First of all I would like to thank you for the outpouring of birthday wishes I received for my 80th birthday, which made this milestone birthday even more special. Reaching this age you feel paradoxically – the more you live the shorter life seems. Looking back through the 80 years, the changes the world has gone through kaleidoscope through my mind. Having lived through a large part of the 20th century, and thus having experienced the war, the aftermath of the Cold War and the painful process of post Cold War transformations, I think I have the right and the duty to share with you some of my thoughts, especially now when the world is at the threshold of an unprecedented “quantum leap” transformation.
Today, no human being, whatever their religion and wherever they live in the world, can ignore the three challenges that the new century has thrown at our feet: the necessity to maintain world peace, overcome disgraceful poverty and stop deadly environmental degradation.
These three challenges facing humanity are interdependent. And the mission of Green Cross is to tackle these challenges in their interdependence. Let’s not be tempted by generally doing good – there are too many problems in the world. As Winston Churchill put it: “It is no use saying ‘We are doing our best’. You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary”. This “doing what is necessary” should become the motto of Green Cross.
I celebrate my 80th birthday in the same year as the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, a day in my life I will never forget and I hope the world will not either. This solemn anniversary is just another reminder of the reality of the nuclear threat. It is also a striking symbol of the modern technological risk stressing the importance of transitioning to renewable energy sources, so no family or community will never have to experience a similar tragedy again.
The anniversary is not the only reminder of the need to switch to cleaner sources of energy. In the last year the world has experienced a series of natural disasters, one after another including a heat wave in Russia and the recent storms in Australia. While the Cancun climate conference in December moved us closer to coming to an international agreement on climate change, we still have a lot of work to do and not a lot of time.
One positive event last year was the passing of a resolution at the UN General Assembly as well as Human Rights Council affirming the Right to Water and Sanitation, something I have been advocating for years. With World Water Day just a few weeks away, we all need to remember the 884 million people that do not have access to safe-drinking water, and 2,6 billion lacking basic sanitation services so we can turn this affirmation into a reality. If this were to happen, my biggest birthday wish would come true.