Over the years, the members of the InterAction Council have presented their joint proposals to Government leaders, decision-makers and opinion-leaders worldwide. This establishes regular channels of communication with most of the world's leaders and allows Council members to exercise influence on a continuous basis.
Contacts have also been established with the summits of industrialized countries (Group of Seven), the European Community (EC), the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Organization of American States (OAS), the Non-Aligned Movement, the Frontline States, the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and with participants in various high-level gatherings in Latin America and other regions. Council members have also conveyed their proposals to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the heads of numerous international organizations, such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the OECD, the Gulf Co-operation Council, the League of Arab States, the Islamic Conference, NATO, and the specialized agencies of the United Nations system. Regular contacts are also being maintained with several non-governmental organizations and leading personalities of the private sector.
The Council's role as a disinterested non-actor in the complex field of international politics and relations has proved to be an asset, especially when it comes to the point of getting difficult and even unpopular suggestions across and accepted.
II. ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND IMPACT
1. Universal Ethical Standards:
Since 1987, the Council has focused on the concept of universal ethical standards. Recognizing that co-operation with spiritual leaders is indispensable to cope with the emerging global crisis, the Council arranged in March 1987 a consultative meeting bringing together, for the first time, political leaders and spiritual leaders representing six major religions. This endeavor brought about remarkable agreements, based on commonly shared ethical foundations, on possible remedial approaches to major problems. These agreements have been widely circulated to the political and religious communities of all denominations throughout the world and have received widespread acclaim.
In 1995, the Council again convened religious thinkers to identify a set of universal ethical standards in the 21st century. This initiative has led to the 1997 meeting on human responsibilities, which resulted in the Council's proposal for a Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities. The Declaration has become main subject of global debates.
2. The search for global order -- the problems of survival:
In 1992, the Council convened a high-level group to examine the consequences of the end of the Cold War, in particular aspects of the search for a new global order. This Group concentrated not only on the new geostrategic power constellations, but also on how the globalization of international markets and, especially, the emergence of new global challenges which are beginning to become a menace to mankind -- population explosion, development and poverty, environmental degradation, global warming, transborder population movements -- could be tackled by the world community. At its Queretaro session in May 1992, the Council called for a new set of rules to manage international relations and conflicts, which requires new instruments and mechanisms for global governance.
The proposals of the Council have attracted wide and favorable comments from government and political leaders. The proposals of the Council demonstrably had an impact on the international discussion and several policy statements and initiatives. The deliberations of the Council and its High-level Group are contained in a new publication entitled "The Search for Global Order."
In 1990, the Council had already held a high-level meeting in Lisbon, which addressed the sharpening dichotomy between global interdependence and national sovereignty. It suggested a redefined approach and framework of action for a number of areas where the management of interdependence will have to replace limited national decision-making and action, while upholding the principle of subsidiarity.
In 1997, the Council analyzed the globalization trend, identifying winners and losers and policy recommendation on addressing the problems and difficulties created by globalized world economy.
3. Global deforestation trends:
In May 1988, the Council made public a program of action to reverse global deforestation trends and their dangers to the world's climate and ecosystems. In particular, the Council called for the conclusion of a triad of global conventions including monitorable commitments: an international forest convention; a climate change convention; and a convention on preserving biodiversity. These and other suggestions have since been restated by numerous international conferences, in particular during the preparatory phase for the Rio Earth Summit.
As proposed by the Council, a European Forum for Forest Protection was established in June 1989 and held its first meeting in July 1990 in Stockholm. Equally, the recent establishment of an independent commission on forests and development, to be headed by a member of the Council, was stimulated by the activities of the InterAction Council.
4. Ecology and energy options:
In 1989, the Council presented proposals for new directions in energy policies, sensitive to environmental and climate concerns, economic development and population growth. To provide energy for a habitable world, a three-pronged approach was suggested: in the short term, efficiency and conservation measures; in the medium term, a shift in the mix of fossil fuels away from coal and oil to gas; in the long term, a massive promotion of renewable energies. During the period of transition to a world without excessive reliance on fossil fuels, nuclear energy will play a role.
The Council's program has had a significant influence on the preparations for the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 as well as on other intergovernmental and non-governmental conferences. The Council's call in 1992 for ecological and demographic self-discipline by developing and industrialized countries was seen by many in the international community as an important new concept, yet it remains largely still unheeded.
