Dr. Markandey Rai is currently the Senior Advisor of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) after his retirement as the Chief of the U.N. Inter-Agency Coordination, Global Parliamentarians and Trade Unions programme of UN-HABITAT based in Nairobi, Kenya. He has served UN-HABITAT in various positions in the last twenty-two years of his service to the United Nations. He is Ph.D. in Statistics and has taught in many universities before joining UN-HABITAT in January 1992. He has represented UN staff at Nairobi (UNON) in various capacities for many years and he was elected President of the Nairobi Staff Union 2000-2003. He was also the Chairperson of the Joint Advisory Committee (JAC) at Nairobi to advise the Heads of the UN offices at Nairobi (UNON) on the matters of the staff administration and welfare. He has written and published several academic and scientific papers as well as publications of UN books related to urban issues. He has widely travelled and attended several conferences of scientific as well as of a political nature. He has been conferred several national and international awards. He is member of the member of the Global Leadership Council of GPF and was recently elected as Chairperson of the Global Peace and Development Service Alliance (GPDSA) at the GPF convention in Manila in April 2017.
Below are Dr. Rai’s reflections on the work of the Global Peace Foundation and his commitment and passion for building peace and community in our world today.
When I see the Global Peace Foundation (GPF) and the United Nations (UN), I see complimentary – not separate – purposes. The UN was created in October 1945 when the United Nations Charter was signed to promote peace and development. The key philosophy of the UN is peace, development and human rights. After the devastation of the first and second World Wars, the UN was created to prevent a third World War. And so, it is natural for the UN to promote peace in the world.
Yet, everyday there is death and destruction. Peace is far from a reality; we are not even close and this is after over 70 years since the founding of the United Nations.
And so, this takes us to why the United Nations needs to work closely with an organization such as GPF. When I first learned about GPF in 2009 and that GPF is promoting One Family under God, and peace in the world – I felt that I should do everything possible to support this organization.
There was initially some reluctance, hesitation to work with an organization that cast a vision of “One Family Under God” from within the framework of the United Nations. But I went out of my way to take the risk, because I believe that anybody, any organization, any NGO promoting peace is doing my job, and the UN’s job.
“We need the kind of engagement that brings us together on the fundamental truths of our interconnectedness – through interfaith dialogue and cooperation. Only then, can we build the kind of trust, relationship and relatedness that can bring about practical, grassroots partnerships.”
Since that time, the UN has realized by now, after some time for introspection, that unless we talk about spirituality, unless we talk about interfaith, peace can’t be restored by the governments. International law, economic sanctions and political philosophies can’t solve our problems – we need to engage people from a bigger framework – an ethical, inclusive framework that speaks to our shared, spiritual nature.
We need the kind of engagement that brings us together on the fundamental truths of our interconnectedness – through interfaith dialogue and cooperation. Only then, can we build the kind of trust, relationship and relatedness that can bring about practical, grassroots partnerships.
Without these higher level agreements on basic truths, we come to rely solely on guns, governments, law, policies, restrictions and incentives to behave and to interact with one another. We let all these external factors make up for the fact that we still aren’t quite sure that our partner won’t stab us in the back! This becomes then – truly – a kind of world without peace.
We saw with the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) that were supposed to be achieved by 2000, couldn’t be achieved because we relied far too much on the governments.
Kofi Annan tried to convey this message: we should not leave the governments to do the work alone, and we should partner with other groups. That is why one of the goals was Global Partnership, and that sought to bring the private sector, public sector, NGOs, CVOs, and whomever is promoting peace and development as partners in achieving the MDGs. In spite of all this, it was not achieved fully. And perhaps we can see that it was because there was nothing to hold these groups together, no way to build real trust or social cohesion that is so necessary in real partnerships.
“…The problem is so big that it can only be solved if everybody feels that this is my problem, I have to contribute and take responsibility.”
And so, even today, many of the countries continue to lag behind, and we continue to see poverty, illiteracy, women remain disempowered or undereducated, child and infant mortality remains high, the environmental damage and pollution continued on into the present… Because what are the rules of engagement in a world with vision, a world without One Family Under God?
