- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 1 Jun 1995, p. 48-56
- Muller, Dr. Robert, Speaker
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- Remembering the millennium almost 100 years ago. Differences now in terms of international institutions. Examples of the 32 specialised agencies which deal with many subjects, including the United Nations. What is being done for the next millennium. The human species, now for the first time, knowing its place in the universe. A total inventory of our plan. A review of many of the immense changes which have taken place during the speaker's lifetime. Errors to correct. Still seeking a global heart and a global soul. The religious nature of the conflicts today. The speaker's increased confidence in the human species. Things that will take time: equilibrium of the population explosion and the environmental correction. The need for harmony with our mother earth, between human beings, with the past, with the future. Entering a new evolution.
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- 1 Jun 1995
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- Dr. Robert Muller, Chancellor Emeritus of the United Nations Chartered University for Peace in Costa Rica
PLANNING FOR THE NEXT MILLENNIUM
Chairman: David Edmison, President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests
Peter Aykroyd, milleniad consultant and author of the recent book, "The Anniversary Compulsion"; Bill Staples, President, Toronto Chapter of the United Nations Association of Canada; John Hemmant, District Governor, Rotary International District 7070; Eric McLuhan, Co-Chair, Global Foundation for Understanding; Shirley Farlinger, peace activist and author of the recent book "A Million for Peace"; David Woolfson, Executive Director of the Global Foundation for Understanding; The Rev. John Harries, Minister, Development and Education, Timothy Eaton Memorial Church; Don Toppin, founding Chairman of the Global Foundation for Understanding and Toronto/2000; and The Hon. Walter McLean, CoChair of the Ontario Committee for the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations.
Introduction by David Edmison
In October of this year the United Nations will celebrate its 50th anniversary. It is indeed a pleasure to welcome as our guest a man who has been a major force behind the scenes at the U.N. and whose name is synonymous with the international peacekeeping movement, Dr. Robert Muller.
Socrates said around 350 B.C.: "1 am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world." These insightful words may not have been fashionable when they were spoken, but they certainly are today. We fly to the moon, take pictures of planets light years away, converse with people 5000 miles away in a car or on the beach, so the idea of viewing ourselves from a global perspective is gaining increasing importance. We are indeed, as Marshall McLuhan said "a global village."
Perhaps the best expression of our global nature is the United Nations, the first successful universal organisation ever conceived. Since its founding 50 years ago mankind has witnessed a noticeable improvement in well-being, due to the work of its many agencies. For example, thanks to the World Health Organization, eight out of 10 children are being immunised against deadly diseases such as tetanus, diphtheria and measles. These efforts have resulted in saving three million children from death each year and avoiding hundreds of thousands of cases of polio.
As the world's chief referee, the U.N. has had to deal with a multitude of issues ranging from poverty, to the environment, to peacekeeping. Hundreds of conflicts have been resolved by its direct and behind-the-scenes diplomacy. In his book "The Birth of Global Civilization" Dr. Muller describes the U.N. system "as more than anything else, a great international school for nations. There, they see each other collectively, they begin to better understand each other, to take inventory, to detect new emerging global problems, to signal back home global messages and warnings, to manage the planet in common, and progressively develop a philosophy and vision of what human destiny should be on our globe."
Having spent his entire adult life in the service of the United Nations, Dr. Robert Muller is one of the world's foremost global thinkers. A native of Alsace-Lorraine, France, Dr. Muller experienced first hand the vicissitudes of World War Two and when it was over he decided to devote his life to maintaining peace.
Dr. Muller is trained as a lawyer and economist. In his capacity with the U.N., his responsibilities have included Director of Budget, co-ordinating the 32 agencies in the economic and social council, organising the first Papal visit to the U.N., as well as planning the 40th anniversary 10 years ago. Since his retirement in 1986 Dr. Muller serves as special advisor to the U.S. Secretary-General and as Chancellor to the University for Peace in Costa Rica.
Today, our guest is concentrating his efforts promoting greater human understanding and global awareness. He has devised a global core curriculum which is now being adopted by schools around the world.
Dr. Muller has published over a dozen works dealing with issues of global peace which have been translated into many languages. In 1989 he was awarded the peace education prize by UNESCO and in 1993 the Albert Schweitzer International Prize for the Humanities.
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming our most distinguished guest, and citizen of the world, Dr. Robert Muller.
