Unification News for December 2002

IIFWP Symposium at the United Nations

by Dr. Theodore Shimmyo and Ricardo de Sena

On November 22, 2002, the US-UN Symposium was held in New York at the United Nations Headquarters. This was the fourth in a series under the theme, "Governance, Technology and the Millennium Development Goals." An Ambassadors Luncheon followed on the topic, "Doing What Matters. Working Better Together."

Sponsored by the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP) the Symposium and the Luncheon brought together 57 UN diplomats (39 heads or deputy heads of Missions) from 51 missions, specialized agencies and related organizations, including the US Mission.

This significant attendance is an indication of the active interest on the part of the UN community to work more effectively together with the United States in solving critical global challenges. A key outcome of the Symposium developed from a proposal made by the keynote speaker was to form informal partnerships between, Republican and Democrats from the US House of Representatives and a member state. By developing relationships, knowledge, contacts and understanding of that nation, the United States Congress will collectively better understand the rest of the world and will be more able to help address its international problems and challenges. This proposal was well received by all the participants.

Ambassador Jargalsaikhany Enkhsaikhan, Permanent Representative of Mongolia to the United Nations, moderated the Symposium. Having thanked the organizers and members of the US-UN Host Committee he quoted United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan saying, "New technology for development can contribute to peace and security." He pointed out that it is an essential tool for promoting development and achieving the Millennial Development Goals.

On behalf of the sponsor, Dr. Thomas G. Walsh, Secretary General of IIFWP, indicated that the purpose of the US-UN Symposium Series is "to foster communication not as an end in itself, but in the hope that communication would lead to greater cooperation and to greater effectiveness in the massive task of solving global problems such as are presented in the Millennium Development Goals." He then mentioned three things needed for effective achievement of the MDGs: 1. Strengthening of the moral character of leaders, 2. Increased focus on the value and role of the family, and 3. Expanded understanding of the relevance of religion and religious considerations.

Representing the US side, Congressman Curt Weldon energetically addressed the group. Having had a lot of experience through House committee work on security, technology, science, and environment, and through his personal efforts to focus on facilitating bilateral communications between US Members of Congress and members of other governing bodies such as the Russian Duma, he emphasized the importance of communication and dialogue "to understand each other as human beings."

Admitting that the United States has not been as open to and aware of the rest of the world as she might be, Congressman Weldon shared about his own efforts to make his colleagues in Congress aware of other nation’s situations as a practical way to help minimize and prevent problems and conflicts.

The next speaker, Ambassador Abdul Mejid Hussein of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, appreciatively regarded the above proposal as "highly timely." He also indicated his strong support for this Symposium, suggesting that UN diplomats should also be invited to Washington, D.C. to interact with Congress to make sure that the US feels part of the UN.

Congressman Weldon’s speech invited many lively questions and comments from the floor. In response to those questions and comments, he came up with two more suggestions: 1. that a one or two day introductory course can be held at the United Nations to educate 86 or so brand new members of US Congress; and 2. that if members of Congress cannot come to the United Nations, they can have their staffers come as their liaisons to the United Nations.

Concluding the morning Symposium, Ms. Karen Judd Smith, Director of the UN Office of IIFWP, recommended, based on the proposal of Congressman Weldon and interest from the floor, to form an Ad hoc or Host committee for the annual UN briefing for members of US Congress and their staffers, asking everybody at the Symposium to be a member of this committee. Her recommendation was unanimously accepted.

The Ambassadors Luncheon was moderated by Ambassador Isaac Lamba of Malawi, who emphasized "this Symposium is taking place at a very, very opportune time, when we are all faced with numerous challenges on the international scene." He also commented that our work together would do well to include God.

Congressman Weldon noted that the 9/11 terrorist attack stirred the realization that "we as a Congress and as a nation could have been and should have been doing more in terms of our outreach around the world."

Emphasizing the importance of dialogue again, he stated: "It’s easy to argue against someone you’ve never met. But, when you have interaction with members of US Congress as I have with leaders of the Russian Duma, the Federation Council, or the Chinese Government, you tear away the feelings that were there in the past."

The US-UN Symposium and Luncheon was then closed with brief remarks by Dr. Chung Hwan Kwak, Chairman of IIFWP. Echoing Congressman Weldon’s point, Dr. Kwak pointed out that the underlying or guiding principle for the US-UN Symposium series is that "when people of diverse backgrounds come together in sincerity, centered on a higher purpose thus going beyond narrow self-interests, good things happen." Dr. Kwak also mentioned the importance at this time for courageous leadership, noting that courage that will allow us to successfully tackle critical global problems by sacrificing oneself for the higher purpose. He noted that such courage requires of world leaders to draw upon their "highest and best" moral and spiritual resources.

The US-UN Symposium and Luncheon energized participants as we began to see a way toward more "hands-on" US-UN relations, toward more opportunities to increase mutual understanding and respect, and so toward enhanced abilities to creatively solve critical global problems.

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