Ismail Serageldin


Partnerships for Peace

 06/05/2005 | An Address Delivered at the 69th Meeting of District 2450 of The Rotary International, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt


Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

With the eloquent words of HE the first lady still ringing in our ears, and the soaring vista that her vision of a better future has opened for all of us firmly before our eyes, allow me to focus my remarks on the important topic of building partnerships for peace.

I would like to address the following points:

First : The importance of partnerships for peace;

Second : The proposed Peace Studies Institute in the Library of Alexandria;

Third : What Rotary International can do to make this new initiative possible;

Fourth : The tides of change that confront us all; and

Finally : The challenge of tomorrow and the dream that could yet be a reality.

Though my remarks are framed primarily as an address to the Arab world, it is clear that they are largely applicable to issues from Cyprus to Georgia and beyond.

I. Partnerships for peace

Partnerships for peace is an interesting topic because no person, no party, no country can achieve peace by itself. Peace requires the involvement of many parties. It requires changes in behavior.

Whether war is declared or undeclared, the warring parties must be willing to make peace with their enemies. For it is an oft-forgotten truism that we make peace with our enemies, not with our friends. Belligerents who have opted for peace have an interest in the success of the peace initiative. Working in tandem or in parallel, they become willy-nilly partners in the peace process.

But peace is much more than the absence of war. It is a state of well-being and trust… trust that must be earned on each side, that cannot be simply assumed – it is a condition of well-being that allows each individual to flourish to his or her full potential. Here, the civil society and the makers of public opinion in each country have a major role to play.

They create mirrors and windows. Mirrors in which we see ourselves and windows through which we see the world…

Does that mirror show us as the persecuted minority of an evil conspiracy? Does it show us as the chosen instrument of god on earth? does it show us to be a single entity at the level of the group, the nation, the region or the world? does it show us to be a people with a manifest destiny?

And how do these windows show us the world? Is it a wonderful place of diversity and opportunity? Or is it a dangerous place full of enemies and uncertainties?

It is this combination of mirrors and windows that create in our minds the boundaries that define where the “us” ends and the “them” begins.

A culture of peace will demand that we open the windows wide on the world… It will require that we hold up real mirrors to ourselves, to recognize our shortcomings just as we draw strength from our achievements.

And so, I invite you, every single one in this audience, to make a major contribution to shaping this culture of peace. That culture is certainly affected by how our leaders approach the questions of our time. But it is also affected by how each and every one of us behaves in everyday life..

The culture of peace is created by:

• How our leaders speak of the future and of the meaning of peace

• How we portray ourselves and others in our media

• How we preach in our places of worship

• How we teach in our schools

• How we speak to each other

• How we bring up our children by word and deed—for, in the end, our own behavior is the most powerful influence on shaping our children's world outlook


All these factors combine to create the culture of peace. So how do we mobilize society, change institutional cultures and promote a culture of peace?

Certainly the Suzanne Mubarak International Women for Peace Movement will be a key instrument locally, regionally and internationally. But there will have to be many other actors involved, starting with Rotary International.

But there will also be a need for an active intellectual center devoted to peace Studies. It is an idea that seems odd to many people at first blush, but that makes imminent sense. After all, why should there be war colleges and military schools but no institutes of peace studies?

II. The Peace Studies Institute in the Library of Alexandria

Today, I am proud to introduce to you the new Peace Studies Institute in the Library of Alexandria. At present, we and our partners that include the UN University for Peace, see this institute as devoted to at least six distinct areas of study, that make up an integrated whole. In all cases, the studies will involve international and national specialists, and focus on both theory and practice, drawing case studies from actual local, regional and international experience to understand the factors of success and the pitfalls that may lead to failure. These six areas are:

(1) Law, ethics and human rights:

The fundamental foundation for any approach to peace must involve a healthy respect for the law, and for each individual's human rights. An ethical approach can be founded only on such foundations. It is very much these wise constraints that make people free.

(2) Conflict resolution and post-conflict areas:

This includes studies of violence, and the strategies for conflict resolution, whether they be political, social, economic, cultural, ethnic or religious. From the role of leadership to the promotion of participation, from civic and state roles to those of the family and the individual, we need to learn from experience to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

(3) Mediation and Negotiation in theory and practice.

These are skills that can be taught, attitudes that can be nurtured. Building trust is very much embedded in the successful approaches to negotiations and mediation. Reconciliation needs well-honed facilitation skills to help the ultimate parties learn to live with each other.

(4) Promoting the culture of peace:

Including a better understanding of the Impact of Religious, Philosophical and Cultural Influences on Peace. We must give special emphasis on education and training materials, and media approaches to help shape the attitudes of people, especially the young, towards peace.

(5) Human security and Peace:

Human security – broadly defined, including sustainable development approaches must be incorporated in this new approach.

(6) Gender and Peace Building

Women must be involved in all aspects of the peace process from negotiations to reconciliation to maintaining the peace. UNSC Resolution 1325 decreed it. Common sense demands it. Women are not just the victims of war, they are the architects of peace.

