As the world moves towards a new arms race, it is imperative to work towards their total control and promote world peace much more vigorously. As the world confronts the greatest bid for the division of power, based on greed, lust and self-interests rather than reason, morality, justice, wisdom and responsibility and as humanity faces its most awesome threat, a result of existential problems and growing social dementia within society or mass dysfunctional human behavior equivalent to suicide, a return to Greek classical philosophy is necessary and peace needs its greatest chance.
In 2019, the Nobel Peace Prize, 2019 went to the Horn of Africa, which has suffered long-term conflict and creeping disaster of protracted drought. It was awarded to Abiy Ahmed Ali, Ethiopian Prime Minister for efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea. It was one of 15 prizes.
In 1980, the United Nations-mandated University for Peace (U.Peace) was established as a Treaty Organization by the UN General Assembly based in Costa Rica. As an institution of higher education, it is dedicated to the study of peace. The University has unique world-wide authorization to award academic degrees, recognized by all member countries of the General Assembly. The UN Secretary-General is the Honorary President of U.Peace. Its first Rector Maurice Strong, saw materialism and self-interest riding rough shod over community values and humanity being depleted of its morality and wisdom. He lifted his inspiring voice in efforts to preserve the earth for future generations.
Recognizing a need for peace studies worldwide, additional institutions were established in many regions. In 1985, the European Center Peace and Development (ECPD), Belgrade was established at the heart of the Balkans as a European arm of the University; its mission, peace and development. Given that the Balkans continue to be a focus of geopolitical development and that geo-strategic approaches have failed so far to establish conditions for security and stability or to sufficiently upgrade the health of the region we firmly believe that U.Peace more than ever needs its greatest chance in this still fragile region. Consequently the ECPD should be more responsibly supported by the international community and self-serving gamesmanship be set aside when world peace is at stake.
Circa 1990 the Athens School of Public Health (ASPH, 1929) saw an opportunity to employ public health as a catalyst for peace and development in the fragile Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean. It was facilitated through the Association of Schools of Public Health in Europe (ASPHER), FICOSSER and later the World Association of Disaster Emergency Medicine (WADEM). Its efforts were supported by the Hellenic Ministries of Health and Foreign Affairs. As a result, a strong connection was established between the ASPH and the ECPD, through Spain. The higher level purpose of both Balkan institutions is safeguarding regional stability, health security and economic prosperity of Southeast Europe within the framework of Europe. A Balkan Center for Public Health was established and Balkan policy for health disaster management in Athens and Global Health studies in Belgrade were undertaken. They included initiatives in human security, a series of masters programs in Prizren, Kosovo and a doctoral program in biomedical engineering in Pula, Istria, which had a mining of the brain component for its more altruistic parts. A Declaration of Skopje: Public Health, Peace and Human Rights, 2001 was set forth under the banner of public health as a catalyst for peace. More recent outcomes using analogies from history and bridges include neurosciences in the service of geopolitics for west-east peace and Eurasian bridges for bilateral communication between two continents based on peace and philosophy. These initiatives are ongoing as USA and Russia are on a path of uncontrolled nuclear renewal and the Asian Pacific region is undergoing significant socioeconomic development.
Most recently and within the region, Serbia and Greece, signed a Joint Declaration and Strategic Partnership (December 11, 2019, Athens) to seal what can be seen as a natural historic alliance that can herald a new start of enhanced cooperation within the Balkans. Additional promise can emerge though Eurasian Bridges with the extension of the Silk Road from Egypt to the North and by strengthening geo-economic diplomacy in energy extraction in the Eastern Mediterranean, which should aim at minimizing contributions to climate change making it easier for Greece to live with extreme weather phenomena in the future as it does now with seismic activity.
In 2019, the World Philosophical Forum (WPF) appealed to Greek Members of the European Parliament, to Members of all Member States and candidates of all political parties asking for their full support as well as the support of the UN, WHO, EU, and the Council of Europe to help stop growing social dementia by the immediate act of reviving Classical Greek Philosophy in lieu of predominant scholasticism. In 2018 the WPF was honored with a laurel leaf by the Greek authorities in the person of the Minister of Tourism who is now a member of the European parliament.
