Immediately following the Opening Plenary Thomas Friedman hosted a panel discussion on Urgent Issues and Innovative Solutions Panel. The attendees were
Friedman said they would follow UN rules, and proceed in alphabetical orer. The president of Columbia began by talking about how his country is working to restore security. When he took office there were 70 homicides per 100K population and now it is still far too high at 39. His government is working to make Columbia a modern democracy. Security and social cohesion go hand-in-hand in that effort, as well as providing access to institutions for the poorest people.
Illicit crops have destroyed vast portions of the rainforest jungle, but now through a UN-financed program they are paying farmers to grow legitimate crops and to restore jungle. So far 43,000 families are participating, and he is working to expand this. Paying is cheaper than crime and terrorism.
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia talked about rebuilding the country from war, addressing the needs to kids who were forced into combat, and the need for people to work in villages identifying and helping solve what the villagers feel are their primary problems, so that the villagers have a stake in ongoing efforts. Her short point – they need “tools and seeds” to help farmers move from substistence to surplus so they can begin to have an income. She sounds very much like an investment banker, saying her country needs skills-training so they can attract investment capital.
Pervez Musharraf was asked about the issue of modernity and Islam. He said his government is working to transmit economic gains to the people of Pakistan – including clean drinking water. He said the remarks of the Pope have caused tension at this critical moment and were most unwarranted. He tried to correct misperceptions (“misperceptions” was a word he used a lot both about Pakistan and Islam) that Pakistan is aligned against the West. Until 1979 Pakistan was moderate and peaceful. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan has led to fallout. They took in 4 million refugees and were left “high and dry” with no assistance after 1989. The Mujahadin was strengthened and financed by the West, but Pakistan was left with no assistance whatsoever while they coalesced into al Queda. Then came the Taliban, then war. Simultaneously there were the tensions with Kashmir in their East. So they suffered the fallout of militancy on their East and West with no assistance. Now we need to understand the environment. We cannot address terrorism alone without addressing extremism. Talibanization is a mindset that must be curbed. There is no military solution. (from a later question) An important distinction to make is that the Taliban is local, al Queda was not local people. al Queda is being wiped out but the Taliban is rising due to resentment of the presence of foreign troops. Asked directly: “So we (the US) are part of the problem and part of the solution?” Answer: “Part of the problem.”
Javier Solana talked about how providing security is fundamental to development. Without security there is no development and without development there is suffering. Responding to a later question about Islam and the West, he said that the divide is profound. The world cannot abide provoking just for the sake of provoking.
Musharraf then said this is a time to build bridges not burn bridges. At this time blasphemous cartoons are like salt in the wounds, when Muslims believe they are being targeted. There is a fringe of the Muslim world that believes that modernization = Westernization.
Finally he said that the number one problem – the core of it all, is the Palestinian problem. No other problem will be solved until that is solved. He wishes that President Clinton would come back to diplomacy.