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Op-ed:Terrorism can be won only by love not by war, Pablished in the Yomiuri, Tokyo, Japan on 5th October, 2001

Professor Yunus's Letter to the WSJ Editor Published on
Dec 12, 2001

Annual Report 2000


Building a World Free of Hate?

Grameen Bank, Bangladesh


In the month since September 11, 2001, the world has changed irrevocably.

We have always known that it is neither ethical nor just for wealthy countries to isolate themselves from the poverty, suffering and grievances of people in other countries. Now we know that in a world where technology and information make it easy for anybody to plan and execute carnage on a giant scale, it isn't safe. The bottom half of the world no longer languishes in the darkness of ignorance and incapacity. Even the bottom one percent can be very powerful and skillful when it comes to expressing their desperation. The September 11 terrorists have given us only one terrible example of a threat that will continue to grow unless we build a new world.

Since September 11th, the world has seen the fastest mobilization of political and fire power on earth with the stated goal to wipe out terrorism. The tremendous outpouring of sympathy for the U.S. these past weeks around the globe shows that the majority of the world's people strongly support this goal. But I strongly doubt whether the majority supports the United States' military action, or thinks that it is a wise course in the long run.

The thoughts and emotions of the entire world are intensely focused on the United States' military response. Even though the U.S. government has stated that it does not seek to harm innocent people, in the long-run the war path can only increase terrorism, not eliminate it, and continue to cost many more innocent lives. Terrorists can be pushed underground for a while, but they cannot be conquered like nations. The end of terrorism will not come by raining missiles on a small territory or many territories. No matter how powerful America is, America cannot kill the problem of terrorism through killing. U.S. retaliation against the protractors of the heinous acts of September 11 will not stop the emergence of other terrorists who will perpetuate the cycle of violence. In the long run, the U.S. can enhance global security only if it switches to fighting a different kind of "war": one to win hearts and minds and change mind-sets, not to bring a nation to its knees. Military victories turn hearts and minds in the wrong direction.

America can make terrorism hide its ugly head for a while, but to eliminate terrorism in a sustainable way, it must first bring the whole world together. President Bush can initiate this process by requesting that the U.N. Secretary General convene a World Summit to determine the ways and means to end terrorism as fast as possible. Only a close and permanent cooperation from many nations working together to identify the root causes of terrorism and to address them collectively will prevent even greater terrorist atrocities.

But this will not be enough. Real peace will come by building a new world which is completely free of the virulent hatred and rage that causes terrorism. If we try to locate this rage, we see clearly that it is strongest among people in massively overpopulated cities in poor countries. The urban population in the developing countries went from 300 million to 1.5 billion from 1950 to 1990, and is projected to triple to 4.4 billion by 2025. At that point, two thirds of the people in the developing world will live in cities or "mega-shantytowns." If billions of people abandon the countryside for urban slums, it would be the greatest social upheaval the world has ever experienced, causing untold human unrest, misery and anger. We have no alternative: We must find ways to slow down the rural-to-urban migration by creating opportunities for people to live dignified lives in villages and small towns. We have some powerful tools that we can expand upon right now: micro-credit for self-employment, innovations that increase the productivity of small farmers, low-cost solar energy, communications technology that link rural and urban markets and land reforms. But we will have to develop more and faster-acting solutions to forestall this tectonic shift of people - a shift that will have already seen is accompanied by major escalations of violence.

Beyond creating economic opportunities for people, we also have to address people's need to feel comfortable with their identities, not shamed or ignored, as many today now feel. This is the historic challenge our generation now faces. In this world, we will have to take national, religious, ethnic, cultural and historical sensitivities very seriously. This new world must be based on profound understanding, empathy and cooperation. It must be a world in which the goal is dignity for all, compassion for all, with the guiding principle of global society being: The weaker you are the more attention you get.

It may seem to be a far-off goal. But we have already laid out a solid foundation for building this world. Things are taking shape. The Berlin Wall has disappeared. The Soviet Union collapsed. The Cold War has ended. Europe has united. Apartheid is no more. China is about to join the World Trade Organization. The process of true globalization has begun. Young democracies are taking root across Latin America, Africa and Asia. For the first time in history the world's poorest people, particularly poor women, are getting an opportunity to shape their destiny by working themselves out of poverty. Initiators of micro-credit have launched a movement to reach 100 million poor families by the year 2005. Nearly 20 million families have already been reached. The target looks achievable. At the Millennium Summit of the United Nations, all countries of the world, the rich and the poor, made a global declaration to reduce the number of poor people in their countries by half by the year 2015. All this has happened in less than one generation! Prime Ministers and Presidents of the rich countries could take this further, galvanizing their law-makers and citizens to support this historic task, and announcing a drive to end all poverty by 2030! This is what moving fast forward would look like. And this is the kind of movement that will bring the final end of terrorism.

The arrow has left the bow, but it is still possible to stop further escalation. Before we go too far down the path of violence, let us not forget to protect what we have built. Let us strengthen the beneficial processes we have painstakingly created. Let us continue to move forward, not recoil into the past.



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