Senator Kerry Nettle

knettle1st March 2003

Share the Spirit of Peace – Peace Summit

The growth of the peace movement at the moment is exhilarating. To be part of such a powerful international peace movement is fantastic. This is a feeling I have experienced before because peace is one of the four principles for Greens parties around the world. That sense of feeling part of an international progressive change movement has expanded dramatically through the growth of the peace movement.

The Greens see that it is important that we broaden peoples understanding of peace to include a commitment to social justice, grassroots democracy and ecological sustainability. This holistic understanding of what needs to be part of creating a peaceful society is crucial to creating a fulsome vision of the type of planet we want to live in. For example, in a peaceful future we need to reduce global poverty and on practical terms this means looking at our overseas aid projects and ensuring we are investing in projects that will actually work to reduce poverty in the local area and also projects that respect the autonomy of the local community.

When we have global situations like we do in Iraq at the moment, we need to recognise that the people we are concerned about are the citizens of Iraq. We need to ensure that our actions in dealing with such a situation have the interests of these people at their heart. That means we need to give back to the Iraq people the dignity and respect that they deserve so that they can determine who their leader should be and what sort of democratic society they want to live in.

Clearly the people of Iraq are not currently in a position of empowerment to make that choice so we need to recognise our responsibility as the global community to support the civilian populations of Iraq. Like in the apartheid years when the international community supported the black civilian population in South Africa, we need to play an active role in helping to rebuild the civilian infrastructure of Iraq.

We also need to recognise the sense of injustice that lies at the heart of so much instability in that region of the world and we need to be part of committing our countries to engage meaningfully in peace processes in the Middle East. We need to support genuine initiatives and peace talk proposals that seek to bring all parties together in a just peace to the Middle East.

The strength of the peace movement globally comes from individuals in their community joining with others who have a commitment to peace and organising in their local area to add their voices to a global call for peace.

I have spent the last few weeks in particular travelling around visiting mainly rural communities in NSW and have been overwhelmed with the response. In towns that some may think of as conservative country towns to have hundreds of people coming out on an evening to fill the town hall + talk about peace issues is a reassuringly positive response that strengthens your faith in the spirit of humanity.

I then have the opportunity to bring these voices into the Parliament when we get the opportunity to speak about these issues and into the general public debate through the media. This is a crucial part of my job as a representative parliamentarian. Having links with the grassroots communities who are mobilising around peace issues is vitally important component of this work. I enjoy the opportunity to bring the energy, passion and the commitment to social change from these community groups into parliament. For people who feel that their concerns and their commitment to peace is not being heard in the parliamentary debates it is very important to know that there are members of Parliament who will provide that avenue for their voices to be heard in the public debate.

We must celebrate the commitment to peace that we have seen from millions of people around the world over the last few weeks. We must recognise the global peoples movement that we are part of and we must recognise the change and the impact that our movement is already having. We have seen strong calls for peace heard from the Security Council in recent weeks. Leaders of many countries have been buoyed on in their calls for peace because of the tremendous call for peace that we have heard from the peace movement globally.

It is also important to recognise on the individual level that there are many hundreds of thousands of people just here in Australia, let alone across the globe, who until a few weekends ago had never taken an active role in creating social change in this country. They were moved to become a part of the peace movement a few weekends ago and the peace rallies provided them with that opportunity.

It was perhaps the first time that they had involved themselves in something that they saw as being political. Many of those people who marched in the peace rallies were inspired to march when they thought of the suffering that would be reaped on other people of the world if peace did not prevail. That fundamental connection with other humans on the planet, that awareness of their suffering and a commitment to doing our part in ensuring their survival and wellbeing drew so many people onto the streets to march for peace.

We as part of the peace movement many of us as people who have been working on these issues for a long time need to be committed to helping to expand and broaden everyones understanding of peace. We need to explain why the peace that we call for is a just peace. We need to explain that this means a peace where there is not suffering of discrimination for peoples of all races, ages, religions and beliefs. This means a commitment to social justice and to achieve this we need also to be committed to participatory democracy where all people who are part of our world and our local communities are able to genuinely engage in decision making processes and feel that they can make a meaningful contribution.

When we have done this work we will truly be building a strong and committed peace movement with a shared understanding of our common goals. And together we will be able to achieve much change in creating our vision of a just, sustainable and peaceful world that we can all live together in harmony.