SPEECH BY FORMER PRESIDENT F W DE KLERK
KANSAS, 20 APRIL 2002
FEBRUARY 2002 USA
THE WORLD AFTER 11 SEPTEMBER
It has become a truism that the world will never again be the same after the terrorist attacks of 11 September last year. How has the world changed? Where do we stand now, seven months later. And what are the implications for the United States and the international community?
These are some of the questions that I – a sympathetic outsider from a distant country in Africa – would like to address tonight.
The events of 11 September have reverberated around the world.
- They have deeply affected the economy of the United States and, indeed, of the entire international community.
- They have been a major factor in the decision-making of companies whether or not they should invest in new projects and factories;
- They have had a devastating effect of the air travel industry. Millions of people have decided not to fly – or to fly as little as possible – because of the terrible scenes they saw on their TV sets.
11 September has dramatically changed our conception of the world in which we live.
- It has shown how vulnerable even the most powerful country in the world is to attacks by determined fanatics. For the first time since the war of 1812, the continental United States has come under serious attack;
- It has introduced a dimension of irrationality into global affairs. These new terrorists are not people who bargain, who put demands, who wish to see mutually positive outcomes. On the contrary, they are motivated by blind hatred and by a cold-blooded determination to destroy and to kill, without remorse and without compassion. As they themselves boast: they embrace death.
- It represents a stark rejection of everything that the modern state has come to represent: economic growth; consumerism; rationality; human rights and free institutions.
There are those – particularly in the third world and even in Europe – who condemn the outrage of 11 September – but add that the United States should ask itself why it has become so unpopular. I am inclined to agree with what Mayor Giuliani said in this regard last year: even to ask the question is to admit the possibility that there might have been some justification for the terrorists’ acts.
Much of this is in reaction to the United States’ position as the world’s sole surviving super power. Because of this role, it is often condemned whatever it does. If it intervenes in a country like Somalia to restore order, it is criticised for being a bully. If it does not intervene – as was the case in Rwanda and Burundi – it is accused of being callous – and is even held morally responsible for the ensuing massacres.
How then should the United States and its allies respond to this latest challenge?
How can they overcome this faceless and remorseless enemy?
- They can use their enormous conventional power to overthrow regimes that support terrorism – as has been done in the successful campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan;
- They can put pressure on any country providing a safe haven for terrorists;
- They can improve their security; and
- They can patiently track down terrorists wherever they may be hiding.
But as President Bush admits, it will be a long, hard campaign. And ultimately
the international community will have to address the environment within which such fanaticism and terrorism flourish.
That environment is characterised by poverty, repression; and conflict
It is not by accident that the country that Osama bin Laden chose as his refuge is also one of the poorest, most tyrannical, repressive and conflict-ridden societies in the world.
The long term way to combat what Bin Laden stands for must then include tackling the roots of poverty, repression and conflict. These, I believe, should be priorities in the post 11 September world:
- the first is the scourge of poverty – poverty arising from the failure of some parts of the world to join in the global march to prosperity;
- the second is the promotion of democracy and human rights; and
- the third is the peaceful resolution of the conflicts that continue to lie at the root of so much instability and human suffering.
Our new millennium is not just a nice round number: it in fact coincides with one of the most profound developments in human history, the process that we have come to call globalisation – or world integration. During the past decades we have begun to lay the foundations of a new supranational global community. One of the central implications of this new community is that none of us – and particularly not the leading powers – can any longer ignore problems and grievances in distant countries. Non-performing economies cannot be ignored and relegated to a basket-case category outside of the mainstream of global commerce; and bloody crises and conflicts in distant societies deserve much more than mere thirty-second segments on the evening news.
In the new millennium it will be less and less possible to ignore the stark reality that a large part of the human population still lives in unacceptable poverty, misery and repression.