Two decades ago, a number of prominent individuals in the Philippines, with encouragement and support from various quarters in and out of their country, undertook a worthy initiative. They established a foundation, which annually recognizes significant contributions by individuals from all countries of the globe towards world peace. Those individuals or institutions receive the Gusi1 Peace Prize. The Gusi Peace Prize is referred to in Presidential Proclamation No. 1476 signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, declaring every fourth Wednesday of November as the Gusi Peace Prize International Friendship Day. Its stated mission is to honor individuals and organizations who have given exemplary contributions to Global Peace and Progress, through international brotherhood and friendship, and by using their God-given talents for the benefit of mankind; to champion human rights and maintain governance, democracy, equality, international peace and goodwill. Its vision is A World of Peace and Prosperity in agreement with the Gusi Peace Prize Ideals (Godliness-Unification-Service-Internationalism) totally embraced by all nations. The award recognizes excellence and acknowledges distinction.
Neither the chosen Laureates nor the inaugurating persons seek any reward and do not receive any monetary reward for their distinction and their efforts, respectively. The award-givers receive satisfaction by honoring and showcasing the achievements of peace seekers and humanitarians that will encourage others to follow in these footsteps. The Laureates pay their own way and are treated to great hospitality and overwhelming respect and are given the opportunity to sight see and rub shoulders and converse with their fellow Laureates this year 19 in number coming from five continents. In Ancient Greece, laurel wreaths were awarded to victors as a sign of honour – both in athletic competitions and in poetic events. The word “Laureate” refers back to Greek mythology signified by the laurel wreath. Apollo is represented wearing a laurel wreath on his head.
The writer Jeffrey Levett a long standing professor and dean of the Athens School of Public Health, past president, ASPHER and Member of the United Nations family of the European Center for Peace and Development was designated an International Gusi Peace Laureate, 2019. Violence, conflict and war he recognizes as public health issues with long-term catastrophic outcomes for health, physical and mental, individual and collective, social wellbeing, the environment and on economic prosperity. This award was given in Manila and came with the Key to the City for contributions to public health and promotion of Greek classical philosophy. It is referred to as the foremost award in Asia and the Nobel peace prize of the East. It carries no monetary reward but comes with the expectation that its recipients will continue working for peace.
The first Laureate was Anthony Quinn, 2002. Michael Nobel, 2010 is an International Gusi Peace Laureate. Levett’s fellow Laureates included the youthful and dynamic mayor of Manila who, like Hercules, cleanses the slums and depressed areas of Manila. Two others came from the African continent namely, Kgalema Motlanthe, former South African president who spent 10 years’ imprisoned on Robben Island. On release he helped strengthen the trade union movement while working for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). Bhekie Maphalala, Minister of Justice, Swaziland constructively criticized the UN. Quoting two previous Gusi Laureates namely Nicholas Hagger [2016, UK] philosopher and recently stated that humanity needs supranationalism more than ever, and the peaceful view of the world that classical philosophy can give while according to Thakur S. Powdyel (2011, Bhutan) former Minister of Education, freedom of expression is a moral act and an article of faith, which when conducted well solves problems, uplifts and inspires or freedom of expression means, the right of an individual to be, to have and to do, within the bounds of propriety, without harm to others or to interfere with another’s rights.
In 2019, Hagger undertook a diplomatic and cultural peace initiative to Moscow in the company of Igor Kondrashin, president, WPF. In my previous searches for Ban Ki-moon for services as Vice President, WPF, I did learn of his email wishes to Hagger when he received the Gusi Peace Prize, 2016.
