“The Quest for Shared Civilizational Values”
R20 Keynote Address by Professor Mary Ann Glendon
It must be admitted that the aspirations of the R20 are ambitious and the obstacles great. So it is to be expected that they will be dismissed by many as unrealistic — just as the aims of the post-World War II human rights project were dismissed by the so-called realists of that day. Yet the 20th century human rights project proved that ideals are real, as real as earth and water. And today, as this gathering shows, there are many men and women of good will who are ready to take up the challenge of making them real again.
To be sure, the path forward will be strewn with hazards and obstacles. But it’s worth remembering that the men and women who dreamed 75 years ago of an international order based on shared values were not naïve in their idealism. They had lived through two world wars and severe economic crises. After seeing human beings at their best and worst, they took encouragement from the fact that while the human race is capable of great evils, it is also capable of imagining that there are better ways to live, of articulating those shared values in declarations and constitutions, and of orienting their conduct toward the ethical norms they recognized….
Years from now, people not yet born will form opinions regarding our stewardship of the post-war generation’s legacy, which was founded upon idealism tempered by realism. They will pass judgment one day on whether we enhanced or squandered the inheritance handed down by men and women who once strove to bring a standard of right from the ashes of terrible wrongs.
So I will close with profound gratitude for the decision to call this historic meeting in Bali — and with great anticipation for the results of our discussions!