1997 Onwards -
Below is the text of John Major’s speech at the Sue Ryder Care Centre Lecture, held on Friday 29th October 2004. The speech was titled “A World for Our Children”.
SIR JOHN MAJOR:
In the 17th century, the English poet, John Donne wrote: "No man is an island, entire of itself".
That is even more true today: true of life, true of international affairs; true of the sick; and especially true of those who suffer from progressive degenerative diseases.
Sue Ryder recognised this over 50 years ago and devoted herself to the care of those who could not be "entire of themselves". Countless numbers -
We are lucky, most of us: we are fit, healthy, not crippled in mind or body and we have a life in which hope is always there -
It is not so for everyone. Around the world there are millions upon millions who lead a life without hope -
The demands of life can be pitiless. Too many individuals assume Governments can foresee problems and solve them. They can't. Nor can they cut taxes and spend more on services; or deal with today's frustrations and prevent tomorrow's arising; or focus on domestic issues yet, at the same time, keep the world's problems at a distance.
Governments are not omnipotent: far from it. What Harold MacMillan once memorably called "Events, dear boy" shape the agenda more often than not with Governments limply following behind.
Sometimes they are too far behind -
Poverty is not only an evil in itself: it also fuels despair, can motivate crime and even be a recruiting sergeant for terrorism. In some parts of the world it offers a ready ear for those who wish to foster hatred against richer and more developed nations.
Often you can see why.
A few months ago, the world was rightly horrified at the slaughter of the terrorist bombs in Madrid. But at broadly the same time, Uganda lived through a comparable loss of life. The so-
As we look forward, we will have to assess the political, social and economic implications of the rich developed nations continuing to get richer, whilst the undeveloped nations fall yet further behind.
In some parts of the world, corruption and poverty condemn untold millions to a life of misery and hardship. Some may say: "Well, bad Government, bad economic decisions, bad judgements made this problem. So, they did it -
Our world has six billion souls. Of these six billion, one-
The rich nations do much to help -
A statistic that is even more bizarre when you realise such subsidies cut away the possibility of poor nations selling their agricultural produce -
It seems to me that long-
In helping others, we help ourselves. In removing grievances, we cut away the resentment of the "have-
Moreover, if we do nothing, or only a little, the problem will worsen. In the next 25 years, world population will grow from 6 billion to 8 billion. Of the extra 2 billion, 97% will be in that part of the world that has an income below US $2 per day. And many of them will be in areas of urban deprivation. This is not sustainable if we wish our children to inherit a world free of conflict. Nor is it moral.
But if we act early, act out of conscience -
So too with AIDS.
There was a time when untutored opinion thought AIDS was a self-
We know better now.
To date, 20 million people have died of AIDS and around 40 million more may now have the disease. Of that 40 million, 6 million may be near-
It is a worldwide epidemic. The Caribbean, India, Europe East and West, China, Latin America -
The catalogue of catastrophe unfolds. In parts of the Commonwealth, the problem is acute. In Botswana, life expectancy is below 40 -
In Uganda, one million live with AIDS, and one million have died because of it.
In South Africa, one in eight has the virus. Many innocent children are infected in the womb or through breastfeeding and are born only to die young; others are orphans having lost both parents to the disease. It is a truly desperate situation.
The horror statistics roll on. AIDS is the bubonic plague of our Age and -
AIDS has many nightmarish qualities, but one in particular that bodes ill for the future. The virus is cunning: the time-
What can be done? Much is in hand through the WHO, individual Governments, and the work of charitable organisations. It would help if the disputes between some of these bodies could be resolved -
This squabble reminds me of the legend of Buridan’s Ass. An Ass, faced with two equally desirable bales of hay, starves to death because he cannot find a reason for preferring one to the other -
We must solve these disputes speedily and decide whether generics are effective. For while the squabble continues, the sick suffer and the sick die.
Money is the root of all progress but is insufficient. Education on preventative care, medical treatment, and support, is vital but so is a comprehensive approach. The G7 Industrial Nations should put this problem alongside poverty as a priority for all nations, and work with the UN to hold back and then reverse the tide of misery that is the legacy of AIDS.
Much is being done: but not enough. The world must focus on this problem or risk being overborne by it.
Let me turn to the political revolution that is already changing our world.
The most significant event of the last fifty years was the collapse of Soviet Russia.
At the time we all believed the world was safer. It was: the threat of a nuclear exchange between the superpowers had fallen. What we did not realise was that this global security came at a price: it unleashed far greater regional instability and foreshadowed a shifting map of the world.
Let me put flesh on that: if the Soviet Union had not collapsed -
If the Soviet Union had not collapsed, would the EU have just admitted to membership ten more Member States -
If the Soviet Union hadn't collapsed, would we now be engaged in a War Against Terror knowing that -
In 1915 Britain invaded and occupied Mesopotamia to protect oil interests in Persia.
