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Seeking Peace: A Foundation for Global Human Rights

By Sara Schoenfeld

Founder, Trade Impact Foundation

As we launch our blog, focused on promoting a world where participants in the international marketplace positively impact human rights, it is fitting to begin by emphasizing a most foundational right - the right to live in safety, free from war. In times of war, all human rights are at risk or else destroyed.

Diving back in time we may learn from the experiences of two men, UK Prime Minister Churchill and US President Roosevelt, “somewhere in the Atlantic” on August 14, 1941.

In the midst of tragic violence and hate which destroyed the civilized world, the US President and UK Prime Minister secretly met to put forth the basic principles to achieve global peace and prosperity.

Tragically, the war continued too far beyond that meeting. Suffering continued on. Churchill’s documented aim of bringing America into the war was unsuccessful at the time. Roosevelt’s documented aim of increasing American support for intervention was not quite achieved.

Consider what these leaders experienced on that date, as they negotiated the text of the Atlantic Charter - Fear? Despair? Hope? Empathy?

In seeking a better world, the US and UK leaders outlined eight common principles “on which they base[d] their hopes for a better future of the world.” Hope. The future was uncertain. So much unknown. Yet, faced with overwhelming conflict, they moved forward to this meeting - which required long travel and risks to safety - perhaps driven by hope.

To achieve this “better world,” the Charter sought economic prosperity for all nations, seeking equal access to trade and raw materials of the world to all nations, “great or small, victor or vanquished.”

Intertwined with principles seeking an end to the use of force and armament were principles promoting socially conscious international trade. The clauses specifically sought access to trade and raw materials for all parties, and international cooperation towards shared values within the multilateral trading system (improved labor standards, economic advancement and social security). Yet another principle spoke to peace enabling freedom of movement around the world.

The lofty ideals engraved in the Charter served as a guide to future international cooperation. Multilateralism was a key driver in healing the WWII-era and Cold War-era world, and generating an environment capable of complex international cooperation and global economic growth.

As emphasized in the Atlantic Charter, human rights cannot thrive in the darkness of war and tyranny. While we as a society are filled, perhaps more than ever before, with robust and promising advocacy for the proliferation of so many worthy human rights all over the world, war persists - so many live without that basic right to peace.

As we move forward in promoting human rights and sustainable policies across the world, countries - and companies - will do well to remember that without peace, human rights gains will not last.


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