Thank you for that wonderful introduction. I think my mother would have been pleased if she had been alive and heard it. Maybe she has seen it from heaven and was pleased up there. I am so grateful to Don Toppin and to your city for starting the campaign for the year 2000 some 10 years ago.
Many things have happened. Today a multitude of organisations around this planet are planning for the year 2000 and the next millennium. As Peter Aykroyd wrote in his book, it is an anniversary compulsion.
A few months ago I put together a list of events which humanity is organising for the third millennium and I tried to remember what we did 100 years ago at the end of the nineteenth century. All we did at that time was to have, in 1893, a first world parliament of religions and in 1899, a world peace conference of people in The Hague. There were no international institutions except the universal postal union and the international telegraph union.
Today we have the United Nations which is universal and we have 32 specialised agencies which deal with every subject under the sun. Let me give you a few examples of what the world has been doing so far.
Nineteen hundred and ninety-two: the political European Union came into effect. Last year in October I could cross the border between France and Germany which I used to see from my window and which I hated.
The border controls have disappeared among all Western European countries. The United Nations met at the Security Council at the heads-of-state level after the end of the Cold War and asked the Secretary-General to have an agenda for peace for the twenty-first century starting with prevention. We wouldn't have the Bosnias of today if the United Nations were equipped to prevent conflicts instead of just separating the religions.
At the Rio De Janeiro conference a plan was designed for improving the environment--the air, the water and everything you can imagine--a tremendous agenda for the twenty-first century which is added to the agenda of the Secretary-General in the field of development.
In 1993 a world conference on human rights to look at human rights in the third millennium. The International Year of the World's Indigenous People to listen to the voices of those who have not lost connection with nature. A centennial meeting of the Parliament of Religions in Chicago, 100 years after the first one. Nineteen hundred and ninety-four: the International Year of the Family. The first world telecommunications conference. Third world conference on population in Cairo looking into the population of the world in the third millennium. Fiftieth anniversary of the International Civil Aviation Organization which is located in your country. Seventy-fifth anniversary of the International Labour Organization.
I have about four pages of things like this. Let me just give you a few more.
Nineteen hundred and ninety-five: the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations which is a tremendous occasion to look at the past and to look into the future. The first World Conference on Women in Beijing where I've just learned that instead of 30,000 women there there will be 50,000 and the government of China will have to accommodate them. The World Social Summit in Copenhagen to find out why the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. A conference on climate change. The United Nations Year of Tolerance. Fiftieth anniversary of the Food Agricultural Organization. A new commission on how the world should be governed. An international report on education in the twenty-first century. It is just incredible. Next year, in 1996, the fiftieth anniversary of the World Health Organization which was created by a Canadian. I had a bust made of him. I was a very young person after the war when I listened to this man, who wanted to have a world health organisation. Every ministry said: "Why do we need such an organisation?" We then had an epidemic of cholera in the Mediterranean and the World Health Organization was approved. Everything suggested for this planet is at first ridiculed, then it is opposed, and then finally it becomes common sense. And it goes on like this. A world conference on human settlements on the cities etc. etc.
I have pages and pages of what it is being done for the next millennium. In other words, for the first time the human species is in a position, and this is very important for the young people who are here, to know its place in the universe. From the infinitely large to the infinitely small, we have a total inventory of our planet. When I came to the U.N. in 1948 we didn't even know what the world population was. It took us until 1952 to get the first guesstimate of the world population which was at that time two and a half billion people. Today it is 5.6 billion.
Today we have an inventory of everything concerning this planet. We have an inventory of everything that concerns the human family. We have data about the past and more and more data about the future. We have estimates for population in the year 2050. The United Nations and the world's people have become future-oriented. This did not exist in the past. We are in a new phase of human evolution where the human species, as the most advanced species, is now conscious of the universe in which we are living. It is this global consciousness which is the great hope for the future. The young people here don't have to go through what I had to go through. We had no data. We didn't know. Now you'll know everything. In other words the generation of today can become the administrators, the good managers of our planet. From a management point of view we're still in kindergarten. This is very primitive. We only react when we burn our fingers. It's when we have an accident that governments react. I have a colleague at the University for Peace, well known for environmental issues, who said to me: "Rob, I am waiting for a big environmental accident." Why? Because it is the only time they will wake up and react. So from kindergarten we have to go to high school and to the university of managing this planet well. I believe that all these efforts are something new for human history, something new in evolution. We have become the managers and the transformers of this planet. We still think that we are not part of this planet. It is not true. We're all earth. We're returning to the earth. We are now the most advanced species.
