Haverford College Plays Host to “Life Changing” Event Organized by the Global Security Institute – Global Leaders Offer Hope Through Responsibility

Event Report
February 16-17, 2002

HAVERFORD, PA: In a two-day event, organized by the Global Security Institute, convened by primatologist and GSI Advisor Jane Goodall, and chaired by GSI President Jonathan Granoff, more than 800 people gathered at Haverford College, near Philadelphia, to focus on how awakening a sense of global responsibility can help us to address the challenges we face as a global community.

The conference engaged participants in examining the connections between the varied crises facing humanity. Experts spoke on issues ranging from nuclear disarmament to human rights, environmental protection and women’s rights to religious freedom and democracy, and emphasized that the resolution of each of these issues hinges upon progress toward the resolution of others.“This conference advanced the dialogue in that it articulated a holistic view of human security,” said Global Security Institute President and conference chair Jonathan Granoff. “We cannot continue to pursue environmental justice, international security, and social justice as if they were discrete and unrelated movements. We are all affected by the moral and practical problems posed by massive numbers of people suffering under crushing poverty, gross disparities in wealth, environmental degradation, and the threats posed by weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. To solve these crises, we must stimulate deeper cooperation and foster, in every individual, a sense of global responsibility.”

The conference, entitled “Global Responsibility: A Reason for Hope,” involved the cooperative efforts of the Global Security Institute, the Jane Goodall Institute, Higher Ground for Humanity, the Green Belt Movement, the Chautauqua Institution, the Earth Charter, the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy, the Global Dialogue Institute, the World Commission on Global Consciousness and Spirituality, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and 20/20 Vision. Haverford College, whose Quaker tradition of peace and social responsibility made it a perfect venue, generously donated its facilities. The organizing groups made a joint call for individuals to take initiative and become active members of the global community, and each group provided a set of models for how participants could make a difference.

The theme of personal responsibility and engagement was reflected in the innovative conference format, which provided speakers and participants the opportunity to engage in deep and direct dialogue. Presenters spoke openly about the personal and spiritual values that led them to their work.

Many participants attested to the powerful and personal impact that this dialogue had upon their thinking. The innovation in message and presentation created an impact on the media assembled, with the Main Line Times heralding the gathering as one that “may rank as a moment of human progress along with the Elizabeth Cady Stanton/Susan B. Anthony Seneca Falls meeting that launched the movement for women’s rights.”

Conference speakers included: Jane Goodall, noted primatologist and environmental and animal rights activist; Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, former General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ; Ashok Gangadean, philosophy professor at Haverford College and co-founder of the World Commission on Global Consciousness and Spirituality; Ambassador Thomas Graham, top negotiator for the US in arms-control treaties during the past two decades; Hafsat Abiola, pro-democracy activist and daughter of Nigerian president MK Abiola, who was killed by the military in their country; Wangari Maathai, Kenyan environmental activist and founder of the Greenbelt Movement; David Krieger, expert in and activist for the abolition of nuclear weapons; and Lenedra Carroll, talent manager, artist, author and founder of Higher Ground for Humanity. One participant was pleased to note that of the eight presenters, five were women, three were people of color, and two came from sub-Saharan Africa.

With three featured presenters, a central thematic focus was the threat posed by nuclear weapons. As chair Jonathan Granoff said, “This conference highlighted the importance of nuclear disarmament for an audience that may not have appreciated its connection to issues that matter to them. Nuclear weapons are an environmental issue that threatens our sustainability as a species. They are a challenge to international social justice-why should a handful of states be privileged with possession of these devices? Perhaps most importantly, nuclear weapons pose a profound moral challenge. By eliminating nuclear weapons, we will evolve the moral consciousness and the legal tools that can help solve the other issues that face us.”

The conference aimed at inspiring participants to action, and giving them models for effecting change. Hafsat Abiola, who dedicated her life to activism after her parents were assassinated by the military in her country, said “I share this story so that all you students here who say ‘What can I do?’ You can change the world.Together we will change the world.”

Dr. Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement and the first woman from East Africa to earn a Ph.D., challenged the audience: “Few consider themselves part of the problem.But I have learned to ask, ‘What part do I play? Can I be a part of the solution?'”

“We not only can act,” charged Dr. Goodall, “we must act.”

The message of action was not lost on participants, many of whom took immediate steps: circulating petitions, strategizing on ways to integrate the message of global responsibility into their curricula, committing to organize political groups, writing essays and articles for publication, and mailing letters to elected representatives (GSI provided postcards for participants to send). Students from Lower Merion High School are planning a Global Responsibility Day this Spring, and high school and college students have signed up for a trip, led by GSI, to visit their legislators. Many participants continue to write to the Global Security Institute expressing gratitude for the event, which some called “life-changing,” and declaring a desire to be involved with the activities of GSI and the movement in general.

The inspirational message of the conference came at a crucial time. As one participant wrote to GSI, “As I began to try to explain to friends and family members what had happened [at the conference], I realized that the despair that had been hanging over me since the September 11th attacks (and subsequent bombing of Afghanistan) had dissipated. The compassion and courageous actions of the speakers, as well as their thoughtfulness and determination, reflected a deep spirit which filled my heart and those around me with hope.”

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