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United Nations

Between education and catastrophe
Educating for global citizenship

March 17, 2004

In his 2004 Peace Proposals, the founder of Soka University, the Toda Institute, and numerous other educational institutions, has called for a new kind of education. Daisaku Ikeda argues that education for global citizenship is an imperative that the world can ignore at its own peril.

In his most recent annual peace proposals, Ikeda focuses on three urgent peace and policy arenas, including United Nations reform, nuclear disarmament, and human security. In all three arenas, Ikeda wisely emphasizes public education. In all three arenas, the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research has conducted multinational research projects published in scholarly volumes and journals.

The United Nations was established in 1945 at a time that the United States was the only major power to be largely left unscathed by the scourge of World War II. In an act of realism, the United States agreed to grant its wartime allies (USSR, Britain, France, and China) veto power in the Security Council. The assumption was that from then on the world will be policed by the five Great Powers.

However, the emergence of the Cold War and the revolution in China torpedoed that assumption. When the Soviet Union absented itself from the Security Council to protest the continued representation China by the nationalists, the United States could rally the UN to fight the Korean War under its blue flag. When Britain and France invaded Egypt in 1956, threatened by their veto power in the Security Council, the aggression had to be taken up by the General Assembly under Resolution 377.

That resolution provides that, if there is a "threat to peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression" and the permanent members of the Security Council do not agree on action, the General Assembly can meet immediately and recommend collective measures to U.N. members to "maintain or restore international peace and security."

The "Uniting for Peace" mechanism has been used ten times, most frequently on the initiative of the United States. In an ingenious move, Ikeda and other world leaders are now calling for the revival of that principle. Ikeda proposes that the General Assembly should be empowered to take an active part in the collective security system measures.

The five nuclear powers of the Security Council (US, Russia, Britain, France, and China) have put nuclear disarmament into a policy backburner. In the meantime, nuclear proliferation has become a growing phenomenon. Israel, India, and Pakistan have joined the ranks of nuclear powers. Iran and North Korea appear as aspirants. Following the first Persian Gulf War in, the logic behind such aspirations was best expressed by an Indian general. In essence, he argued that only the possession of nuclear weapons can deter the United States from massive bombing of a country.

Advocating pre-emptive strikes against an "Axis of Evil" (Iran, Iraq, and North Korea), the Bush Doctrine has given credence to such logics of proliferation. Ikeda perceptively points out the intimate connection between the two phenomena. Continued possession of nuclear arms by the Great Powers encourages nuclear proliferation by the smaller powers. By considering all weapons of mass destruction as morally and politically unacceptable, Ikeda proposes, we can achieve greater security for all.

The events of the new century have demonstrated that tribal and national educational programs are no longer adequate. They often legitimate sectarian loyalties that fly in the face of an increasingly interdependent world. When terrorist acts such as those in Israel/Palestine, 9/11/01 in New York, or 3/11/04 in Madrid occur, the entire world suffers.

Similarly, when state terrorist acts take place by indiscriminate bombing of the West Bank villages, Afghanistan, or Iraq, the losers are not only the victims. The "victors" also lose in international power and prestige. Unilateral exercises of hard power have become unacceptable to the people of the world and are consequently counter-productive.

UN reform and nuclear disarmament is, however, the tip of an iceberg of human problems. Latent violence has always prompted manifest violence. The increasing gaps among and within nations are the injustices against which violence seems to provide an easy answer. But violence breeds violence in a never-ending cycle.

Ikea argues that unless we focus on fundamental human security problems, such as nutrition, housing, education, and welfare, the world will continue to face tragic consequences. A global civil war of terrorism and counter-terrorism has been unleashed on the world. Civilization, as H. G. Wells observed, is race between education and catastrophe.

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Majid Tehranian is Professor, School of Communications, University of Hawaii at Manoa, and Director of the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research in Honolulu, Hawaii.  His latest book is Bridging a Gulf: Peace in West Asia (London, I. B. Tauris, 2003).


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