Speech at Glasgow Caledonian University,
Scotland, 13 June 2001
Your Worship the Mayor,
Councillors of the City of Glasgow,
The Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Thank you for inviting me to your beautiful city and
distinguished university. I am quite sure that our meeting
at this university is important in many ways.
This being an important centre, not just of learning,
but of inquiry and on-going probing into the various
aspects of life that inform and guide humanity, I am
confident that we will at the end of our interaction
today, cement the crucial bonds that tie us together
and perhaps even expand the relations between the people
of this city, this university and the whole country
and our people in South Africa.
A university such as this one, is like a torch that
illuminates the dark corners of our existence that we
always strive to discover, so that humanity can understand
itself better. As humanity grapples with the myriad
of challenges of ensuring that our common habitat, the
Earth, is indeed a humane place for all, we always see
the role of centres of excellence such as the Glasgow
Caledonian University as light keepers that assist us
to clear the mists as we navigate through our chosen
The Victorian poet Robert Louis Stevenson in a poem
entitled 'The Light-Keeper', says:
The brilliant kernel of the night,
The flaming lightroom circles me:
I sit within a blaze of light
Held high above the dusky sea.
Far off the surf doth break and roar
Along bleak miles of moonlit shore,
Where through the tides the tumbling wave
Falls in an avalanche of foam
And drives its churned waters home
Up many an undercliff and cave.
(The Penguin Book of Victorian Verse, Daniel Karlin,
Indeed, we see your role as that of 'the brilliant
kernel of the night', whose 'flaming lightroom circles
all of us'. Accordingly, those of us who have the advantage
of being circled by the flaming lightroom, should forever
seek ways of extending this light to the most remote
areas of our globalised world.
We need to use the brilliant kernel to light up the
undercliff and the cave so that our abilities and expertise
are used to face our common challenges, wherever they
may be. That responsibility is shared with the leadership
of the City of Glasgow and I am sure, the whole of Scotland.
In his novel, Astonishing the Gods, Ben Okri, the Nigerian
Suddenly, he saw the city as a vast network of thoughts.
Courts were places where people went to study the laws,
not places of judgement. The library, which he took
to be one building, but which he later discovered was
practically the whole city, was a place where people
went to record their thoughts, their dreams, their intuitions,
their ideas, their memories, and their prophecies. They
also went there to increase the wisdom of the race.
Books were not borrowed. Books were composed there,
The universities were places for self-perfection, places
for the highest education in life. Everyone taught everyone
else. All were teachers, all were students. The sages
listened more than they talked; and when they talked
it was to ask questions that engage endless generations
in profound and perpetual discovery.
The universities and the academies were also places
where people sat and meditated and absorbed knowledge
from the silence. Research was a permanent activity,
and all were researchers and appliers of the fruits
of research. The purpose was to discover the hidden
unifying laws of all things, to deepen the spirit, to
make profound the sensitivities of the individual to
the universe and to become more creative.
Love was the most important subject in the universities.
Entire faculties were devoted to the art of living.
The civilisation was dedicated to a simple goal, the
perfection of the spirit and the mastery of life.
Well, I think we will all agree that this is really
astonishing the gods.
What Ben Okri visualises through this passage is a
city and a university whose functions and approaches
to their work are interwoven with those of society as
a whole. Okri's city is a place that reflects the dreams,
ideas and prophecies of its people. Its university is
not an Ivory Tower, but an extended home of all the
people. It is a place where everyone is in perpetual
learning and discovery. It is a location that propels
society forward. The daily work of both the city and
the university are complimentary, to the extent that
the success of one is dependent on the progress of the
We are happy to be at such a place; a place that is
forever seized of the challenge about its own role in
bringing about a society based on a caring spirit, human
solidarity and cooperation, and, the manner in which
its people can continue to make a humble contribution
to the all-round development of all humanity.
It is because of this desire to bring about a humane
society, that this university forged ties with two of
our educational institutions, the University of Transkei
(Unitra), and the Medical University of Southern Africa,
Through collaboration between your distinguished university
and our two higher education institutions, we are working
together to ensure that our people have an opportunity
to lead better and healthier lives, as a result of using
modern medical techniques and sharing information and
expertise with you.
You took this important decision to link up with our
universities because you wanted to ensure that the thoughts,
dreams, intuitions, ideas, memories and prophecies of
the people of South Africa are also yours and that they
translate into practical and beneficial action.
In so doing, you wanted to increase the wisdom of humanity.
Undoubtedly, you were responding to one of the main
challenges of our time, which is the struggle against
underdevelopment in all its manifestations: poverty,
disease, illiteracy, famine and social marginalisation.
As we are all aware, this underdevelopment and disempowerment
is juxtaposed, globally, with areas of high development,
great wealth and concentrated global power.
