been significantly impacted by migration. The original migration of mankind sees ancient people migrating out of Africa to Europe, out of Europe to the United States and Asia, out of Asia across the world. The Bantu expansion, in our own continent Africa, settled much of the continent’s several thousand years ago, gave birth to ethnicities across Sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s Europe and what we call the Western world, with its languages, cultures and forms of government, derive in part from the expansion of the Roman empire and the movement of all its citizens. The United States is famously a nation of immigration, where the majority of its citizens can trace their ancestry not to the United States, but to places outside their own borders.

My home of Liberia also owes part of its legacy to migration.  With support of the American Colonization Society, liberated Africans from the United States created a settlement that is now called Liberia by declaration of independence in 1847. And so I stand here today as part of this legacy of migration. One for my country and one for my own personal roots, to which migration contributed.

Despite the vast majority of the world’s situation and cultures owing part of their own legacies to migration, the movement of people have become a contentious flashpoint in today’s global politics. The movement of migrants and refugees, now commonly referred to as the “crisis,” dominates the news cycles. In some cases, politicians here in Europe, and elsewhere, use images of migrants and refugees to prey upon nationalistic fears at home, and the real economic pressures its citizens are feeling. The ensuring result however, often creates and perpetuates a climate of hate and xenophobia, rather than economic or social prosperity. This is counterproductive to global development and progress.

The Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, to which Germany in compact is a partner, recognize the importance of migration in reducing inequality within and between states. Of the 17 Goals, 11 of the SDGs are linked directly or indirectly to migration. For example, SDG number 2, “Zero Hunger”, relates to mass migrations to escape food insecurity. Goal number 16, “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions”, recognizes that insecurity is a leading factor in creating refugees and migrations to safer regions. It would be impossible to achieve all of the Sustainable Development Goals, to which we all are committed, without recognizing the effects of migration on the modern world.

Distinguished friends,

Migration has been and must continue to be part of global development. Migration carries economic and cultural benefits for host countries and through remittances, which contribute significant development assistance to origin countries. We must try hard to move away from a negative narrative and take a close look at the distinction between a migrant and a refugee in order to address and mitigate the flow of illegal and unsafe migration.  I do believe that through appropriate policies, migration can be managed and be beneficial to migrants, to welcoming nations and to origin countries. 

In its most general term, a migrant is someone who has left his or her habitual place of residence to move across international borders, seeking assistance elsewhere. According to the United Nations High Council on Refugees, contrarily, a refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her home nation for fear of persecution, war or violence. Refugees are entitled to special protection under international law.

But, the official UN definition does not consider those who flee their home countries for other reasons aside violence and persecution as ‘refugees’. Many people, such as those in Venezuela and Yemen, leave their homes due to famine, food shortages, or extreme poverty. While these people are not legally categorized as refugees under international law, their situation should be given special consideration within the context of global migration. Credible pathways can and must be found to make them available for those migrants who are involuntarily forced from their origin countries and would face obstacles upon their return, but do not qualify as refugees.

Because the term ‘migrant’ encapsulates both persons leaving a nation of residence voluntarily and involuntarily, some refugees are technically classified as migrants. Indeed, the world’s 25.4 million refugees make up over 10% of all international migrants.

There is overlap of migrants and refugees in large mixed movements, especially those prompted by environmental disaster, social conflict, or other factors that make people resort to desperate actions to leave home.  In September of 2016, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants in response to large mixed movements, or migrations that include refugees and other migrants. The Declaration called for a Global Compact on Migration and a Global Compact on Refugees, recognizing that migrants and refugees face many similar challenges.

While refugees enjoy these protections under international law, these two Compacts seek to broaden protection and address factors that force large mixed movements of people to turn to desperate measures to leave their home country, including detention in transit centers, protection of their human rights and access to social services.

Migration has thus become an unfortunate political tool. Nationalist agendas paint migrants as threats to the status quo and dangerous to host nations. Such narratives are really inaccurate. Migration is an essential part of the development process. Researchers have identified development and labor market demands as structural drivers of migration. There will always be therefore migration from one region, many times from low income regions, to other regions, many times high income regions.

But migration benefits destination countries by increasing the labor force, increasing economic output and boosting productivity. Intra-regional migration benefits origin and destination countries through the dispersal of skills, remittances, improving social and cultural links and reducing poverty and inequality.

The United Nations’ 2017 International Migration Report cites an estimated 258 million international migrants worldwide. Most of these migrants move legally and safely across borders, following employment and education opportunities. They account for 3.4% of the world’s population. 3.4% of the world’s population! According to the World Bank, migrants transferred an estimated $596 billion in remittances globally in the year 2017. The majority of this went to developing countries. This alone is three times the official development assistant figures. Migrants pay taxes. Migrants put a large segment of their earnings into the economy of their host countries, even though they remit much to their countries of origin, thereby enabling those countries to also continue to create the conditions that will keep them at home.

Indeed, it is easy to name migrants who have benefited the world in one way or another. Fleeing Nazi persecution, Albert Einstein emigrated from Germany to the United States. He shaped the world modern field of physics, and his very name is synonymous with genius and intellect. The first president of Liberia, Joseph Jenkins Roberts, was born in the United States and immigrated to Liberia. My dear friend, many of you may know, and mentor Madeline Albright, whom I just spoke for at her institute last week and gave lecture there, was born in what is now the Czech Republic. She served as the first woman Secretary of State in the United States. Even I was an immigrant for some time when I sought education in the United States and later when I was exiled more than once from my beloved Liberia for political purposes.

In September of 2015, the world was moved by the image of Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy who drowned in the Mediterranean. Alan and his family were Syrian refugees who, desperate to escape the violence of a war-torn nation, had attempted to cross the sea into Greece for safety in Europe. The small inflatable raft his family had hired to take them across the Mediterranean capsized, having carried double the number of passengers it was designed to hold. Photos of this young boy, his body found face-down on a beach, were circulated globally, highlighting the humanitarian crisis Syrian refugees faced and the desperate attempt to reach safety. Was Alan a refugee, a migrant? Was he not entitled to seek refuge? To move away? And did not we, the world, owe him that place of refuge?

While most migrants move legally and safely, many – escaping violence, famine, or persecution - resort to illegal, irregular and hazardous means to enter welcoming countries. We do not support this! We believe that legal migration offers pathways for individuals to achieve dignity, to have their self-fulfillment as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that recognition of those who do so. Do so on the basis that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” The important thing is for states, for nations, for all to manage the right processes and the right laws to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration. Restricting migration and reducing free movements can cause migrants, such as Alan Kurdi, to resort to illegal and dangerous means resulting in abuse, criminal exploitation as seen in the Americas; the human trafficking as seen in Libya; and death in the Mediterranean.

Many nations are setting the standards for immigration policies which encourage safe and legal means of entry. As a collective of nations, the European Union has based its migration policy on four pillars: 1) Reducing incentives for irregular immigration; 2) Saving lives and securing external borders; 3) Developing a stronger common asylum policy; and 4) Organizing the benefits of migration policy for the individuals concerned and for the countries of origin.

I must say that we commend Germany as a notable example, being the second most popular destination in the world, for welcoming over a million refugees since 2015. Just last October, the German government, your government, enacted a law to attract more skilled workers from countries outside the European Union. This was done recognizing that immigrants are able to fill gaps in the labor force and have a stabilizing effect on future demographic growth. Germany’s commitment is laudable.  And we know that if the policies are right and the actions are taken consistent with laws we can ensure that we can stop the illegal immigrants that come across, that cause disorder and that may create risks to the host countries.

And although we feel that we ought to adopt policies that facilitate legal, regular migration and ensure the safety, we know that most must be done by the origin countries. This is especially true of developing countries, like many African nations, where the lack of opportunity drives the best and brightest, especially the youth, to seek better lives in Europe, Asia, or America. While migrants benefit the nations they move to, we believe all action needs to be taken to keep them at home so that they do not immigrate from their homes because they feel that they are unable to secure a free and prosperous life within their own nation.

The question for global and national leaders is to see how to incentivise citizens to remain within their own home countries. How to provide adequate opportunities for quality education, employment, and growth. As a former leader of an African nation, one which recently saw the end to our epidemic, the civil war that did lead many people to flee. That we have a challenge, that we must create a better environment in our home country. We must also send a message that the primary responsibility for the development of our people lies within ourselves and within our means. What we ask is that for those that flee for reasons of safety or better opportunity as has been done all over the world, that the policies would allow them the opportunities they seek and enable them to make a contribution to their host countries.

As Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, said, “The future of Africa's youth does not lie at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. It lies in a more prosperous and inclusive Africa – one that promotes creativity and innovation, that expands economic opportunities for the youth. It lies in an Africa that creates jobs for its own people.”

Yet we know that 80 percent of all African migrants travel not outside, but within Africa. As an important enabler and beneficiary of regional integration and economic development within the continent. Of those who do leave the continent, 90 percent enter destination countries through legal means, as I indicated before. They are often skilled workers, educated and relatively well off in terms of resources and can afford to pay the cost of their travel. These migrants, whether their destination is the United States, Europe, or somewhere in Asia or in another African country, are valuable assets for their homes where they live and work.

In closing let me mention: In our increasingly globalized world, migration has been proven to be beneficial for migrants, for host countries, beneficial both in economic and social terms. It helps to address social and economic disparities and contributes to gender equality. Today, statistics show that women now make up 48% of all migrants. Coming at a time when the promotion of women, the promotion of women to greater levels of participation, to all aspects of society is on the rise. Certainly, we cannot see women also joining this category of people seeking opportunities elsewhere, because they feel that their own countries have not presented, have not given them those opportunities. And also that when they try to flee they are subject to the risks of deprivation, starvation, inhumane treatment. This is why we must ensure that the laws, the policies, the practices, the regulation enable us to make the migrant a credible and responsible contributor to world development.

The African Union is currently in the process of reviewing and ratifying relevant proposals such as the African Union Protocols on Free Movements of People; the Agenda 2063, the African Vision, the Agenda 2030, the Sustainable Development Vision and to ensure the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement. Once ratified and implemented, theses protocols will help us in Africa to harness the development benefits to create better conditions that will keep the majority of our people at home, where we need them for our own development.

Last month, Germany hosted the Berlin Summit with 12 African Presidents and Prime Ministers. A pledge was made to set up of new development fund to address the issue of unemployment in Africa, a root cause of migration. It will encourage private investment over state aid to create jobs in Africa.  We applaud and I am encouraged by efforts like these which aim to usher in a new phase of partnership and cooperation between host and origin countries in Europe and in Africa.

