1997 Onwards -
Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech at the Royal Commonwealth Society Dinner on Thursday 20th May 2004. The speech was entitled “Priorities for a Changing World”.
Delighted to be invited here this evening and especially pleased to be speaking under the Chairmanship of my old friend, Emeka Anyaoku.
Over the years, the Commonwealth has had many advocates but none, I think, more persuasive or more consistent. Both as Secretary General for 10 years -
It’s not easy to explain the attributes of the Commonwealth: part historic, part commercial, part blood ties, part romantic and yet, overall, rather ethereal. But -
I came under its spell in the mid 1960’s when -
Some say the Commonwealth is a rag-
One indisputable fact about the Commonwealth is that it is very diverse -
Sometimes the poorer countries face their problems in virtual anonymity: they do not hit the headlines.
The other day I lunched with a senior Army Officer who told me a tale I should have known -
A few weeks 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-
Commonwealth leaders should consider how they can help with such problems.
Let me now look at our world as it is -
In the 17th Century, the English poet, John Donne, wrote: "No man is an island, entire of itself".
Today, in the 21st Century, we are all inter-
And our world is turbulent. We can foresee some of the changes to come. Others we cannot. But we can be certain the world of our future will be vastly different from our world of today.
We now live in a world without economic boundaries: once crumbling they are now gone.
As globalisation spreads, the command economy has all but disappeared. As the unfettered power of Government diminishes, the power of markets increase. As technology grows, markets never sleep.
Nor does the march of politics.
In the last few years, we have seen a political revolution that is reshaping the political map as surely as globalisation has transformed business and economies.
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.
For example, if the Soviet Union had not collapsed -
If the Soviet Union had not collapsed, would the EU be about to admit ten more Member States -
If the Soviet Union hadn’t collapsed, would a coalition of nations now be engaged in a War Against Terror knowing that -
We are also in a world in which economic growth is tilting from West to East and yet -
If one looks around our world, what are the problems that stand out?
I don’t want to delve into this contentious issue tonight, except to say that it is very divisive and may cast a long shadow for many years. Similarly, Palestine seems impossible to solve and sets Nation against Nation. These disputes unsettle relationships far beyond the Middle East. In particular, they divide Moslems around the world -
But these are issues for another time and place. Tonight, I want to touch upon two great social problems that are more costly in lives than Iraq or the Arab-
Poverty is not only an evil in itself: it also fuels despair and can be a recruiting sergeant for terrorism. At minimum, it offers a ready ear for those who wish to foster hatred against richer and more developed nations.
As we look forward, we should assess the political, social and economic long-
In some parts of the world, corruption and poverty condemn untold millions to a life of misery and hardship. Some may say: “Well, that’s their problem. Bad Government, bad economic decisions, bad judgements made this problem.” Well, may be -
Our world has six billion souls. Of these six billion, one-
The rich nations do much to help -
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, 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. This is not sustainable if we wish our children to inherit a world free of conflict. Nor is it moral.
In the 1940s/50s -
Not even the wealth of America could do that these days. But, in a world of growing global security -
It will come -
But act early, act out of conscience -
I am conscious that many may say -
There are pleas I can make in mitigation -
As I look back, I should have done more. I wish I had. But the chance is gone. Now I am an older and wiser man and I hope to persuade my successors to raise their game. The cause is good, the need is very great, and action is imperative.
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 organisations such as the Clinton Foundation. 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.
But much more is needed. The world must focus more on this problem or risk being overborne by it.
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.
I don’t wish to disparage what is already being done but piecemeal contributions could be made more valuable by a co-
I was brought up in Brixton in the 1950’s -
How wrong they were. Now, 50 years later -
There is hope in that: and the Commonwealth can rightly claim much of the credit.