George Santayana, said “Progress, far from consisting of change, depends on retentiveness. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
These are wise words which would well enter our minds as we reflect on the coming dawn of the 21st century. What is the greatest lesson of the 20th century? It is not man’s inhumanity to man. This has been a characteristic of human nature since time began. Man has also had rationality and this has characterized men’s relationship with one another since the dawn of history. This quality distinguishes civilization from the animal kingdom.
It is this quality that has given rise to laws and negotiations for peace instead of war. It is this characteristic of rationality that leads men to establish institutions and organizations for human development. It also has led to the development of science and enormous strides in technology. Science and technology can be used for the progress and advancement of civilization or for the destruction of all on the planet. Rationality thus gives rise to the power to choose and it is this use of choice which is the fundamental issue which faces us in the 21st century catastrophe on a vast scale, as in the First and Second World Wars, or to employ it with all its enormous potential for peace, growth, development and human welfare on a scale never achieved or envisaged.
To achieve this latter alternative, however, rationality must be employed on a scale as never before, giving rise to world order, to world peace based on law and justice worldwide. Co-ordination and mobilization of the efforts of all men and institutions is a necessary pre-requisite towards this end.
Power must be humanized and subjected to laws. Human rights must be universalized and their grossest violations penalized. Impunity for such violations must no longer be the natural order of things but be relegated to the past. Efforts must b e intensified to put in place an international criminal jurisdiction so that perpetrators of atrocities against humanity, such as this century has witnessed, may be brought to account. On July 17, 1998, in Rome, one hundred and twenty nations took a significant step towards creating such a jurisdiction when they adopted a Statute for the International Criminal Court. We, the peoples of the 20th century, can make a lasting contribution to peace and security in the twenty first century and beyond by making this international system of justice a reality.
Our very humanity must reassert itself with rights, principles, laws and institutions directed towards the enlightenment and advance of humankind of every creed and race in every region of the world.