We are also encouraged by an enlightened African leadership that is committed to resolving this so-called crisis, solving this issue by ensuring that Africans take their rightful place in the development of their continent. And when they leave to make sure that they make a contribution to the country to which they have gone. And that together we can create partnerships not only between and among nations, but partnerships between people. For we all seek a better world of equality, equal opportunity, and prosperity for all our people.

May we all tonight, as we go home, make a commitment to be a part of this positive force of change. To be a part of those policies and practices that will recognize the human being as equal and will find the means to ensure that we all become contributors to a better world.


In 2017, Frederik Willem de Klerk gave a speech

The former South African president accepted to speak at the historic Frauenkirche in Dresden as part of the church’s Nobel Peace Prize Laureates lecture series. His topic was »Accommodating diversity in a shrinking world: The main challenge to peace in the 21 century«. He pointed out that much of human history had been driven by the movement of people and the growth of populations. De Klerk observed that the days of the single ethnic group nation state had gone and asked how we were going to ensure that all these communities would be able to co-exist peacefully. He suggested that the international community needed to devise approaches and to establish norms that would enable different cultural and ethnic communities to coexist within the same states. De Klerk observed that were entering a global village. "The presence of people from so many different cultures is one of the most enriching aspects of our new world. But it will also require us to observe new codes of behaviour and to acknowledge the multidimensional rights of people - as citizens, as members of organisations and communities, and as individual men and women." 

Read the full lecture »Accommodating diversity in a shrinking world« here

»Accommodating diversity in a shrinking world: The main challenge to peace in the 21 century«

Lecture by Frederik Willem de Klerk

»Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Lecture«
Frauenkirche, Dresden, Germany
3 April 2017

Remarks as delivered


Bishop Dr Rentzing,
Prime Minister Tillich,
Lord Mayor Hilbert,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour for me to address you in this beautiful church. The Frauenkirche is a symbol of the victory of faith and peace over the brutality and destruction of war. It was rebuilt and reconsecrated after it had been destroyed in one of the most dreadful episodes in a dreadful war. It stands as an indomitable symbol of mankind’s ability to resurrect the best qualities of our civilization from the ruins and ashes of the worst. 

Demography, as they say, is destiny.

Much of human history has been driven by the movement of people and the growth of populations. Just consider the impact of migrations on mankind’s history: 

  • The movement of tribes from central Asia against the ramparts of the Roman Empire; 
  • migrations of the Huns and Mongols across the Eurasian landmass; and 
  • the huge migrations from Europe from the beginning of the 16th century which dramatically changed the history and demography of much of the planet. 

Now, once again, in our globalised world, people are on the move. 

The dominant image of our time may be the hundreds of thousands of refugees who each year are risking their lives in unseaworthy boats to reach Europe. As I speak there are hundreds of people, huddled together in leaking boats, desperately trying to reach the southern shores of Italy, Spain and Greece. 

All of this is happening at a time of the unsustainable growth of the human population and dramatic changes in life expectancy and fertility. In 1950 global life expectancy was only 47 years – by 2011 it had increased to 70. A Japanese girl child born today can expect to live to 107. An English girl baby will live till 103. At the same time fertility rates in many European countries have plummeted far below the levels required to sustain present populations. At the present fertility rate, the population of the European Union will shrink by 100 million by the end of the century. In some countries it will fall by half.  

In the coming years more and more refugees can be expected to seek safety and a better life in the prosperous and secure societies of Europe and North America. What is already a steady flow of refugees could become a torrent if climate change causes a succession of bad harvests in the developing world. How would Europe react if ten million refugees a year were to knock on its doors and appeal for refuge? 

At what stage would the so-called “lifeboat effect” come into play: – that is the point when those in the lifeboat stop doing all they can to save and haul aboard shipwreck victims– to the time when they violently fend them off for fear of being fatally overloaded? 

Everywhere populations are becoming more and more heterogeneous. It is predicted that by 2050 a third of Britain’s population will comprise minorities. The days of the single ethnic group nation state are gone. One of the central challenges in the emerging multicultural world will be the accommodation of diversity. 

Globalisation during the past four decades has led to an enormous increase in the interaction between people from different backgrounds, cultures, languages and religions. The management of the resulting cultural, language and religious diversity will be one of this century’s greatest challenges – 

  • for the international community; 
  • for the European Union; and 
  • for countries like Germany, South Africa and the US. 

Throughout the world populations are becoming more cosmopolitan: the world’s 200 countries now include more than 6 000 different cultural communities. More than 130 countries have cultural minorities comprising more than 10% of their populations. Cultural diversity is being augmented by new waves of migrants seeking economic opportunities, freedom and security. 

Everywhere people are on the move - and everywhere they are confronting once homogenous societies with new challenges. Among these is the impact on cultural identity. 

We humans are complex social beings with many important concentric relationships. We are individuals. We belong to families. We pursue our economic interests. We belong to clubs and organisations. Many of us have religious affiliations. We often belong to distinct cultural groups. We have gender and sexual orientation. We are citizens of countries and increasingly we belong to the international community.

All of these relationships are important to us – and some are critically important. In many, if not most of them, we are minorities. True freedom consists of our being able to make lawful choices for ourselves and our families in all these spheres. The borders of these freedoms should be defined only by manifest public interest and the point where our freedoms begin to impact negatively and unfairly on the interests of others.

For example, I am an individual. I belong to the De Klerk family. I belong to the Reformed Church. I am a member of a number of private organisations. I am an Afrikaner. I derive my language, my history, and my traditions and much of my identity from all these associations. I am also very proud to be a citizen of the new vibrant and multi-cultural South Africa. Like my ancestors since 1688, I am an African – and I like to think that I am a citizen of the world.

None of these relationships is mutually exclusive. People can be all these things at the same time. Their reasonable rights in all these spheres need to be protected. Neither should they suffer discrimination because of any of these affiliations.

In the same way, my friend and former colleague, Nelson Mandela, also called himself an African and a citizen of the new South Africa. He was, however, also very proud of his identity as a Xhosa - one of the South Africa’s nine indigenous cultures. He was born and raised to be the hereditary adviser to the Paramount Chief of the Tembu, one of the great clans of the Xhosa people. One cannot really understand Nelson Mandela without also understanding his cultural roots and the history and language that helped to form him.

I believe that we South Africans are all richer because of the cultural diversity that we enjoy. We have a collective responsibility to show that diversity does not need to be a source of tension and conflict - but can help to enrich our lives by providing differing perspectives of the world in which we live.

Apart from the eleven black cultural groups; two white language groups and the coloured and Asian communities, South Africa is now host to as many as five million illegal immigrants from countries as far away as Somalia and the Congo. During recent years we have experienced ugly riots against the new arrivals by South Africans who felt threatened by competition from foreigners in the local job market.

How are we going to ensure that all these communities will be able to co-exist peacefully?

There are a number of facets to this challenge. In many countries, cultural minorities have arisen through historic processes. They have always lived in the country they inhabit: they often speak their own languages and have their own cultural traditions. Ideally, they should have a right to use their languages; practise their cultures and to have a voice in the processes by which they are governed. Other societies have become multicultural through immigration. Here it is often argued that as a price of admission to their new societies they should accept the values of their host countries and learn the languages that they use. 

From all this one thing is clear: The management of cultural diversity is an increasingly important challenge for countries throughout the world.

Let us look at America. There are now more than 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. For most of America’s history, the invariable practice was for immigrant communities to coalesce around the existing national identity and to learn to speak English as soon as possible. On this model the United States was able to develop from thirteen Atlantic colonies to a continental power in less than a hundred years. In 1800 its population was only 5 million. By 1900 it had swelled to 75 million.

The existing cultural base of British settlers, American Indians and Afro-Americans was enormously strengthened by the arrival of widely diverse European immigrants - Germans, Irish, Italians, French, Scandinavians and Poles. However, virtually everyone who arrived in the United States accepted the values articulated in the US Constitution and quickly learned English.

The United States – and may other countries that have opened their arms to immigrants – have benefited enormously from the contributions that immigrants nearly always make to their new countries.

More recently the United States’ cultural diversity has been further enriched by the emergence of over 40 million Hispanic Americans as the largest ethnic minority. They are also the fastest growing minority and will include more than 100 million people – or one in four Americans – by 2050. Already they make up more than a third of the populations of Texas and California and more than 40% of the population of New Mexico.

But should they accept the convention that all migrants should eventually become English-speaking - or will the United States increasingly have to accept bilingualism and multi-lingualism? 

The accommodation of diverse immigrant groups has also become one of the most controversial issues in Europe. It has played a crucial role in recent elections in a number of European countries – and has now become one of the main issues of contention within the EU. It has led to some of the worst riots that France has experienced since the Second World War – and even in tolerant Britain it is fuelling a resurgence of far-right nationalist sentiment.

Where does toleration of diversity begin - and end?

A few years ago the European Union’s Justice Commissioner said that issues of migration should be at the top of the EU’s agenda. According to the Commissioner, the European Union needed to strike a balance between facilitating immigration of sorely-needed skilled workers and controlling illegal immigration and trafficking. The present work force is expected to decline by 20 million people by 2030 – and the only way of replacing most of them will be through immigration. 

All of this is, however, part of the broader challenge of managing cultural and religious diversity in a world in which inter-communal conflict is the greatest threat to peace and stability. 

Virtually all of the 14 conflicts that currently afflict the world either have their roots in ethnic and religious differences – or have been seriously exacerbated by these factors.

Too often, minority communities feel that they are not sufficiently accommodated, politically or culturally, in the processes by which they are governed. They feel that their governments are insensitive to their languages and cultures; that they are subject to discrimination, repression and efforts to integrate them forcibly into the majority culture. 

This sense of alienation often breaks out in conflict, rebellion, demands for secession and sometimes in acts of terrorism. Present or recent conflicts in Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Sri Lanka, The Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Turkey and in many countries in Africa provide more examples of this phenomenon. 

Religious diversity also lies at the root of some of the ongoing conflicts in the world. Differences between Hindus, Moslems and Sikhs in India; and Moslems and Christians in Nigeria and Sudan all create volatile situations that can explode into violence and terrorism at almost any time. 

One of the great challenges of the new millennium will therefore be to address cultural and religious alienation and to devise norms and approaches that will enable different communities to live together in peace. 

The international community will have to pay far greater attention to this question than has thus far been the case. Few states welcome international scrutiny of their relationships with minorities within their borders. On the other hand, almost one billion people throughout the world – one in seven of the human population – belong to ethnic, cultural or religious minorities. Many of them experience alienation and discrimination. 

There is an urgent need for more intense and informed debate on how the international community should deal with ethnic, cultural and religious diversity. 

