• Remembering The Holocaust

    This is the text of a speech delivered by Bryan Gould in the Grand Hall, NZ Parliament Buildings, to mark the UN Day of Holocaust Remembrance on 27 January.

    Sixty five years after the defeat of the Nazi regime, we mark again today the United Nations Day of Holocaust Remembrance. The passage of time has inevitably reduced the numbers of Holocaust survivors. And, some may say, in a world that has sadly become enured to other atrocities – the killing fields of Cambodia, the genocide in Rwanda, the ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia – the Holocaust is gradually losing its power to shock.

    I beg to differ. The Holocaust must be and will be remembered because it is unique in the annals of man’s inhumanity to man.

    It is not just the scale and intensity of the savagery that was inflicted, though they were both unprecedented. There were so many other aspects of the Holocaust that demand that we should fully learn the lessons it should teach us.

    It was, first, a deliberate and planned expression of that most ancient and pervasive of all racial prejudices – anti-semitism. This was no careless paroxysm of sudden anger against a briefly vulnerable minority; it was the central and structured element of a hateful ideology that used anti-semitism as both an end in itself and as the means to unite a deluded people in the pursuit of other goals.

    Furthermore, this was state-directed savagery. This was not the work of a small group of criminals pursuing their goals while the state turned a blind eye. This was the state itself, directing and demanding that the crimes should be carried out in its name.

    Nor was this a case of the state suddenly being taken over by a gang of desperadoes, who then perverted the state’s powers to serve their own ends. This was the legitimate, elected government of one of the world’s most advanced nations. The German people, knowing what Hitler intended, nevertheless voted him into power. It was a government that remained in power for twelve years. And this in a country which had a strong claim to being at the heart of European culture and civilisation.

    No one could mistake what Hitler intended. His targets did not choose themselves by becoming criminals or outlaws. They did not hold up their hands by acting or conspiring as a group against the regime. They had, through their mere existence, been in Hitler’s sights from a long way back. They were targets because they shared one characteristic and one only – they were Jewish. Women, children, the elderly, the sick, all qualified so long as they met that one single criterion. That was all that was needed to destroy their homes, shatter their families, and send them to the gas chambers.

    What remains astonishing, even at this distance and even in a modern world that is sadly harder to shock, is the sheer indifference to human feeling and suffering that those responsible for the Holocaust demonstrated. It was the denial of humanity to the victims that made it possible for the perpetrators to do what they did.

    In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, and as the horror of the Holocaust became fully apparent, there was a feeling that what had been revealed was a deep flaw in the German character – something specific to the country that had allowed Nazism to flourish. But gradually the understanding developed that, if it could happen in Germany, it could happen anywhere.

    When the Allies convened after the war to set up the United Nations, they were determined to ensure that those lessons should be learned. New Zealand was one of those architects of the post-War world. The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation was the first UN Agency to be set up.

    In 1946, when UNESCO’s Constitution came into force, New Zealand was the second country to step forward to sign it. We did so, in the aftermath of that tragic conflict and with the horror of the Holocaust fresh in our minds, so that the instinct for peace and for a common humanity should take hold in the minds of new generations. So, with other founder members, we signed up for a future built on the life of the mind and the heart and the spirit – on education, culture, the sciences, and the free exchange of information and ideas. We saw these as the building blocks for a world that would strive to avoid such dreadful events in the future. And that is why the National Commission for UNESCO, which I have the honour to chair, will gladly play its part in today’s ceremony to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day – to help ensure that we will never forget.

    Bryan Gould

    23 January 2010

  • Bryan Gould Speaks to UNESCO

    Speech to the UNESCO General Conference By the Chair of the New Zealand National Commission Mr Bryan Gould

    Tena koutou katoa kua huihui mai nei i tenei ra.

    (English translation: Greetings to all who have gathered here today).

    Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen

    In 1946, when UNESCO’s Constitution came into force, New Zealand was the second country to step forward to sign it. We did so, in the aftermath of a tragic conflict, so that the instinct for peace should take hold in the minds of new generations. So, with other founder members, we signed up for a future built on the life of the mind and the heart and the spirit – on education, culture, the sciences, and the free exchange of information and ideas.

    Sixty three years later, New Zealand continues to support UNESCO’s goals. Both at home, in managing our own affairs, and in offering an example internationally and particularly in the Pacific sub-region, we try to demonstrate through our actions the value of UNESCO’s agenda for progress.

    So, we are strong supporters of education for sustainable development and we have an active network of ASPnet schools committed to UNESCO’s values. In science, we focus on waiora, the Maori word for our sustainable fresh-water resources. The bicultural foundation of our country – Maori and pakeha – gives us a strong base to take advantage of the growing cultural diversity that enriches our society. And we continue to enjoy, and encourage others to emulate our commitment to, a free press and the free exchange of ideas.

    What we seek is to lead by example, to cast new light on old problems, to think strategically, to change attitudes, to open minds, to know and understand more of ourselves and of others.

    We like to think that New Zealand lives UNESCO’s ideals. We do so at what is another critical moment in the world’s affairs. The global recession may not be a disaster on quite the scale of the Second World War, but it should lead us nevertheless to re-affirm the great value and importance of what UNESCO stands for. The recession, after all, was the end result of a doctrine that said that all that really mattered was the maximisation of profits for the masters of the global economy.

