Nobel laureate and co-founder of Poland’s Solidarnosc movement Lech Walesa welcomed the launch of International Human Solidarity Day at a ceremony at United Nations Headquarters today, calling for a global front to address today’s challenges.
“The solidarity movement that I constructed and that I led transformed my country,” said, Mr. Walesa, keynote speaker at the launch. “The idea of solidarity on a global scale can transform the contemporary world. It’s the only logical opportunity to meet today’s challenges.”
In the UN Millennium Declaration, heads of State and government identified solidarity as one of the “fundamental values … essential to international relations.” International Human Solidarity Day, to be held on 20 December, was proclaimed by the General Assembly in 2005 to raise awareness of the importance of solidarity for advancing the international development agenda, especially for poverty eradication.
“Very urgent action” is needed to address the world’s problems, said Mr. Walesa, who co-founded in 1980 Solidarnosc (Solidarity), the Soviet bloc’s first independent trade union, and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, and to serve as President of Poland from 1990 to 1995, inspiring similar movements throughout Eastern Europe and beyond.
“Starvation remains the weapon of massive destruction against millions of people,” he said, highlighting additional challenges, including disease, epidemics, environmental destruction, terrorist acts against civilians, and the world’s helplessness in face of natural disaster.
“Solidarity moved one quarter of the population in Poland,” he said. “If a world solidarity movement covered a quarter of the global population, it would be an enormous power.”
To harness that power and move words into actions, Mr. Walesa proposed the creation of a human solidarity fund as a “visible way for citizens of the world to contribute.” In rich countries, contributing $5 or $10 a year would not be a burden, and would provide education, and combat hunger to break the cycle of poverty.
“It would be people helping people, not governments helping governments,” he said, suggesting that the fund be administered by the UN Secretary-General and that governments could grant tax exemptions for donations.
“The Polish solidarity movement shows that we should not be afraid of our dreams,” he said. “The world can be peaceful and I am already seeing it on the horizon.”