The challenge is to devise approaches and to establish norms that will enable different cultural and ethnic communities to coexist within the same states. To achieve this, we must reach broad agreement on the cultural, linguistic and educational rights that such communities should enjoy. However, it is equally important to reach agreement on underlying values that can provide a basis for co-operation and national unity. 

The need to promote multicultural approaches in diverse societies is increasingly recognised by the international community. According to the United Nations’ Development Programmes 2004 Human Development Survey multiculturalism is the most effective response to the challenge of diversity. 

The UNDP identified cultural liberty as a vital part of human development. If handled well, it could lead to greater cultural diversity and enrich people’s lives. However, if it was mismanaged it could “quickly become one of the greatest sources of instability within states and between them.” The answer was to “respect diversity and build unity through common bonds of humanity”. 

The UNDP Survey went on to deal with – and dismiss – various myths relating to the management of inter-communal relations and concludes that “policies recognizing cultural identities and encouraging diversity to flourish do not result in fragmentation, conflict, weak development and authoritarian rule. Such policies are both viable, and necessary, for it is often the suppression of culturally identified groups that leads to tension.” 

As I have pointed out earlier, the key to the maintenance of peace and harmony in our shrinking global community is the management of diversity: 

  • We need to do much more to define and protect the rights of cultural, ethnic and religious minorities throughout the world. 
  • We need to establish an international norm for these rights, just as we have already done for individuals, for women and for children. 
  • We need to promote acceptance of the role that education can and must play in the preservation of religious, cultural and language diversity. We also need to establish the principle that states have a duty to support and finance such education. 
  • We need to measure the behaviour of governments against these norms. If we do so, I am confident that we will soon discover that the societies that are the worst afflicted by inter-communal violence are also those that have the least respect for the rights of their constituent communities. 

In the final analysis, managing diversity is about accepting the need for freedom of choice, toleration and common values: 


  • people should be free to be themselves and to maintain the many concentric identities that make them individuals; 
  • managing diversity is about promoting a culture of toleration and respect for difference; 
  • but it is also about reaching agreement on core values and approaches that bind people together. 

We have entered the global village. It is exciting; it is often very confusing; and sometimes a little frightening. Increasingly, people from different cultural backgrounds will be rubbing shoulders in the streets, market places and international companies that make up our global village. 

The presence of people from so many different cultures is one of the most enriching aspects of our new world. But it will also require us to observe new codes of behaviour and to acknowledge the multidimensional rights of people – as citizens, as members of organisations and communities, and as individual men and women. 

I understand that you have a delightful custom here of promoting the idea of a “wishful world”. You have created this glass globe that you can see here beside the lectern. You have invited students from the winning groups to write personal wishes on origami creations and deposit them in the globe. All these colourful origami pieces are placed inside the globe before the lecture. During the year, the globe is positioned underneath the lantern of the Church, visible for all the visitors of the Church and sending out a message of hope and peace from the next generation. 

I hope that the globe this year will include wishes for 

  • the enrichment of our lives through interaction between people from different cultures and religions; 
  • toleration and mutual respect; 
  • a compassionate commitment to host and protect people whose lives are being threatened by conflict; and 
  • determination to build a better world where conflict, injustice and poverty do not force people to flee from their ancestral homes and the countries of their birth. 

Thank you for your attention.



In 2016, Ahmet Üzümcü spoke

Ambassador Üzümcü delivered a lecture at the Frauenkirche entitled »Re-arming Our Humanity: Contributions of Disarmament to Peace«. The topic was closely linked to his longtime work in the service of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Outlining the achievements that contributed to the OPCW being awarded the Nobel Prize in 2013, he noted the importance of a comprehensive and values-based approach to disarmament for peace-building. Ambassador Üzümcü also met with the winners of a student competition on the theme of achieving a world free of chemical weapons and awarded certificates to them. Addressing the students, the Director-General noted, “The activism of our young people is not just a source of inspiration and hope for our efforts to rid the world of chemical weapons - it is a vital part of that effort.”

Read the full lecture »Re-Arming Our Humanity« here

»Re-Arming Our Humanity: Contributions of Disarmament to Peace«

Lecture by Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü

»Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Lecture«
Frauenkirche, Dresden, Germany
1 February 2016

Remarks as delivered


Bishop Dr Rentzing,
Deputy Minister President Dulig,
Dear Students,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I feel deeply honoured to speak to you today in this extraordinary building. It stands as a reminder of the tragedy of war but also as a monument to the human resolve for peace and reconciliation.

The title of this talk, “Re-arming our Humanity: Contributions of Disarmament to Peace,” is a theme that concerns people of goodwill everywhere. Our civilization has to its credit many achievements. Science and technology have brought countless benefits, improved the quality of life and lifted millions of people across the world out of poverty. Yet, many of these same achievements have also created new possibilities for destroying ourselves and our world.

War, by its nature, is cruel. The tools of destruction that are available today magnify the perils of warfare. What we normally describe as weapons of mass destruction are weapons whose effects cannot be confined to the battlefield. Their threat is at once inhumane and indiscriminate. It is for this reason that nations continue to strive to bring about conditions that would either limit or eliminate the most dangerous weapons ever created.

It is important to remember this: We did not reach the heights of our modern civilization by technology alone. We were only able to do so because of our commitment to shared norms and values such as equality, justice and human dignity for all.

One key lesson of recent history is that progress in law and ethics must keep pace with advancements in science and technology. Our survival depends on upholding universal values as opposed to purely national interests. This is the essence of the multilateralism that covers many diverse endeavours, including disarmament. We live in a world that is inter-connected and interdependent. The challenges of our globalised world can be effectively met only through collective efforts.

The right of human beings to live in peace and security is fundamental. The threat of mass destruction negates this right. Disarmament seeks to re-establish this right as a moral imperative. The elimination of chemical weapons should provide hope and encouragement to international efforts relating to weapons of mass destruction.

Chemical weapons are today totally banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention. And multilateral cooperation, manifest in the work of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, ensures that the treaty functions effectively and to the benefit of each of its Members.

* * *

Last April, I was at another historic building reconstructed from the ruins of war – the medieval Cloth Hall in the Belgian town of Ieper. A ceremony was held there to mark the passing of one hundred years since the first large-scale use of chemical weapons. It was a solemn event, honouring the memory of countless victims of chemical warfare in World War I and other conflicts across the globe. But it was also an auspicious occasion on which we took stock of our remarkable endeavour to rid the world of this terrible scourge.

Today, 91 per cent of the world’s declared chemical weapons have been destroyed under international verification. This amounts to more than 64,000 tonnes of the deadliest poisons ever produced. As a result of these efforts, an entire class of weapons of mass destruction is now at the threshold of being completely eradicated. It is for this very tangible achievement that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013.

The terrible suffering of those who became victims of chemical warfare cannot be forgotten. The best way to honour their memory is through our determination to prevent such tragedies from occurring in the future. We have shown how this determination can stand as an example of what we can achieve when we work together, which is in line with the OPCW motto, “Working together for a world free of chemical weapons”.

* * *

Let me briefly describe to you the history and achievements of chemical disarmament.

As the Holy Roman Empire, Germany was party to the very first attempt to remove poison from the battlefield after signing the Strasbourg Agreement with France in 1675. Other attempts were later made by the 1874 Brussels Convention and the 1899 Hague Convention. But the limited provisions of The Hague Convention failed to prevent widespread use of chemical weapons in World War I, prompting efforts to develop a more binding instrument. This came in the form of the 1925 Geneva Protocol.

Very soon thereafter, reservations submitted by several signatory states compounded major shortcomings in the Protocol. These relate to the fact that it only prohibited the use, but not the possession of chemical weapons, and lacked a mechanism for enforcement. This absence was tragically felt as chemical weapons were used later in several conflicts throughout the world. It was not until the late 1960s that the international community was finally able to agree on advancing a more comprehensive ban on chemical and biological weapons. The Biological Weapons Convention was concluded in 1972, but it took another twenty years for negotiators to agree on the text of the Chemical Weapons Convention and on the terms of its verification regime. The widespread use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s propelled negotiations towards a global ban. Only four years after the horrific attack against civilians in Halabja, in Iraq, the Convention was concluded in 1992.

As a result, a comprehensive ban not only against the use of chemical weapons, but also against their possession, development, production, stockpiling and transfer was achieved. What is more, the Convention’s negotiators built in a stringent international verification regime and laid the foundations for an independent international agency to monitor compliance – the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or OPCW.

Since the Convention’s entry into force in 1997, the facts speak for themselves. Our membership has grown rapidly to a nearly universal figure of 192 countries. As I already mentioned, 91 per cent of declared chemical weapons have so far been destroyed, with remaining stockpiles – in Russia and the United States – due to be eliminated within the next seven years. Five other countries that had declared possession of chemical weapons stockpiles have already completed destruction, verified by OPCW inspectors. This includes the elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons programme. Iraq will soon destroy the remnants of chemical weapons inherited from the previous regime. And to ensure that chemical industry across the globe is engaged in exclusively peaceful activities, the OPCW has conducted inspections at more than 3,000 facilities in over eighty countries – and continues to do so. We also work with our Member States to monitor transfers of potentially dangerous dual-use chemicals, to help ensure transparency about their use.

Finally, the OPCW and its Member States conduct training and assistance activities to ensure full and effective implementation of the Convention across the globe, with a special focus on where needs are greatest. These activities range widely – from assistance and protection against chemical attacks or incidents, to promoting cooperation in analytical chemistry, laboratory management and other technical spheres.

* * *

The link between disarmament and peace has been firmly established by the international community. The United Nations Security Council has declared that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and their means of delivery, constitutes a threat to international peace and security. Over the course of nearly two decades, the work of the OPCW has progressed steadily towards the total elimination of an entire class of weapons of mass destruction.

In this time we have had to deal with some extraordinary challenges. When the OPCW embarked on the eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons programme in September 2013, many said it could not be done. Certainly, the technical, logistical and security obstacles were enormous. But less than a year later, some 1,300 tonnes of chemical weapons had been accounted for, removed from Syrian territory, and largely destroyed. This was achieved on the strength of an unprecedented collective effort involving the United Nations and more than thirty countries including Germany.

Yet, as successful as this mission was, many questions have been raised as to what impact it has had on the conflict, as well as more broadly on global peace and security. The first of these is that the conflict continues to rage. More than 250,000 people are estimated to have perished over almost five years of fighting – many of them since the last chemical weapons were removed from Syria more than eighteen months ago. What is more, chemical weapons have continued to be used in Syria. The OPCW has substantiated allegations that toxic industrial chemicals have been used as weapons in several incidents, including one where sulphur mustard was used.

