International Gateway to Africa Conference
The first International conference Gateway to Africa Conference was held in Geneva from 4 to 6 April 2011, at Geneva's Intercontinental Hotel. Speakers included former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, former US Vice President Al Gore, former Mayor of New York City, Rudy Gulliani and the President of GSD, Dr. Colum Murphy.
Dr. Murphy gave the following speech:
The Gateway to Africa’s future, and the world’s, is peace. Colorful and varied is this Africa! The continent, too, is a vivid tapestry embroidered with our own future of war or peace. Our great moral imperative - at this outset of the 21st century - remains the avoidance of World War III, and to do so with our human rights values intact. Enduring two world wars and a nuclear-tipped Cold war, we barely survived the 20th century, the most destructive century of all time. But today our international institutions are not stronger now than they were then. So we remain, as a species, in mortal peril.
This is not alarmist talk only - but rather an urging to greater effort. “Civilization” H.G. Wells wrote, “is a race between education and catastrophe”. We are losing that race. But we need not lose. Must not lose! Understanding war’s roots with the science and art of peace remains urgent! Behold Tunisia, Egypt: peaceful protest triumphant! Bahrein, Yemen, Syria: ongoing tests of the non-violent method and, through sheer courage, the very fibers of freedom! South Africa and the Sudan: the wrench of reconciliation from dark nights to a new day still dizzyingly fresh. Africa - not for the first time - is on the move!
Last week, our Peacecraft Center delegation of the Geneva School of Diplomacy saw in Ethiopia a country pushing back famine only to see its burgeoning population explode now to levels of Malthusian difficulty and new challenge. In neighboring South Sudan, however, we saw a much smaller, more manageable population euphoric at the end of a long war and the first warmings of a new dawn: the Republic of South Sudan, the world’s newest country, will join the international community this July 9. So, in the heart of Africa, the oldest and newest countries remain vividly centre and front.
It is from this ancient region that the human species first emerged. Yet the cancers of war and hunger are still not defeated. Neither in Africa nor around the world. At that beginning of history the human species was united. Undoubtedly, it will be united again at the end. But it is this middle part of the story that is yet to be worked out. What we do today, in these current years, will determine whether the “novel”/the book - or the novel human story - can survive, edited, to become the complete masterpiece we quite snootily think we already are. Yet on our troubled planet the list of extinct species is already real and long. Have no illusions - we can either join the list ourselves, or not ! It’s for us to decide. Scientifically, the origins of the cancer called war are scattered - to find the “cure” we must look to anthropology, psychology, geography, technology, politics, history, and a variety of other sources. But as we push forward our crowded agendas for human rights, justice and buzz phrases like “sustainable development”, sometimes the words begin to lose meaning. Let’s then remember more simple words like ”common sense” and “fairness”. Across North Africa, as we speak, millions are deciding that their societies and their own lives have been unfair. Simply unfair. South Africa threw off the cruel unfairness of apartheid. And isn’t it interesting that now our new social media - Twitter, Facebook, the Internet itself - have made their Grand International Political Début on the world’s oldest continent ? At the dawn of human history, as the first men moved out from Ethiopia or, much later, built the Pyramids, perhaps “fairness”, of some kind, was in the genes already. Today, Africa is where it’s at! The divide between China and the rest of the world is also where it’s “at” ! It is imperative that war be avoided between East and West. China needs the world and the world needs China. Africa needs the world but the world needs Africa ! Because what we do see in Africa - as in China - is an extraordinary human energy, always the fount and source for successful societies. A fresh, youthful energy, armed now with the new technology and social media - and ready to redress “unfairness” and a lagging harmony of development.
Three days before the start of the recent Egyptian revolution I stood in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and argued with Egyptian friends about social justice. “Look around you” we said. “Cairo is a disgrace! The regime hasn’t even bothered to beautify it in honour of the Egyptian people and their very great history.” Now what is happening across North Africa is helped by their own new social media. But in 1848 revolution also spread like wildfire across Europe - without the help of Twitter or Facebook. For an idea whose time has come, especially an idea about fairness, the acoustics are always superb - the merest whisper of liberty will carry like a song of Spring, even on a tender breeze and, like the voice of Frank Sinatra, reach even the cheapest seats. Yes, Africa has a long ways to go! But now Africa is showing us the “way to go!” The idea that we are still in peril of great wars must also carry across continents, as a warning. Great wars, like the world wars, can - and must be - eliminated, much as the World Health Organization down the road simply decided to eliminate smallpox. Small wars, alas, may be always with us - though with the science of good diagnostics and preventive medicine - we can learn to kill bacteria before they spread. It is for these reasons, also, that Africa is vital - it is the future, a great and wealthy continent with talented millions hungry for greater fairness and the peace to build it. An underdeveloped continent rich in potential and potential rivalries. Dealing with such rivalries the inspiration and example of a Nelson Mandela is always relevant. Of his enemies he said, “we must surprise them with restraint and generosity”. The great Nigerian writer, Ben Okri, wrote: “People like you enrich the dreams of the worlds, and it is dreams that create history. People like you are unknowing transformers of things, protected by your own fairy tale, by love”.
In Africa, or anywhere else in the world - and let’s look to North Africa now - it is not the swaggering Big Man but rather the universal Humble Man and Humble Woman, “with all their griefs in their arms”, who deserve to lead, and who lead best. It is why the motto of the Geneva School of Diplomacy is “serviendo guberno” - to govern is to serve. To serve! From the origin of the species to today’s new lessons on liberty, the hour of Africa is - again - at hand. So completes the circle! Yet April, T.S. Eliot reminds us ”is the cruelest month, mixing memory with desire”. The rainbow of history’s odyssey reminds us that our old earth is round. And One. So today, from Africa’s new struggles and travails, as from its ancient genius, we have much to learn.