5. Ecology and the global economy:
In 1990, the Council concluded that the application of suitable economic instruments can make economic growth and environmental protection compatible. The market mechanism and its related instruments -- such as prices, taxes, leasable permits, charges, property rights -- were seen to provide both necessary signals and incentives. The polluter-pays-principle was advocated as the point of departure for policy development -- nationally, internationally and at the corporate level. Among others, the Council suggested that a climate convention should incorporate binding commitments for the reduction of emissions; until then major polluting countries should associate in a climate protection club whose members would voluntarily observe agreed emission targets. The Council also advocated policies providing for the internalization of the costs of environmental degradation and pollution into public, corporate and private decision-making, and for progressively lower targets for emissions and pollution standards.
The international debate since then suggests that quite a number of the Council's proposals have been accepted by many actors on the international scene and further developed. For example, several industrialized countries announced targets for national CO2 emissions. In January 1991, the Council of Ministers of OECD adopted a decision on "The Use of Economic Instruments in Environmental Policy" that largely reflected the recommendations of the Council. No doubt, a full implementation of such measures is bound to stretch over several years, if not decades.
6. The globalization of financial markets:
In 1990, the Council began to focus on the globalization of financial markets and its implicit dangers. It called on regulatory authorities to reduce systemic risks through more stringent capital requirements for lenders and improvements in settlement procedures. It also underlined the increasingly important role to be played by independent and autonomous central banks.
Based on the recommendations of a High-level Expert Group which the Council convened in 1991 to examine the specific role of central banks in globalized financial markets, the Council recommended measures to reduce the systemic risks inherent in the growing interconnection between domestic and international capital markets. In particular, the Council called for the establishment of an international regulatory authority and for central banks and supervisory authorities to adopt a comprehensive approach to deal with the new global financial environment, including streamlining of bank and non-bank financial intermediaries supervision and a program for strengthening the payment and settlement systems. The Council perceived the emergence of a tripolar international monetary system entailing a move from the current Group of 7 to a Group of 3 (US dollar, yen and ECU) arrangement.
Ensuing debates bear out the timeliness and the relevance of the Council's proposals, which were widely endorsed by the international financial community.
7. Economies in transformation limitations and potential of the transition process:
To devise a strategy tackling the challenges faced by the economies of Central and Eastern Europe, the InterAction Council convened in 1991 a high-level expert group. Three key tasks were identified for the transition process: appropriate macroeconomic stabilization policies; introduction and guarantee of property rights; privatization and commercialization of trade, industry and services. These should be accomplished against the background of a mixed economic system with a vigorous private sector and a strong public sector. The Council also urged dialogue between the OECD governments and the countries in transformation, the financing of a massive assistance program of infrastructure investment and for investment by private entrepreneurs from industrialized countries.
The programmatic approach by the Council was explicitly recognized by the G-7 at its July 1992 summit in London. It has since proved to be right on target, especially in pinpointing problems and possible solutions for countries undergoing the transition to a market economy, especially in Eastern and Central Europe and Russia.
In 1996, another High-Level Expert Group Meeting was convened to address the turbulent financial market. The Group has endorsed the concept of a "target zone."
8. Proposals concerning international debt:
It was the InterAction Council which first stipulated in May 1984 that any solution to the debt problem must be based on the principle of joint responsibility of all parties. It emphasized that the debt problem could not be resolved in the short run and that burden-sharing among all parties involved would be required. In October 1987 and at subsequent sessions, the Council refined its comprehensive proposal on the management of the debt crisis.
Beginning with the annual IMF and World Bank meetings 1986 in Seoul, the strategy first proposed by the Council -- especially the principle of joint responsibility -- have become integral elements of all international efforts and blueprints to find a durable solution to the debt crisis. The Council's proposals influenced substantially the Baker and Brady proposals aimed at a mitigation of the debt crisis.
9. Crisis and change in Latin America:
In 1992, the Council convened a High-level expert group in preparation of its annual session to examine the situation in Latin America. It yielded a comprehensive program of action, both by the Latin American countries individually and jointly and by the international community, which will be discussed at the 1992 plenary meeting of the Council. One of the key points identified was that poverty alleviation is a principal task for governments and international organizations, not least to bolster the nascent democratic structures on the continent.