In what terms, then, can we speak of any peace and security benefits from the mission to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons? You will all recall the tense international environment in the second half of 2013. An investigation into allegations of the use of chemical weapons in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta in August had confirmed that the deadly nerve agent sarin had been used, killing hundreds of civilians. The world had then seemed on the brink of being involved in another armed conflict in the Middle East only to be brought back as a result of an agreement between the Russian Federation and the United States of America. Signed in Geneva on 14 September 2013, this agreement provided for the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons programme, which was then taken up by the OPCW-UN joint mission.

While this mission was never conceived as a solution for ending the civil war in Syria, it dramatically reduced the tensions which could have led to a major international conflict in the region, and perhaps beyond. It must also be remembered that if all those dangerous weapons and production capabilities had remained intact, the conflict in Syria could have turned into an even more appalling humanitarian crisis. With several terrorist groups seeking to acquire such weapons, people in Syria and the world are better off with those capabilities having been destroyed.

Let me also add that a key advantage of all disarmament treaties is the sense of security that they promote on a regional basis. Syria’s accession to the CWC can only be welcomed in a region long mired in conflict. While Syria’s chemical demilitarization reflects a new security reality, it has not yet, unfortunately, led Israel or Egypt to join the Chemical Weapons Convention. But the fact that others have recently joined – notably, Myanmar and Angola – provides impetus for reconsideration, as well as intensifying efforts to achieve a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. The diplomacy that has driven the Syrian mission has also helped to propel fresh efforts to resolve the conflict by political means.

Worth recalling is that Syria’s chemical demilitarisation was, after two and a half years of fighting, the only aspect of the conflict which the international community could agree on. And the momentum it generated went well beyond the narrow scope of this mission. A continuing dialogue amongst the key players helped to initiate the Geneva II process at the beginning of 2014.

While this process was ill-fated, it has had an after-life. The UN Security Council recently adopted Resolution 2254, which calls for a ceasefire and outlines a process for a political settlement. It can be argued that consultations regarding chemical disarmament in Syria continued to offer opportunities for broadening the consensus in the UN Security Council. For it was in the disarmament mission that international cooperation on Syria, involving both Russia and the United States, first came into play. Similarly, in the ongoing efforts to identify those responsible for chemical attacks in Syria, this cooperation has been sustained.

This leads me to my final observation concerning the peace and security benefits of the OPCW’s engagement in Syria. There can be no suggestion ofmission to ‘mission over’ for as long as chemical attacks continue in that country and their perpetrators go unpunished. What rallied the international community to take action in this regard was the OPCW’s confirmation, through its Fact-Finding Mission, that toxic chemicals had been used systematically as weapons in Syria.

Based on a resolution adopted by the UN Security Council, an OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism is now working to identify the authors of these attacks. The results of its work will play a crucial role not only for securing the gains of Syria’s chemical disarmament. They will also serve to deter new chemical attacks and ensure accountability in the eventual efforts to obtain peace and reconciliation in Syria.

What all this shows is that consensus in one endeavour can be extended to take in broader peace-related endeavours, however great the obstacles. It also shows that disarmament need not only be the outcome of peace, as some would argue, but can in fact be a driver for peace in ways that are not immediately apparent.

* * *

The legacy of chemical disarmament clearly proves that disarmament is not merely the regulation or elimination of weapons. It is a process which is often difficult and challenging. But its benefits are broad in scope, extending to the diplomatic and political fields. The process helps to sustain dialogue and cooperation and strengthens multilateralism.

More than twenty years since it was concluded, the Chemical Weapons Convention remains the only multilateral disarmament treaty that bans an entire class of weapons of mass destruction, and at the same time regulates this ban through international verification. Two of its provisions stand out, in particular.

First, unlike the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention – or CWC – does not discriminate between haves and have-nots. No member state is entitled to possess or develop chemical weapons, much less to use them. Those eight countries that have declared possession of such weapons are obliged to get rid of them, as they now have, or are in the final stages of doing so. The Convention is therefore a ban on chemical weapons without any exceptions.

Secondly, while the Biological Weapons Convention, like the CWC, prohibits an entire class of weapons of mass destruction, it has no means of verifying compliance. Only the CWC has a verification regime that holds its members to account – and not only through the regular industry inspections I mentioned earlier. It also has a challenge inspection mechanism, by which any member can call for investigation of another member on the basis of well-founded concerns over compliance.

These fundamental provisions speak to another unique feature of the Convention – namely, the result-focused way in which it was negotiated, and how this has shaped its implementation. Making sure that the treaty’s comprehensive provisions could be implemented required input not only from diplomats, but also industry representatives and scientists. Scientists had to draw up definitions, as well as provide advice on analytical and verification activities. And industry had to be satisfied that its commercially sensitive information could be protected in the course of inspections. Without their involvement, the Convention would not have been as effective as it has been. But, more than this, the ongoing engagement of these stakeholders has allowed us to transform habits of compliance into a culture of proactive collaboration. We can see this in the work of the OPCW Scientific Advisory Board, which keeps us up to date on how advances in science and technology can challenge implementation of the CWC, as well as enhance it.

We can see this in our consultation with industry – to streamline its reporting obligations and develop ways of improving them. We can see this in our engagement of non-government groups, academia and civil society – to source new ideas and to help them expand our disarmament community through awareness-raising activities.

And, above all, we can see this in the interaction between Member States. The practice of consensus is firmly ingrained at the OPCW. There is no formal requirement for decisions to be taken by consensus. But it demonstrates the wisdom of making progress by seeking to take everyone along, thus strengthening the universal commitment to chemical disarmament. This combination of prohibition and verification, on the one hand, and engagement and outreach, on the other, will, in my view, be the key determinant of the OPCW’s ongoing success. As we approach our long-cherished goal of the elimination of existing chemical weapons, our future success will be measured not only by weapons destroyed, but also by weapons not rebuilt. The latter is a complex undertaking, whose outcomes will be far less visible and therefore harder to attract political support for.

What makes the task of preventing proliferation of chemical weapons so difficult is the inherently dual-use nature of what goes into making them. This means that many of the materials and production technologies we monitor have beneficial applications in medicine, in agriculture and in consumer goods production. But they can likewise be misused to manufacture chemical weapons, such as nerve agent and sulphur mustard. What is more, there are many widely traded industrial chemicals which are not monitored by the CWC regime, but can be used as chemical weapons. Chlorine, for example – the same chemical that purifies municipal water supplies and sanitises hospital and kitchen floors – can choke and kill when dispersed as a concentrated gas. We have recently seen this happen in Syria, as we did a century ago in Ieper. It is for this reason that the CWC does not limit its definition of a chemical weapon to purpose-built chemical weapons. It encompasses any toxic chemical whenever it is used to harm or to kill.

How, then, can we confidently protect against weapons that will remain relatively accessible, even after we have destroyed stockpiles of manufactured chemical weapons? One thing from the experience of the OPCW is abundantly clear: the hard power disarmament of prohibitions and verification remains vitally important, especially in preventing terrorists from acquiring chemical weapons – but it will not be sufficient alone.

Consider this: some 15,000 potential new chemicals are added to the chemical abstracts database every day. With our scientific knowledge expanding at this rate, we cannot hope to oversee every new chemical or production technology – nor should we try to. Rather, monitoring and inspection activities must be increasingly supplemented by a soft power disarmament based on engagement and outreach. What this means is that we need to collaborate with scientists and industry, not seek to control them. We need to nurture a culture of responsible science in our research institutions, in our universities, and in our schools. And we need to encourage our scientists to develop a world view and ethical framework that supports the aims of the CWC.

In recognition of this, the OPCW has made education and outreach a core activity for underwriting our longer-term success in preventing the re-emergence of chemical weapons.

Let me briefly highlight two of the initiatives we have developed.

The first is the establishment of an Advisory Board on Education and Outreach. Drawing on expertise from around the world, Board members will guide our development of new activities, materials and e-learning tools to increase awareness of the dangers posed by misuse of dual-use technology. They will also help us to expand our reach into universities and schools, through more interactive formats, to inculcate habits of science in the service of peace.

The second initiative has been the OPCW’s facilitation of a German-led proposal on developing a code of ethics for practitioners of the chemical sciences. Bringing together industry representatives and scientists from some two dozen countries, we were able to lay out professional ground rules for preventing the misuse of science – what participants named The Hague Ethical Guidelines. Their value as a vocational guide draws directly on the authority of its authors – an international community of engaged chemistry practitioners. There is, therefore, nothing ‘soft’ about the impact of soft power disarmament based on engagement and outreach. It is a vital extension of the disarmament mission at a time when governments no longer hold the sole prerogative for security, and when any effort to broaden the community of stakeholders for peace and disarmament must be welcome.

* * *

This leads us to a final question: Why have we not been able to replicate in other areas the success of the Chemical Weapons Convention over the two decades since it was negotiated?

It is true that traditional multilateral disarmament appears to have stalled. The last treaty to be concluded at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva was the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1996 – some twenty years ago. But the international community has nonetheless notched up several successes in significantly reducing numbers of nuclear weapons and enhancing non-proliferation measures, especially in containing the number of new nuclear-armed states. We have also devised and implemented new approaches that have been responsive to emerging threats, such as UN Security Council Resolution 1540 and the Nuclear Security Summit process. Both of these are aimed at preventing non-state actors from gaining access to materials and technology related to weapons of mass destruction.

This recalibration has partly been in response to a pressing new reality. While states are generally constrained by legal norms, and the threat of their using weapons of mass destruction is now remote, the only constraints on terrorist groups are procurement opportunities. Limiting such opportunities in respect of weapon-sensitive materials and technologies must be accorded a high priority.

In light of this, perhaps the more relevant question to ask is what sort of success do we need in order to secure against new and emerging threats to peace? For, as I have sought to show here, disarmament must be a comprehensive, holistic process that seeks to make its gains permanent by anticipating and addressing future threats.

The broader challenge before us is to rethink our security amid a still evolving present, characterised by growing economic interdependence and the rise of new transnational threats ranging from terrorism to climate change. We would do well to heed the advice of Friedrich Schiller in this respect, “Live with your century, but do not be its creature (Lebe mit deinem Jahrhundert, aber sei nicht sein Geschöpf)”. In the case of chemical disarmament, our past success in destroying stockpiles of chemical weapons will be different from our future success in preventing the reemergence of such weapons. If the Chemical Weapons Convention is to be held up as a model for disarmament in other areas, it is this flexibility and responsiveness to changing circumstances – alongside the political will driving it – that I hope will be most persuasive.