Indeed, today's world is characterised by the strange
bedfellows of poverty and opulence, famine and over-indulgence,
highways of development and footpaths of degradation.
To address this modern anachronism is the central challenge
facing the people of the City of Glasgow, the citizens
of Scotland and United Kingdom and their counterparts
in places such as South Africa and other developing
According to the United Nations Development Programme
(UNDP), 1999 Human Development Report, by the 1990's,
the fifth of the world's people living in the highest-income
86% of world GDP, while the bottom fifth had 1%;
74% of world telephone lines, while the bottom fifth
82% of world export markets - the bottom fifth just
1%. (Human Development Report, 1999, P3)
It is to these inequalities between countries and people
of the world that our two countries should respond.
It is to these challenges that we should seek common
ground and unified programmes, using both this city
and this centre of excellence, the Glasgow Caledonian
University, as catalysts that would help to bring about
the required changes.
Clearly, the combination of the problems of underdevelopment
and poverty poses specific challenges to different constituencies
all over the world. The consequence of this has been
a number of responses to the whole range of issues that
in one way or another either contribute to continued
underdevelopment or stultify measures aimed at pulling
the developing countries from the quagmire of poverty.
Some of the responses to the inequalities of our societies
have been sporadic and issue based. Without doubt, most
of those who participate in these programmes are, in
the main, driven by a vision of a world order that will
empower the poor and the weak and assist in the development
of billions of our fellow human beings who survive on
less than a dollar a day.
At the same time, it seems there is a need to ensure
that we engage in programmes that will develop a pervasive
consciousness of solidarity and co-operation between
the peoples of developed and developing countries. This
is particularly important to those us who are in privileged
positions to influence the course of events in a manner
that brings to an end the economic, political, social
and cultural marginalisation of the major part of humanity.
The city of Glasgow is in such a privileged position.
Together we can and must find a common approach that
will effectively address all the challenges that face
In this regard, I would like to make bold to say that
we who have gathered here today are enjoined to explore,
further, the issues of solidarity and co-operation,
within our individual countries, between our different
countries and across the various continents.
I am raising the question of solidarity and co-operation
because, we will all agree that it is impossible to
create a decent and prosperous country or group of countries
in one corner of the world, while the rest of humanity
live in dire poverty. It is unsustainable to build an
affluence enclave in a sea of degradation, inequality
Accordingly, the only way of securing and expanding
the developmental gains that have been achieved in the
countries of the North, is to extend these advances
to the countries of the South, and in so doing, seek
international co-operation and solidarity so as to harness
the power of the process of globalisation for the good
of all. Of course, the question is how shall we achieve
international co-operation and solidarity!
In his book, 'Future Positive', Michael Edwards says
there are three schools of thought about the practical
ways of ensuring co-operation:
"The first includes those who believe that economic
growth is the problem, so if we are to co-operate it
should be to reduce consumption in the global North
and encourage everyone to become self-reliant. In this
vision, co-operation implies a harmonious patchwork
quilt of self-governing, self-provisioning communities
interacting with each other through consensus, in order
to call higher-level institutions to account. Their
slogan is 'globalise consciousness, localise economies'.
"In view of the social and biophysical limits
to world population and consumption levels, economic
celibacy is the only answer".
The second school of thought, according to Edwards,
"wants to 'humanise' capitalism rather than replace
it, but this school covers a wide range of positions:
economic liberals see virtue rising up through civil
society to correct the 20 percent or so of market economics
that do not work; advocates of 'stakeholding' and social
market theorists stress the need to widen corporate
accountability and incorporate 'human values into the
core of market processes' to promote 'inclusion'; communitarians
emphasise the role of small groups in teaching people
moral values and responsibility at a scale where they
can see that the welfare of the whole depends on the
actions of individuals; and further to the Left are
those who advocate more government intervention and
a bigger role for the 'third sector' in doing what markets
don't or won't do."
The third school of thought, says Edwards,
"is the most interesting of all because it rejects
the validity of all universal models. This group stresses
the importance of capacities and mechanisms that enable
people to make their own choices about the good life
- to decide what sort of 'third way' they want to pursue.
It is less about particular policies and more about
giving everyone the tools to create a better society.
Since that requires equal access to economic resources
and political voice, good policies are still important".
(Future Positive, Michael Edwards, P11-14).
In looking at the best ways of forging relations that
will help us to overcome all the challenges we face,
we need to look at the best that is available to us
in these and other models.
As we strengthen old ties and forge new relations according
to the current realities, we need to give a much deeper
meaning of international co-operation and human solidarity.
This must mean that we recognise the fact that our success
must be based on the will to act both by the main beneficiaries
of the process of globalisation and the poor of the
world. Secondly, it is critical that today's winners
and today's losers should accept that we will succeed
when all the participants are able to co-determine the
It is on this basis that I believe that our coming
together here, at the place that is clearly a locus
of new thinking, should help us to work out co-operation
strategies for our mutual benefit.