Many leaders of Latin America have welcomed the Council's proposals and underlined their timeliness and constructive spirit.
10. The situation on the Korean peninsula:
Meeting in Seoul in 1990, the Council discussed the situation in depth and urged the governments of the two Koreas to take three specific action as a first step towards peaceful unification:
a) The leaders of South and North Korea should agree to meet -- without preconditions -- as soon as possible;
b) From a humanitarian point of view, both Governments should permit immediate visits and unrestricted communications between members of separated families in South and North Korea;
c) To enhance mutual confidence between the two Koreas, both Governments should legalize travel by the citizens of the two Koreas to and from the South and the North.
These recommendations contributed considerably to the dialogue that commenced at the Prime Ministerial level in 1991. The initial meetings concentrated on the three elements suggested by the Council.
In 1993, the Council convened a High-level Group to examine the lessons of the German unification process for Korea.
11. Proposals on strategic issues:
At a time when the direct contacts and communications between East and West were virtually non-existent, the Council made a series of specific suggestions which subsequently became the subject of negotiation and official policy positions. Such recommendations included:
a) Institutionalization of superpower summits: Since November 1983 -- when all contacts at the political level between the United States and the Soviet Union were frozen -- the Council repeatedly called for the initiation of annual summits between the superpowers. Since 1985, a regular cycle of such summit meetings resumed.
b) Principles governing relations between superpowers: In April 1985, the Council called on the superpowers to jointly state that they agree that nuclear war cannot be won and should not be fought; that equilibrium should be sought at lower levels of armaments; that they pursue equality rather than superiority of forces; that they respect each other side's legitimate security interest; that less money should be spent on armaments; and that stabilizing weapons should be preferred to destabilizing ones.
c) INF-zero option: In November 1983 and again in April 1986, the Council proposed that the problem of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces should be treated separately, preferably by a zero-zero solution on a global basis. This proposal was then reflected in the US-USSR INF agreement of November 1987.
d) Strict adherence to the ABM Treaty: Since November 1985, the Council advocated that the joint interpretation, full application and strict observance of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty was key to resolving the problem of strategic defense programs. In late-1986, this approach became the centerpiece of bilateral and multilateral negotiations to curb the arms race in outer space.
12. Bringing Africa back to the mainstream of the international system and the situation in South Africa:
In early 1993, the Council convened a High-level Group in Cape Town to deliberate about ways to integrate Africa better into the international system thereby reversing the decline and marginalization that has plagued the continents for too many years. The report offers a comprehensive picture of the African situation and develops a series of recommendations to uplift the situation, including moves toward democracy across the continent, efforts to enhance sustainable economic development, approaches to engage the international community, tackling issues affecting the survival of African societies (such as humanitarian emergencies, conflict prevention and management), and dealing with problems of population, health including HIV and AIDS and the role of women in society.
The Cape Town group also heard a series of briefings by senior South African politicians on the situation in the country. The Group offered a number of observations and recommendations pertaining to the political process, the need to develop a culture of tolerance and the economic, social and developmental challenges confronting South Africa.
In March 1988, the Council had already held in Harare a widely acclaimed hearing with personalities from the region to allow an in-depth assessment of the situation at that time.
Prior to that, the Council had developed a number of proposals aimed at a peaceful solution to the complex conflicts in the Southern African region. For example, the Council's recommendations of November 1985 and April 1986 found direct reflection in the report of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group on South Africa, which was co-chaired by two Council members.
13. Prevention of conflicts:
In May 1991, before the internal armed conflict and bloodshed started in Yugoslavia, the Council called on the member countries of Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), at its meeting later the same month, to apply all possible means at its disposal, including, if appropriate, its dispute conciliation procedure, to Yugoslavia immediately and to consider establishing an independent commission of inquiry into the situation. Although that item was considered by the CSCE Foreign Ministers, no action was taken in a timely and effective manner.
14. Population and Food Supply:
Problems created by population explosion have been a priority issue for the Council since its inception. The importance of family planning was endorsed by representatives of the world's major religions in a meeting organized by the Council in 1987. In 1995, the Council reiterated its necessity in relations to the world's long-term capacity to supply funds.