By Ioan Voicu*
On June 15, 2007, at the initiative of India, 140 countries representing all continents, all major religions and forms of civilization of contemporary world submitted to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly a draft resolution entitled "International Day of Non-Violence," a highly significant diplomatic document adopted by consensus the same day.'
In accordance with this document the UN decided to observe worldwide the International Day of Non-Violence on 2 October each year. All member states have agreed to commemorate this day, which is Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary, in an appropriate manner and to disseminate the message of non-violence, including through education and public awareness.
The origin of the Indian initiative endorsed by the world community of nations can be found in a programmatic declaration adopted by a conference entitled "Peace, Non-Violence and Empowerment: Gandhian Philosophy in the Twenty-first Century," which took place in New Delhi in January 2007 to commemorate the centenary of the Satyagraha movement, launched by Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa.2 On that occasion, the following Mahatma Gandhi's words were recalled: "Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man."
Inspired by the above-mentioned conference, the proclamation of the International Day of Non-Violence to be celebrated every year is a stimulating diplomatic act by which the UN General Assembly clearly recognized the holistic nature and the high topicality of Mahatma Gandhi's humanistic message for international relations in our times.' It has a great legal and diplomatic, as the UN is considered to be the biggest global actor, and promoter of non-violence and the most influential institution in the sphere of multilateral diplomacy.
Mahatma Gandhi (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1869-1948) entered universal history not only as the great leader of the Indian independence movement, but also as a dynamic pioneer of the philosophy and strategy of non-violence. On the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi's 70'th birthday, Albert Einstein wrote: "A leader of the people, unsupported by any outward authority; a politician whose success depends not upon craft, nor mastery of technical devices, but simply on the convincing power of his personality; a victorious fighter who has always scorned the use of force; a man of wisdom and humility armed with resolve and inflexible consistency, who has devoted all his strength to the uplifting of his people, and the betterment of their lot; a man who has confronted the brutality of Europe with the dignity of the simple human being, and thus at all times risen superior. Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this, ever in flesh and blood, walked upon this earth." 4
With such impressive credentials, during the current turbulent times, Mahatma Gandhi's birthday celebration by the 193 UN Member States under the motto of non-violence should further inspire and consolidate the fight for universal peace and pacific settlement of disputes.
His personality was unique and difficult to define both in the past and at present. To characterize him, as emphasized by the great Indian writer. Nobel Prize Laureate for Literature, Rabindranath Tagore, we must not forget that "The secret of Gandhi's success lies in his dynamic spiritual strength and incessant self-sacrifice. Many public men make sacrifices for selfish reasons. It is a sort of investment that yields handsome dividends. Gandhi is altogether different. He is unique in the nobility. His very life is another name for sacrifice. He is sacrifice itself.'
The noble ideals promoted by Mahatma Gandhi have inspired multilateral diplomacy and are reflected in the UNESCO Constitution, which was signed in 1945. Indeed, in accordance with this fundamental legal instrument, since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.
It is in the light of this vital educational requirement that full recognition must be given to the lessons generated by world history and assimilated by UNESCO. A peace based exclusively on the political and economic arrangements of governments would not be a peace which could secure the unanimous, lasting and sincere support of the peoples of the world. Peace must therefore be founded, if it is not to fail, upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind.
At the academic level, it is in this Gandhian spirit validated by UNESCO that readers are expected to welcome the most recent book dedicated to non-violence entitled Pathway to Peace A Nonviolent Lifestyle by Indian professor and researcher Joseph F. Isidore. In 341 pages the author endeavors to demonstrate that humans are not violent by nature but rather by choice."
One of the best chapters of the book is entitled "Peace education". The author believes that peace education is one of the most urgent things to do in the world today. He reminds the reasons for this urgency.