The leadership and people of the African Continent,
are working to produce a far-reaching and integrated
programme that seeks to put the Continent on a sustainable
path of development. This is in the form of the Millennium
Partnership for the African Recovery Programme (MAP).
It is a programme that seeks to ensure that democracy
is entrenched in every part of Africa and that normal
democratic political processes are the norm rather than
the exception. In this regard, decisions have already
been taken where strong measures will be adopted if,
for instance, groups of people were to take power through
the force of arms.
It is a programme that seeks to ensure that we are
able to harness the African resources, technology and
human skills that we need to defeat poverty and underdevelopment.
It is a programme through which we seek to reverse
the unacceptable marginalisation of Africa from the
This programme is a tool that should help us to end
the social exclusion of the vast majority of the African
Furthermore, it is agreed that there is a need to strengthen
economic and social conditions to ensure that there
is sufficient and favourable space for domestic and
foreign investment, as well as other critical engagements
that will help to revive many economies that are in
a state of collapse.
In this regard, we are also agreed that while we create
these positive conditions, we should bring about a situation
whereby resources on the continent have to be utilised
for the development of the African people. Accordingly,
the necessary empowerment of the people themselves must
take place as a matter of urgency.
This is a programme that I am confident will, as Ben
Okri suggested, contribute to the effort towards self-perfection,
teaching and learning from one another, and engaging
in a profound and continuous effort to discover the
road we must take to ensure the betterment of all humanity.
We all remember that the introduction of the railway
to the different parts of Britain revolutionalised many
aspects of the British life. It connected one city to
the other, ensured that goods reach their destinations
quicker than was the case previously and made human
contact easier, thus creating the possibility for people
from distant locations increasingly to break down the
walls that made contact difficult between localised
cultures and sub-cultures.
Accordingly, the railway played a major role not only
in substantially cutting time and space between the
different corners of this land, but in assisting in
the formation of a new culture, a new consciousness
and a new interaction between all the people who constituted
the various social segments of the United Kingdom.
I am sure that we will all agree that this process
of increased and easier human contact led to a situation
where people could learn from one another, improve their
mutual understanding and begin to forge bonds of friendship
Clearly, the technological changes occasioned by the
railway brought about dramatic and far-reaching social
transformation. I want to believe that the seeds of
solidarity that were developed amongst and between the
people of the United Kingdom, germinated during the
later years when you occupied the frontline in the solidarity
work against apartheid.
We come back today to thank you for the selfless assistance
you gave to the people of our country during the long
years of struggle against the evil of racism and apartheid.
Today, we meet in times when the communication and
connections between our countries and peoples are not
defined almost exclusively by the railways, but are
centered around a communication and information technology
that is bringing about a new culture, in the entire
world, constructed by a pervasive and interconnected
The question that we may pose to ourselves is what
is this culture that is brought about by the communication
and information technology?
It may be important to address the question whether
this is a culture of virtuosity for its sake, whereby
the excellence and dazzling skill in the advancement
of technology is for individual and subjective ends.
In other words, this would be a culture that does not
assist humanity as a whole to use technology to fight
poverty, to eradicate diseases and banish famine.
I think we need to come to an understanding that we
should construct a culture that will utilise technology
to help give birth to a new form of society which, while
it creates wealth, it simultaneously tackles the urgent
question of poverty, and, in the process, also helps
us to eliminate preventable diseases such as malaria,
HIV/ Aids, TB and many others, amongst the poor.
I am confident that we all want a social culture that,
whiles it shakes and transforms institutions so that
they perform better in response to the new challenges,
it will, at the same time, bring in more and more innovations
and co-operation among all the people of the world.
It will empower those who are at the end of the development
chain and impart skills to the 80 percent of the world
population that is not only unskilled, but has never
made a telephone call.
Together, we should work for a culture that eschews
greed and the imposition of hardships on millions of
people in the developing world. We need a social and
universal culture that, instead of instilling despair
among poor people, it brings hope.
Indeed, there are already many across the globe who
have formed multiple and highly diversified formations
and fora to express their dissatisfaction with the development
of a culture of greed, selfishness, exclusion and marginalisation.
Many fellow humans are rebelling against the macho cowboy
culture of winner takes all, that imposes an enervating
sense of hopelessness among the poor of the world.
I know that our existing bonds, which we have come
to strengthen, are based on a culture of caring, of
collaboration and solidarity.
Allow me to borrow the words of another Victorian poet,
William Allingham, who wrote during the 19th century:
By and by, we shall meet
Something truly worth our while,
Shall begin to live at last,
By and by.
(The Penguin Book of Victorian Verse, ed. By Daniel
I thank you.