The UPF World Summit 2017 brought more than 400 parliamentarians representing 120 nations to the National Assembly, the national legislature of South Korea, for a special session of the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace. Speakers addressed the theme “The Overcoming of the Northeast Asia Crisis and the Vision and Responsibility of the IAPP toward the Peace and Unification of the Korean Peninsula.” The summit participants joined with Korean parliamentarians, members of the diplomatic corps, and distinguished local dignitaries.
Dr. Thomas Walsh, the president of UPF International, served as the moderator. After the introduction of the VIPs and a video presentation, Hon. Dan Burton, the co-chair of IAPP, gave welcoming remarks. “We need to use the power of our positions as parliamentarians to find ways to be better neighbors—and to guide our 21st century civilization in becoming a world that harmonizes the dreams of God and humankind in our daily lives, families, communities, nations and in every cherished place on our planet. And as the founder of this significant initiative said recently in Washington, ‘We need to do it RIGHT NOW!’”
Hon. Matt Salmon, U.S. House of Representatives (1994-2000, 2012-2016), praised the UPF conferences: “They get better and better. UPF is an organization that actually gets things done. There is not a finer organization on the entire planet than the UPF and this adjunct organization, IAPP.”
The most important thing as leaders is to help strengthen the families, he said, quoting the saying “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” Congressman Salmon expressed his belief that peace begins in the home. “The most important thing that we can do is to help people understand that wives should love their husbands, husbands should love their wives, and parents should love their children.”
H.E. Milan Dunovic, the vice president of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, thanked the organizers for the opportunity to address the conference. “It is an exceptional honor and pleasure to attend such an event, which aims to promote peace, stability and human development around the world.” He praised South Korea as “a symbol of a struggle for democracy.” The vice president described his own country, which is faced with numerous challenges, most particularly “serious systemic forms of corruption,” he said. He explained, “As a politician, I have the obligation to work every day for my people and to help overcome complex systemic problems and eventually completely eliminate those problems.” The vice president said, “The obligation of all politicians is to serve their country.”
Hon. Sye-kyun Chung, the speaker of South Korea’s National Assembly, expressed appreciation to the co-chairs and the 360 foreign parliamentarians and Korean assemblymen and leaders in attendance. “We are living in an age of uncertainty and unease,” the speaker said. “There is conflict, climate change, economic polarization, discrimination. … We need alliances and cooperation to face these challenges. … We need strong cooperation and alliances to tackle the nuclear ambitions of North Korea.” He said he believes that sanctions should be coupled with negotiations and that six-party talks should be held among parliamentarians.
Hon. Yoo-chul Won, a member of the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee of the South Korean National Assembly, spoke about the “Grand Korea Silk Road” as a way to connect the peninsula with Russia and China through a network of roads, tunnels, and the use of ferries to carry trains. While South Korea is trying to promote peace on the peninsula, the leader of North Korea is conducting nuclear weapons tests. He suggested the Great Silk Road or the Eurasia Initiative as a way to connect the whole continent. It would have the side benefit of encouraging North Korea to seek involvement. There would be economic benefits as well by shortening travel time between the countries. The network would play an important role in the peace initiative. Plans are also under way to construct undersea tunnels between China and Korea as well as between Korea and Japan, which would promote tourism, jobs, and lasting peace on the peninsula and in Northeast Asia.
Hon. Dr. Rachel Carling-Jenkins, a member of the Legislative Council (MLC) of the Parliament of Victoria, Australia, outlined three principles that must be agreed upon, namely: subsidiarity, protecting the vulnerable, and investing in education.
First, subsidiarity means that issues should be handled by the smallest authority, meaning not the government but the people. Individuals have a portion of responsibility and must be willing to make decisions and assume responsibility.
Second, protecting the vulnerable. “We must always keep in the forefront of our minds the impact on others of what we do—or what we do not do.” She said that we must have compassion for the most vulnerable, such as the unborn, children, those with disabilities, and refugees
Third, education and the importance of investing in our children. Quoting Nelson Mandela—“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world”—she called on the participants to not “be passive bystanders when it comes to injustice. We cannot stand back. We cannot stand by. We cannot be silent. We are called to action.”
Rt. Hon. Richard Msowoya, the speaker of the Malawi National Assembly, spoke on the theme “The Situation of the Enjoyment of Rights by People Living with Albinism—Crisis and Solutions in Malawi.” Albinism is a congenital disorder characterized by the absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes and is associated with a number of vision defects and susceptibility to skin cancer.
“The population of persons with albinism in Malawi is estimated at 10,000 people. Although persons with albinism have peacefully coexisted with the rest of the population, their living conditions have, especially lately, been characterized by stigma and discrimination.” The government, according to the speaker, has established a National Technical Committee on Abuse of Persons with Albinism in Malawi with a “mandate to discuss and oversee the implementation of the response plan and make recommendations on the same.” Despite the challenges of limited financial resources and lack of cooperation from the general population, the speaker recognized this form of abuse and discrimination as unwanted and unworthy of a modern nation.
MK Hilik Bar, deputy speaker of Israel’s Knesset, spoke about his own situation living in a nation that has existed for only 70 years, he said: “I know what existential threat means. We know how it feels to be uncertain about your future and what challenges it brings to the individual and the society when you are constantly dealing with terror and constantly surrounded by enemies.” The world is a dangerous place, he said, and “The sad fact is that there are people who don't wish for peace. There are people and organizations that don't wish to live in this world next to other people.” He called on the parliamentarians in attendance to “decide to act together within our parliaments—to help our societies build bridges for peace. Let’s decide to advance peace in every possible way, and in every corner we can.”
Hon. Alberto Alfaro Jimenez, the president of Costa Rica’s National Assembly, spoke about Costa Rica as a role model for democracy. The nation chose to abolish the army and use that budget for public works. The nation established the University for Peace to teach about peace and promote greater understanding among peoples. He spoke about a border dispute that occurred with neighboring Nicaragua: Instead of resorting to violence, the two countries took the case to the International Court of Justice in the Hague. Although there were negative feelings from the media and certain individuals, Hon. Alfaro brought 12 congressional leaders to Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, for the sake of reconciliation and friendship. To conclude his remarks, he invited to the stage the delegates from Costa Rica and Nicaragua and invited everyone to embrace in the spirit of solidarity and unity.
Hon. Jose de Venecia Jr., the co-chair of IAPP in the Philippines, proposed a “greater focus on promoting broad-based economic growth and reducing economic inequality. For despite all our progress in Asia, economic inequality in our region is still among the worst in the world.”
He also called for the establishment of an Asia-wide “Asian Anti-Poverty Fund to fight poverty and inequality and help the poorest peoples in our region and in the world.” He proposed a massive project of reforestation and tree farming, not only to create jobs but also to restore the environment. He called it the “Hundred Billion Trees Foundation.”
Regarding the situation in Korea, Speaker de Venecia called for the revival of the postponed Six-Party Talks. He also spoke about the reinvigoration of the UN with an interfaith council, which was suggested by Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon. He praised the late Rev. Moon and Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon for their goodwill efforts and programs designed to bring about the reunification of the Korean Peninsula. He called on the parliamentarians to send a message to the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Iran, and urged that the Sunni and Shia leaders meet in Mecca or Medina to discuss possibilities of peace.
Following the session, the assembly participated in the “Peace Road 2017” launching, a Global Peace Project of IAPP.