Yet in many parts of the Arab world, women have not yet assumed their full and rightful place.

No issue looms larger on the reform agenda than the status of women. It is the ultimate litmus test for whether the Arab societies have finally made a transition to the 21 st century.

Global experience highlights the emerging centrality of women. They are the true vectors of development. There is ample evidence that the key to development lies in the education of girls and the empowerment of women. These are the single most important actions that any developing society can undertake: the education of girls and the empowerment of women…. And speaking from this podium, as a Muslim Arab man, let me be clear: there is no cultural specificity argument that can be tolerated to justify depriving women of their human rights in the name of tradition, or to mutilate girls in the name of custom.

Indeed, women's rights are human rights. These must be protected by the rule of law, where all are equal before the law, and no-one is above the law.

But there is more. Women are not just victims of oppression or vectors of change. They are the artisans of social capital, that lattice of values that is the glue that holds societies together. It is they who repair the torn social fabric of communities in the difficult post-conflict situations. They are the custodians of values, who nurture these values in the next generation

New civil society movements have emerged. Mrs. Mubarak has initiated many organizations devoted to the betterment of women. She has founded The Suzanne Mubarak International Women for Peace Movement devoted to women and peace, the first to emerge from the Arab world. I am proud to work with her and others in a peace movement that is all about empowering women. But we must engage all men in this endeavor. Men must not just to be made to understand, they must be mobilized. Women's issues are society's issues, and men must be involved. We need to breathe with two lungs!

Hand in hand, empowered women and enlightened men will build that better future we all dream of. We cannot continue to focus on building the women of tomorrow and not worry about transforming the men of yesterday!

We need the commitment of many, the input of all.

III. What Rotary International can do

This brings me to what the Rotary international can do to support that new partnership for peace. You can do much indeed.

From Interact to Rotaract to Rotary… and from local to regional to international … Rotary is one of the most respected names in civil society institutions. We need your outreach, your inputs an your ongoing commitment and support.

We will need funding. We will need contacts. We will need outreach. We will need your help in all of these and in building bridges to other civil society institutions.

But we will also need your feedback in the design of our programs. We will want your involvement as leaders of your communities and prominent members of your societies to ensure that our vision is correctly focused, and that our understanding of the people we are trying to reach is properly targeted.

We need this constant interaction between us. Our partnership will be like breathing: inhaling and exhaling, in and out… constant interaction for a living, evolving, partnership.

Let us create that Rotary Support Group for the new Institute of Peace Studies at the Library of Alexandria as was suggested by HE the First Lady a few moments ago. Let us turn words into action. Let that be a real tangible outcome from this meeting.

IV. The tides of change

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

These concerns with the culture of peace and the transformation of our societies are not just idle chatter. They reflect an appreciation of the tides of change that are everywhere around us, and that require our action…

There is a Tide...

For there is a tide out there ...

There is a tide ...

There is a tide of humanity,

a population growing and multiplying

in the remotest corners of this vast Arab world,

Millions of young people demanding a right to a decent life,

a life without fear or despair,

a chance to break free of the misery of poverty...

That tide, that unstoppable tide of human ambition will not be denied...

And if it is, then it will be a tide of anger, of hate, of violence, that will engulf all before it and consume us all in its fiery embrace of rejected present and foregone tomorrows.

There is a tide ..

A tide of suffering,

Of children malnourished, stunted, deprived,

They haunt our television screens and our dreams..

In Somalia, in Sudan, ... Our brothers and sisters, our children, fellow human beings ..

Left to their fate...

While a new class of rich consumers discuss the prices of everything and the value of nothing...

There is a tide of ignorance and greed

that ravages society and destroys our heritage...

A tide of intolerance and obscurantism,

That wants to stop the march of time and freeze our minds

That teaches hatred and fear

But also...

There is a tide of new awareness ...

There is a tide of

understanding of our interdependence,

not just among economies,

but among all people and even all living things...

A tide of awareness that the rights of all women and minorities and the weak and the poor are indivisible from our own...

There is a tide of awareness that the past practices of governance and the new specter of intolerance and bigotry cannot be accepted, for they will surely bring misery and wretchedness on our selves and our children..

There is a tide of awareness that we cannot let the world move into the dawn of a new tomorrow while we remain debating the glories of our yesterdays...

There is a tide of new technologies,

that can help us to grapple with the complex realities of our lives..

There is a tide of new possibilities...

We have the knowledge, the science, the expertise,

to be part of the scientific revolution that is accompanying the new millennium...

Knowledge that can cure disease and double harvests,

bring water to the deserts and create humane cities, where equity and justice can prevail.

There is a tide of possibilities that the genius of the Arab people can unleash..

But that genius can only be unlocked by freedom and thrives on liberty, unbounded inquiry and tolerance.

Yes... there is a tide in the affairs of Men

which taken at the flood leads on to fortune ...

