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International Day of Tolerance

Joe Baxer, President of the United Nations Association of Connecticut, spoke at the Geneva Switzerland, Global Challenges Forum:

''I am pleased and honored to participate on this International Day of Tolerance in this Virtual

Global Partnership Summit. I can imagine no better way to begin than to quote the United

Nations Declaration establishing this day:

“Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world's cultures,

our forms of expression and ways of being human... Tolerance, the virtue that makes peace

possible contributes to the replacement of the culture of war by a culture of peace.”

Article 1.1 United Nations Declaration of Principles on Tolerance

As I explore the multitude of issues that weigh upon the nearly eight billion people who inhabit the earth, I particularly wish to focus on the emerging reality that we are becoming a bipolar world; that the geo-political and economic centers of the world rest with the United States and the Peoples Republic of China. I do not intend to exclude other nations or populations, nor wish to fail to acknowledge the reality of the ethnic and sovereign diversity of homo sapiens on our planet. In actuality, I choose to focus my attention where I sense that the greatest impact for the future may be implemented.

Ban Ki Moon, previous Secretary General of the United Nations, in confronting a moment of crisis, which for him often was a moment of opportunity, stated that “our time is now.”. I believe our time is now to find a path forward for the future of the human race and my conviction is that central to that path is tolerance, understanding, collaboration. What I might call, the identity of a “global citizen”.

Both the US and China are presently facing extraordinary challenges.

First, I speak to all Americans, exhausted by an intense election process, many anguished with emotional wounds. At the same time, an overwhelming pandemic from the covid virus has touched more than ten million. The death toll is in the hundreds of thousands and rising. Millions are unemployed or under employed. All Americans I have met in recent weeks feel tenseness in their shoulders, seeking to carry a weight of suffering, uncertainty and fear as events unfold. What kind of a global partner will America be, either stymied by nationalism or engaged in the world with respectful diplomacy?

Secondly, I speak to the citizens of China, whose gracious hospitality and welcome I have experienced several times. I congratulate you as a people who have been able to control the virus and return to a more normal life. I’m aware that there are challenges that weigh also upon you … a nation whose identity has developed over centuries. Indeed, China is a nation that has been rapidly coming of age, after a century of humiliation. Its economic prowess has been amazing. Yet, as it establishes its place within the community of nations, unease about Hong Kong, the detention of Uighurs, the contested islands in the South China Sea, the Belt and Road Initiative invite concern among some Chinese citizens within your borders and in the neighboring global community. What kind of a global partner will China be, either stymied by nationalism or engaged in the world with respectful diplomacy?

The truth is, in this moment, both the US and China each face growing challenges to their role within the world’s power structure. In this context, I wish to urge a sense of global citizenship, to each American, to every Chinese person … as a model for what is needed for our two countries. The three characteristics that I propose are at once, elementary and simultaneously profound. This day’s emphasis is “tolerance” … a willingness to acknowledge differences. Different points of view, philosophies, and cultures are evident. I do not think it is naive to say that for individuals and for nations, respectful tolerance is the beginning of a conversation. Moreover, I believe that “understanding” can follow tolerance. This does not mean agreement, but a willingness to try to appreciate another’s perspective and insights and truth. Finally, “collaboration” can arise in mutual respect. Often it will require patience, compromise, a willingness to envision the common good, for individuals and for the community of nations as essential.

We live in a multi-lateral world … we are interconnected and globalization is here to stay. Be it the pandemic, cyber security, economic well being, the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, no one on the planet is beyond touch. Yet, in trust, we are also living in this bi-polar world and for the moment, the energy, vision and integrity of China and the US will dominate, I can only hope and trust for the best.

My conclusion is direct: an invitation on the International day of tolerance to each person listening and to each of our nations, to commit to global citizenship. It is an invitation to creatively find that “Our time is now” . It is in our enlightened self interest. It is the way to peace. Thank you. ''

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