THE FIFTH HUNDRED IDEAS
(Ideas 401, 15 August 1995, to Idea 500, 22 November 1995)
Fifty Years Later
A Testimony to Hope and Plea for Audacity
by Dr. Robert Muller*
I joined the United Nations world service in 1948 as a young man who had been in a German Gestapo prison, a French Resistance fighter and had seen the most horrible atrocities of war and destruction. I came from Alsace-Lorraine, a province of France bordering Germany, where my grandparents knew three wars and changed nationality five times between France and Germany, without leaving their village. I was a very pessimistic young man. If this had happened between two highly civilized countries, how could I expect white and black countries, communists and capitalists, rich and poor nations, thousands of religions and ethnic groups to be able to live together in peace? Surely there would be an incident which would trigger off another world war within twenty years. Well, there was no third world war.
In the empty war factory in Lake Success where the United Nations was first located, a British delegate asked me what I was doing there. I answered: "I came here to work for peace, because I do not want my children and grandchildren to know the horrors I saw in the war." He answered: "I pity you, young man, because you will lose your job. This organization will not last more than five years." Well, it celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 1995.
I was also told in Lake Success that decolonization was the priority item on the agenda of world affairs and that it would take the United Nations from one hundred to one hundred fifty years to solve the problem. Well, the UN did it in forty years. I was told the same about apartheid, women's rights, human rights, and indigenous people, the Cold War, and I could cite other examples.
I have been involved in the creation of several new UN specialized agencies and world programs in the economic and social fields, including the world-wide United Nations Development Programs where I was the lonely first UN official working with Paul Hoffman, the former Administrator of the Marshall Plan. The UN listened to me when I suggested to channel the surplus foods of the rich countries which burned them, to children and hungry people in the poor countries, and created the World Food Program. The World Bank listened to my idea to give low-interest loans to infrastructure projects in the poor countries and created the International Development Agency. When I look at the list of the 32 UN specialized agencies and world programs, I am astonished that I have played a role in the creation of eleven of them!
I have seen the UN system assemble information on practically every aspect of our Earth and of the human family. Who remembers that until 1952 we did not even know what the world population was?
Through the United Nations I have seen the seas and oceans, the moon and outer space become legally the commons of humanity. I have seen the birth of first concerns for the environment, a word coined in the UN when it convened the first world conference on the environment in Sweden in 1972. And the UN did the same for the world's waters, deserts, oceans, climate, atomic energy, children, women, indigenous people, the aging, the handicapped, etc.
*Recently elected Vice-President of the World Federalist Movement.
I entered the UN as an intern and was privileged to rise over the years to Assistant Secretary General working directly with three Secretaries General. When I look back, I thank the UN for a truly magical life.
And retirement was not the end. Three days before I retired from the UN in 1986, after 38 years of service, Rodrigo Carazo, the President of Costa Rica, a man whom I greatly admire, proposed that I should become the one-dollar-a year chancellor of the recently created University of Peace in Costa Rica. I accepted with delight to continue to work for a UN agency in a peaceful, demilitarized country to which I would give the highest mark for its initiatives and successes at the UN: the creation of the post of Commissioner for Human Rights, the Nobel Peace Prize to President Oscar Arias, the celebration of the International Day of Peace and the world cease-fire proposed by Costa Rica for the week of the fiftieth anniversary of the UN. And how could I have ever dreamt that I would see disappear the border with Germany which I could see from my window during my youth and which created so much misery for my family? And that all the borders in western Europe would be suppressed, a European Union created, and that in 1994 I could, for the first time, cross without any controls, the border between France and Germany in my hometown of Sarreguemines in Alsace-Lorraine? And that there would exist today in the world 33 schools bearing my name or using a new education which I derived from the United Nations?
In brief: from a very pessimistic young man after World War II, I have been transformed by the UN into an optimist who firmly believes in the success of humanity given time. I am infinitely grateful to the UN for having taught me that planet Earth is my home, that humanity is my family and that it was worthwhile to devote my life with enthusiasm and faith to the great objectives for which this Organization, a truly unprecedented ominous meta-biological organism of the Earth and of the human species was created. In the face of colossal obstacles and the shortsightedness of many nations, the UN has created many miracles.
During my long UN career, I have always had this habit: whenever I receive numerous letters from people around the world with the perception of a new problem or with an idea whose time has come, I open a file: within a few years, these signals of humanity’s global brain become a major trend.
Well, since the fiftieth anniversary of the UN, my mail abound with letters calling for proper Earth government, a world federation of states, or proposals of other systems for a better global management of this planet. I have therefore decided to return to the dream of my youth, when after World War II, I wrote an essay on world government which opened for me the doors of the United Nations. After nearly fifty years of UN experience, I have decided to be a candidate for the post of Secretary General of the UN and to make proper Earth government the priority item on my agenda. The world’s survival requires an enormously strengthened second generation United Nations, or a UN transformed progressively into a world union on the model of the European Union, or a United States of the Earth on the pattern of the great precedent of the United States. On the eve of a new century and millennium it is a matter of life or death for the Earth and humanity.
SO HELP US GOD
"With all my heart I believe that the world's present system of sovereign nations can lead only to barbarism, war and inhumanity. There is no salvation for civilization, or even the human race, other than the creation of a world government."
- Albert Einstein
"Unless some effective supranational government can be set up and brought quickly into action, the prospects of peace and human progress are dark and doubtful."
- Winston Churchill
"The age of nations has passed. Now, unless we wish to perish, we must shake off our old prejudices and build the Earth. The more scientifically I regard the world, the less can I see any possible biological future for it except in the active consciousness of its unity."
-Teilhard de Chardin
"Have I said clearly enough that the European Community we created is not an end in itself? It is a process of change, continuing in the same process which in an earlier period produced our national forms of life. The sovereign nations of the past can no longer solve the problems of the present: they cannot ensure their own progress or control their own future. And the Community itself is only a stage on the way of the organized world of tomorrow."
- Jean Monnet, Conceiver of the European Community now European Union