Remarks from Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter at the Carter Carter-Menil Human Rights Foundation Award to the Institute of Applied Social Science (FAFO) and the People of Norway

Oslo, Norway
May 18, 1994

I would like to express my gratitude to Mrs. Dominique de Menil and our Norwegian hosts for everything they have done to make this celebration possible.

As early as last June, I knew of the peace effort of the men and women who are being recognized today, and I was thrilled when Chairman Yasir Arafat flew to Yemen, where I was visiting at the time, to inform me that an agreement had been reached. A few days later, foreign minister Holst described the remarkable process.

Then, I have to say, I was somewhat embarrassed last September 13th, to see the Norwegian heroes barely noticed. The Foreign Minister was in the audience, sitting next to my wife. The others were not to be seen or recognized.

We are here to commemorate a truly remarkable achievement. I know from personal experience how intransigent the antagonists in the middle east and other regions can be.

Civil or regional wars usually involve years or even generations of ethnic and religious differences, struggles for land, many deaths on both sides, the deepest kind of hatred, absolute belief of one's own legitimacy and sometimes even the dehumanizing of others.

I also know the degree of personal and political courage required from those antagonists, who face the uncertainties of a peace effort, which, as the assassination of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat demonstrates, can be more dangerous than sustaining the ongoing war.

As was the case in 1979, the Arab and Israeli leaders are the ones who have taken the bold chance for reconciliation. I want to recognize these heroic leaders who, despite sometimes fanatic opposition on both sides, are pressing ahead to end bloodshed in their region and give their people their long-awaited life of peace, with justice.

There are more than 110 conflicts, almost three dozen major wars in the world today — the greatest number in history. Very few are international in scope. Most are civil wars, which are often more deadly than the formal ones between nations. In war, the innocent are the ones who suffer most, dying not only from bullets, bombs, and land mines, but from exposure and deliberate starvation.

Because of the complexity of these situations, a multiple approach to peace is almost always advisable — through negotiation, mediation, the holding of democratic elections. Every avenue of communication must be explored, and often the families in a combat zone are the ones who demand that their leaders seek peace, and they are the ones who must support peace efforts.

Would-be peace makers must get to the roots of a conflict, by working with the people who are directly involved. Building up mutual trust between antagonists and mediators is an extremely difficult task. This is rarely possible for official representatives of a foreign nation. During the pre-mediation, when the possibility of peace is being explored, secrecy is imperative. Needless to say, this is very difficult in a foreign ministry and almost impossible in a State Department.

Unfortunately, however, many government officials resent and resist the efforts of NGOs that offer to help. In bureaucracies, the lowest common denominator often prevails and accepting outside help is seen as an admission of failure.

In addition to monitoring all of the conflicts in the world, we at the Carter Center join each year with other organizations and skilled individuals to analyze about a half-dozen of the world's most troubled nations — both those already embroiled in armed conflict and those with impending wars.

Increasingly, we have come to understand the unique advantages of nongovernmental organizations: often our entree to a conflict area is through work to alleviate the suffering-associated with hunger, disease, and homelessness. NGOs are flexible and non­ challenging, and often have reputations for benevolent action. They have the ability to deal with a ruling party, revolutionairies, religious groups, and ex-patriots. On the other hand, it is rarely appropriate for an ambassador or a representative of the United Nations to communicate with a revolutionary group attempting to change a government.

Universities and other centers of scholarly work are treasures that are rarely utilized in the search for peace. Since 1982, the Carter Center of Emory University has provided forums for middle east leaders to discuss issues, for leaders in the United States and leaders of the former Soviet Union to deal with arms control, and for actual antagonists in more than a dozen armed regional conflicts to explore new paths to peace.

Nongovernmental organizations have an obligation to work with one another, to share knowledge and experiences, to cooperate with their own governments and with international institutions.

We are here to recognize one of the most remarkable and historical demonstrations of these principles.

Most often, governments are viewed as seeking some advantage for themselves — but not the government of Norway.

Most often, academics and scholars are reluctant to get involved or are excluded from politically sensitive issues — but not those in Norway.

Most often, social scientists and political scientists are not able to expand their daily work with a vision of ultimate accomplishments — but not those in Norway.

Most often, those involved in a dramatic and admirable adventure are so eager for public acclaim that their effort is aborted by premature publicity —­ but that didn't happen for Norway.

Yesterday, we witnessed Norway's national celebration. To me, it was an extraordinary revelation of a societal trait — the commemoration of freedom and democracy with a special emphasis on peace. We did not see a parade of weapons, military units, veterans of war, or even martial bands.

Instead, there was an almost endless stream of children, their eyes bright with the excitement of the moment and anticipation of the future.

This demonstrates vividly why there are two awards: one to wise and heroic individuals in FAFO, the Institute of Applied Social Science, and the other, a bold modern sculpture for the people of the entire nation.

It is Norway's commitment to peace, freedom, democracy, and human rights that has made possible this remarkable achievement.

It is not presumptuous to say that today we bring the world's accolades to the deserving recipients of these two prizes.


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