When I came out of the Second World War, I was a very pessimistic young man. If anyone had told me that I would stand today at the age of 72, without seeing another world war, I would not have believed it. If France and Germany couldn't agree, how could I think that Russians, Chinese, Black and White, 5,000 religions and 5,000 languages, would ever do it without having an accident and provoking another world war? If anyone had told me that the borders in my home town would disappear, I would not have believed it. If I had been told that the United Nations would still be alive, I would not have believed it. When I started working for the U.N., a British delegate said to me: " Young man what do you come to do here?" I said that I wanted to work for peace because I did not want my children to live the life I lived--in prison, in the Gestapo, fighting and seeing the most horrible atrocities between two highly civilized countries, France and Germany. He said: "Well young man, I pity you because the United Nations will die within five years." It is still here today and it is universal. I would not have believed that the Cold War later on would end. I would not have believed what we know today about our planet and all the communities which have been created and all the world associations working together. In other words the human species is becoming a global body. We have extended our view into the infinitely large with telescopes and into the infinitely small with atomic bubble chambers and microscopes. We have now a nervous system that encompasses the whole world. We have a global brain that comes to conclusions, that can forecast. We have become a totally different species. Our legs are extended, our hands are extended, we're a global human species on this planet which is only beginning to understand that we are the managers of the planet and that we have to be very careful.
We have a lot of errors to correct. We have gone in many, wrong directions. Nobody knew about the environment when I was young. Nobody knew about the population explosion when I was young. It was only in 1980 that climatic change came up. The year 2000 and the third millennium is a fantastic stepping stone in the evolution of the human species. I just learnt that a whole series of other commissions are being created: an independent world commission for the oceans under the President of Portugal; a global commission to fund the United Nations; an interaction committee of heads of states under President Helmut Schmidt; a Ford Foundation Yale University committee on the future of the United Nations; a meeting of all the Peace Prize winners in San Francisco on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations.
Humanity has never done this in its history so that I have been transformed from a pessimistic young man to a very, very optimistic old man. I'm absolutely sure that the human species will find its way, that we will have as many miracles in the next 50 years, if not more. I would like to have young people try to visualise how the hundredth anniversary of the United Nations will be. What are the things which today we consider impossible, unthinkable, as I believed in 1948 and which have become a reality--like the borders disappearing in Europe? We are a global body; we are all cells of one new global species; we've extended our senses, our brain; we have a global brain.
What we still do not have is a global heart and a global soul. We never speak about love. Who is the head of state who dares to speak about the word "love"? Love is being born too because we are beginning to love nature. We are beginning to love planet earth and I hope that all the businessmen and all the professionals around the world will turn to love. It is not money or profit which are the objectives for which we are put on this planet. You're not going to get your bank accounts when you die and return to earth or to heaven.
Practically every conflict on this planet today is a religious conflict. We have tried through the World Parliament of Religions to work things out and I'm very glad that in San Francisco on the fiftieth anniversary we will probably launch the idea of a united religions where each religion would be represented by international staff as we have in the United Nations.
My confidence in the human species has increased. Many things will take time. The population explosion will take about 70 years to reach equilibrium. The environmental correction will take another 50 years or so because once the pendulum goes in a wrong direction corrective measures only slow down the pendulum. The population explosion continues, but at a slower rate. The environmental deterioration also continues, but at a slower rate until we come to equilibrium. What we need is harmony with our mother earth. We need harmony between all human beings. We need harmony with the past. We need harmony with the future. We all live 70 Years on average in the western countries and 60 years in the poor countries. We need harmony with the heavens. We are entering a new evolution. It is very exciting. It is very beautiful. We have acquired the capacity to become conscious of the total universe from the infinitely large to the infinitely small and from the infinite past to the infinite future.
I am proud to be alive. I think that to be alive is a miracle--physically, mentally, sentimentally and spiritually. We must consider life as a tremendous privilege and we must pay for the privilege of being alive by working for a good cause, helping to restore the human species on this planet.
Thank you very much.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by David Woolfson, Executive Director of the Global Foundation for Understanding.