Values highlighted on UN anniversary

October 7, 2005

UNITED NATIONS, United States — In observance of the 60th anniversary of the United Nations, the Baha'i International Community has issued a major statement that focuses on the importance of the oneness of humanity and religious freedom as critical values in the process of UN reform.

"The blurring of national boundaries in the face of global crises has shown, beyond a doubt, that the body of humankind represents one organic whole," says the statement, which is titled "The Search for Values in an Age of Transition."

Accordingly, the oneness of humanity must become the overriding focus as humanity searches for solutions to global challenges such as poverty, AIDS, environmental degradation, terrorism, and the proliferation of weapons.

"It is clear that none of the problems facing humanity can be adequately addressed in isolation from one another," the statement says.

"The increasingly apparent interconnectedness of development, security and human rights on a global scale confirms that peace and prosperity are indivisible -- that no sustainable benefit can be conferred on a nation or community if the welfare of the nations as a whole is ignored or neglected."

Moreover, the statement asserts that the issues surrounding religion and freedom of belief have now risen to a level of "consuming global importance, which the United Nations cannot afford to ignore."

"While the General Assembly has passed a number of resolutions addressing the role of religion in the promotion of peace and calling for the elimination of religious intolerance, it struggles to grasp fully both the constructive role that religion can play in creating a peaceful global order and the destructive impact that religious fanaticism can have on the stability and progress of the world," the statement says.

"A growing number of leaders and deliberative bodies acknowledge that such considerations must move from the periphery to the center of debate -- recognizing that the full impact of religion-related variables on governance, diplomacy, human rights, development, notions of justice, and collective security must be better understood."

Within the framework of these two main themes, the statement offers a number of concrete recommendations to the United Nations. These recommendations fall in four broad areas: human rights, development, democracy, and collective security.

Among the recommendations are:

-- A call for "the United Nations to affirm unequivocally an individual's right to change his or her religion under international law."

-- The establishment of a timeline for the universal ratification of international human rights treaties.

-- That the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights should become "the standard-bearer in the field of human rights and an effective tool in alleviating the suffering of individuals and groups whose rights are denied."

-- An emphasis on education in UN development programs, since the "capacity of people to participate in the generation and application of knowledge is an essential component of human development." Special attention should be given to the education of girls, which "may well yield the highest return of all investments available in developing countries."

-- That the rich countries of the world have a moral obligation to remove export and trade measures that bar the entry of countries struggling to participate in the global market.

-- That the UN should develop modes for the "constructive and systematic engagement with organizations of civil society (including businesses and religious organizations)."

-- That "healthy democracy must be founded on the principle of the equality of men and women" and efforts by member states to promote democracy must therefore "vigilantly work for the inclusion of women in all facets of governance in their respective countries."

-- That "in our interconnected world, a threat to one is a threat to all," and the principle of collective security ultimately means that "the United Nations must in due course move towards adopting a procedure for eventually eliminating permanent membership and veto power" in the Security Council.

The Baha'i International Community has previously issued major statements on the important anniversaries of the founding of the United Nations. On the 10th anniversary, in 1955, the Community issued a statement offering "Proposals to the United Nations for Charter Revision." And in 1995, on the 50th anniversary of the UN, it issued "Turning Point for All Nations."

The full text of "The Search for Values in an Age of Transition" can be read at: