A A
RSS

Fashioning A Moral Future: Gorbachev Forum Ponders Weaponry, Women and War

Mon, Oct 7, 1996

Press

San Francisco Chronicle / By Catherine Bowman

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had a clear message for business executives, scientists and dignitaries at the State of the World Forum yesterday: If the citizens lead, the leaders will follow.

Gorbachev’s comments came on the last day of the second annual conference, sponsored by the Gorbachev Foundation USA. The meeting covered a broad range of problems facing the planet, from the perils posed by nuclear weapons to the plight of women in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

“These problems that we must address cannot be addressed by politicians alone. It is for us, the citizens, to act and decide,” he said. “This discussion is a show of our responsibility to those generations that will be following us.

“We have come to understand we must not only discuss the problems . . . we must make choices based on the highest moral values and those choices must be the choices of action.”

Some 600 people from more than 50 nations attended the five-day event in San Francisco. Forum members are pursuing several initiatives, including a project to eventually abolish nuclear weapons, a code of conduct to govern the sale and transfer of arms and a campaign to address the impact of toxic chemicals.

Women were the topic of the first session yesterday. In a discussion that included author Betty Friedan, naturalist Jane Goodall and former Congresswoman Bella Abzug, several panelists said the 21st century will be defined by women’s leadership.

“As we move into the millennium, it’s my prediction women will take over,” Abzug said. “Women will change the nature of power, rather than power changing the nature of women.”

Nevertheless, women have a long way to go. Mahnaz Afkhami, executive director of the Foundation for Iranian Studies, said fewer than 11 percent of legislators worldwide are women.

She said women around the world have very little say in the public decisions that affect their lives.

That seems to be especially true in Afghanistan. Citing reports that the new ruling Taleban movement has closed female schools and ordered women to quit their jobs and stay home, forum delegates passed a resolution on Saturday urging international institutions to withhold financial assistance until conditions improve.

“What happens to them happens to all of us,” Afkhami said.

Goodall, an internationally renowned naturalist, said that as women’s roles have changed, new issues have evolved. As women continue to work outside the home, many poor women cannot afford good day care and have to leave their children in centers that are often understaffed.

“The child is put into a day care center — staff is constantly changing. There isn’t much chance of finding a good, trusting relationship (with an adult),” she said. “The question here is what is this doing to our children? Is it in any way connected to the rise in juvenile delinquency and crime?”

Another forum panel included discussion of mass killings in Bosnia.

Several speakers pointed out that although several people have been indicted for war crimes in the war-ravaged country, few have been brought to justice.

“We haven’t figured out morally and militarily how to deal with genocide,” said former U.S. Senator Alan Cranston.

Tags: ,

About Mahnaz Afkhami

A lifetime advocate for the rights of women, Mahnaz Afkhami works with activists across the world, especially in Muslim majority societies, to help women become leaders. She is Founder and President of Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace (WLP), Executive Director of Foundation for Iranian Studies...more

Quotables – Culture of Peace

"The promotion of a culture of peace requires more than an absence of war" - Our Shared Human Values

"Women's status in society has become the standard by which humanity's progress toward civility and peace can be measured." - Architects for Peace

"We must be bold and creative, our feet firmly grounded in the realities that surround us, but our gaze aimed at the lofty possibilities that our advancements in science and technology promise and that our growth as a global society is only beginning to comprehend." - Toward A Compassionate Society