So when we went in 2015 to develop the Sustainable Development Goals, we thought that it should be all-inclusive, not just for developing countries and a particular group of people, we should see that all humanity should achieve and benefits from all these things. So the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, realized that the SDGs can’t be achieved unless we involved each and every person. And his slogan was, “Nobody should be left behind.” That was his aim and motto in the SDGs.
And this is great but most people might agree that it is reasonable to suggest that “nobody should be left behind” the real question becomes “why should I get involved?” And this is what GPF really brings to the table in its vision – implicit in its vision is a sense of shared responsibility of deep interconnectedness as one human family.
If you truly want to see that nobody is left behind, everybody should have at least enough to eat, enough to sleep, enough to offer to others to save others. In fact, the problems we see are so big that unless everybody takes part and support, nothing can be resolved. We cannot rely on governments and the developed countries, donors, banking institutions, the World Bank, IMF. We can’t depend solely on them because the problem is so big that it can only be solved if everybody feels that this is my problem, I have to contribute and take responsibility.
For instance, we see in my native country of India the issue of sanitation. A leader can’t create cleanliness anywhere alone. Currently, the Prime Minister of India is talking about “Clean India.” And he’s brooming everywhere, but he can’t clean India alone. The hope is that as the Prime Minister, his example inspires others to do the same. In this, each and every person must come to feel – as the Prime Minister is demonstrating – that this is my place and that I have to clean it. Sanitation is dignity, and I have to provide sanitation to my family – my entire global family. Only then, will the whole of India, and whole world develop the proper sanitation for all people, including women, girls, children, the disabled and the elderly.
Why are places dirty? If we think about it, people litter they feel “this is not mine” – that it is not “my problem” or – put positively, my responsibility. But once you begin to feel that this place belongs to me, it’s my responsibility to keep it clean – and expanding this line of thought beyond the issue of sanitation – that it’s my responsibility not to fight, it’s my responsibility to make this place safer, cleaner, greener and more livable, the world will see a great change. A great transformation. But it starts from a spiritual message. A message that reaches beyond the traditional economic or political framework.
And so this is the reason that I thought in 2009, “let me invite GPF to the UN compound in Nairobi to organize a youth program, the youth conference”. While it was initially very challenging, it was ultimately very successful, because the UNON Director General, Ambassador Zwedi, the late Sir James Mancham, the founder and president of Seychelles came, Raila Odinga came, when he was the Prime Minister of Kenya, came with his wife, Martin Luther King III also shared the podium with us and youth from all over Africa came. That conference was really a grand success. And that gave motivation not only to me, but to others, to see that how partners can work closely with GPF.
Slowly people were beginning to be convinced of this. And in 2012, we had another conference for youth in Africa, in the same compound. The Director General participated, the Executive Director of UN Habitat, the organization from which I have recently retired, and the UNEP all participated in this conference. This was possible because they realized that GPF is really doing a great service to the communities within which they worked. And in fact, GPF Kenya was declared one of the best NGOs of the year in 2013.
“People began to realize that the GPF approach works…”
So you can see the journey: 2009, consistently working, convincing people, doing a lot of work, with four tracks of involvement that we had decided in the conference. We had a peacebuilding track, health track, education track, moral character and creativity tracks. Tony Devine, he was the one who helped in a number of schools, and they realized those schools did very well in their exams, with their results.
So, people began to realize that the GPF approach works, that it was a really good thing. Moreover, people saw practical results, not only by hearsay or some theoretical models. President Kibaki was the patron of the conference in 2010. And you can see that the 2013 election was the most peaceful in Kenya. That was a big message not only to Kenya but to the entire world. Africa, and the UN saw – this unique approach works and has practical, results in terms of both peace and development.
We are also working intensively using all tracks of diplomacy for the unification and development of One Korea. The GPF Chairman, Dr. Hyun Jin Preston Moon, has this at the top of his agenda, to make it a reality at the earliest. People have started acknowledging the ancient Korean ethos of Hongik Ingan, or living for the benefit of humanity, has real potential to unify North and South Korea. As Jiha Kim has said in his endorsement of the award-winning publication by Dr. Moon, ” My dream, your dream, our dream; all become one in Korean Dream.“