Thinkers of the world unite - and plan for 21st century
An eclectic group of ``generalists'' from around the globe met here over the weekend to map out a blueprint for world progress in the next century. The conference, ``Agenda 2000: Reasonable goals,'' was co-sponsored by the Johnson Foundation, the University of Maryland, and The Christian Science Monitor. It was a follow-up to the series of interviews with prominent thinkers on the same subject (a number of whom attended the conference) published in this newspaper in 1987.
The mix of 32 people included eminent Russian poet Andrei Voznesensky; Shirley Williams, leader of Britain's Social and Liberal Democrats; and former Nigerian head of state Olusegun Obasanjo. Among other nations represented were the People's Republic of China, West Germany, Indonesia, India, Japan, and Kenya.
From the earlier interviews, three topics had emerged as the most crucial to mankind's future well-being:
The ``North-South'' gap between industrialized and developing nations.
Tensions between the superpowers and the threat of nuclear war.
The degradation of the environment.
In addition, an underlying theme rose to the surface: the need for a strengthening of moral and spiritual values.
The conferees, in no way minimizing dangers that lie ahead, compiled a list of 95 goals. The area of most optimism - though cautious - was the ``revolution'' taking place in the Soviet Union, as Mr. Voznesensky described it.
According to Gail Lapidus, a professor of political science at the University of California at Berkeley, ``The opportunity presented by the accession of ... Gorbachev could initiate a major restructuring of the international environment.''
On the final day of the conference, participants concentrated on four areas:
Third-world development. It was agreed that, while each country must set its own goals for development, a country that achieves certain humanitarian goals will have closed the gap with the developed world in terms of basic human needs. Those goals include an infant mortality rate of less than 25 deaths per 1,000 live births, population growth of less than 1 percent per year, and an adult literacy rate of 85 percent.
``Implicit in these targets is a different way of thinking about development,'' said Rodrigo Botero, Colombia's former finance minister.
International peace. A number of strategies focused on the superpowers. The conferees called for reducing US and Soviet engagement in regional conflicts, for example, and moving beyond the prospective 50 percent cut in strategic nuclear weapons to deeper reductions in nuclear and conventional weapons.
The environment. The picture painted by George Woodwell, director of the Woods Hole Research Center in Woods Hole, Mass., was bleak. He cited a warming of the earth's biosphere by up to five degrees centigrade, and a doubling of the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere by the year 2030.
``That is not something we can live with,'' Mr. Woodwell said. ``I see little alternative to reducing the buildup of carbon to zero .... Addressing the overuse of fossil fuels is the first step.''
He added: ``It's not hard to reduce it by 50 percent in the developed world - it's much harder in the developing world.''
In the area of conservation, one plan called for a planetary trust for the conservation of resources, such as rain forests. This might involve the paying of rent by industrialized countries for the use of resources in developing countries.
Morals and values. It was recognized that the world has entered a ``new age of interdependence,'' in male-female relationships, families, communities, and among nations, where paternalism must be replaced by respect, self-reliance, and cooperation.
It was noted that the sense of rights commonly enjoyed by industrialized nations must be balanced with the responsibilities and obligations traditionally associated with developing countries. Among ways of fostering cooperation, the idea of a cross-national peace corps was suggested, as well as community service in one's own country.