* * *

Just like the concepts of justice or equality, the notion of peace is driven by ideals. And yet we should remember that ideals and appeals to our humanity are not, of themselves, enough. We must base such appeals on comprehensive and enforceable rules. Only then will we be able to give full flight to what Abraham Lincoln called the “better angels of our nature.” The way we have been able to do so in the field of chemical disarmament has been by transforming habits of compliance into a culture of collaboration – by going beyond what must be done, to what ought to be done.

Given the reality of what weapons of mass destruction can bring about, disarmament will remain an indispensable founding stone for building peace. It is hard work, often full of frustration. But we must not give up. Built brick by brick, disarmament can support a large and elaborate edifice to peace. This message sounds particularly resonant at the Frauenkirche, which has seen the ravages of war over the centuries but has prevailed as a symbol of the human urge for peace through perseverance. The search for peace is the most important part of our humanity. I hope that the role of disarmament I have outlined here shows clearly at least one thing – that true disarmament is nothing less than a re-armament of our humanity.

Thank you for your attention.

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In 2014, Mohamed ElBaradei raised his voice

The second speaker in this series was the Egyptian Nobel Peace Laureate Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei who came to the Frauenkirche on 18 March 2014. In his speech, which was attended by 800 interested listeners, he dared a both courageous and encouraging perspective: "Durable peace is not just wishful thinking". For the first time, a contest of ideas amongst Saxon pupils was launched. 120 young people decided to take part and to present their wishes, hopes and thoughts on a world without nuclear weapons. Three winning groups had the opportunity to meet Dr. ElBaradei and to talk about their views on the current state of the world.

Read the full lecture »Durable Peace Is Not Just Wishful Thinking« here

»Durable Peace Is Not Just Wishful Thinking«

Lecture by Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei

»Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Lecture«
Frauenkirche, Dresden, Germany
18 March 2014

Remarks as delivered


Minister President Tillich,
Bishop Bohl, 
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor for me to take part in this lecture series in the Frauenkirche, which has become a widely recognized symbol of peace and reconciliation. The fact that I stand before you as an Arab Muslim in a German Lutheran cathedral discussing ways of moving toward global peace, speaks volumes about our common destiny and shared humanity.

Three days ago we passed the 3-year point of the civil war in Syria: a senseless, destructive, dehumanizing conflict. More than 130,000 men, women and children have lost their lives. More than 2 million refugees have fled their homeland.

Three weeks ago, the Russian Parliament authorized the deployment of troops to Ukraine in what could by default turn into a major confrontation. This is still very much work in progress. For the past three years in Egypt, our struggle toward genuine democracy has been side-tracked repeatedly by violent repression. Even as we gather today, armed conflicts are taking their toll in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central Africa Republic, South Sudan, and many other countries.

Our evolution as a species – In terms of both caring for our fellow humans and settling our differences in a peaceful manner – seems to have made little progress since the beginning of recorded history. Wars dominate the human time line: Greek Wars, Roman Wars, the Mongol Conquest, the Crusades, civil wars, the Napoleonic Wars, World Wars, with hundreds of millions who have lost their lives to violence. Today we can barely remember the causes of many of these wars. Many of the countries involved no longer exist.

Empires and dynasties have arisen, each overthrowing the last in bloodshed. We signed the Peace of Westphalia and the Congress of Vienna, to recognize a sovereignty of the individual state and set up rules for international conduct; but the fighting continued. We created the League of Nations; but it could not avert World War II. We established the United Nations; yet a nuclear holocaust still hangs over our heads, and regional wars continue around the globe. We developed a so-called “international humanitarian law” governing armed conflict, so we can kill each other more humanly, so to speak, sparing civilians and improving the treatment of prisoners; but even that humanitarian law is now cited more because of violations than adherence to it.

What has become with our sense of humanity? After thousands of years of civilization, have we learned nothing about the peaceful settlement of these disputes? Are we condemned to repeat the cycle of violence forever?

Despite the litany of violence and conflict I have just recited, my answer is a resolute, “No. We are not condemned.” Humans are not fatally flawed. I refuse to believe that, we are not born to hate. The arts of war are learned behaviors. We are equally capable of learning – and teaching to our children – the arts of peace. As Albert Camus once said: “Peace is the only battle worth fighting.”

It is based on this premise that I've entitled my talk today “Durable peace is not just wishful thinking”.

The question I put you is: What can be accomplished in ten years? I was asked about twenty, but I’ll even talk about ten years. If a decade seems like a short time, consider a few standout events of the past ten years. The launch and expansion of the European Union by thirteen countries. The launch of Facebook and Twitter and YouTube – as well as the first iPhone. The inauguration of the Large Hadron Collider and a few years later the discovery of the Higgs-Boson particle. The world’s first artificial organ transplant. WikiLeaks. Occupy Wall Street. The  groundswell of pro-democracy movement in Arab countries across the Middle East and North Africa.

Many of these events we could not have predicted. Ten years ago, if you would have told me about the dramatic changes we would witness in the Arab society, I would have been sceptical that it could happen in my lifetime.

The lesson is clear: Never underestimate the power of the human spirit. With the right mind-set and strategy we are capable of magnificent action – and astonishing progress.

At the current pace of change, a decade is a long time. So when I considered what we could achieve in ten years, I was full of hope. I've translated that hope in ten steps – realistic, practical measures in my view that will transform our society and our outlook for the future.

The first five call for change in our understanding and mind-set, the last five constitute a plan of action. 

Step 1: We must understand the duality of human nature: common values diverted on perspectives.

The British political philosopher Thomas Hobbes articulated this duality four centuries ago in a word called “De Cive, On The Citizen”. Hobbes observed that people of diverse backgrounds – different economic classes, different political and religious persuasions – find it easy to agree when describing the ideal FUTURE. They all hope for a future of peace, justice and freedom for coming generations. Likewise, they are in agreement on the behaviors and conditions that would characterize that future and make it possible: virtues such as honesty, tolerance, generosity and respect for human dignity.

Yet Hobbes also observed that when acting in the PRESENT, these same people make excuses as to why they are compelled to exhibit the opposite behavior: fierce competition, deception, exploitation and even violence. These behaviors driven by greed, fear and other human passions lead to a destructive cycle of revenge, repression, civil strife and the loss of human dignity.

This human disparity between forward-looking positive values and current negative behaviors is of direct relevance to the peaceful resolution of conflicts – including longstanding tensions such as Israeli-Palestinian situation, for example. A common view is that the solution to such conflicts lies in the discovery of common values. I disagree. Across a richly diverse texture that makes up the human family, we already share a body of core values that transcend all religions and belief systems.

The problem lies in human subjectivity: sharply different perceptions of past events that have led to grievances and different perceptions of the current “reality”. Jews and Arabs in Palestine are not fighting because their core values are different. They fight because each read the history of the region through a different lens: each believes the land belongs to their people.

The solution, therefore, is to create an environment for dialogue that will account for these subjective views while shifting the emphasis toward a shared vision of a peaceful future, thus bringing out the best in each participant. Whether at the national or the international level this requires the development of an institution and processes that are rooted in human solidarity, designed to achieve equitable resolution to grievances and differences of views, to ensure equal opportunity for economic and political participation by all parties, and to employ checks and balances, to guard against aberration, manipulation, or domination by any one party.

I will speak more about the institution and processes a bit later.

Step 2: We must acknowledge how globalization has changed the equation.

Thomas Hobbes used his observations to argue for the importance of sound governance at the level of city-state. But during the intervening centuries, the scope of the playing field has changed dramatically. Globalization – the rapid movement of goods, services, information, finance and people across national and continental boundaries – has redefined human interaction. We are all connected, more literally than ever before. The City is now the Planet.

What does this mean in practical terms? First, the advancement of civilization is no longer a zero sum game, in which one country or group can gain security or resources by exploiting another. Creating adverse conditions for a given country or group, whether motivated by greed or ideology, will have a rebound effect. For example, by subjecting one segment of society to poverty or repression of human rights, the circumstances would produce extremism or disease in a way, that inevitably ripple back to threaten the oppressors. I am not asking you to believe in karma. I am saying we have become irreversibly interconnected as a global society.

Second, when we consider our most significant global challenges – terrorism, climate change, poverty, the scarcity of resources or weapons of mass-destruction – we see that they are all threats without borders. Traditional notions of national security are becoming obsolete. By their nature, these threats require multinational and often global cooperation. National decisions must of course be taken, but one measure of the merit of national action must now be its global impact. No government or limited alliance can overcome these threats by working alone.

This changing understanding must lead a change in mind-set. If it is inevitable that we become a globalized society, reason compels a corresponding adjustment: the core values we share must be applied across the entire society. Our traditional family is now the human family. As with any family, the human family should expect disagreements and competing interest: but our response to dispute can no longer resort to armed conflict or the deprivation of human dignity. This is not a matter of choice; it is only a logical outcome. For centuries we have regarded the alternative for conflict resolution as a question of ethics; it is now a practical solution of global survival. I am not secure until everyone in my family is secure. I am not free, unless everybody is free.

Step 3: We must understand the impact of extreme inequality of wealth.

The unequal distribution of global wealth has reached obscene proportions. Last October, Credit Suisse Research Institute issued a report stating that more than 40 per cent of global wealth is held by less than 1 per cent of the world population. Roughly 2.8 billion people, nearly half of our fellow human beings survive on less than $2 per day. A January 2014 a report from Oxfam International put the contrast in stark terms: the richest 85 individuals on the planet have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion.

Too often these statistics seem to go in one ear and out of the other, but they are not merely numbers: there is a human face, a career, a set of aspirations that goes with each life that makes up this sterile statistics. As the Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen points out, inequality impacts the capability of an individual to function to his or her own potential: it affects health, nourishment, education, life style and, ultimately, self-respect and the ability to contribute meaningfully to a community.

Ultimately, inequality of opportunity creates personal challenges that expand into disasters of national and global proportions. Recent economic crisis had begun in the wealthiest nations, but their most severe impact has been on the poorest economies. Fifty years ago, Africa was a net exporter of food; today it imports one-third of its grain. Tonight roughly 900 million people will go to bed hungry: more than the population of the United States and the European Union combined. Another example is the brain drain: more than two-thirds of medical doctors that graduate in Ghana and Zimbabwe emigrate – primarily to the UK – within five years. At this moment there are more Ethiopian doctors practicing medicine in Chicago than in all of Ethiopia.

This is but a small sampling of these impacts; yet it illustrates why we must no longer view wealth inequality as a set of sterile economic figures. The effects of poverty are real; they are human. Correcting inequality does not equate by any means to anti-capitalism, it requires a thoughtful strategy and cooperation on a global scale, but we must begin by facing up to the facts and the truths.