The acceptance speech of Jeffrey Levett started with a greeting to the people of the Philippines at home and in Greece. A longer extract follows:
As thinking beings we have to wonder which system will collapse next: another part of the environment as a result of climate change; health from a global pandemic; a button pressed initiating nuclear conflagration; the collapse of an economic or banking network, a time when artificial intelligence might take over or some other unexpected disaster for which we are ill prepared. At that moment in time, 120 symbolic seconds to midnight, a time when the unexpected should be awaited, when uncertainty, mindlessness and a distortion of reality characterize our current moment, the work of the Gusi Foundation becomes even more significant to world peace. To cease upon the midnight with no pain is the poet’s understanding of that dramatic moment but Midnight is also the awful moment when a button can be pressed, a key turned, a leaver moved and weapons of mass destruction released from the large stockpile. A few moments later other buttons will be pressed. As Midnight approaches, WWIII a man-made holocaust comes closer and will be over in 60 minutes. One hour later culture dies, languages fall silent, books are no longer read, and radio and television fail to broadcast. Museums, music halls, law courts, churches of all denominations, parliamentary houses, and libraries lie in rubble. The chimes of Big Ben will not make it to the 12th chime. No baby cries, no cherry ripens and there is no further need for any olive branch. At that apocalyptic moment, millions of years of evolution will unravel and the complexity to sustain human consciousness will disintegrate. The ticking clock can only be turned back by ridding the world of nuclear weapons, by politics recognizing the true dimensions of climate change in a world of reduced poverty and inequality, where racism is curbed, civic education for all is ensured, tempered by the wisdom and morality embedded in Greek Classical Philosophy and a peace that passeth all understanding, prevails. In subscribing to the words of St Paul, we say although we are hard pressed on every side, we are not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. Despair was never better expressed than by Aeschylus: pain so intense, not forgotten, even in sleep, falling from the heart, drop-by drop, until in our despair, against our will, Wisdom comes, through the terrible grace of God; The wisdom in Aeschylus is philosophy, which provides a road to peace. Our highest-level goal is to preserve our humanity by reinforcing human rights and exerting our civic responsibility as global citizens and through policy to provide for our children and our children’s children the means to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives as citizens of a less hostile earth within the framework of the golden mean. Should that awful moment come any survivors will be homeless, hungry, in darkness, cold and contaminated.
More than a decade ago it was suggested that ASPHER engage with the daunting realities facing Europe and go global. Today, ASPHER recognizes the unequivocal evidence that war is a man-made public health problem and committed to direct the attention of the public and of policy makers to the irrevocable damage armed conflicts inflict on population health. Consequently, ASPHER stands in solidarity with the convicted TMA members. In 2016 we the representatives of more than 100 member institutions of the Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region (ASPHER) convened in Athens, Greece to celebrate a half century of achievements on the European stage [1966-2016]. In the Athens ASPHER Accord concern was expressed for the predicament and problems engulfing Europe and underlined the need for a vision of hope for harm reduction in population health within a framework of equality. One ingredient for change and problem solution suggested is to strengthen Schools of Public Health. It urged a level of support commensurate with the dramatic problem space of Europe’s humanitarian crises; rise of population vulnerability from austerity, large refuge trails threading throughout Europe and mindless terrorism as well as an affront to our environment and the threat of emerging epidemics and potential disasters.
On January 23 the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has the awesome task of announcing its decision on the setting of the 2020 time of the Doomsday Clock. Will it remain at 120 seconds or be reduced by 30 seconds? The announcement will be made in the presence of highly prestigious members of The Elders, former public officials working independently for peace, justice, and human rights founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007. Speakers include Mary Robinson, chair and, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Ban Ki-moon, former UN Secretary-General who for good reasons has been proclaimed a citizen of the earth. This past summer the Bulletin described tensions between the United States and Iran as spiraling toward a military confrontation carrying a real possibility that the United States will use nuclear weapons.
Today, Dementia depleted consciousness is a danger to democratic society, to the existence of life and WWIII can erupt. What a wonderful start to 2020 if we could say that we are on the threshold of world peace instead of the brink of wars.
Surely, translating the culture of peace into concrete actions has to be much better than globally assured destruction. In the shadow of a nuclear nightmare doing nothing is not an option; not for government, not for the international community and not for high profile citizens and politicians.
War and public health. Oxford University Press, New York 2008.
Neighbours in the Balkans: Initiating a dialogue for health, under the auspices of the WHO, used as prompt by the Council of Europe for the Dubrovnik Pledge on population vulnerability.
Declaration of Skopje Public Health, Peace & Human Rights, December 2001, CMJ, 2002.
Contributing to Balkan Public Health: A School for Skopje, 2002 CMJ.
An Overview of Access to Health in SEE, The Contemporary Scene. Report: South East Europe Strategic Review On Social Cohesion Health Network, Council of Europe.
Ongoing Dialogue for Balkan Health: The Greek INTERREG Program, in Health Sector Reform in Central and Eastern Europe: Current Trends and Priority Research.
Urgent Appeal of the World Philosophical Forum, Reaching out to Greece and back to Classical philosophy, 16 August 2019, Ban Ki-moon where are you now? Bottled message bobbing up and down in the vast ocean, 16 July 2018, See ASPHER Statements in solidarity with members of the Turkish Medical Association who have been convicted of “inciting hatred and hostility” and sentenced to prison in Turkey.
1 International Gusi Peace Prize (27 November, 2019, Manila).