Some will argue that there has been progress, that the portion of the world’s population living in absolute poverty has declined from two thirds to one third in the past forty years. However, fact is that the total number of people living below the poverty line has stayed about the same – at about 2 billion – because the world’s population has doubled since 1960. Even more serious is the fact that the disparity per capita between the poorest and richest fifths of the world’s nations has widened from 30 to 1 in 1960 to 78 to 1 in 1994.
In a shrinking world, the problems of one region will inevitably become the problems of other regions and ultimately of the whole world:
- Diseases like AIDS – which first appeared in Africa – do not observe international boundaries;
- As we saw a few years ago, economic crises in emerging markets can have serious negative consequences for the whole of the global economy; and
- Conflicts and instability in distant societies can reverberate throughout the whole international community. The attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September have brought this fact home with chilling clarity. Who would have thought that religious fanatics hiding in caves in distant Afghanistan could possibly pose a threat to the hi-tech nerve centre of the world’s most powerful economy in down-town New York?
- Whether we live in the first world or the third world, we all share the same global environment. The decimation of tropical forests and the extinction of animal and plant species will have long-term consequences for the whole planet.
In our globalised society such problems and conflicts will sooner or later breach international borders and affect the interests of us all. It is accordingly essential for us to develop the policies, the resources and the will to tackle the root causes of these problems. The challenge is to ensure that a sizeable proportion of the human population does not fall further behind in the global race for prosperity, peace and democracy.
How then can we achieve this? In the time allowed I can only highlight a few guidelines.
- The solution lies firstly in rapid and sustained economic growth.
- Secondly it lies in the promotion of democracy and the role of civil society.
- And thirdly it lies in addressing the roots of conflict in the post Cold War world and promoting stability.
We need to recognise the symbiosis between stability, prosperity and freedom: Economic prosperity creates the environment in which democracy and free institutions can grow – and they, in turn, help to promote the stability which is essential for economic growth.
There is an undeniable link between peace, development, growth and democracy. Only three of the countries in the world with per capita incomes of less than US $ 1,000 are full democracies, while nearly all of the twenty richest countries – those with per capita incomes above US $ 13 000 – are democracies (the exceptions being a number of oil-rich states).
There is also a link between levels of development and peace. Eleven of the thirty poorest countries – including Afghanistan – have in recent years been wracked by devastating civil wars. On the other hand, none of the twenty richest countries have experienced serious internal conflict – with the exception of Northern Ireland.
How then can we achieve this symbiosis between economic development, stability, democracy and a vibrant civil society? Once again I only have time for a few guidelines.
In the sphere of the economy, the developed countries need to help to promote economic growth in the least developed societies.
- More attention needs to be given to the debt burden of the world’s 41 highly indebted poor countries – 34 of which are in Africa. Some steps are now being taken by the IMF to address this problem, but more needs to be done.
- Steps should also be taken to increase the third world’s share in global trade. For example, Africa, with almost one sixth the world’s population accounts for only one fiftieth of global trade. Third World exports need more favourable access to first world markets.
- The poor countries also require higher levels of foreign and domestic investment. They have to achieve at least 5% per annum growth levels if they are to break out of the grip of poverty. And they are simply not getting the investment required to achieve this.
The international community also needs to continue its efforts to promote democracy and the rule of law in third world countries.
The sad reality is that twenty of the 45 countries of sub-Saharan Africa are presently – or have recently – been involved in wars. Much of this instability can be ascribed to the lack of democratic mechanisms and protection of the law.
- The international community should do more to encourage third world countries to proceed with democratic reforms and to protect the basic rights of their citizens.
- It should also not hesitate to act against regimes that grossly violate human rights and that subvert democracy. The Government of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is a recent prime example.
- It needs to adopt a much more proactive stance in defusing potential conflicts and in promoting the peaceful resolution of disputes.
