By Jeffrey. D Sachs
This speech was given by Jeffrey Sachs at the Pre-COP28 Faith Leaders Summit, Abu Dhabi, on the 6th of November, 2023. We have translated it into German and are republishing it today to help build opinion on this issue in Germany.
Jeffrey Sachs’ speech to Religious Leaders at the Pre-COP28 Faith Leaders Summit
Your Holinesses, Eminences, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are faced with the greatest trial of humanity, to live peacefully and sustainably on a crowded and interconnected planet.
We are currently failing that trial. The world is aflame in wars. Human-caused environmental devastation accelerates. The Earth is warmer now than it has been in 125,000 years.
I blame the politicians, especially of the rich and powerful states.
In these very days, just when we need the world’s leaders to pay attention to the climate crisis in advance of COP28, we are instead enmeshed in a devastating war in the Middle East.
The Israeli government has already killed 10,000 innocent civilians in Gaza and yet it rejects global calls for a cease fire. Israel is committing war crimes, besieging Gaza while bombing hospitals, ambulances, schools, and neighborhoods, and creating carnage.
The United States Government, for its part, vetoes the calls by the UN Security Council and UN General Assembly for a cease fire in Gaza, thereby prolonging Israel’s rampage. Moreover, even as the war in Gaza rages, the US continues its reckless attempt to push NATO enlargement to Ukraine, over Russia’s strenuous objections. The result is an ongoing proxy war between the US and Russia that is utterly destroying Ukraine.
The politicians of powerful nations, especially my own, have dragged us into wars that the people do not want, and have delayed action against climate change to the point where climate change endangers our survival. Through their relentless corruption, the politicians have squandered the toil of billions of people.
Why do they do so? The answers are as ancient as they are relevant today.
The first sin is arrogance. Netanyahu believes that he and he alone can decide life and death in Gaza. He believes that he doesn’t need to negotiate with anybody, least of all the Palestinians. He completely misconstrues the path to true security for Israel, which runs through justice, not war.
The second sin is greed. Many of our wars are about the pursuit of lucre, yet the wars destroy vastly more wealth than could ever be garnered by conquest.
The third sin is corruption. The campaigns of US Congressmen are funded by the US war machine, that is, by giant corporations with hundreds of billions of dollars of arms contracts, for whom war is business, and for whom campaign contributions the way to encourage more wars.
The fourth sin is heresy. Politicians listen to false prophets who proclaim their nations to be the natural rulers over others. Who told President Biden that the US is the “indispensable” country? It is not. It is one country among 193 nations. It is a mere 4.1 percent of the world’s population. The world does not need the US to lead. The world needs the US to cooperate peacefully.
I have been involved in policy advising for more than 40 years. I can tell you the hard truth. The rich and powerful nations believe they can rule the world through deceit. The US has engaged in dozens of covert operations to overthrow governments of other countries, including 64 well-documented cases of covert regime change operations during 1947-1989 alone. In the past 20 years, the US has overthrown governments in Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq, Libya, and Ukraine, just to name a few cases. Back in 2011, President Barack Obama ordered the CIA to overthrow Bashar al-Assad, leading to a prolonged war in Syria that has cost a half-million dead.
This war-making and relentless deceit must stop.
We must heed Isaiah, to beat swords into ploughshares. With today’s technologies, our modern ploughshares and pruning hooks are powerful enough to end hunger worldwide, to feed all of humanity, and to protect the environment.
The war in Gaza must stop immediately, before Israel still commits more carnage, and lest we find ourselves in a regional war. Israel can find its true security through peace with Palestine, and only through peace with Palestine. When Palestine is secure in its own state, with its capital in East Jerusalem and with control over the Muslim Holy Sites, Israel too will find security and peace, and Isaiah’s vision will be realized.
The war in Ukraine can and will stop when the US finally stops trying to expand NATO to Ukraine, and instead engages directly with Russia on pressing issues of mutual security, including renewed diplomacy for nuclear disarmament.
Despite the sins of the rich and powerful, yet there is hope for peace, your Holinesses and Excellencies. Yes, there is hope. And you bring that hope.
World public opinion overwhelmingly demands peace. You, the world’s religious leaders, demand peace and pray for peace. The UN member states overwhelmingly demand peace, even though Israel and the United States have so far ignored the calls by the vast majority of UN member states for a ceasefire and for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
When the rest of the world is united for peace, as it is, the United States and Israel will have to listen and to heed the call by humanity.
In his world recent message in advance of COP28, Laudate Deum, Pope Francis calls for a new multilateralism, so that the voices of all the world are heard, and so that the deceit of the powerful is constrained. As the Holy Father writes:
“Our world has become so multipolar and at the same time so complex that a different framework for effective cooperation is required…
All this presupposes the development of a new procedure for decision-making and legitimizing those decisions, since the one put in place several decades ago is not sufficient nor does it appear effective. In this framework, there would necessarily be required spaces for conversation, consultation, arbitration, conflict resolution and supervision, and, in the end, a sort of increased “democratization” in the global context, so that the various situations can be expressed and included.”
Let us therefore here in Abu Dhabi call for a new and honest dialogue of the rich with the poor, the powerful with the powerless, and the large nations with the small. Let us say no to the wars, yes to peace, and yes to planetary survival.
Let the new dialogue start this very day today, here in this assembly of religious leaders, and in the halls of the United Nations, home of We the Peoples and humanity’s best hope for a multilateral world and a sustainable planet.
Let us tell the world leaders, clearly and unambiguously, “You must do your job, to promote the common good. You must put aside your arrogance, greed, corruption, and heresies. Your current approach is not working, so you much change.”
Let us also be clear: there is no one indispensable country. There is only indispensable justice. And with justice, all countries are indispensable.
Thank you for this gathering. May we find the love and respect for our fellow humanity across the world that we so urgently need.
Jeffrey D. Sachs is University Professor and Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, where he directed the Earth Institute from 2002 until 2016. He is President of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Co-Chair of the Council of Engineers for the Energy Transition, Commissioner of the UN Broadband Commission for Development, academician of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences at the Vatican, and Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah Honorary Distinguished Professor at Sunway University. He has been Special Advisor to three United Nations Secretaries-General, and currently serves as an SDG Advocat under Secretary General António Guterres. He spent over twenty years as a professor at Harvard University, where he received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees. Sachs has received 41 honorary doctorates, and his recent awards include the 2022 Tang Prize in Sustainable Development, the Legion of Honor by decree of the President of the Republic of France, and the Order of the Cross from the President of Estonia. His most recent books are The Ages of Globalization: Geography, Technology, and Institutions (2020) and Ethics in Action for Sustainable Development (2022).
Citation of Featured Image: Jeffrey Sachs