IF SCIENCE IS TO REACH ITS FULL POTENTIAL FOR PEACE, SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL,
WORLD MUST DO MORE TO END CONFLICTS, ADDRESS INEQUALITIES
Following is the speech by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the annual dinner of the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science, New York, 8 December 2002:
It is a real pleasure for Nane and me to join you for this dinner, and to celebrate the legacy of Chaim Weizmann as scientist and statesman. It is good to be among so many friends who have dedicated their lives to pushing back the frontiers of science and politics, business and philanthropy, in the belief that we are all united by a common fate – all beneficiaries of global progress, all victims of global crises. Science — like globalization — knows no frontiers. It thrives where tolerance and diversity are prized, and where each individual is judged on the basis of his character and contribution.
Chaim Weizmann believed deeply in the ability of science to unify mankind, and to make progress, and real progress, achievable for all. I know that the Institute strives every day to further his legacy, and I salute the American Committee for supporting this mission.
From genetic research to irrigation, the Institute is expanding our most basic notion of what is achievable in pursuit of health, development, and peace. And it is doing so in a spirit of cooperation across borders and between peoples.
Scientists play a crucial role in international affairs, not only in the realm of security and disarmament, but also on challenges ranging from economic development and human rights to the environment and public health. That involvement derives from our basic concern for human welfare and is founded in the deep similarities between the ethos of science and the 20th-century project of international organization.
Science and international organization are both constructs of reason, engaged in a permanent struggle against the forces of unreason. Throughout the 20th century, we have seen outbursts of unreason that surpass in horror and human tragedy any the world has seen in the entire modern era. And, as you well know, scientists and their research have, throughout history, all too often been used for destructive purposes – from war and conflict to colonialism and exploitation. But we have also managed to build up the international edifice of reason, through international agreements addressing global problems and the proliferation of weapons to environmental degradation.
We are living in a period of unprecedented advances in science. Science has contributed immensely to the development of modern society, and the application of scientific knowledge continues to furnish powerful means for solving many of the challenges facing humanity. The advances made in recent years in genetic science and biotechnology hold out extraordinary prospects for mankind as a whole and for the individual. At the same time, the way in which scientific endeavours are pursued around the world is marked by clear inequalities. Developing countries, for example, generally spend well below 1 per cent of their gross domestic product on scientific research, whereas rich countries devote between 2 per cent and 3 per cent. The number of scientists in proportion to population in the developing countries is 10 to 20 times smaller than in developed countries. Ninety-five per cent of new science in the world today is created in the countries comprising only one-fifth of the world’s population; the remaining four-fifths contribute only 5 per cent of new science.
This unbalanced distribution of scientific activity generates serious problems, not only for the scientific community in the developing countries but also for development itself. It further increases the disparity between the advanced and the developing countries, creating social and economic problems at national and international levels. The idea of two worlds of science is anathema to the scientific spirit. It will require the commitment of institutes such as yours to reverse this trend, and make the benefits of science available to all.
The State of Israel made a wise decision early in its history – at a time when it was a poor developing country – to build a strong basic science community and to do it by linking closely with the international scientific community. The fruits of this early decision have been plain to see in the Weizmann Institute and the well-being of the country. By the same token, Israeli scientists have worked closely with their counterparts in other countries of the region on problems of health, agriculture and water. Such international scientific cooperation across adversarial boundaries offers hope for a future peace.
A central condition for development and cooperation is peace. For all the bridges science can build across the gaps between rich and poor, developed and developing, none is strong enough to withstand the force of war and violence. If science is to reach its full potential – drawing on the cooperation and collaboration of great minds from every country – we must do more to end conflicts, and address the inequalities that divide us.
While peacemaking and peacebuilding are often considered to be the preserve of political leaders and diplomats, I have long believed that lasting peace must come from the effects of individual men and women of conscience, who reject hatred and hostility in favour of all the opportunities that cooperation provides. Scientists have long played leading roles in promoting understanding and dialogue, and pushing leaders to resolve differences peacefully.
I am thinking here of the ways scientists can engage each other and build bridges of understanding, in circumstances where States cannot do so directly. One famous example is the Pugwash Conference movement and the leadership provided by Joseph Rothblat. Launched by the Russell-Einstein Manifesto of 1955, it has brought Russian and Western scientists together for more than 40 years to develop common understanding of the dangers of nuclear war and of the measures that can help reduce those dangers.
In recent years, Pugwash has constructed a strong dialogue between North and South, seeking the application of science to problems of development. Over the years, scientists from the Weizmann Institute have participated in these efforts.
While some may imagine that scientific cooperation is limited to areas of common research, in fact it has often been conducive to wider cooperation through “spill-over” processes of various kinds. When, for example, technicians cooperate to solve a technical problem, their very success encourages others to widen the sphere of cooperation to other issues.
Finally, scientists have long played important roles in the field of disarmament and the prevention of violent conflict – by making clear the sheer scale of devastation that modern weapons can bring about. The Nuclear Cities Initiative and the Nunn-Lugar efforts on Soviet denuclearization are just two such prominent examples. “Lab to Lab” cooperation helped lay the groundwork for cooperative nuclear disarmament and arms control between Russia and the United States following the cold war.
I have pointed to these examples of scientific cooperation for peace and security partly to urge you to renew your commitment to peace in the Middle East, especially between Israelis and Palestinians. The Weizmann Institute has already done much to spread the benefits of its research to Israel’s neighbours – through educational activities, exchanges of scientists and students, and the promotion of dialogue and understanding through scientific education. I applaud the Institute for this work, and appeal to you to expand and deepen it further.
I do so because I believe that if we are to emerge from the current deadly cycle of violence and destruction, the path must be paved by the determination of ordinary citizens to find a better way for themselves and their children. The sad truth is that an atmosphere of gloom and defeatism has descended on the region. On both sides – Palestinian and Israeli – only those who believe their enemy can be defeated by force and violence show a grim confidence in the ultimate success of their chosen path. Yet on both sides, that confidence is surely misplaced.
The only way to settle this conflict remains the solution envisioned by the United Nations Security Council: two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in security and in recognized borders. Such a settlement has been the basis of every attempt to bring peace to the region, and it remains the preferred solution of both Israelis and Palestinians.
On this point, all opinion polls concur. The majority of Palestinians accept the continued existence of Israel, and are ready to live alongside it in their own State. And the majority of Israelis accept that peace requires the establishment of a Palestinian State in nearly all the territory occupied in 1967. What is missing, on each side, is trust in the other – and without that trust, the hope of peace becomes hard to sustain.
Somehow, we have to restore hope to both peoples, by patiently rebuilding their trust in each other. And that is what the Quartet of interested external parties – the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and the Russian Federation – is seeking to do, by setting out a credible road map: a road map of synchronized steps that can lead, within three years, from the grim situation we are now in to the peaceful two-State solution that the majority on both sides desire.
But no road map can succeed without those who have the courage to step out on the road and imagine a new journey. For this, we need scientists and citizens from every walk of life who wish nothing more than a chance to raise their children in peace with opportunity for all. This is a mission worthy of the legacy of Chaim Weizmann – a mission that is as necessary as it is just.
Albert Einstein, speaking in 1931 to an audience at CalTech, said that “concern for man himself and his fate must always form the chief interest for all technical endeavour…in order that the creations of our minds shall be ablessing and not a curse for mankind. Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations.” The Weizmann Institute has never forgotten that essential duty of science. Let me, in closing, urge you to spread the blessings of science even further, even deeper, in the years to come, and make them a lasting force for peace.