One of the fundamental causes of conflict throughout the world lies in the inability of different ethnic and cultural groups to coexist peacefully within the same societies. In the post Cold War world, conflict seldom takes place between countries. In 2000, the first year of the new millennium, only two of the 25 significant conflicts that afflicted the world were between countries: the rest were within countries – primarily between ethnic, cultural and religious communities. The present or recent conflicts in the Middle East, former Yugoslavia, southern Asia, Rwanda, Burundi, Sri Lanka, East Timor and Kashmir all bear bloody testimony to this fact.
The question is: How can the international community help to defuse conflict in multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies and regions?
The current conflict in the Middle East is, unfortunately, a good example of both the challenge that the international community faces in this regard and of the risks that such conflict can hold for the entire world.
- The spiralling violence between Israel and the Palestinians threatens the stability of the entire Middle Eastern region;
- It has already begun to affect oil production can easily lead to a major economic crisis;
- The conflict is causing enormous strains in relations between Moslems throughout the world and the West – and in particular, the United States.
- The passions that it has unleashed have created the environment in which fanatics – such as Osama bin Laden – can flourish. This fanaticism, was in turn the direct cause of the tragic events of 11 September.
For all of these reasons the United States, as the pre-eminent world power, cannot afford to allow the conflict to spiral further out of control. Just as war is too important to be left to the generals, peace in the Middle East is to important to the key interests of whole international community to be left to the Israelis and the Palestinians.
The Israelis and the Palestinians are simply going to have to find some way of learning to live together. This means that both sides will have to take risks; both sides will have to make painful compromises; both sides will have to accept that military force, and suicide terrorist bombings will only accelerate their downward spiral into unrestrained war. At the end of that war, after immense and unnecessary suffering they will still have to negotiate.
Although the situation looks desperate, I do not believe that it is hopeless. I recall the dreadful period that South Africa went through between 1984 and 1987. We also, were confronted by our own version of the intefada; we also resorted to draconian security measures to restore order; we also experienced growing international isolation and condemnation.
But we pulled back from the brink. We discovered that there was another way: that it was possible to solve our long-standing and bitter dispute through peaceful means. In the process, we learned the following lessons:
- We could not dictate with whom we would negotiate. Whether we liked it or not we had to sit eye-ball to eye-ball with people and parties that had been our bitter enemies;
- We found that the negotiations should be as inclusive as possible. For that reason we enjoyed all parties with significant support to join the process.
- All sides had to take enormous risks;
- All sides had to make very painful compromises;
- All sides had to accommodate the reasonable concerns and interests of others.
Finally we emerged with a new constitution which guarantees the individual and communal rights of all our people and which is enabling us to live together with one another in peace and co-operation.
If we could do it, the Israelis and the Palestinians should also be able to do it. The United States and the rest of the international community can play a major role in this process
- By urging the parties to cease all violent acts and to return to the negotiations;
- By insisting that both sides should make the concessions that will be essential to reach a just and last peace; and
- By giving cast-iron guarantees that the agreement that the parties reach will be honoured by all.
The most eloquent response to the terror attacks of Bin Laden would be to achieve a settlement that would ensure the security of Israel, living in harmony with a viable Palestinian state.
These, I believe, are the priorities for the international community after 11 September;
- We must tackle the problem of under-development and continuing third world poverty;
- We must promote conditions in which democracy and basic human rights will be enjoyed by all mankind;
- We must find peaceful solutions to the conflicts that continue to afflict the world – and particularly inter-community conflicts and the impasse between Israel and Palestine.
The key to addressing these priorities may be for the United States and its allies to resist the temptation of becoming absorbed with what they have done wrong in the world. Instead, they should redouble their commitment to the things that they have done right:
- to their commitment to democracy and freedom;
- to their support for human rights and the worth and dignity of the individual;
- to their efforts to achieve the just and peaceful settlement of disputes – particularly between the Israelis and the Palestinians;
- to their excellence in scientific discovery and technological innovation; and
- to their economic dynamism in generating wealth and well-being for countless millions in their own countries and throughout much of the world;
If the United States and its allies can work to eradicate poverty, tyranny and irrationality throughout the world there will ultimately be no place for the terrorists to hide.