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Sir Peter Ustinov

A chat from the World Economic Forum

January 31, 2000
Web posted at: 1:44 p.m. EDT

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(CNN) -- Sir Peter Ustinov, actor, ambassador at-large for UNICEF, and President of the World Federalist Movement, joined as part of the CNN/Netscape series of chats from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Ustinov participated in the chat by telephone from Davos on January 30, 2000, and provided a typist. The following is an edited transcript of the chat.

Chat Moderator: Welcome, Sir Peter Ustinov, to the chat room!

Ustinov: Hello, audience!

Chat Moderator: What is the World Federalist Movement?

Ustinov: That is a non-government organization (NGO) which is devoted to the idea of world governance, not government necessarily. And, it is very much involved in trying to help democratize the United Nations, and support it whenever possible.

It is also one of the leading lights in the establishment of a world criminal court. The reason for this being the globalization of the market, which are a good thing, but like every good thing, they carry with them an antidote - criminality, which is immediately globalized when commerce is.

We are confronted rather like the great mariners of the 16th century with an enormous amount of new territories and now, of course, space and the Internet are themselves new territories. What it seems to us to be extremely urgent, as it was in the 16th century, is map makers to make sense of the unknown territory, and legislators to make universally accepted rules within that framework. Otherwise, chaos threatens.

Chat Moderator: What is your role at the forum in Davos?

Ustinov: I have no idea. I was invited to speak for two occasion, tomorrow and the day after; both are panels. I have been watching the conference on television, and think the panels bring out the best results in people because the participants are taken slightly off guard; in that way become acquainting with their personalities.

So, I don't know yet which way the panel will drift, but I am certainly ready for any eventuality. I said I didn't know why I am here simply because I was invited, so you have to ask the host, not the guest why.

Chat Moderator: What is the panel going to discuss?

Ustinov: I think that is a fairly general question about the unfinished business of the 20th century which still has to be caught up with, but that can lead to almost anything.

Question from Ceng: Do you think the world is ready for a globalization?

Ustinov: If the market is already globalized, then it means really that the conventional forms of government are in a relative state of crisis because conventional governments are voted for largely on the basis of internal policy.

Today, for most countries, and I would exclude the U.S. here, but in most countries at election time, there seems to be a great difference between the parties, but once a new government is elected, it is compelled by financial constrictions and often geographical position and other considerations to follow very much the same policies as the predecessors did.

To my mind, this has caused people not to turn out in too great a strength for elections, and have to be encouraged to do so; people are nearly always disappointed by the small turnout. That is because the center of gravity has shifted from internal questions to global considerations.

Nowadays, there are hundreds of NGOs, which certain orators at the Congress have pointed out are not democratically elected. To my mind, they represent a new form of democracy because if they didn't conform to the public will, they would have disappeared long ago.

The first NGO in history was the International Red Cross, which resulted from a Swiss gentleman on vacation strolling over a battlefield about a 150 years ago. It was his realization of the actual horrors of war that made him found the Red Cross. My point being that no government then or now would ever have the mandate to think of such a thing simply because it is international in origin and not national.

Question from Kato: I think the name World Federalist Movement is a cover up name from Communism or a NEW WORLD ORDER.

Ustinov: You would not think that if you knew how hard it is to find financial support. To say that it is communist inspired is typical of a certain retrograde mentality, which is an astonishing adjunct to the most modern and brilliant techniques in the world.

Chat Moderator: Question from luis> Hello, Mr Ustinov. I'M in Colombia. Our President Pastrana is in Davos. What do you think about global strategic to our countries?

Ustinov: I know nothing about Colombia. I had an invitation to go to their meeting but could not because I was ill. Obviously, the problem in Colombia is a very difficult one, and one admires a great deal the courage of those who try to deal even-handedly with it.

Question from Dolphina: What are the participants reactions to the protests we are hearing about and what seems to be the biggest area they are protesting and is there a reason for them to be fearful?