Step 4: We must acknowledge the unequal value we are placing on human life.

Two weeks ago Reuters reported on fifteen children who had crossed as refugees from Central African Republic into Cameroon, but were so malnourished that they died upon arrival. Let me pose a question: What value should we place on the lives of fifteen African children? How does this compare to the value we would assign if these had been fifteen malnourished German or American children, fleeing a scene of brutality? How would the news coverage be different?

Millions of human lives are lost to armed conflicts, hunger and disease; but the global response to those deaths – the emotional reaction, the press coverage and the willingness to dedicate funding to fix the situation – depends on who is dying and where the deaths occur. For example, despite enormous death toll in the recent armed conflict in Congo and Darfur, the international community did little more than wring its hands, because those locations had little so-called “strategic value”. Throughout the Iraq war we knew exactly how many US and other coalitions soldiers had been killed, but no one bothered to keep more than the vaguest telling of the Iraqi civilians, who lost their lives. And as far as for the fifteen refugee children from Central Africa Republic, the United Nations strategic response plan for the crisis in that country has to date received only one-fifth of the $550 million needed.

Yet the global budget for military spending annually stands at 1.7 trillion dollars. The problem therefore is not a case of insufficient funds. We have the money to address these tragedies. Nor is the problem in our shared core values. The crux of the matter is in the blinkered or eschewed way we apply those values. The results can be predicted in our budgets. The value we place on human life is unequal depending on whose life it is.

Step 5: We must redefine human security and place more emphasis on “soft power”.

Inequity and insecurity are our two greatest global challenges. Understood properly, they are the two sides of the same coin. Poverty is frequently linked to a lack of good governance. The lack of good governance is tied to multiple problems: corruption, denial of social justice and political freedom, scarcity of economic opportunity and failure of the rule of law. These breakdowns produce loss of hope, a sense of injustice and radicalization – which in turn can fuel civil wars and inter-state conflicts.

Ironically, we have been witnessing the ineffectiveness of military power in the face of these interconnected global insecurities. The United States, the world's only super power maintains a military force that cannot be matched on land, sea or sky. Yet the U.S. led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have dragged on for years. Despite vastly superior fire power and enormous financial expenditures victory has been elusive.

When we understand the nature of the insecurities facing our globalized human family we also realize it is time to re-evaluate our traditional reliance on military power. Smart bombs cannot feed the hungry. Tanks and missiles cannot fight disease or solve the unequal distribution of wealth. And as we have recently seen in Egypt, armies are ill-suited to correct a lack of good governance.

Instead, many of us now are advocating the exercise of more “soft power”, the non-military attributes that make a country a prominent actor on a global stage. As American political scientist Joseph Nye has stated, “A country has more soft power if its culture, values and institutions incite admiration and respect in other parts of the world”. Many well-established democracies like Germany have a broad array of these attributes ready to export freedom of speech, economic and social dynamism. Framework to ensure the rule of law. Advanced science and technology. These attributes are the envy of oppressed and impoverished societies worldwide. If wealthy countries put half as much creativity and resources into “soft power” – spreading these instruments of peace and progress – as they spend on weapons of war, our world would be much more secure in every sense. The return on investment would be immediate.

Coupled with these cultural values should be the willingness to engage in dialogue. I am troubled by the reluctance of many leaders to talk to certain adversaries unless preconditions are met. Dialogue and diplomacy are the most meaningful tools for conflict resolution and reconciling differences. This is something we need to remember in these days.

Step 6: We must reform our dysfunctional international institution and governance mechanism.

At the 2005 World Summit in New York, the United Nations hosted the largest number of heads of states ever convened. High on the agenda was a newly articulated norm, the “Responsibility to Protect”. This norm asserted that a state's sovereignty must be considered not only a right but also a responsibility to protect its people against major violations of human rights: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing. The norm further asserted that if a state fails to protect its people from these atrocities, the international community has the responsibility to use appropriate humanitarian and other peaceful means. And if those are inadequate it must take stronger measures including collective use of force, authorized by the UN Security Council.

But norms are only as meaningful as an institution that translates them into action. The years since have seen several instances in which the “Responsibility to Protect” has been invoked, such as in Darfur, Kenya, Libya, Côte d’Ivoire, Yemen, Mali, Sudan, South Sudan and Central African Republic. Generally, however, the intervention by the international community is usually quite late, and it should be most effective when applied at the earliest stage when humanitarian assistance is needed, when peaceful resolutions are possible. Yet in most cases Security Council waits to intervene until the use of force has become necessary or possibly the only option.

What is worse is that intervention has been grossly inconsistent in the past couple of decades: Inaction in places like Ruanda and Syria, where the mass slaughter of civilians has taken place or continues to take place; forceful action in Iraq and Serbia, but without a Security Council mandate demanded of the Security Council as in the case of NATO action in Libya. To be effective, the “Responsibility to Protect” must have precise definition, criteria and modalities, and cannot be subject to the whims of the P5, the members of the council with veto power. Too often unfortunately the UN Security Council enacts a parody of its intended function offering nothing but handwringing, rhetoric, and political squabbles.

The same standard of accountability must also be applied across the board. The Security Council has been effective in referring thirteen cases to the International Criminal Court, such as those in Sudan and Libya; but it has been utterly silent on atrocities committed in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is selective justice: if the perpetrator has friends in high places – essentially in the P5 – the standards do not apply. Currently the International Criminal Court is considering eight cases: all are African.

These inconsistent standards are also apparent in how resources are committed to a given United Nations action. Under the UN Charter, in 1945 member states committed to make armed forces available under a special agreement with the Security Council: however, no single country for the last 70 years has concluded such agreement until today. Thus, in some engagements, such as Afghanistan, the operation is well-supplied with forces and equipment through NATO, because of their perception of the “strategic value” by a major power. In other cases, such as Darfur, the UN has been compelled to rely on African forces that are short on numbers and equipment.

Similarly, when we consider the “soft power” and the use of dialogue and diplomacy for conflict resolution it is clear, that such instruments are most effective when wielded collectively with countries working together through international institutions such as the United Nations and its agencies. But here again, these agencies cannot be effective unless its member states are willing to equip it with the necessary resources and authority. On the humanitarian front, for example, the UN is currently almost begging for $12.9 billion to deal with humanitarian catastrophes, if I recall in 52 countries and dealing with 17 million people. But they have difficulty in securing the funding – which equates to one-half of one percent of what countries are spending on armament.

It is time, in my view, to reform these dysfunctional institutions. We cannot keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. The Security Council, in particular, must have the structure, authority and resources needed to respond to threats to international peace and security solely on basis of human solidarity, irrespective of the geopolitical interest of any individual member state. Similarly, the humanitarian institutions of the United Nations must be granted both the authority and resources to ensure the dignity of every human being by meeting basic needs – nutritious food, clean water, sanitation, health care and education – when the state fails to do so.

As a member of the human family we can accept no lesser standard.

Step 7: We must put technology to work in the service of development.

At the outset I mentioned a number of recent advances in science and technology. We are living in an era of unprecedented progress in medicine – information technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and many other fields; yet we seem incapable of harnessing these advances to make our world more peaceful and humane. Innovation, invention and entrepreneurship are keywords close to the top of every national agenda in the industrialized world; but relatively little research, funding or venture capital is focused on solving the challenges of the developing world – related, for example, to microgrid-scale energy generation, or to small-scale water purification, or to inexpensive medical solutions to infectious diseases. In fact, we regularly witness examples of advanced technologies being misused to encroach on our basic values – such as high-tech wiretapping methods that violate the right to privacy.

Consider the medical arena. Successful anti-retroviral treatment regimen have been developed for HIV/AIDS, but they are largely inaccessible to the poor and therefore mostly irrelevant as a solution to the tragic toll that AIDS continue to take across Africa. As a director of UNAIDS told the human rights council early last year, ”It is outrageous that …when we have all the tools to address this epidemic, more than 1.7 million people will die this year in 2013 because they do not have access to treatment.” In low or middle income countries out of 29 million of eligible patients, only 9 million will receive treatment.

Once again, we come back to the disparity between our forward-thinking values, which are shared across the human family, and our narrowly focused behaviors as individuals, corporations and governments. It is not that we want our fellow human beings to starve or live in suffering. It is that we are so immersed in the priorities of the moment that we miss the big picture.

Step 8: We must abolish nuclear weapons.

As we focus technology innovations more broadly in solving the challenges of the development, the return on the investment will be rapid and obvious. This, in turn, will make clear the wastefulness and futility of investing in ever more powerful weapons and maintaining arsenals of weapons of mass destruction.

The abolition of nuclear weapons unfortunately is not a fashionable topic today. Yet it should be evident, that with the spread of advanced science and technology, as long as some countries chose to rely on nuclear weapons, others will seek to acquire them. Human security, I would reiterate, is not a zero sum game.

It is imperative that no more countries acquire these deadly weapons. But to that end, it is equally imperative that nuclear-weapon states accelerate their nuclear disarmament efforts. This, in turn, demands national security policies that reduce the strategic role given to these weapons. And nuclear weapon should have no room in our doctrine of collective security. It is nothing short of madness that – nearly a quarter of a century after the end of the Cold War – we still have more than 17,000 nuclear weapons, more than 4,000 in operational status and 2,000 in high alert status: ready to go in less than half an hour.

How does Iran fit into this equation? Iran's nuclear program has been a dominant headline for more than a decade. Nuclear weapons – in the Middle East and elsewhere – have long been seen as conveying power and prestige and insurance against attack.

Iran's determination to master nuclear technology in my view has been driven by the desire to be recognized as an important regional power. As we have begun to witness lately, the Iran nuclear issue can be resolved – not by threats and intimidation, nor by name-calling or accusations, but through dialogue and negotiation. Recent dialogue was direct interaction between Iran and the United States is a welcome step forward. The grievances and mistrust between these two countries has accumulated over 50 years. As progress is made towards resolving the mistrust surrounding Iran's nuclear program more opportunities will arise to chart a new course based on reconciling differences across a broader spectrum.

Step 9: We must put economics to work in the service of all humanity.

For centuries, humans have understood the economics of how to make war profitable, of how to exploit the poor and the less powerful for profit. This model is no longer sustainable. It is time for a new approach to global economics, focus explicitly on achieving prosperity through peace.

The first practical area for strategic change involves a re-balancing of government R&D budgets. Innovations follow investment. If all wealthy governments continue to spend ten times more money on armament and defense than they do on humanitarian aid, this will influence where investors, corporations and research universities put their money and effort. But if the same government were to sponsor R&D on the most costly challenges of developing societies the result would be the creation of new technologies, the opening of new industries and new markets and, ultimately, the revolution in how we approach the cost of humanitarian aid.