The British created "modern" Iraq out of Mesopotamia and the Governates of Baghdad, Basra and Mosul. It was nation building and yet we were regarded as "foreign occupiers" and faced widespread rebellion before we were able to establish an indigenous Government -
Today in Iraq, we now have an interim Administration planning to hold an election in January to create the democratically elected Government that must take Iraq into the future.
Many problems lay ahead, none of them easy.
The first is -
To do so, we need:
And, above all, we must have law and order on the streets.
If there is chaos in Najaf or Fullujah -
If not, would the elections be seen as legitimate?
Would the Presidential election be valid if Texas and California were disenfranchised.
An election in January is the right aim -
Who wins? Probably Shi'ites (70%)
Will Kurds accept that?
Will Sunnis accept? They have feared and distrusted one another for generations.
If the Kurds are aggrieved -
And, if they do, how will Turkey react?
These are questions to which we do not yet know the answer.
Any new Government's first job will be to draft a New Constitution.
The dilemma here is evident:-
And then: of course -
WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF COALITION?
Can they leave Iraq? They are on the Morton's Fork of a dilemma.
If America and Britain go -
What will they do then?
And, if they stay, will this radicalise Islam even more?
I set these questions out -
Our children's world will have a different economic perspective as well as social and political.
The economic event of the age is the rise of Asia. It began
We should not be surprised at the change unfolding before us.
One thousand years before Europe, China invented an iron plough for agriculture and modern paper for writing.
In the 10th century, China developed inoculations for smallpox. Europe got there -
The Chinese were making silk -
They perfected suspension bridges when the British still lived in mud huts, and North America was undiscovered.
China’s decline as a world power started in the early 19th century when she failed to have an industrial revolution. Now, she is having one, and we are seeing the re-
Over the last eight years, China has accounted for one-
China has space, raw materials, an inexhaustible supply of cheap labour, and is importing technology skills daily. She is becoming the manufacturing centre of the world, easily more cost-
She is buying up oil fields, petro-
It is therefore no surprise that Asian countries will no longer take any important decision, without considering how China will react. For China is a rising power and -
It is a wondrous sight: a once closed Communist economy marching out into the Capitalist world.
But all is not rosy. You cannot adopt quasi-
And, of course, Russia. The 20th century was a nightmare for Russia. Tens of millions were killed in the First World War: millions more in the Revolution and the Civil War that followed.
Then came the famine of 1921; Stalin's terrors of the 1930s; and the Second World War -
Today the Black Sea fleet may be rusting -
It is time to look again at the Russia that will be -
The economy is now doing far better. Growth averages 7% and foreign investment is rising sharply. Reform is continuous. Taxes are being reformed. So is housing, pensions, education, health care and privatisation is on the agenda.
Wherever we look, there is change.
We have a global economy. The political map is fluid. It is difficult to keep up with new developments in technology and communications.
The speed of medical advance is as bewildering as the demand for medical services in infinite.
There is a pattern here in all aspects of our life. Science and technology is accelerating change which already takes place at break-
Two years ago, I attended the funeral of Her Majesty the Queen Mother and, as I sat in Westminster Abbey, I pondered upon the remarkable advances the world has seen during the 100 years of her life.
At her birth, no-
As a child, the Queen Mother would have remembered the amazement -
When she was a child, the Europeans were dominant.
The United Kingdom, France and Russia controlled 80% of the world’s surface.
The United States was still a debtor nation -
How things have changed.
The Ottoman Empire has gone.
The French Empire has gone.
The British Empire has gone.
The Russian Empire has come -
The US is now the most powerful nation in the world with China -
Europe is building unity on the back of 1,000 years of war, and establishing a free trade area from Ireland in the West to the very borders of Russia in the East.
Children born today will see the conquest of the stars.
They will live longer, see more, do more, know more than any earlier generation.
They will see deserts bloom.
See a genetic rebuilding of failing bodies.
Live with technical innovations beyond our present imagination.
It will be a world unrecognisable to their forebears.
Against the enormous changes that are taking place, we need what I call “grown-
The events of September 11th are giving us a masterclass in consequences. We need politics that confronts the uncomfortable. Politics that rises above the short-
I will read you a poem you may know and I learned as a child:
For the want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For the want of a horse the rider was lost.
For the want of a rider the message was lost.
For the want of a message the battle was lost.
For the want of a battle the war was lost.
For the want of a war the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
Benjamin Franklin, 1758
It is the classic illustration of how a chain of events can be triggered by one single incident.
If it was true in the world of the 18th century, when Britain had to wait months for a ship to sail home and tell them the French had helped America become independent -
We have, heaven knows, enough long term domestic problems.
How to improve health care and education.
How to modernize our infra-
How to provide security in retirement when people retire earlier and live longer.
These are big issues -
Our world is competitive. Complex. Confusing. Sometimes it is brutal. But it is our world, and we would be wise to understand how it is so we can shape how it could be.
We have the ability to do so -