Cover image for The moral architecture of world peace : Nobel laureates discuss our global future
The moral architecture of world peace : Nobel laureates discuss our global future
Cobban, Helena.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Charlottesville : University Press of Virginia, [2000]

Physical Description:
x, 271 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
JZ5538 .C63 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
JZ5538 .C63 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In November 1998, eight visionary recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize gathered on the grounds of the University of Virginia for two days of extraordinary dialogue. From the words of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Archbishop Desmond Tutu's riveting description of chairing South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, their conversation ranged from familiar international-relations issues to areas traditionally excluded from such discourse, like the need for personal transformation and community organizing.

From the laureates' speeches and exchanges, the veteran journalist Helena Cobban has drawn a powerful, prescient vision of our shared global future. Unlike other recent books on global change, The Moral Architecture of World Peace is based on the heroic stories of nine individuals, from as varied backgrounds as Rigoberta Menchú Tum and Jody Williams, who base their view of world peace on personal strength and public activism, not economic trends.

Each chapter contains one laureate's version of a shared message: that peace is grounded in the personal and spiritual as well as the economic and military dimensions of global interconnectedness. When the Dalai Lama speaks of the need for inner as well as external disarmament, he is asking for a greater commitment than the most complicated nuclear arms treaty. Along similar lines, the Northern Ireland peace activist Betty Williams tells of her hope to disarm "the landmines of the heart," the bitterness that lives on in war survivors that can be more destructive than physical scars. Jody Williams and Bobby Muller, 1997 laureates, sound a concordant note in the story of their successful campaign to win an international treaty banning landmines.

Former Costa Rican president Oscar Arias Sánchez, architect of the five-nation peace accord in Central America, challenges citizens of rich western countries to recognize the gap between their luxury spending and the amounts needed to fund basic human services in other parts of the world. Indigenous-rights activist Rigoberta Menchú Tum and East Timorese representative José Ramos-Horta both lament the human and social costs paid by what Ramos-Horta calls, sorrowfully, the world's "expendable peoples." Harn Yawnghwe, speaking on behalf of the Burmese democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was refused the right to travel by her government, talks of the tough issues of preparing for a transition to postauthoritarian rule in a country that has been run by a military junta.

As Helena Cobban articulates, these leaders all seem to subscribe to a broader set of truths that are not necessarily self-evident: that human beings can easily become locked into self-perpetuating "systems of suspicion and violence" at any level, from the interpersonal through the international; that when one is inside such a system, it can be hard to see it and to recognize one's own role within it; but that each one of us has the capacity to make a leap from self-centeredness toward greater understanding. "Try to change motivation," the Dalai Lama urges.

But while these laureates' stories are primarily of personal and political triumph, they also tell of great sacrifice, conflict, and pain. Bobby Muller's passionate exchange with Archbishop Tutu on moral accountability versus reconciliation, and the self-examination of Ramos-Horta, who reflected that his own East Timorese independence movement may have hurt the chances of United States' intervention to prevent Indonesia's brutal invasion of his country, point toward the new kinds of challenges we face in the next century.

From the candor, eloquence, humor, and differences expressed by these inspiring people, Helena Cobban has sketched out a new international paradigm of peace.

Author Notes

A former Middle East correspondent for the Sunday Times of London, Helena Cobban now writes a regular column on global affairs for the Christian Science Monitor. Cobban also sits on an advisory committee for Human Rights Watch and is a member of the International Institute of Strategic Studies

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

In November 1998, eight Nobel Peace laureates (and a ninth's representative) met at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, to discuss current issues in international affairs. Both these volumes memorialize that conference. Hopkins, a University of Virginia professor of religious studies, directed the conference. His Art of Peace is a transcript of the event, including welcoming remarks; brief biographies of JoseRamos Horta, Betty Williams, Dr. Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Oscar Arias Sanchez, Bobby Muller, Jody Williams, the Dalai Lama, and, for Aung San Suu Kyi, Harn Yawnghwe; their formal presentations (on resisting stronger neighbors, rehabilitating survivors of violence, indigenous people, intergroup reconciliation, structures for disarmament, global action on weapons proliferation, and human rights in totalitarian states); question-and-answer sessions in which the laureates exchanged ideas; and closing remarks. The question-and-answer sessions may be this volume's unique contribution, clarifying each laureate's approach to the personal change and activism that peace demands. Cobban has been a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor and a Human Rights Watch activist. Her book (available months before Hopkins' transcript) is an interpretation of the conference, including long quotations from the laureates' presentations, and shorter quotes from their question-and-answer conversations, as well as context for their discussions, from historical information on their countries (East Timor, Northern Ireland, Guatemala, South Africa, Costa Rica, the U.S., Tibet, Burma) to details of their individual activism. Cobban effectively organizes and analyzes these materials, whereas Hopkins presents the originals. --Mary Carroll

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
1. A Gathering of Framers of the Future Global Culturep. 1
2. The Dalai Lama and the Need for Internal and External Disarmamentp. 17
3. The Individual and the Totalitarian State: Aung San Suu Kyi and the Question of Human Rights in Burmap. 34
4. The Challenge from the Indigenous World: The Powerful Voice of Rigoberta Menchu Tump. 59
5. Resisting the Domination of Stronger Neighbors: Jose Ramos-Horta on East Timor and the Dalai Lama on Tibetp. 80
6. Transforming Systems of Violence at the Personal Level: Betty Williams and the Rehabilitation of Survivors of Violencep. 104
7. Transforming Systems of Violence at the Intergroup Level: Desmond Tutu and Reconciliation in South Africap. 128
8. Oscar Arias Sanchez and Structural Aspects of the Struggle for Human Securityp. 151
9. Reconciliation in Action: Bobby Muller and the Anti-Landmine Campaignp. 180
10. A New Model for Global Action: Jody Williams and the International Campaign to Ban Landminesp. 203
11. Toward a Moral Architecture for World Peacep. 223
Appendix Recipients of the Nobel Peace Prizep. 237
Notesp. 241
Further Resourcesp. 257
Indexp. 261