Let Us Found A Helsinki Citizens Assembly

Regular readers will know of a dialogue between activists of the East and West and of the plan to create a forum for citizens of the CSCE. This is its founding document. You may want to endorse it.

THE MOST ELOQUENT symbol of the division of Europe and the world-the Berlin Wall-has collapsed. Mter many years of anxiety and insecurity, the world is entering an era of great hope. The political landscape is being transformed. For the first time since the end of the Second World War, there is real possibility of constructing new relationships in Europe and the world that do not depend on the threat of military force.

However, many obstacles and much unfinished business remains to be addressed. Many democratic rights have yet to be institutionalized into law. Huge military infrastructures and large stockpiles of weapons are still in place. There are major differences in the level of economic development and standards of living between East and West, North and South, as well as within indi vi dual countries. Environmental degradation poses a serious threat to survival and gives rise to new conflicts. National and cultural identities have re-emerged with the desire for self-determination and democracy, but this can and also does lead to a revival of old hatreds and fears.

TO ADDRESS these problems will require great creativity, riew thinking and the active participation of citizens and governments. In other words, we still have to establish functioning and sustainable democracies. The discussion about the future shape of various economic systems and about how to develop environmental responsibility has not yet reached its conclusion. More and more people are becoming convinced that it will be necessary to create a new type of security system and that it is possible to do away with. military power blocs, that it is no longer necessary to maintain troops on foreign territory, that all weapons of mass destruction can be eliminated, and that military spending and conventional armaments can be drastically reduced.

Europe is at the crossroads of all this activity. We are witnessing an ever accelerating movement towards democracy in most countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The common journey of all European countries towards security and cooperation is giving Europe a renewed sense of self-confidence and energy. A revitalized Europe could only really contribute to the solution of global problems.

The Helsinki process will continue to be a uniquely useful instrument in the years of transition ahead. The peaceful transition of Europe is unthinkable without the full observance of all human and civil rights which the governments of Europe have pledged themselves to observe in Helsinki, Madrid, Vienna, and elsewhere. The emphasis placed by these aceords on the interdependence of peace, security and human and social rights constitute an invaluable framework for the democratic, non-violent resolution of persistent problems.

The all-European process of integration has to be supported by the general public. The Helsinki process is too important to be left only to the efforts of governments and politicians, who are bound by their own national priorities; it must be continually strengthened by the involvement of citizens of all the signatory countries, of course, ineluding the Soviet Union, the United States, and Canada.

Overcoming the division of Europe is the job, especially, of civil society, of citizens acting together in self-organized associations, movements, institutions, initiatives and clubs across national boundaries. It means the creation of new social relationships, new forms of dialogue, through which citizens can negotiate with governments and each other, put pressure on political institutions, and, indeed, resolve many issues without the direct involve of governments. It means the expansion of public, that is, non-State, non-private spheres of activity and the creation of a European public opinion.

The commitment of politicians to open diplomacy must go beyond the ante-chamber of high politics. It is not just a matter of informing journalists or even non-governmental organizations. The Helsinki process from above has to be complemented by an equally significant Helsinki process from below.

LET US therefore found a Helsinki Citizens Assembly as a permanent forum of the public at which peace and civic groups as well as individuals and institutions representing a broad spectrum of views can exchange experiences, discuss common concerns, and where possible, formulate joint campaigns and strategies.

THE WORK OF the Assembly will be based upon a commitment to commonly held values. It would be based on our awareness that peace, democracy and human rights are inextricable. Our goal is European unity in diversity. We want to build a fully demilitarized and socially just community, whose economic development will not be at the expense of the environment. We want to create a multi-cultural community that is open to the South and with full rights for all residents, refugees, migrant and indigenous peoples: a community that will respect the rights of the individual and the principles of national self-determination, women's rights, social and trades union rights, as well as the rights of minorities, and that respects ethnic, religious, sexual, and other differences.

What seemed unthinkable until recently is becoming a reality; the Europe of the end of the Second Millennium has a chance of transforming itself into a Europe of peace, justice, well being, human dignity, and world -wide solidarity.

We call on all individuals, groups, and institutions upholding the above-mentioned values and aims to participate in the work of the Assembly.

The first Assembly will be held at Prague in 19-21 October, 1990. It will be held in the capital of a country in which twenty years ago one of the most significant beginnings of the current "spring of European peoples" was sadly brought to a halt.

This document was established by the Helsinki Citizens Assembly full participants' meeting of 10-11 February 1990 in Budapest. A final fuII participants' conference will be convened in June in Prague. This statement has been typed and circulated by Act for Disarmament 225 Brunswick Avenue, Toronto, Ontario MST 2M6. If you care to endorse this aocument and want to be kept informed about Canadian participation, contactACT or the World Federalists 613/212-0647.

Peace Magazine Apr-May 1990

Peace Magazine Apr-May 1990, page 19. Some rights reserved.

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