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Banner: First Among EqualsJohn George Diefenbaker banner

Dinner Speech at Temple Emmanuel, Montreal, February 14, 1962


This Annual Fellowship Dinner has become symbolic of the truth that there is so much more that unites men of various races and religious faiths than divides them; so many more ideals they share than concerns that isolate them; so many common aspirations for the true and good; so many common values that are profoundly more significant than the prejudices that reveal the darker side of the man's spirit.

This annual gathering pays homage to the brotherhood of men and the one-ness of the God that unites us all.

In a real sense, the feeling of kinship for one's neighbour has its deep human psychological attribute, but it is also a quality that must be present in any political system if that system is to have cohesion and integrity.

Throughout life I have sought for a meaningful brotherhood. I need hardly stress an interest in human rights programmes, internationally and nationally. Goodwill has proven to be wanting in establishing equality of men under law. Statutes are needed to assert that principle.

Men cannot legislate for the human heart but can legislate against human weaknesses. We have a long way to go before it can be said that the good society has been reached in which race, creed or colour play no part in determining advantage and where merit is the measure of man.

While no one in this country need feel the sting of the prejudice, it cannot be denied that there are still high fences of intolerance.

Fellowship, though it may begin at home can never end there. The world revolutions of "rising expectations" and "colonial liquidation" have brought new forces, new peoples and new demands, contending on the stage of contemporary history. Newly arising nations are viewing themselves afresh as they contrast their economic and social condition with the more favoured sectors of mankind  --  to which Canada belongs. These newcomers to world politics and history want to achieve their hopes for well-being and equal participation now. They are peoples in a hurry who will not wait for history to move as slowly for them in the future as it has in the past.

There is a global demand for recognition of brotherhood and an end of discrimination.

In many quarters, questions are being raised anxiously about the continuing usefulness of the United Nations Organization. Concern has been expressed as to the direction in which recent developments have been leading and the varying standards applied by some members.

It is obvious that the United Nations Organization cannot prevent Great Power conflict. Membership must negotiate their way out of the maze of differences which divide them. In recent weeks, cracks have begun to appear in the cold war ice which has chilled East-West relations since May 1960.

A few days ago, I received a new proposal from Mr.. Krushchev for a Heads of Government meeting on the all-important issues of disarmament. These signs are always welcome, even though such Soviet initiatives must be, and are being, carefully considered by the Western powers in consultation. The Western desire for peaceful solutions cannot be misled or diverted by tactical maneuvering for momentary advantage.

That is why it is essential to look carefully at Mr.. Krushchev's letter to determine whether it constitutes a realistic approach. The forthcoming disarmament talks at Geneva on March 14th will start from a base of agreement on broad principles. The occasion should be seized to convert these principals into practical measures of disarmament.

The presence of the Foreign Affairs Ministers of the members of the Committee the outset of the negotiations would ensure the direction and guidance required for the early work of the Committee. Should it appear at any stage that a meeting at Heads-of-Government level would facilitate further progress on disarmament, such a meeting should be held.

While the areas of East-West conflict are being explored for avenues of improvement, the flashpoints of international tension must be smothered. The United Nations has demonstrated its ability to deal with local wars, those sparks in remote areas which hold the terrible threat of world conflagration.

In the Congo alone, the political confusion, the violence and the outside interference have imposed a staggering burden, which a few years ago might have been regarded as being beyond the capacity of the United Nations. This has been only one of several important activities which have sorely taxed the resources of the Organization.

During the past year or so, the United Nations has been passing through a period of internal crisis. It as been faced with an urgent need for adjustments to meet the pressures of a greatly enlarged membership. It has been threatened by bankruptcy because of the failure of financial support from some important members. It has been under sharp attack from the Soviet Union, which seems bent on destroying or dominating the Organization by neutralizing its executive arm.

Following the admission of many new states from Asia and Africa, majority opinion in the United Nations and consequently voting patterns have radically changed from earlier days. The attitude and influence of the African states, the largest single group in the General Assembly, is a new and sometimes unpredictable factor. The newly emerging nations have brought about a rising tide of sentiment about colonial issues and racial discrimination.

The sharpest criticism and condemnation on colonial issues has been directed against the Western powers administering territories overseas. Difficult as it is to understand, there has been no complaint about the Soviet Union's ugly domination of subject peoples.

The United Nations is gravely harmed by the substantial shortfall in its finances. Quite clearly, expenses of the Organization should be borne collectively by all members. The Charter imposes this obligation in unmistakable terms. And it goes further; Article 19 prescribes that members who are in arrears in the payment of financial contributions shall have no vote in the General Assembly.

At the 16th session, the General Assembly took extraordinary steps to deal with the main problems of financing. Canada took the lead in securing the adoption of a resolution seeking an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the question of the legal obligations of members to contribute to the costs of peace-keeping operations. Canada co-sponsored a second resolution authorizing the Secretary-General to issue bonds in the amount of $200 million. Canada's attitude on these questions reflects its interest in developing the peace-keeping role of the United Nations and in establishing a sound basis whereby the financial burden will be equitably shared by the whole membership.