Indeed, the whole world is in turmoil, no place is secure and nobody is safe any longer. For the first time in history humans face the threat of obliteration. We live in a world where violence has almost become a way of life. The danger of a nuclear Holocaust is not ruled out. Our fate is such that even an error in the computer can trigger a nuclear conflagration. Under such circumstances the crucial question is:Can we save the planet and ourselves?
Joseph F. Isidore's answer is positive, but conditional. We can save ourselves if we are willing to re-discover ourselves. In his enlightened opinion, re-discovering ourselves can be achieved through re-educating ourselves. Why? Because re-educating ourselves means rediscovering peace. The conclusion is firm and unconditional: ".. we need peace education".'
This book will enrich the academic and diplomatic dialogue about ways and means for promoting peace as a supreme value of humankind, as clearly recognized in numerous documents adopted by consensus within the framework of the UN system.
Education for peace as promoted by the channels of multilateral diplomacy demands appropriate leadership for fostering respect for the fundamental values inherent in the ideals of peace and universal peaceful cooperation among peoples, including respect for the life, dignity and integrity of all, without discrimination, as well as advancing friendship, tolerance and solidarity.
The International Day of Non-Violence offered again in 2017 an appropriate occasion to seriously meditate on the permanent value of the humanistic legacy of Mahatma Gandhi. His famous credo that "there are many causes that I am prepared to die for, but no causes that I am prepared to kill for," has particular relevance and resonance at present in times of global perplexities, discontinuities and vulnerabilities.'
It has been re-demonstrated by the practice of multilateral diplomacy that the only path to mutual understanding is through peaceful negotiations which demand courage and responsibility. Mahatma Gandhi said that "non-violence requires more courage than soldier of war." In the same spirit he asserted that "non-violence should never be used as a shield for cowardice. It is the weapon of the brave."9
Promoting non-violence demands solidarity and tolerance which have been proclaimed as universal values by the UN and should be a permanent guiding light for multilateral diplomacy. Responsible dialogue and serious negotiations on major global issues can triumph over temporary discord and contradictions, as peoples of the world are in fact far more united by their common destiny than they are divided by their diverse identities. In fact, by orchestrating and moderating relations between states, multilateral diplomacy prevents international chaos and anarchy.
To be successful, multilateral diplomacy demands a universal recognition of the unity of the entire human family during the irreversible process of globalization. Its functions cannot be separated from the deep interdependence of all peoples which is expected to gradually help crystallize a strong conviction that only authentic solidarity can effectively safeguard the inherent human dignity and the fundamental rights of individuals which are vital preconditions for building lasting peace. Such strong conviction may emerge only from appropriate peace education which has to become a visible reality at the planetary level.
There are some promising trends in this direction. During the current 72nd session of the UN General Assembly member states will consider a report about steps to combat intolerance, negative stereotyping, stigmatization, discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons. based on religion or belief." This report asserts inter alia that many states have taken measures to combat and prevent violent extremism. Detailed guidance on preventing violent extremism is provided by the UN Secretary-General's Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism. It contains adequate guidance according to which key concepts related to violent extremism should be clearly defined, in particular when they are likely to trigger measures that may interfere with human rights, for example when the terms "extremism" or "radicalization" are used in reference to non-violent activities. State authorities must remain vigilant and respond immediately and appropriately to all hate crimes.
In the address by the Minister of External Affairs of India, Smt. Sushma Swaraj, delivered on 23 September 2017 in the UN General Assembly, a relevant and critical assessment about fighting violence was made from the perspective of anti terrorism movement. She reminded that although India proposed a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism as early as in 1996. yet two decades later the UN has not been able to agree upon a definition of terrorism. "If we cannot agree to define our enemy, how can we fight together? If we continue to differentiate between good terrorists and bad terrorists, how can we fight together?", she asked.
In her opinion "terrorism is an existentialist danger to humankind. There is absolutely no justification for this barbaric violence. Let us display our new commitment by reaching agreement on the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism this year itself."
