Speech of Oscar Arias at the AGS-Meeting in Costa Rica|
"Bush Believes in Bombs over Books”
By Oscar Arias, former President of Costa Rica and Nobel Peace Price Laureate in 1987.
The cynics in our world often tell us that there is nothing we can do to combat poverty and destruction or to achieve lasting peace and development. They tell us that inequality and poverty are inevitable, that cancer will never be cured, that somehow evil will always get the better of good, so why fight it? Part of the tragedy is that these cynics paint themselves as realists, and they argue that anyone who is willing to fight for the underdogs, for peace, to commit himself to ending human suffering, is really just a dreamer.
The Realists were Wrong
I was labeled a naive utopian back in the 1980s for believing that the self-declared Marxist-Leninist government in Nicaragua would hold free elections, as they committed themselves to doing when they signed my peace plan. Those who called themselves realists claimed that military victory was the only way to end the conflict in Central America. That time, the realists were wrong. There is a first time for everything.
When we look to the future, we can only look with optimism. François Guizot once said that the world belongs to the optimists, pessimists are only spectators. However, being an optimist does not mean closing your eyes to the world’s problems. As we dine here in this elegant setting, we must remind ourselves that 1.3 billion people live on less than one dollar per day. We should pause from time to time in our routine of reading the morning newspaper to remember that more than 850 million adults in the developing world are illiterate.
In the midst of our peaceful pool-side relaxation, let us not forget that insurgent and paramilitary groups continue to take up arms and batter their countries in turf wars that they attempt to disguise as ideological battles. Truly, my friends, when we take the time to ponder the ongoing deprivation of the poor and the acts of brutality that are committed on a daily basis, it is indeed very easy to become discouraged about the prospects for lasting peace and development in our world.
Like Don Quixote
Unfortunately, human instinct seems to tell us to focus on the negative. Perhaps this is a result of our built-in instinct for survival; we must be aware of the dangers around us in order to defend ourselves from them. But for every source of danger that captures our attention, we miss a vision of beauty, an act of kindness, a moment of peaceful coexistence. Such pieces of life fade into the background, and the dark spots loom up, causing fear and pessimism. But those who have been able to change the world for the better are more likely to have been like the Man of La Mancha who charged every windmill he could find, and never lost sight of the beauty in the ordinary things of life.
The Shadows of September 11
In the wake of the events of September 11, the issue of national security has once again overshadowed the need to protect human security in the developing world. Work such as yours, which seeks to alleviate poverty and promote sustainable and ecologically responsible growth in the developing world, has begun to be overlooked in the rush to build better defenses - and, make no mistake, better offenses - against the evil of terrorism. Today, when President Bush and members of his administration speak of aid to developing countries, they are most often talking about military training, tanks and fighter jets, and not hospital supplies, school books or technical cooperation for the development of life-sustaining agriculture.
Bush’s Stingy Aid
It is true that President Bush recently announced an increase in U.S. aid for development, so that he would not be arriving in Monterrey empty-handed for the United Nations Conference on Financing for Development. This increase is certainly welcome and is a step in the right direction; however, the only industrialized countries that gave less aid per capita than the U.S. were Portugal and Greece, two of the poorest countries in the European Union.
Weiter: oben rechts
With the new aid, which will amount to an additional five billion dollars over three years, and which comes with a myriad of stings attached, the United States will still continue to be among the stingiest donors of foreign aid in the world. Compare this five billion dollars to the additional 48 billion that President Bush is requesting for the Pentagon, for this year alone, and I think you will have a fair idea of what the priorities of his administration are. This government believes in bombs over books and helicopters over hospitals and it is prepared to fight Congress for every penny of the military spending, while it delays the disbursement of aid for development until 2003.
I do not know whether this is due to the sinister influence of defense contractors within the U.S. government, or simply to the zeal for military solutions that has always been a part of that country’s response to perceived threats, and which has only grown stronger over the past six months. In either case, what I do know is that this faith in military means of ensuring security is misplaced. [...] What the children of the world want and need, are schools and health clinics, not F-16s and rocket launchers.
Peace is Hard Work
Peace is an important aspect of our vision for the world. Some think this is a utopian ideal, but in reality there is nothing glamorous, naïve, or idealistic in peace. Peace is not a dream; it is hard work. It is a path that we must all choose and then persevere in. That means resolving even our small daily conflicts with those around us in peaceful ways. For peace begins not "out there", but with each one of us.
As we work for an end to the conflicts that shame and destroy us, I believe that this work must be carried out on both the material and the spiritual fronts. This means dealing with both weapons of war and the militarism in our hearts. We must work to put limits on the international arms trade, a fourty-billion-dollar-a-year commerce in death, while at the same time working to teach peaceful methods of conflict resolution, and to eradicate the thirst for revenge that is motivating so many in our times.
My friends, I do not believe that it is unrealistic or foolish to bring love back into the political discourse. The term may make some uncomfortable, but when you really think about it, our best leaders have been motivated by love and have acted according to its hard demands: Gandhi, Lincoln, George Marshall, Bolívar, Kennedy and King.
A Country with no Army
I don’t know how your shopping here has gone. You may have noticed that there is not much in the way of interesting keepsakes to buy. I suggest that you take back the best souvenir this country has to offer - the air of peace that is breathed by all, from our oldest to our youngest. Take this precious gift with you back to the United States, to Europe and to Japan, and share it with your families and your governments. Tell them that you have seen with your own eyes that country with no army that so many cynics would claim is unsustainable. Perhaps one day we will see a world in which no country needs an army, because we are protected by our respect and concern for each other. [...]
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