The second area for economic innovation lies in harnessing the untapped potential of human capital in developing countries. These are highly motivated populations, many with a disproportionately high percentage of young people. In Egypt, for example, 50 per cent of the population is under 25. More than ever before, television and internet access have provided these young people with a window to the world. They are hungry for the opportunities they know exist elsewhere. Smart corporate investment in high-tech skills training, in ICT infrastructure, in seed funding and supportive environment for entrepreneurs, can tap into this population and yield a high return.

The third area for economic innovation is in helping emerging democracies create the institutions and mechanisms for good governance. This is a far smarter strategic investment than selling weaponry or providing military aid to these countries. By jump-starting a process of social and economic development – exporting “soft power” as I said earlier – we will create stable reliable partners that will also be markets and pools for talent for our companies.

Generosity of this sort is not an act of charity, it is an investment in our own survival.

Step 10: We must reeducate ourselves and most of all educate the young in the arts of peace.

Each of the nine steps I have outlined so far involve some elements of re-education with practical strategic benefits. Education is key. Curiosity and belief in the power of learning is central to what makes us human. With the rapid pace of change we are experiencing a global re-education program along these lines will enable us to solve our insecurities as one human family.

Above all we must educate our youth. Ensuring a solid primary and secondary education for boys and girls in the poorest countries is vital if they are to be lifted out of poverty. Current efforts to ensure universal education are far from adequate. UNESCO latest report on global education says that if current trends continue it will take until 2072 until the poorest young women in developing countries are literate. This cannot stand.

On the positive side, we are witnessing many efforts to re-invigorate and re-imagine a global approach to education. My Alma Mater, New York University, is running a global education campus in Abu Dhabi. Every year they take in a new badge of roughly 200 students drawn from more than fifty countries based solely on merit. Some come from abject poverty with all expenses paid by the United Arab Emirates. The idea is to bring these young people together, to develop truly multicultural and global perspective for their roles as future leaders. The NYU President, Joseph Sexton, tells me that in just a few short years, the results have been amazing. Efforts such as these give us hope.

Education pays multigenerational dividends. We cannot afford any more lost generations.

In conclusion, the challenges we face are bigger than any single country, conflict, or issue. We are engaged in a struggle for the heart of humanity. What kind of world do we want to leave to our children? What are the values, the institutions, the protocols of governments, the behaviors and mindset that will enable our global society to achieve an enduring peace?

The solutions are within reach – because the solutions are within us. No matter how formidable the challenge, a sustained investment in human security is an investment in our collective future as one human family.

Thank you. 


Dr. ElBaradei wird begrüßt durch Frauenkirchenpfarrer Treutmann und Ministerpräsident Tillich.Zur Rede hatten sich 800 Gäste eingefunden.Landesbischof Jochen Bohl sprach einführende Worte.Ministerpräsident Stanislaw Tillich begrüßte und würdigte den Redner im Namen des Freistaates Sachsen.Die Gäste verfolgten die Rede originalsprachlich auf Englisch oder per Simultanübersetzung.In seiner Rede definierte Dr. ElBaradei 10 Schritte für ein friedlicheres Zusammenleben.Bereits am Nachmittag hatte er die Preisträger des Schülerwettbewerbs getroffen.Die Wunsch-Welt, die die Schüler gefüllt hatten, stand bei der Rede in unmittelbarer Nähe.Auch der ehemalige Baudirektor Eberhard Burger und Musiker Ludwig Güttler waren unter den Gästen.Die Frauenkirche hatte sich im Kirchenschiff und sogar auf der Empore gefüllt.
Dr. ElBaradei wird begrüßt durch Frauenkirchenpfarrer Treutmann und Ministerpräsident Tillich.
Zur Rede hatten sich 800 Gäste eingefunden.
Landesbischof Jochen Bohl sprach einführende Worte.
Ministerpräsident Stanislaw Tillich begrüßte und würdigte den Redner im Namen des Freistaates Sachsen.
Die Gäste verfolgten die Rede originalsprachlich auf Englisch oder per Simultanübersetzung.
In seiner Rede definierte Dr. ElBaradei 10 Schritte für ein friedlicheres Zusammenleben.
Bereits am Nachmittag hatte er die Preisträger des Schülerwettbewerbs getroffen.
Die Wunsch-Welt, die die Schüler gefüllt hatten, stand bei der Rede in unmittelbarer Nähe.
Auch der ehemalige Baudirektor Eberhard Burger und Musiker Ludwig Güttler waren unter den Gästen.
Die Frauenkirche hatte sich im Kirchenschiff und sogar auf der Empore gefüllt.

Martti Ahtisaari opened the series in 2010

On 1 December 2010, the first speech by a Nobel Peace Laureate was held in the Frauenkirche Dresden. Martti Ahtisaari, who won the prize in 2008, opened this special series of lectures. In the first Nobel Peace Laureate's Lecture, which was entitled »Challenges and opportunities for sustainable Peace«, the former President of Finland and United Nations diplomat and mediator spoke about his experiences as a peace envoy in Kosovo and Namibia, and the challenges and opportunities for lasting peace. With great patience and firm trust in reconciliation between people and nations, the apparently impossible can be achieved. Martti Ahtisaari has always lived in the spirit of this trust.

Read the full lecture here

[Translate to English:] »Challenges and opportunities for sustainable Peace«

Lecture by Martti Ahtisaari

»Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Lecture«
Frauenkirche, Dresden, Germany
10 December 2010

Remarks as delivered


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank the Frauenkirche Foundation for inviting me to give the first lecture in this Nobel Peace Prize laureates’ lecture series.  

Frauenkirche has been reconstructed as a landmark symbol of reconciliation between former warring enemies. I believe we need these powerful symbols to promote our commitment and confidence in peace.

Almost exactly fifteen years ago the then president of the Federal Republic of Germany His Excellency Roman Herzog spoke here in Dresden. The occasion was to commemorate 50 years from the destruction of Dresden. I think that his wise words are still worth remembering and I quote:

Es gibt keinen Sinn, darüber zu richten, ob der Bombenkrieg, an dessen Unmenschlichkeit ohnehin niemand zweifelt, im juristischen Sinne rechtmässig war oder nicht. Was bringt uns das – angesichts des Abstands von fünfzig Jahren und angesichts  der bitteren Erkenntnis, das die Völkerrechtsordnung auch heute noch weithin machtlos ist gegenüber Krieg und Massenmord?

Wer heute die Konsequenzen aus den Erfahrungen jener Zeit ziehen will, auch wer die Wunden  von damals heilen will, dem stellt sich eine ganz andere Frage. Die Frage nämlich, ob wir aus der Vergangenheit genug gelernt haben und ob wir alles tun, um  die Wiederkehr des Schreckens – in welcher Form auch immer- zu verhindern.

There is no point in arguing whether the bombing was justified from a legal point of view or not because nobody would deny its inhuman nature. How does it help us – given the fifty years – since we are painfully well aware of the fact that the system of international law is still powerless as we confront wars and mass murder?

Those who wish to learn from the past and of what we have experienced, as well as those who want to heal the wounds ask a different question? Have we learned from the past, have we done everything to prevent the return of those times of horror, whatever shape they might take? That is the question.


I was asked to share my thoughts about peace mediation today as well as the challenges and opportunities I have faced during 30 years as a peace mediator. However, I would like to begin by saying few words about the global challenges we are facing now and their conflict potential.

I am particularly happy that I can share my thoughts today with this audience where I see lot of young people, pupils and students.  We are, after all, talking about your future and your children’s futures, and you offer unique insights and ideas on how to solve the toughest challenges before us.


As I said in my Nobel Peace Prize lecture in December 2008, I firmly believe that all conflicts can be resolved. Peace is a question of will.

I am particularly concerned about the large number of conflicts that the international community has not been able to resolve. We should never accept the fact that some conflicts remain frozen. Each conflict is to be seen as a vital challenge requiring immediate attention from the international community.

Sometimes I think we do not really understand the magnitude of the costs of conflicts. According to IMF estimates the current financial crises will cause a total of $3 trillion losses to the global banking and financial sector. In many occasions, this particular crisis has been used as a benchmark of something that we have never seen before, something that costs more than anybody of us can really understand, and that by all means, should be prevented in the future.

Against this background, it is interesting to consider conflicts and security as an economical measure. According to Mumbai-based think tank, Strategic Foresight Group, Middle East Crises have caused a total of $12 trillion financial losses within last 20 years. This includes, in general costs of declining economy in Israel and Palestine, Lebanon, and Iraq among others. It does not include for example the costs of western military actions and or any value for the individual suffering and general insecurity. It is shocking to think that the pure economical cost of conflict from the last 20 years is many times bigger than losses from the financial crises.


Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends,

In our global environment the problem with the greatest impact is, in my mind, the growing rich-poor gap. The difference in income between the top fifth and the bottom fifth of the World was 74 to 1 in 1998. The disparity in per capita GDP between the 20 richest and the 20 poorest countries has more than doubled between 1960 and 1995. It has grown even worse. Three billion people now live on less than $2 a day. The physical, political, psychological and moral consequences of this disparity are enormous.

The current global financial crisis has further increased the risk of growing inequality. Many of the regions and countries most affected by the withdrawal of capital from emerging markets and the collapse of international trade are already fragile, with many only just emerging from years of conflict.

As we all know, the world economic crisis has spurred a record increase in global unemployment – dragging down economies and dimming hopes for the future. Young people are particularly vulnerable to the ups and downs of the global economy.  Recent statistics reveal that the greatest number of youth ever – from 80 to as many as 100 million - were unable to find jobs last year; and in just the past two years, as a result of the global recession, 7.8 million more young people joined the unemployment rolls.  Moreover, due to low wages, shorter hours, and stagnant economies, underemployment is keeping more than 150 million youth – who do have jobs -- stuck in poverty.

We face an enormous social and economic challenge when such huge numbers of young people are denied opportunities to have a productive future, and feel disaffected, disconnected and powerless in their communities.

Growing inequality between countries and within society exacerbates existing cleavages. The loss of welfare and employment opportunities easily leads to a loss of hope and faith in the future among the most vulnerable. This in turn fosters the rise of fundamentalism and violence, and creates breeding-grounds for crime, terrorism and war.


Throughout its existence, the United Nations has been a principal actor in peace-making. Also regional organisations, the European Union, African Union and others are increasingly active in peace-making and conflict mediation, which is a positive development and will strengthen the overall capacity of the international community to resolve conflicts and hopefully also to engage in preventive diplomacy much more actively. However, there is a need for careful policy and capacity development when sharing plans, resources, and even capacities with the UN and between themselves.

