Concerted efforts are needed to curb the growing violence in the human heart, and promote the resolution of conflicts through conversation and consensus.
THE CENTENARY of Gandhiji's Satyagraha Movement is an appropriate occasion to recall the major human achievements of the last century in conflict resolution and trace the pathways responsible for them. Prominent among them are the end of colonial rule in the Indian sub-continent, the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of apartheid in South Africa, the success of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, and the end of Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. All these seemingly impossible achievements owe their origin to the path of negotiation and non-violence lit by Mahatma Gandhi (whose first satyagraha was on September 11, 1906) and followed by Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Corazon Aquino. In contrast, violence whether state sponsored or by individuals and groups has mostly resulted in more violence. Recent events in Iraq confirm the futility of the doctrine that might is right.
The Pugwash movement for a nuclear peril free world initiated at a conference of Nobel Laureates, convened by Sir Cyrus Eaton at the Thinkers' Lodge in the Pugwash village, Novo Scotia, Canada, in 1957, had its genesis in the manifesto issued by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein in 1955. This was a time when the Cold War was reaching dangerous proportions and the nuclear arms race was at its peak between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Russell-Einstein manifesto pointed out that a nuclear war would be an unmitigated disaster and would result in a lose-lose situation for all. The Manifesto therefore called on everyone to "remember your humanity and forget everything else." Pugwash has remained until today an organisation of scientists.
The centenary of the satyagraha and 50th anniversary of Pugwash call for concerted efforts to curb the growing violence in the human heart, and promote the resolution of conflicts through conversation and consensus. The power of this approach was summarised by the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, in the following words in Science in 2003:
"The Pugwash Conference movement, launched by the Russell-Einstein Manifesto of 1955, brought Russian and Western scientists together for more than 40 years to develop common understanding of the dangers of nuclear war and ways of reducing them, and in recent years has constructed a strong dialogue between North and South on the problems of development. `Lab-to-lab' cooperation also helped to lay the groundwork for cooperative nuclear disarmament and arms control between Russia and the United States after the Cold War. Peace making and peace building should never be the exclusive preserve of diplomats and politicians."
The Annual Pugwash Conferences deal with the factors underlying threats to peace in the region in which the conference is held. The Conference held in Cairo in November 2006 dealt with "Peace and Reform in the Middle East." The Conference provided opportunities for all the divergent views to be heard. The debate resulted in a broad agreement on the following:
The Canadian Pugwash Group, Pugwash Peace Exchange and the Pugwash Park Commission plan to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Pugwash by organising a workshop on Revitalising Nuclear Disarmament from July 5 to 7, 2007, at the Thinkers' Lodge, Pugwash. This provides an occasion for the issue of a Pugwash Appeal to all the political parties in the world and to all the members of the U.N. stressing the importance and urgency of universal and total nuclear disarmament. Such a Pugwash Appeal could contain the following action points:
Mass media play a pivotal role in linking science, politics, ecology, and economics with society. A media coalition at the global and national levels can help to promote a better public understanding of the perils of status quo in the resolution of chronic disputes, with priority going to nuclear as well as non-nuclear threats such as climate change and hunger and poverty. In our contemporary world of the Internet, there is a particular need to pay heed to what the late Sir Joseph Rotblat, who was the soul of Pugwash for 50 years, said in one of his last speeches.
"Let me remind you that the basic human value is life itself, the most important of human rights is the right to live. It is the duty of scientists to see to it that, through their work, life will not be put into peril, but will be made safe and its quality enhanced."
It would be appropriate for the U.N. to establish during this year a Global College of Gandhi-Einstein Fellows to serve as transformation agents, promoting morality in politics and ethics in science. India being the birthplace of Gandhiji and also the principal catalyst of the movement after World War II for the Peaceful Applications of Atomic Energy (Homi Bhabha was the Chairman of the First U.N. Conference on the Peaceful Applications of Atomic Energy held in Geneva in 1955) should take the lead in establishing such a Gandhi-Einstein Global College comprising young women and men from all parts of the world committed to fostering scientific humanism and humanistic science.
(The writer is President, Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.)