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Looking to the 21st century - a Monitor agenda for action

By DI / January 5, 1987

THERE is nothing like the outset of a new year to prompt the setting of fresh sights for what can be accomplished. At the start of 1987, we invite our readers to look forward somewhat further than usual - not just to the new year ahead, but to the start of the new century that begins in little more than a decade.

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Starting on the 21st century now is important. The future is embraced by today. Human events form more of a continuum than is usually recognized. Today's motives and decisions are a force for good or ill. Hence there is a moral responsibility to understand what is going on in today's world and to what end our thoughts and actions are tending.

In this spirit we are putting forward here a Monitor agenda of topics for special attention through the year 2000. Its main headings:

Peace. Progress toward world peace should begin with an arms agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union, along with accords on the future of space defenses and the reduction of nuclear weapons to minimal levels. The arts of diplomacy and conflict resolution should be extended to address regional struggles like the Iran-Iraq war. Causes of terrorism and other forms of violence must be exposed and eliminated from the world scene and from our neighborhoods.

Poverty. The world tragically is too full of the hungry, homeless, sick, impoverished. The gap between North and South, the developing and developed nations, the overfed with their farm surpluses and the underfed with their shortages, cannot be allowed to widen. Within societies, economic imbalance and social trends must not be allowed to drive a class cleavage between a few well-to-do and a vast underclass.

Environment. The relatively young environmental movement must be nurtured, the responsibility for leaving a vital natural legacy to future earthlings encouraged. People must learn to live more in harmony with nature.

Children. Caring for the world's most vulnerable members must be pursued vigilantly. This most obviously begins with children, in whose consciousness and experience the future takes shape. In much of the developing world, more than three quarters of the people are less than 15 years old. Families must be strengthened, educational systems improved. But the needs of others also demand address: senior members of society, whose numbers are expanding rapidly; women, whose rights are often flagrantly denied; and young men, whose lives are most prone to violence in their own communities and in war.

Freedom. Individual rights of conscience, movement, expression, and employment must be better protected all over the world. The rule of law must be extended. Governments, or the political units into which peoples organize themselves, may need better legislation, improved ethical standards, to achieve a broader sense of justice. Democratic government requires active citizen participation, and access to accurate, uncensored information, which should be promoted worldwide.