Curatorial Initiatives
Kant's Essay

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In Conversation with Edward Luck

In June 2010, the Perpetual Peace Project filmed Edward Luck, Special Adviser to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and Vice-President of the International Peace Institute (IPI), one of our partners on the project, at the IPI offices in midtown Manhattan. With regard to his work at the United Nations, he argued that nation-states have a responsibility to protect people within their borders regardless of nationality. If Africans landing on Italian beaches deserve the same degree of hospitality and human rights as Italian citizens, then a radical re-conceptualization of nation-state sovereignty is required. Likewise, collective responsibility and non-indifference to suffering requires that nation-states accept a degree of direct intervention or modification of their sovereignty, as in the case of the European Union or the preventative deployment of peacekeepers in Macedonia or Sierra Lione, where the help of the international community was needed to protect populations. He explained that the origins of his work on the "responsibility to protect" can be traced through the African Union and other African thinkers.

With regard to his work at the International Peace Institute, he cautioned that the pursuit of peace and humanitarian values must be understood as a process and not as an event. The success of efforts to change nation-state attitudes are to be measured not in days, weeks, or even years but rather in decades. The work undertaken in 1948 to establish the United Nations on paper, he noted, has taken decades to successfully play out on the level of strategy and operations. And while we have not achieved peace in our time, Luck argued that we have made progress, and that the United Nations has kept the aspiration towards peace alive. There is no other time in history when there has been such a wide dialogue between major military nations, he remarked, and the fact that this conversation takes place at all is itself historically significant. Peace may not be perpetual, he concluded, but the effort to make peace is perpetual.

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