Ustinov: Obviously, with Clinton here, who incidentally made a very brilliant speech which journalists said they had all heard before, which only proves that I don't go to enough congresses. Obviously with him there and prime ministers and presidents from various countries, there is a security problem for the Swiss.

Also, there is not as much space in Davos like there is in Seattle. But, the protest was a relatively small one and not particularly noisy, and I think it is safe to say that there are far more delegates than there are demonstrators.

They seem to protest against the whole idea of globalization, but that seems to me as fruitless as protesting against the tides or the weather. In point of fact, I think there are people who think of the world in static terms and not in a state of permanent motion. That motion is getting faster and faster.

The gap between the Wright Brothers and the first man on the moon is ridiculously short when looked at in terms of world history. For centuries the fastest thing on earth was a horse. In the past 150 years everything has changed, and technical development is ever increasing in pace.

I think tenderly of people who protest, but I wonder if they realize what they are protesting against.

Question from GTinsdale: What are your views on a global economy, and will it, in your opinion, lead to a more equal distribution of wealth?

Ustinov: That is what they are discussing at the forum, and the fact that they are discussing it at such length is already a very good sign.

Also, it is evident that if the imbalance becomes too great, a certain degree of human conscience begins to work so that people who have made an enormous amount of money, such as George Soros, or to an even greater extent, Bill Gates, are busy giving enormous chunks of it away for humanitarian, educational, or medical purposes.

I think it is an indication that when you are over blessed you automatically realize that your responsibilities increase, not diminish. Obviously, the biggest problem of all is the imbalance between wealth and poverty.

Chat Moderator: Are you still involved with UNICEF?

Ustinov: I do whatever I can to help UNICEF, another NGO. The world would be much poorer and it would be more difficult for a form like this to exist if the organ of the human conscience did not exist.

Question from Raj: Sir Ustinov: We have started a school for the deprived children in remote villages of India. I was wondering how can I get any help from UNICEF in this regard?

Ustinov: I don't know whether you can. UNICEF is a very large organization, and I am in touch with them and can ask, but certainly the other charities that I work with are in India and open schools. And the foundation is called Global Harmony, and is situated in the trade center in Lausanne, Switzerland.

It is a very spare organization, which goes in and shows people how to do things themselves. Once they know, it doesn't lose contact, but leaves to work elsewhere. We have already opened several schools in India and supplied them with buses. It also operates in Brazil and Central America. It is run by Mr. Dejani. I know more about that than UNICEF on that type of level.

Any discussion of having a constitution or Bill of Rights type document written establishing the framework (for the World federalist movement)?

Ustinov: There is a manifesto. More important, a very distinguished group of people, except for myself, are involved. It includes people like John Kenneth Galbraith and Morris Strong of Canada. A bill of rights - that is more difficult to say. Our avowed purpose is to strengthen the United Nations.

As for being in anyway subversive, I think the wind is in our sails because what we aspire to in the long run is becoming more inevitable. From the speeches of everyone, including Clinton, we really are all on the same wave lengths, in different ways and with different responsibilities.

Chat Moderator: Do you have any final thoughts today?

Ustinov: I think the forum is indicative of the great desire of people who have something to say or at least think to sound off and react to other people who may have the same or different things to say. It is indicative of the crisis in democracy of which I had been speaking before that there has never been in the world history so many summit meetings between heads of state as there are today.

The fact that Davos exists at all is extraordinary, and that Clinton comes for one day with several officials, the Secretary of state, trade, finance and congressmen, meet with Tony Blair and other important people, you certainly see them sitting reasonably relaxed, fielding questions from the floor - this is an enormous opportunity for education of us in the field who know too little. Here, it is all on closed-circuit television, so I have not missed anything. I have learned a lot !

It is a very happy initiative. Once, I wrote in an article that two millennia ago, Christ chased the money lenders out of the Temple, but that today, now that the Temple belongs to the money lenders, it is wise to go to Davos.

Chat Moderator: Thank you, Sir Peter Ustinov, for joining us today.

Ustinov: It has been a pleasure.

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