The 1990 Prague Appeal:
Let Us Found a Helsinki Citizens Assembly

The most eloquent symbol of the division of Europe and the world - the Berlin Wall - has collapsed. After many years of anxiety and insecurity, the world is entering an era of great hope. The political landscape is being transformed. For the first time since the end of the Second World War, there is real possibility of constructing new relationships in Europe and the world that do not depend on the threat or use of military force.

However many obstacles remain to be addressed. Many democratic rights have yet to be institutionalized into law. Huge military infrastructures and large stockpiles of weapons are still in place. There are major differences in the level of economic development and standards of living between East and West, North and South, as well as within individual countries. Environmental degradation poses a serious threat to survival and gives rise to new conflicts. National and cultural identities have re-emerged with the desire for self-determination and democracy, but this can and also does lead to a revival of old hatred and fears.

To address these problems will require great creativity and the active participation of citizens and governments. In other words, we still have to establish functioning and sustainable democracies. The discussion about the future shape of various economic systems and about how to develop environmental responsibility has not yet reached its conclusion.

More and more people are becoming convinced:

- That it will be necessary to create a new type of security system:

- That it is possible to do away with military power blocs

- That it is no longer necessary to maintain troops on foreign territory

- That all weapons of mass destruction can be eliminated and

- That military spending and conventional armaments can be drastically reduced.

Europe is at the crossroads of all this activity. We are witnessing an ever accelerating movement towards democracy in most countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The common journey of all European countries towards security and cooperation is giving Europe a renewed sense of self-confidence and energy. A revitalised Europe could also really contribute to the solution of global problems.

The Helsinki process will continue to be a uniquely useful instrument in the years of transition ahead. The peaceful transition of Europe is unthinkable without the full observance of all human and civil rights, which the governments of Europe have pledged themselves to observe in Helsinki, Madrid, Vienna, and elsewhere. The emphasis placed by these accords on the interdependence of peace, security and human and social rights constitutes an invaluable framework for the non-violent democratic resolution of persistent problems.

The all European process of integration has to be supported by the general public. The Helsinki process is too important to be left only to the efforts of governments and politicians, who are bound by their own national priorities; it must be continually extended and strengthened by the involvement of citizens of all signatory countries, of course including the Soviet Union, the United States and Canada.

Overcoming the division of Europe is the job, especially of civil society, of citizens acting together in self-organized associations, movements, institutions, initiatives and clubs across national boundaries. It means the creation of new social relationships, new forums of dialogue through which citizens can negotiate with governments and each other, put pressure on political institutions, and indeed, resolve many issues without the direct involvement of govern-ments. It means the expansion of public (i.e. non-state, non-private) spheres of activity and the creation of a European public opinion.

The commitment of politicians to open diplomacy must go beyond the ante-chamber of high politics. It is not just a matter of informing journalists or even consulting non-governmental organizations. The Helsinki process from above has to be complemented by an equally significant Helsinki process from below.

Let us therefore found a Helsinki Citizens Assembly as a permanent forum of the public at which peace and civic groups as well as individuals and institutions representing a broad spectrum of views can exchange experiences, discuss common concerns, and, where possible, formulate joint campaigns and strategies.

The work of the Assembly will be based upon a commitment to commonly held values. It should be based on our awareness that peace, democracy and human rights are inextricable. Our goal is European unity in diversity. We want to create a multi-cultural community that is open to the South and with full rights for all residents, refugees, migrant and indigenous peoples. A community that will respect the rights of the individual and the principles of national self-determination, women's rights, social and trade union rights, as well as the rights of minorities, and that respects ethnic, religious, se and other differences.

What seemed unthinkable until recently is becoming a reality; the Europe of the end of the Second Millenium has a chance of transforming itself into a Europe of peace, justice, well being, human dignity and world wide solidarity.

We call on all individuals, groups, and institutions upholding the above-mentioned values and aims to participate in the work of the Assembly.

The first Assembly will be held in Prague, 19-21 October 1990. It will be held in the capital of a country in which twenty years ago one of the most significant of the current "spring of European peoples" was sadly brought to a halt.

For more information contact the Canadian Working Group, c/o 207 - 145 Spruce Street, Ottawa, Ontario KIR 6P1.



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