No international organization can hope to survive in the face of increasing demands and responsibilities if it is not assured adequate financial resources. There can be no justification for expecting that some members will carry a disproportionately heavy financial burden while others, with no less capacity to pay, shall be allowed to contribute only to those enterprises which they happen to like. A major cause of weakness of the United Nations today is the continuing rivalry among the principal power groupings. These cross-currents of competition are not new. The cold war, the so-called colonial struggle and the contest for leadership in the United Nations have existed from the beginning. Of late, the competition has been intensified because the various power groupings have moved into a position of closer balance.

These conditions reflect the complex adjustments in a changing world. They could signify the beginning of a new and stronger United Nations but only if the member states continue to recognize the compelling need for international organization in the complicated world of today.

And even with its limitations, the United Nations has much on the credit side. No member state has left the Organization. Instead, the United Nations has gathered in the emerging new states which have made admission to the United Nations a land-mark of their attainment of independence.

The hope for the future is that when the new nations have found their place in the international community  --  and membership in the United Nations will undoubtedly help them to do so  --  they will fully utilize the United Nations for strengthening the foundations of peace and security through collective co-operation.

The elements exist under the Charter system for the kind of co-operation required to bring about accommodation, compromise and, ultimately, the harmony essential to international order. But there must be a conscious return to the basic purposes and methods of the United Nations  --  to the ways of mediation, negotiation and conciliation.

First and foremost, instead of the heavy emphasis on emotional issues, the United Nations must continue to concentrate on the fundamental purpose of preserving peace. It should heed, above all, the stirring declaration of aims which begins with the determination to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. Its main challenge is to place the attainment of its purposes in perspective and to establish priorities for the achievement of its aims.

Secondly, to do justice to its aims, the United Nations must be morally and materially strong. It must resist any tendency to mobilize maximum opinion behind angry condemnations and empty injunctions.

Debate and propaganda must be subordinated to the need for effective action. Thirdly, there is importance and urgency in the need to devote the attention and energy of the United nations to the task of improving its peace-keeping methods. Means must be further developed of rapidly assembling effective machinery which can be put to work in any situation of tension and danger. The peace-keeping experience of the past points the direction in which methods of observation, supervision and conciliation can be strengthened. Considerable resources of member states and of the Secretariat can be more effectively employed.

Finally, it is imperative to apply Charter principles and provisions according to a single United Nations standard. This underlies any hope the nations can have of strengthening their international Organization in future.

It implies that all member states will be willing, in promoting the cause of peace on the widest possible front, to reconcile national and regional interests with that common cause and to provide sufficient support  --  political, moral and financial  --  to ensure that the United Nations can pursue its purpose without faltering.

I believe that there is a growing awareness of the grave dangers which could result from allowing the United Nations to falter or collapse. I hope that this sense of responsibility will crystallize in a determination on the part of its members to adapt the United Nations to the essential demands of our time. In this way, even in the vastly changed circumstances of the sixties, the United Nations may succeed in the pursuit of those purposes and principles which the Charter of 1945 prescribed and which today remain among the highest aspirations of mankind.

Outside the United Nations, in a variety of ways, the hand of fellowship operates on a global scale. The Colombo Plan, the French programme of assistance to the French Community in Africa, the immense United States capital and technical assistance operations, the British Government continuing aid to its remaining and former colonies, the Israel Technical Assistance program whereby scientific and administrative enterprises are made available to underdeveloped countries  --  all of these are brotherhood translated into reality.

Do these programmes really suggest that inside and outside the United Nations there is emerging a sense of community which, however informally it is used, would make meaningful the phrase "I am a citizen of mankind".

The race is now on between the achievement of human understanding and the explosive forces of fear and ignorance. The future of mankind hinges on this race. Moreover, this understanding must cover two great chasms: the ideological one between the Soviet and non-Soviet world, and the living standards gulf between the southern and northern peoples. The means at our disposal for building bridges here are not the same in each case although the most cohesive force available for all of these bridges is "Brotherhood".

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, "Am I my brother's keeper?" is our common biblical history. If man is to remain at peace, this concept must shape the global destiny for all mankind.

We are striving to understand our common humanity in the face of threats to the species itself. Perhaps we can hope that common brotherhood will be recognized, sooner than we might have thought possible a few short years ago, as the only means by which mankind can attain its highest goal  --  the self-fulfillment of the individual in the image of God.


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Translation of: Diefenbaker, John G. Notes du premier ministre le très honorable M. John G. Diefenbaker pour un discours à prononcé à un dîner offert au temple Emmanuel de Montréal. Ottawa : Division de l'information, Ministère des affaires extérieures, 1962. 8 p.


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