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Kant's Essay

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In Conversation with Thomas Mayr-Harting

In May 2010, the Perpetual Peace Project filmed Thomas Mayr-Harting, the Austrian Ambassador to the United Nations, in his office in midtown Manhattan. He spoke about Austria's role as a non-permanent member on the Security Council, and his specific attempts to engage this important international body in discussion on broad themes. Responding to Kant's argument that nation-states are often unwilling to abrogate their own self-interests, he argued that the European Union (EU) was an extraordinary example of the contrary. Mayr-Harting argued that the EU serves as a model for the United Nations in how to maintain stability and peace by creating interdependence between nation-states. This project of European integration is particularly remarkable insofar as it goes beyond Kant's original designs as discussed in Perpetual Peace.

Mayr-Harting explained that the current challenges to world peace include nuclear proliferation, humanitarian crises, and specifically violence against women and children, which he spoke of as an unacceptable tool of war. He expressed his concern that the African continent was often disregarded by the international public. In this context, he explained that a primary role of the Security Council was to deal with conflicts ("leftovers") on the margins of international attention, underlining the preeminence of African topics on the council's agenda, which accounts for roughly 70% of their time. Finally, Mayr-Harting argued that peace should not be considered an abstract concept, but rather understood approached as a series practical measures to mitigate individual suffering.

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