This vibrant call is in full harmony with Mahatma Gandhi's conception and action expressed in his unprecedented activities and capacity of the most prominent architect of non-violence and solidarity in human history. His spirit must be present in diplomatic deliberations at the UN today as everywhere. "Truth," he said, "cannot be propagated by doing violence."Moreover, in his opinion, "without truth and nonviolence there could be nothing but destruction of humanity."12
His lasting legacy is visible in many manifestations in the sphere of multilateral diplomacy, including the permanent need to establish strong and functional partnerships. One of the architects of the modern diplomacy of Thailand, Dr. Thanat Khoman, in his statement at the 25'' session of the United Nations General Assembly . on September 23, 1970 said: "There can be no doubt that mutual cooperation in equal partnership together with a genuine display of political will coupled with a willingness to recognize mutual problems and needs can open the door to world peace and prosperity."13
In a similar spirit, Miroslav Lajcak, president of the 72'' session of the UN General Assembly, taking the floor on October 2. 2017, during the meeting dedicated to the observance of the International Day of Non-violence, emphasized the fact that as a global leader in non-violence, the UN needs to do more to promote this principle, and to inspire others to do so too. He also reminded that he principle of non-violence is at work on a larger scale. It is a core principle of many non governmental organizations, political groups, regional organizations, and even local and national government actors.
There is no doubt that the UN should do more to promote the use of non violence. However, in order to succeed in this endeavor, Miroslav Lajcak considers that "people from all countries, and all walks of life, must be more closely engaged with the United Nations. Strong partnerships can help to spread a message of non violence that will be heard. This must involve religious leaders, community activists and, importantly, young people." 14
In this respect Mahatma Gandhi was quite realistic in his own assessment about non-violence.. He warned:" Whether non-violence will effectively replace violence for keeping the peace of the world remains to be seen. Certain it is that mankind, if it continues along its mad career of exploitation of the weak by the strong, must rush to annihilation foretold in all religions"''
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, an Indian philosopher and President of India from 1962 to 1967, strongly asserted that Gandhi was a prophet of a liberated life wielding power over millions by virtue of his exceptional holiness and heroism. In the acid test of experience, he remains not a politician or a reformer, not a philosopher or a reformer, but someone composed of them all.16
In a similar manner, in the opinion of former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, by his complex personality Mahatma Gandhi is a global giant for justice, respect for diversity and fundamental human rights. His legacy of non-violence still resonates. He showed the power of peacefully opposing oppression, injustice and hatred.17
An effective multilateral diplomacy inspired by Gandhian legacy demands a dynamic participation of all peace-loving forces in promoting non-violence. It should also be recognized that the full implementation of major UN programs cannot be achieved in a climate of violence .Therefore. more diplomatic efforts are needed to consolidate the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes during the current turbulent era of international relations.
This is not an easy task. As clearly emphasized in the statement by Sigmar Gabriel, member of the German Bundestag and Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany at the 72"' session of the UN General Assembly on September 21" 2017, "We seem to be confronted with a phase of political hurricanes and earthquakes.
And the tone of the confrontations seems to get harsher, more intransigent and belligerent from day to day and from speech to speech."
Promoting non-violence and friendly negotiations for the settlement of disputes demands solidarity and tolerance which have been proclaimed as universal values by the UN. Responsible dialogue and serious negotiations for the peaceful settlement of disputes can succeed in spite of existing political misunderstandings and contradictions, as peoples of the world share a common destiny and their diverse identities must not be a source of violence.
A universal recognition of the unity of the entire human family during the irreversible process of globalization is a task to be energetically followed through all channels of multilateral diplomacy.
The increasing interdependence of all peoples is undeniable and this factor should contribute to giving tangibility to a strong conviction that through genuine solidarity vital preconditions can be created for building lasting peace based on non violence .