On the other hand, the UN or regional organisations are not always able to play a role in peace mediation. Governments of war-torn societies are often reluctant to “internationalise” their internal disputes and conflicts. This means, for example, that involvement of the United Nations in conflict resolution or crisis management in the case of certain internal conflicts is being considered cautiously and critically by the governments.

As the case of Aceh Peace Process along with many others clearly indicates, sometimes we have to be ready to be open and challenge our conventional way of doing business. The Aceh Peace agreement was negotiated by myself and the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI), a non-governmental organisation I founded in 2000. A memorandum of understanding between the Government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement was signed on 15 August 2005 in Helsinki. Today CMI continues to support the parties to fully implement the Memorandum of Understanding. This case shows how non-governmental actors can play a pivotal role as facilitators or mediators in a peace process.


Over the years I have developed some important insights about the role of peace mediator and about the design of a peace process that I would like to share with you.

Today, peace mediation is a crowded field characterized by multiple and varied initiatives, sometimes even competing ones. A variety of actors – international and regional organisations, non-governmental organisations, eminent individuals, as well as states, large and small – have become involved in preventing conflicts and ending wars through dialogue and negotiations.

Peace processes are also often complex, multilayered efforts that involve a host of actors at different levels of a society. Therefore, mediation activities must be strategically designed, well supported and skillfully implemented. A mediator has a key role in understanding the overall process and bringing together the necessary political support locally and internationally, relevant thematic expertise, logistical support and as well as designing the conduct of negotiations.

A well functioning mediation strategy has to be multileveled and needs to hold various processes simultaneously: the official process of mediation; the possible quasi-official processes promoted by unofficial groups; public peace processes aiming at sustained dialogue and various activities of civil society.

My experience is that a mediator needs to know from the beginning where to take the process even if he or she is just there to help the parties. Without clear objective it is easy to have long talks with little or no results. The role of the parties is of course fundamental but we should not be naive about their willingness and capacity to compromise, particularly in the early phases of negotiations. As we all know, a mediator has to forget his or her ego. It has often proven to be useful that the parties to the conflict get the credit when the agreement is reached even if they hadn't really deserved it.

Just as in national contexts, international peace mediators do not choose the conflicts they mediate but the parties to the conflict choose the mediator. The involvement of a third party intermediary is based on the trust of all the conflicting parties. Mediators might be chosen for their reputation, skills, knowledge or resources. Usually the negotiators are official diplomats, although practitioners from non-governmental organisations and even citizens are increasingly getting involved in the peacemaking process.

Mediation cannot succeed unless the right people are at the negotiating table. Negotiation with illegitimate representatives seldom works. The mediator and the parties involved in negotiation need to make sure that the people they are negotiating with really do represent the constituency they declare to represent. If a group has no legitimate leader, there is no point in mediating until one can be identified.

The greatest risk often comes from the so called spoilers - leaders and parties who believe that the negotiated peace presents a threat to their power, worldview, and interests, and use violence to undermine attempts to achieve peace. This is why so called multi-track approaches are important - to reach all parts of respective societies inclusively and to allow everyone to see the benefits of a sustainable peace. Spoilers do not automatically get a seat at the negotiation table, but they must be listened to. Therefore, reaching beyond the negotiation table is vital. Constituents are less likely to accept an obtained agreement if they have not been involved in the process enough to understand why the agreement was designed as it was and why it is the best alternative available.

Also local structures for traditional dispute resolution, reconciliation, and administration should be given the means to reconstitute themselves as they can have an important role to play in local dispute resolution and reconciliation. This is absolutely necessary in order for a sustainable peace to prevail.

In general, Diaspora communities have not been formally engaged as a constituency in official negotiations to resolve conflicts in their home countries. However, there is increasing acknowledgement of the ways that Diaspora communities are directly affected by and impact conflict dynamics back home. Recognising their stake in and influence on the political negotiations would be an important reality check in attempts to resolve conflicts.


Ladies and gentlemen,

In peace negotiations there needs to be genuine ownership of both parties. Kosovo status negotiations are a good example where this precondition did not exist. At the very early stages of my mandate as the UN Special Envoy for the future status process for Kosovo and particularly during my initial visits to Belgrade and Pristina at the end of November 2005, it became apparent that the positions and perceptions on the status were entrenched and so widely contradictory that any immediate attempt to narrow these differences would lead nowhere.

My team and I therefore commenced work in early 2006 with an understanding that we should try to at least close the gap between Belgrade and Pristina on “technical aspects” of the status: Rights of Communities and their members; Decentralisation; Religious and Cultural Heritage; Economic provisions and Property. Technical agreements or at least rapprochements were thought to then serve as building blocks for the resolution of status.

But unfortunately, we did not have two parties who were ready to come to the table to reflect each others’ needs and interests. As you know, our task was to resolve the question of Kosovo’s status, which we did. Unfortunately one party was not ready to accept the solution. This is an example of a complex situation that international peace mediators have to face and carefully weigh between the costs and consequences of solutions on the table.

The final status proposal on Kosovo was carefully elaborated following multiple caucuses with the parties concerned. I believe that the independence of Kosovo is of benefit to all parties. By recognising this Serbia can use it as an opportunity to enhance lasting peace in the Balkans and to accelerate its accession process to the European Union. The international community and in particular the European Union have to make sure all people of Kosovo will be able to progress towards this goal as well.

Maybe the complexity of international peace mediation lies in its ‘surroundings’. The role and engagement of the regional actors is vital. They can either support or undermine the peacemaking efforts. It would be unwise to launch any process without seriously considering how to work with the regional actors in parallel of the peace talks. The process leading to the independence of Namibia in 1990 is an excellent example of the constructive cooperation of international and regional actors in a peace process. Today, looking back at all together 13 years I spent with this process it feels almost unbelievable that we managed to get all the principal actors - the Western five, P5, OAU and particularly African front line states, the South-African government and all political parties in Namibia, including SWAPO  - to jointly work towards a shared goal. The Joint Commission including South Africa, the US, Angola, Cuba and Soviet Union had an important trouble shooting role. The role of the UN and the successive United States governments altered during the long peace process. There were times when the UN was needed and at times it was operating more in the background. The cooperation of the permanent Security Council members was and is crucial. However, in the Kosovo case this was not the case as we all know too well.


The list of potential matters to be discussed in peace negotiations is long and includes issues such as: disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration, gender issues, relations with civil society, constitution building, power sharing and also who can stand by at the side of the communities if everything fails. Peace agreements cannot solve all problems. At best, they can serve as institutional and political frameworks and as arrangements that enable the parties to continue to work together on the issues agreed upon. Nevertheless, there is only a limited amount of research and debate available on what issues can or should be productively included or excluded from a peace process. As in interest based mediation, the parties and the mediator ultimately decide the themes and the agenda points.

Yet, when we think about multidimensional conflicts, such as the one we had in Aceh, the challenge for a mediator is how to balance between past, presence and future. During the Aceh peace talks we had some space to discuss the past but at some stage this had to stop. In order to move on and to achieve our jointly agreed goal, it was necessary that the focus was shifted towards the future, instead of trying to solve all the past wrongdoings around the negotiation table.

Transitional justice and dealing with the past have been among of the debated issues during the recent years in the context of international conflict resolution. And for a reason; justice is a cornerstone of lasting peace. When a mediator gets involved in a peace process, there are two main concerns: first how to prevent the reoccurrence of the problem that caused the conflict in the first place and second to lay the foundations for reconciliation. As we all know, many peace agreements fail to be sustainable and the majority revert into violence in the timeframe of less than 5 years. Some of this is due to the fact that collective memories and suffering is so strong, that unless it is addressed in one way or the other, there is little potential for a peaceful future. The case of South Africa is a positive example here.



We all carry the responsibility for global peace and human security. It is our responsibility to act – to prevent violence, to resolve conflicts and to help rebuild. This responsibility means commitment – we cannot choose to come and go based on national or personal interests or economic considerations. What we need is staying power – the ability to commit to and guide war-shattered countries in the long-term through the rebuilding and reconciliation process.

Peace needs everybody. We cannot pick and choose our partners for peace – we have to speak with all parties that have popular support; whether it is Hamas in Palestine or the Taliban in Afghanistan. In this respect national interests should not intervene in the sensitive process of peace building and peace is to be the supreme national interest.

Peace requires compromise, also from external actors for the benefit of common interests. Conflict zones are no places for competition, otherwise peace will fail. Peace in conflict zones should be a primary goal for the transatlantic partnership. Quite logically, peace also has the power to secure the interest of other powerful nations. Raising the necessary consensus for peace is the task of all member states of the United Nations, and particularly that of the main actors.

For our long term benefit, we need to get serious about preventive actions. Preventive action on key challenges causing conflicts, such as the ever-widening gap between the rich and poor, requires commitment. And commitment requires resources. We have to stay committed to develop co-operation during the economic downturn as well. Conflicts do not cease because of downturns.

Ladies and gentlemen, peace is a question of will. I want to emphasise this in particular to the young audience present today. You and your generation have a major role in creating and sustaining that will and transforming it into action. In that work I give you my firm support and wish you the best of luck. 


Marti Ahtisaari trifft an der Frauenkirche ein.Interessierte Zuhörer aus Dresden und weit über die Stadt- und Freistaatsgrenzen hinaus sind gekommen.Der Friedensnobelpreisträger ruft in seiner Rede zum Angehen bestehender Probleme auf.Unter den Zuhörern sind auch viele Repräsentanten aus Politik und Gesellschaft.Auch jugendliche Gäste wollen sich diesen Appell an die Menschlichkeit nicht entgehen lassen.Frauenkirchenpfarrer Sebastian Feydt moderiert.Marti Ahtisaari wirbt für gegenseitige Achtung, Verständigung und ein friedfertiges Miteinander.
Marti Ahtisaari trifft an der Frauenkirche ein.
Interessierte Zuhörer aus Dresden und weit über die Stadt- und Freistaatsgrenzen hinaus sind gekommen.
Der Friedensnobelpreisträger ruft in seiner Rede zum Angehen bestehender Probleme auf.
Unter den Zuhörern sind auch viele Repräsentanten aus Politik und Gesellschaft.
Auch jugendliche Gäste wollen sich diesen Appell an die Menschlichkeit nicht entgehen lassen.
Frauenkirchenpfarrer Sebastian Feydt moderiert.
Marti Ahtisaari wirbt für gegenseitige Achtung, Verständigung und ein friedfertiges Miteinander.