A Fresh Start
THREE main themes for the world's agenda for 1989: Individuals should seek a fuller sense of world citizenship and responsibility - strive for a more global outlook.
World leaders should take advantage of a climate of opportunity that is developing in significant parts of the world.
And special care should be taken to support organizations - from local governments to international agencies - which offer a framework for society's needs.
The year begins with favorable signs. Much of the shooting has stopped in southern Africa, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Nicaragua, creating openings for diplomacy to secure peace. The United Nations revived its usefulness over the past year as a catalyst for peace and as a forum for diplomatic initiatives. The relations between the world's superpowers continue to shift dramatically in a positive direction.
These trends provide a foundation for world leaders to build upon. Conditions are more favorable for the solution of such perplexing problems as peace in Central America, famine in Africa, and hostility in the Mideast.
The efforts of world leaders will generate the headlines of 1989. But beneath those headlines will be a mountain of other stories just as crucial that may go largely unnoted. In towns, cities, countries throughout the world, individuals will be making decisions that have an impact beyond themselves: the suburban American who decides to participate in a program to teach English to immigrants, the Brazilian who decides to become active in efforts to save her country's forests. And not just average people with average lives. The president who decides actually to do something about issues like homelessness, or the mayor determined to root out corruption in a police department, are also individuals motivated to improve the lives of their fellow citizens.
But millions of other individuals throughout the world, people just as capable of helping the world, are constrained by economic, social, and political bonds. Poverty keeps vast numbers in a desperate struggle for survival. Oppressive governments stifle expression. Traditions block women and ethnic minorities from discovering what their contributions to society might be.
A world agenda for 1989 should be directed to lifting these constraints. Observance of fundamental human rights should continue as a worldwide goal. Organizations such as Amnesty International serve by keeping abuses of governmental power before our eyes. Progress in addressing those abuses has to be seen as critical to advances in the economic and political realms.
The economic chaos threatening so much of humanity has to be attacked from many angles. Debt burdens hold down productivity and growth throughout the developing world. This year should see a lifting of that burden, through the efforts of governments, bankers, and international organizations. All countries have an interest in seeing the debtor nations of Latin America and Africa participate more fully in the world's economy.
Environmental concerns follow closely upon economic development. The best thinking of scientists and policymakers from every part of the globe is needed to protect air, water, and soil. The world can no longer accept the assumption that economic progress means environmental degradation. Ozone depletion and climatic change are forcing international attention on the way we use energy, package goods, and dispose of waste.
It is organizations, of course, that bring about many of the changes needed to improve the lot of individuals. Hence their effectiveness is crucial. International structures like the United Nations with its many branches, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund need the full support of the world community - including paying up back dues and, in some cases, laying aside narrow national interests for the broader good of humanity. And organizations themselves need to be jostled out of bureaucratic inertia.
At the same time, organizations at all levels of society - from local school boards to the UN - face a dual challenge: ever more complex problems and an ever more pressing need to meet them. Organizations have never been more crucial to the lives of individuals, and committed individuals have never been more crucial to organizations.
At the deepest level, moral and spiritual energies fuel constructive change. It's an energy source mankind has only begun to tap.