Shared Security & the Helsinki Process (January 2007)
A major international initiative, the Helsinki Process, has adopted as a priority focus the theme of “shared security” from the Religions for Peace Eighth World Assembly.
Initiated in 2002 by the governments of Finland and Tanzania, the Helsinki Process promotes cooperation among governments, civil society organizations, and the corporate sector. It seeks to discover innovative and practical ways of building networks to tackle problems of globalization and encourages democracy, good governance, sustainable development, and mutual security.
At the Religions for Peace Eighth World Assembly in Kyoto, Japan, last year, 800 religious leaders from a hundred countries adopted a declaration on “shared security.” The Assembly indicated that—even on practical terms—each individual should be deeply invested in a notion of “shared security.” No one can build a wall high enough to protect himself or herself from vulnerabilities of others. This practical reason for shared security complements a more basic moral reason for it, supported by every religious tradition: the responsibility each of us has to care for our brothers and sisters and to treat others as ourselves. Finally, the Assembly emphasized that shared security is the collective responsibility of all sectors: governments, businesses, and civil society.
The Helsinki Process has partnered with Religions for Peace to convene three working sessions of an expert working group from a cross section of these sectors. Since August, this group has met three times: in Kyoto, Helsinki, and, just last week, in The Hague. Currently, the discussions are focusing on the unique ways in which religious communities can advance security by mobilizing their moral and spiritual heritages around security challenges. Religious communities have the tremendous additional advantage of being the largest social networks in the world.
The working group will soon convene again in Alexandria, Egypt, to map out the roles that religious communities may play in building security in the Middle East. I look forward to sharing with you the ways in which the Religions for Peace family’s concern for shared security can be creatively linked to relevant commitments in the governmental and private sectors.