Inaugural address by Hon. Joe Frans, MP at Sundholmens Kursgård,

Peace Camp II, 2004-08-02

 

First and foremost, I wish to thank the organizers for inviting me to this camp. I am honoured to be here with you here today. As you know, I sort of grew up in this part of the country and so I am always very glad to come back.

 

It feels like coming home, and especially to come for a programme like this. I am especially glad to see Borje Andersson, who I have known now for over 15 years.

 

He is a great activist and it warms my heart to see that he is still going strong.

 

Just over a week ago, I returned from a long field trip to Africa. I visited the refugee camps in Tanzania; where over 700 000 refugees have sought refuge from the conflicts in the great lakes region. To see the camps in reality is a humbling experience.

 

We all know the reasons for their plight. I also visited Burundi, where the peace process has just begun. It is quite clear that the civil society has a great roll in any peace process. The Norwegian refugee council runs over 1000 schools and it is through projects like this that a long lasting peace can be built. The schools are a breeding ground for dialogue and peace building. What was impossible ten years ago is now possible.

 

In Rwanda, I was highly impressed with the progress that has been made 10 years after the awful genocide. 1 000 000 people were murdered in three months. The fact that people are actively reconciling the irreconcilable and beginning to forgive the unforgivable proves the fact that peace is always possible.

 

Here we have to ensure that the path of democracy does not become just another false start. There have been too many false starts in Africa. In Kenya, I with a number of people involved in the process of creating a framework for dialogue and reconciliation for the future of Somalia.

 

I must say for the first time in many years, I am somewhat optimistic about the future of Somalia. If the process gets underway by the end of this month, then I am sure, there will be a functioning central government within two to three years. As you know, there has not been a central government for over twelve years.

 

Hereto, we need to support the parties involved in the dialogue to be constructive. I also visited Ethiopia, where I discussed the Eritrea-Ethiopian boarder conflict. This is a protracted conflict that is potentially dangerous and I am deeply worried that are almost no channels at all between Ethiopia and Eritrea for a dialogue that can find a peaceful settlement to the conflict.

 

Finally, with regard to Africa, we have the Dafur situation in the Sudan. It is a deeply regrettable situation and human catastrophe. The lesson to be drawn here is that we do not only need early warning mechanisms, but also quick and effective response mechanism. This is a lesson we all must learn.

 

Also the tragedy in the Middle East has to be solved through dialogue. This Palestine-Israeli conflict is one that pains my heart. It is also a conflict that can be solved if the is goodwill. However there seems to be little of that on the part of the leaders. This is why a camp like this is extremely important. It is through gatherings like this that we can make headway in the future. You are a part of the cornerstone of peace that the responsible leaders are yet to discover.

 

Recently, I visited the Romanian Human Rights Centre in Bucharest, whiles there; I meet two charming guys with whom, I came to discuss at length with. One is a Palestinian, the other an Israeli. As we discussed, the Palestinian, told me of his fears. He was afraid of the check points, of stray bullets, of bull-dozers, of the new wall and of his children’s future. He said the wall has to be pulled down. I agreed.

 

The other guy from Israel told me that he too was afraid. He could not take a walk in the parks, or go to his favourite café. He was very mindful of the suicide bombers and of mental wall between Palestinians and Israelis.

 

He said that the wall that has to be pulled down is the mental wall of suspicion between Palestinians and Israelis. This is a wall that is higher, thicker and much more damaging than the fence that protects us from each other. I agreed.

 

This is the tragedy of the situation. It is clear that violence breeds violence. Terrible violence breeds terrible violence. It is clear that there is no victor in this spiral of violence. It is clear that there can not be a military solution to the conflict. Soon, what is the cause and the effect can not be told.

 

The tragedy is that the responsible leaders are only pointing fingers at each other instead of sitting down to discuss how to constructively end the conflict. The peace process at the highest level is all but collapsed. That is why a process like Peace Camp is very important.

 

I believe that there is a basis for a peaceful dialogue to this conflict. The UN resolutions are there and there is a legal basis in international law for how to resolve the conflict. The government of Israel has a responsibility and the Palestinian authority has a responsibility. Sweden and other nations have a responsibility to help the parties to resolve the conflict, but this, they have to themselves.

 

It is quite clear that there should be a democratic and internationally recognized Palestinian state, that respects international law and human rights, and there should also be an Israeli state that is internationally recognized and has secure boarders.

 

The Palestinians should recognize Israel and Israel should recognize Palestine. This is the only road ahead. For me personally, it is quite clear that those values that guide us in our policies here in Sweden should be the very same values that should be the guiding principles in this conflict. It should be our desire to defend the integrity of the human creation.

 

Many years ago, when we devised the slogan: ONE RACE – HUMAN RACE. This is certainly the basis on which we should approach the future of the conflict. The goal should be peaceful coexistence. There should be a vision for peace and for an understanding of each others needs. There should be a capacity to compromise. The future is cooperation. This is true of the situation in the Congo and the Great lakes region. It is true of the situation Sudan and it is true in the Middle East.

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