By Salma Yusuf
The year was 2010, the venue was the United Nations General Assembly, and the occasion was the 65th session of the General Assembly. The context was a world where crises are rampant and hopelessness is contagious.
The effects of globalization were being felt in every continent on the planet and in every sector of human existence, be it political, financial, social, religious or cultural.
The time had come for fresh thinking that could transcend the barriers of politics and economics, and cross the frontiers of religion and culture. The world was yearning for an idea to hold on to and an idea to identify with in an attempt to face the new waves and forms of extremism that had permeated most sectors of human existence: the manifestations are apparent in global issues ranging from climate change, global human trafficking, illicit flow of funds, over-leverage in international banking, and massive credit bailouts to international terrorism and the alleged weapons of mass destruction.
An ideal that would not only provide answers and solutions but one that could also provide direction in a world fragmented by divisiveness and dissension. A world where difference was increasingly becoming a source for discontent and misgiving, disrupting the lives of people all over the world.
it is in the light of the above backdrop that the the idea of a Global Movement of the Moderates (GMM) was born. It is the newest and latest concept in the sphere of international relations. And what is more, it has tickled the interest of the Sri Lankan, who sees the relevance, the applicability and value of adapting the ethos of the movement into the local context.
The idea of GMM was originally articulated by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Najib Razak at the 65th General Assembly of the United Nations in September 2010. The goal was to rally the moderates from all over the world to stand up for what they believe, lest the ‘noisy minority’ at the periphery were to crowd out the voices of moderation. Elaborating further, Prime Minister Razak observes ‘…we cannot rid the world of extreme views by force. Violence begets violence – so we can best foster tolerance and understanding not by silencing the voice of hatred but by making the voice of reason louder. Persuasion, negotiation and co – operation: these must be our weapons in the face of enmity and malice.’
The Global Movement of Moderates Foundation (GMMF) was formed to look into various manifestations of extremism, especially how moderates can make their presence felt in areas such as sustainable development, education, conflict resolution, rule of law and democracy, economy and finance. The ethos of the movement is embedded in the following conclusion: The real divide is not between East or West, between the developing or developed world, but the real battle is between the moderates and the extremists.
THE KEY MESSAGE
The key message in moderation is that no enterprise to be successful, can be value – free or value – neutral. To be so would only see a spiralling descent into extremism be it economic or financial, political or religious, social or cultural. It advocates the imputing of a value – based framework for all aspects of nation building and international relations, from governance to sustainable development, from economic sustainability to upholding the rule of law, from peace building to harmonious living.
THE CURRENT STATUS
The inaugural International Conference on the Global Movement of Moderates was held in January 2012 in Kuala Lampur which saw the participation of over 500 dignitaries and distinguished invitees from all regions and walks of life. The conference examined the following aspects which could also serve as a useful roadmap for adapting the movement to benefit the Sri Lankan context: cultivating an ethos of commonality and unity both of which are vital to the creation of sustainable cooperation in nation building and international relations; the re – examination of the global financial architecture; The participants were of the belief that with increasing commitment and collective application, moderation can neutralize extremism. This would be a constructive force in terms of the conduct of relations between and within countries. The acceptance of the concept of moderation in international politics would impose to all parties, state and non – state actors, a responsibility to conduct relations and interactions in the manner that helps diffuse possible tension and conflict.
What is interesting to note is that this initiative since its inception in 2010 has now passed from Malaysia to ASEAN. A Concept Paper on GMM is now in the hands of Dr Surin Pitsuwan, the ASEAN Secretary General. Due to its track record of maintaining peace and prosperity – often at great odds – ASEAN has been entrusted with the responsibility of “operationalizing” GMM at the local, national and international levels.
Moreover, since the announcement of the movement, the idea has been presented at the Asia Europe Meeting, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), the Asia Pacific Europe Meeting and finally ASEAN. What is of significant note is that at CHOGM it became part of CHOGM’s Final Communique.
Ultimately, what empowers GMM is increasing the number of like – minded governments and non – governmental actors that can see the value of uniting around common interest, and moving away from orthodoxy.
A clarification is in immediate order. Being moderate is not about being weak, about appeasement or about institutional mediocrity. And it certainly is not about half – hearted approaches to action. On the contrary, moderation is a vehicle and strategy for empowerment for us to go forward and to leave a mark for good – attending to the needs, frustrations and anxieties of others and despite difference and disagreement to strive towards finding progressive solutions together based on our shared humanity and prosperity.
MODERATION AND DEMOCRACY
The approach of moderation is to ensure that the voiceless are given a voice and a platform irrespective of their point of view or side they are on. Moderation does not mean that political sides or stands cannot be taken, what it means is that the national interest will be put in front and first irrespective of the side you are on. It ensures that the voices of dissent are not silenced or subdued merely on account of a particular view but rather empowered if justifiably expressed in the national interest. Working towards the common interest, the national interest, and the global interest is what is accorded priority status iby the GMM.
IMPLICATIONS FOR MULTI – ETHNIC SOCIETIES
Multiculturalism and harmony flourish where there is moderation and its sister virtues, empathy and tolerance. Today, tolerance needs to graduate to the next level of acceptance to see true and genuine coexistence between diverse communities.
Practising moderation in policies, the regulation of the economy and in national unity, are examples of key sectors that have value in embedding an ethos of moderation.
Moderation is guided by the philosophy of integration rather than assimilation in the management of ethnic and religious relations: integration calling for a context where diversity is celebrated in contrast to assimilation which eliminates differences to create a new identity. The concept of moderation rejects the latter approach as being incompatible with existing realities in a multi – ethnic, multi – cultural and multi – religious societies.
BUILDING SUSTAINABLE PEACE
Peace will be sustainable if premised upon a covenant of the willing and not one enforced through fear or coercion. Such peace can only be achieved through a willingness to constructively engage each other through dialogue. Such discussions would help in creating a deeper understanding as well as appreciation and respect of each other.
MODERATION IN THE 21 st CENTURY
In the 21st century our economies are so integrated and interdependent, and production processes are dispersed across borders.
National interests are becoming more and more about collective interests, and our task now is to reflect this in a multilateralism that is both hard headedly realistic and progressive. Because the way ahead must be built on co – operation and not confrontation, and every country has to play its part.
Foreign policy and relations of a sovereign nation will need to be cognizant of changing contexts and times. Moderation acknowledges the inextricable link between the domestic, the regional and the international.
THE MOVEMENT ARRIVES IN SRI LANKA
The ASEAN – endorsed movement has now arrived in South Asia. Sri Lanka will be the first country in the region to consider the prospect of a movement of moderates for the country. A multi-disciplinary task force comprising committed Sri Lankan professionals from diverse sectors has been set up for the purpose of floating the idea in Sri Lanka. The task force is currently evaluating the potential and promise of adapting the concept for local consumption.
The details will be released to the public domain in the coming months. The modalities and strategies for implementation are being crystallized by this interest group actively working in the national interest. The movement is expected to be officially launched shortly thereafter.