Fortune, not just in terms of more economic growth,

although that, too, can be accommodated...

Fortune, not in terms of accumulation of dollars in national or foreign bank accounts..

but fortune in terms of true well-being.

Fortune in terms of quality of life.

Fortune in terms of the satisfaction of doing what is good.

Fortune in terms of a better understanding of ourselves and our neighbors.

Fortune in terms of leaving for our children,

and our children's children,

a better world.

Yes ...

There is a tide that leads on to fortune.

Omitted, all the voyage of their lives

is bound in shallows and in miseries ...

If we fail in bringing about this change in the way the Arab people think about themselves and the world...

If we fail to persuade our colleagues in governments, the media, the universities, the streets of our cities and the fields of our countryside...

If we fail to go beyond the exhortation to do good...

Then the poor among our nations will indeed be denied, the world will indeed be poorer and future generations will indeed suffer.

Then our future will indeed be bound in shallows and in miseries ..

On such a full sea are we now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves or lose our ventures

The sea is indeed full, it is full of threats, and full of promise.

We have the opportunity not just to navigate this sea, but in fact to show the way towards a culture of peace and how development can be equitable and sustainable.

We will seize these opportunities, we will succeed in creating that better future, that Arab renaissance…


There is a tide out there...

There is a tide in the Affairs of Men...

Which taken at the flood leads on to fortune.

Omitted, all the voyage of their lives

is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat

and we must take the current when it serves

or lose our ventures.

A Vision:

We will Not lose our ventures.

We will create the new world, guided by a vision…

A vision of a caring society where (in keeping with Gandhi) there would be

NO Politics without principle

NO Wealth without work

NO Commerce without morality

NO Pleasure without conscience

NO Education without character

NO Science without humanity

A vision where a people's greatness is measured by the quality of the lives of their poorest citizens not by the size of their armies or the scale of their buildings..

A vision where the future is for all, as open-ended as knowledge, as random as play, as surprising as human imagination and ingenuity …

This is the vision of a new future for the Arab World...

A true Renaissance...

A vision of a people, secure in their knowledge of themselves, and their openness to the “Other” in a free commerce of ideas and of knowledge...

Yes! We must change the world…

It can be done, it must be done, it will be done.


V. The challenge of tomorrow

Liberating the Arab Mind:

The world will judge us by deeds not declarations, and we must “walk the talk” in our effort to promote a culture of peace and justice opposed to the culture of hate. But to act, we must liberate the Arab mind. To liberate the Arab mind, for it is in our minds that the new Arab renaissance will be created. And it is our responsibility, all of us here, and tens of thousands like us throughout the Arab world, to liberate the Arab mind from the fear of intolerant fanaticism or state despotism, from the shackles of political correctness or the insecurities of being disconnected from a rapidly evolving world. We must liberate the Arab mind so that Arabs can soar, take in from the new and make it their own.

That, my friends, is the true revolution, creating a new order of things. There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain of success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things, because the innovator has for enemies, all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.

But it is our destiny to have been here at this time, and we must try. For it is better to try and fail than to have failed to try. And the first thing we must try to break is that sterile, tired and tiresome debate about Modernity and Tradition.

We need to respect tradition and integrate it into the present and use it as a foundation for launching a better future. We need to fashion a critical approach that interprets tradition in contemporary terms, just as the great jurists of the past did in their day.

Indeed we need to create a new discourse, and that new discourse, critical, open and tolerant of the contrarian view, will be the vehicle of the new culture of peace. It must be reflected in our media discourse, in our religious discourse, in our public discourse and in our social discourse. It will, in Lincoln's phrase, call to the better angels of our nature, and revive that which is best in our tradition. It will be the basis for the creation of a new mode of cultural expression. A new language that permeates the arts, letters and the public realm, that incorporates the new but anchors it in the old. A new language, where in the words of T.S. Eliot ...

Every phrase and sentence is right

When every word is at home

Taking its place to support the others

The word neither diffident nor ostentatious

An easy commerce of the old and the new

The complete consort dancing together

Every phrase and every sentence

is an end and a beginning.

(T.S. Eliot – Four Quartets)

A credo

But beyond actions, declarations of principle are important. For the principles guide the actions. People need to know where we stand. So allow me here and now to declare what my colleagues and I believe:

The world is my home

Humanity is my family

Non-violence is my creed

Peace, justice, equality and dignity for all is my purpose

Engagement, rationality, tolerance, dialogue, learning and understanding are my means.

With outstretched hands we welcome all those who share these beliefs…

That is the basis for a partnership for peace. Thus will we become the artisans of this new Arab renaissance. Thus will we rise up to the tide of challenges that confronts us today...

For we are the vanguard of the activists of the third millennium, committed to create a better world for ourselves and for others. So let us think of the unborn, remember the forgotten, give hope to the forlorn, include the excluded, reach out to the unreached, and by our actions from this day onwards lay the foundations for better tomorrows.

Thank you.


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