State of the World 2005
by Mikhail S. Gorbachev
This text has been written by the
Green Cross International Chairman for the introduction to the
State of the World 2005 and it has been publish by World Watch
years ago, all 191 United Nations member states pledged to
meet eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015, including
eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and ensuring environmental
sustainability. These critical challenges were reaffirmed
by health officials from across the globe in October 2004
at the tenth anniversary of the landmark International Conference
on Population and Development held in Cairo.
The overarching conclusion from this 2004 meeting was that
while considerable, albeit erratic, progress was indeed being
made in many areas, any optimism must be tempered with the
realization that gains in overall global socioeconomic development,
security, and sustainability do not reflect the reality on
the ground in many parts of the world. Poverty continues to
undermine progress in many areas. Diseases such as HIV/AIDS
are on the rise, creating public health time bombs in numerous
countries. In the last five years, some 20 million children
have died of preventable waterborne diseases, and hundreds
of millions of people continue to live with the daily misery
and squalor associated with the lack of clean drinking water
and adequate sanitation.
We must recognize these shameful global disparities and begin
to address them seriously. I am delighted that the 2004 Nobel
Peace Prize was awarded to Wangari Maathai, a woman whose
personal efforts, leadership, and practical community work
in Kenya and Africa inspire us all by demonstrating the real
progress that can be made in addressing environmental security
and sustainable development challenges where people have the
courage to make a difference.
Humankind has a unique opportunity to make the twenty-first
century one of peace and security. Yet the many possibilities
opened up to us by the end of the cold war appear to have
been partially squandered already. Where has the "peace
dividend" gone that we worked so hard for? Why have regional
conflict and terrorism become so dominant in today's world?
And why have we not made more progress on the Millennium Development
The terrible tragedies of September 11, 2001, the 2004 terrorist
attacks in Beslan in Russia, and the many other terrorist
incidents over the past decade in Japan, Indonesia, the Middle
East, Europe, and elsewhere have all driven home the fact
that we are not adequately prepared to deal with new threats.
But better preparation means thinking more holistically, not
just in traditional cold war terms.
I believe that today the world faces three interrelated challenges:
the challenge of security, including the risks associated
with weapons of mass destruction and terrorism; the challenge
of poverty and underdevelopment; and the challenge of environmental
The challenge of security must be addressed by first securing
and destroying the world's arsenals of weapons of mass destruction.
Both Russia and the United States have taken numerous positive
steps in this direction. But we must accelerate these nonproliferation
and demilitarization efforts and establish threat-reduction
programs around the world if we are to be truly successful.
The world's industrial nations must also commit greater resources
to the poorest countries and regions of the globe. Official
development assistance from the top industrial countries still
represents but a tiny percentage of their gross national products
and does not come close to the pledges made over a decade
ago at the Rio Earth Summit. The growing disparity between
the rich and the poor on our planet and the gross misallocation
of limited resources to consumerism and war cannot be allowed
to continue. If they do, we can expect even greater challenges
and threats ahead.
Regarding the environment, we need to recognize that Earth's
resources are finite. To waste our limited resources is to
lose them in the foreseeable future, with potentially dire
consequences for all regions and the world. Forests, for example,
are increasingly being destroyed in the poorest countries.
Even in Kenya, where Wangari Maathai has helped plant over
30 million trees, forested acreage has decreased. The global
water crisis is also one of the single biggest threats facing
humankind. Four out of 10 people in the world live in river
basins shared by two or more countries, and the lack of cooperation
between those sharing these precious water resources is reducing
living standards, causing devastating environmental problems,
and even contributing to violent conflict. Most important
of all, we must wake up to the dangers of climate change and
devote more resources to the crucial search for energy alternatives.
It is for reasons such as these that I founded Green Cross
International 12 years ago and continue to advocate for a
global value shift on how we handle Earth, a new sense of
global interdependence, and a shared responsibility in humanity's
relationship with nature. It is also for these reasons that
I helped draft the Earth Charter, a code of ethical principles
now endorsed by over 8,000 organizations representing more
than 100 million people around the world. And it is for these
reasons that Maurice Strong, Chair of the Earth Council, and
I have initiated the Earth Dialogues, a series of public forums
on ethics and sustainable development.
We need a Global Glasnost-openness, transparency, and public
dialogue-on the part of nations, governments, and citizens
today to build consensus around these challenges. And we need
a policy of "preventive engagement": international
and individual solidarity and action to meet the challenges
of poverty, disease, environmental degradation, and conflict
in a sustainable and nonviolent way.
We are the guests, not the masters, of nature and must develop
a new paradigm for development and conflict resolution, based
on the costs and benefits to all peoples and bound by the
limits of nature herself rather than by the limits of technology
and consumerism. I am delighted that the Worldwatch Institute
continues to address these important challenges and goals
in its annual State of the World report. I urge all readers
to seriously consider their personal commitments to action
after finishing this volume. Only with the active and dedicated
participation of civil society will we be successful in building
a sustainable, just, and peaceful world for the twenty-first
century and beyond.
Mikhail S. Gorbachev