Development & Aid, Environment, Tierramerica

Conference for Peace Under Way in Puerto Rico

MONTEVIDEO, Aug 11 2002 (IPS) - Latin American personalities like Oscar Arias, Ricky Martin and Franklin Chang are meeting Aug 12-14 with other prominent scientists, artists and activists from around the world to condemn the militarism that continues in times of relative peace, and its effects on the environment.



Peace activists, including Nobel laureates, politicians, scientists, and artists, from around the world are gathered in Puerto Rico, a free associate state of the United States, to explore possibilities of building a “new humanity”, one in which people can resolve conflicts without hurting each other or the environment.

The participants in “Peace in Peacetime: International Conference on Peace and Development” will draft a declaration in which they will exhort the approximately 100 heads of state who will gather for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Aug 26-Sep 4) to halt military operations that harm people and the environment, such as those the United States carries out on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques.

“The aim is to motivate global reflection on peace in order to confront problems like terrorism, environmental destruction and social inequalities,” Antonio Fas Alzamora, president of the Puerto Rican Senate and organizer of the conference alongside the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress, told Tierramérica.

The declaration will urge the inclusion in the Johannesburg Summit agenda of the negative impact of armamentism and military operations on the environment and on human development, an area the 1992 Earth Summit, in Rio de Janeiro, failed to address, he said.

The document serving as the basis for the Puerto Rico meeting states that the world's combined weapons budgets in 2000 were the equivalent of 130 dollars per person on the planet, or 35 percent of what a quarter of the world population earns in a year.

The initiative is also being led by former Costa Rican president, Oscar Arias (1986-1990), winner of the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize. The event under way in San Juan includes the presence of Maneka Gandhi, lawmaker and social justice activists from India, Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, Costa Rican astronaut and scientist Franklin Change, and U.S. Democratic Party activist Jesse Jackson.

Other notables at the Peace in Peacetime conference are Puerto Rican pop star Ricky Martin, Ireland's Betty Williams, 1976 Nobel Peace laureate, Deepak Chopra, a “poet-prophet” of alternative medicine, and Ernesto Sábato, renowned Argentine author, among others.

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