    We now know that we cannot entrust human progress to the tender care of the bottom line. That way lies not just economic crisis, but ecological degradation, social disintegration, and international conflict. Man is not just an economic animal. The lessons of the recession should teach us that the way forward lies – not with ever faster and less responsible consumption of material things by a small fraction of the world’s population – but with learning more about and responding better to our relationships with each other and with our planet.

    A General Conference is inevitably concerned with budgets, elections, resolutions, organisational structures and processes. But we must never lose sight of UNESCO’s true purposes, and each of our individual decisions should be judged according to whether it advances or hinders the achievement of those goals. So, New Zealand, from our vantage-point in the Pacific sub-region – the sub-region most distant from Paris and covering the greatest number of countries and the largest geographical area, but a sub-region challenged not only by immediate dangers of which last week’s tsunami is a sad and destructive example, but also by longer-term threats such as climate change – has naturally been a consistent advocate for decentralisation. We welcome the report of the second task force review. But modalities are less important than people. We continue to be concerned at the damaging delays in recruiting professional staff to the UNESCO Office for the Pacific in Apia. There is no point in changing the structure if we cannot commit the resources to make it work. Similarly, we are concerned about the performance indicators proposed in the draft 35C/5. We are not convinced that these largely quantitative performance indicators will provide a meaningful assessment of the Organisation’s effectiveness. They may be easily measured but they tell us little about our real achievements; at worst, their adoption could lead to a diversionary goal displacement. We strongly encourage the Organisation to undertake further work on this issue. We continue to believe that working across sectors and themes is the way UNESCO should operate. The next Medium-Term Strategy UNESCO programme should, we believe, be organised around these intersectoral themes with a Secretariat that mirrors this structure. Two years ago, my predecessor delivered her speech to the General Conference while wearing a Maori cloak or korowai. I am similarly privileged today. The cloak that I wear has been gifted by the National Commission to UNESCO as a taonga or cultural treasure. It is a work reflecting the great skill of a traditional weaver who has brought together a range of materials to produce something of significance, value and beauty. It is, we like to think, a suitable metaphor for the role that UNESCO should and must play in tomorrow’s world.No reira, tena koutou katoa.(English translation: In conclusion, greetings to you all).

  • What Should Gordon Brown Do Now?

    What Should Gordon Brown Do Now?

    Bryan Gould Writes The PM’s Next Speech

    “The local election results and the opinion polls convey a pointed message _ that my government and I have for the time being lost the confidence of our supporters. We cannot deny the reality that the next election may be a step too far for a government completing its third term.

    To accept this is oddly liberating. It means that, instead of focusing exclusively on trying to win an election, I can now concentrate on delivering _ for the two years that remain of this term _ the best government this country can have. History may judge that I failed as an election-winner; my term as Prime Minister might yet deliver the verdict that I did the job well.

    To achieve this, I must first clear away the baggage that I inherited. I will, for example, lance the boil of the Iraq invasion by setting up an independent commission to establish how and why that came about. This will signal a return to the ethical foreign policy advocated by Robin Cook; we will, for example, finance the return to their homeland of those displaced when the US military base on Diego Garcia was established.

    I will cut by half the number of media advisers employed by the government, with the intention of showing that our message is about real issues, rather than spin. And I have learnt and will apply the lesson that a government that ignores its supporters for the sake of pleasing its opponents will end up being disliked by everyone.

    I will ensure that my government maintains unity and cohesion by taking careful account of what my MPs and those who elected them are telling me. I will recognise in advance those issues – such as the removal of the 10p tax band or the 42-day detention period – where a broad consensus looks impossible to achieve. Where there is a consensus, my colleagues will be expected to abide by it.

    I will review those policies – even the sacred cows – that have failed to deliver. I am not convinced, for example, that academy schools have succeeded or that we have even applied the right criteria for evaluating them.

    Because I believe that my government should be accountable for its own economic policy, I will reconsider whether it is right to contract that policy out to an “independent” central bank, and re-evaluate the advantages of restoring the main elements of economic policy to the arena of public debate and democratic process. My goal is a sustainable economy that delivers better standards of living, employment and public services to ordinary people, rather than inflated bonuses to those who create no new wealth but manipulate existing assets to their own advantage.

    I will return to my basic political instincts – those that brought me into Labour politics in the first place. I regard as unacceptable the rapid growth in inequality in this country. We cannot expect people to take pride in their country and to work hard for its success if they do not share in the benefits that success will bring.

    While I believe that a properly functioning market is irreplaceable, I do not accept that the market is infallible. It must be regulated and supplemented if it is to deliver acceptable outcomes to everyone. There is, in other words, an important role for public services in a modern economy. My government will give them priority over the next two years.

    The next election is in the lap of the gods – or, more prosaically, in the hands of the voters, as it should be. Between now and then, you will see less, not more, of me on your television screens. I will be concentrating instead on leading a competent, caring and effective government.”

    This piece was published in the online New Statesman on 18 April 2008