At the diplomatic and legal levels that brings to mind the 25"' anniversary of the UN in 1970, when the most important document adopted by the UN General Assembly was the "Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations." The first principle proclaimed in the Declaration was that "States shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations." This principle which is in full harmony with the Gandhian doctrine gives expression to the fundamental and permanent requirements of non-violence and has a timeless significance.
In a further legal and institutional development within the UN framework, multilateral diplomacy managed to finalize and adopt in 1982 by consensus the comprehensive document entitled Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes. Its paragraph 5 reads as follows: "States shall seek in good faith and in a spirit of co-operation an early and equitable settlement of their international disputes by any of the following means: negotiation, inquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement. resort to regional arrangements or agencies or other peaceful means of their own choice. including good offices. In seeking such a settlement. the parties shall agree on such peaceful means as may be appropriate to the circumstances and the nature of their dispute."
Thirty years later. on December 14, 2012 the UN General Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution under the symbol and title 67/95. Thirtieth anniversary of the Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes. By this document the UN General Assembly "Reiterates its call to all States to observe and promote in good faith the Manila Declaration in the peaceful settlement of their international disputes". This revalidation of the significance and usefulness of the Manila Declaration cannot be underestimated in the process of promotion of non violence through the instrumentalities of multilateral diplomacy.
A year later, in a resolution adopted by consensus on December 18, 2013 under the symbol and title 68/127. A world against violence and violent extremism the UN General Assembly urged "all Member States to unite against violent extremism in all its forms and manifestations as well as sectarian violence, encourages the efforts of leaders to discuss within their communities the causes of violent extremism and discrimination and to evolve strategies to address these causes, and underlines that States, regional organizations, non-governmental organizations, religious bodies and the media have an important role to play in promoting tolerance and respect for religious and cultural diversity."
More recently, during the 70'" anniversary of the United Nations, on September 25 2015, the UN Summit attended by over 150 heads of state and government adopted a programmatic document entitled "Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" which contains inter alia the following commitment: "We are determined to foster peaceful. just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence. There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development." Inspired by this determination, Goal 16 of this comprehensive instrument containing 17 sustainable development goals to be implemented during the period 2016-2030 is specifically formulated as a promise to "promote peaceful and inclusive societies." The first target demanded by Goal 16 is to "significantly reduce all forms of violence...." It is a call to treat non-violence from a strategic perspective to achieve the fundamental objectives of the 2030 Agenda.
From the most significant 2017 events directly related to multilateral diplomacy and non-violence mentioned should be made about the theme of 'Stronger Partnership for a Brighter Future', considered by leaders at the BRICS Summit 2017, in Xiamen, China, a reunion which issued a joint Declaration outlining the agendas for this year as well as points the five BRICS nations IBrazil, India, Russia, China, South Africa) agreed to work upon in the future. This comprehensive diplomatic document (43 pages) officially entitled BRICS Leaders Xiamen Declaration Xiamen, China, 4 September 2017 asserts inter alia that:"Our committed and concerted efforts have generated a momentum of all-dimensional and multi-layered cooperation fostered by the previous Leaders' Summits. Upholding development and multilateralism, we are working together for a more just, equitable, fair, democratic and representative international political and economic order... Our coope.ration since 2006 has fostered the BRICS spirit featuring mutual respect and understanding, equality, solidarity, openness, inclusiveness and mutually beneficial cooperation, which is our valuable asset and an inexhaustible source of strength for BRICS cooperation... We reaffirm solidarity and resolve in the fight against terrorism, ...We call upon the international community to establish a genuinely broad international counter-terrorism coalition and support the UN's central coordinating role in this regard".
Under such circumstances, scrutinized from the perspective of 2017, the great humanistic Gandhian legacy must be treated as an omnipresent and inspiring force in multilateral diplomacy, as by its supreme truth this legacy is able to galvanize the whole world for robust action in favor of peace and non-violence and contains a timeless and vibrant appeal for the development of friendly relations and win-win cooperation at the local, national, regional and universal levels.