Veteran French diplomat
Mr. Jacques Andréani is a veteran French diplomat with over 40 years of experience in the French Foreign Service. He served as the French ambassador to Egypt, Italy and then the United States from 1989 to 1995. He is the author of "America and Us".
Mr. Jacques Andréani
I believe that diplomacy, to which I have dedicated my professional life, can do many things: it can bring governments together to build confidence, draw up agreements, and highlight common interests. But diplomacy on its own cannot build peace, because true peace demands something more than contacts between governments. For true peace to be established, there needs to be direct contact among people, so that they get to know each other and understand one another.
That is my conclusion after 40 years in diplomatic service. For one people to understand another, knowledge of the other is indispensable. People who are different from us are not our enemies by definition. We must fight the urge to reject the other. If we have disputes with our neighbours, our rivals or those whom we regard as our rivals because of history, we must clarify these disputes by developing an understanding of who they are, by knowing them. In the context of an international situation where ignorance and misunderstanding are on the rise, the need to know and understand the other is of utmost importance.
It is unacceptable to deny the history of events that have occurred, particularly during the Second World War, where an entire people were the victim of an attempted extermination. If well-established historical facts and well-documented realities are denied; we would have no guarantees that such atrocities could not be repeated. Those who deny history at whim represent a retrogressive attitude, a return to the Middle Ages, to a time when whole groups of people were considered to be "cursed" or "criminal by nature".
We no longer live in the Middle Ages. We live in an era of knowledge, scientific progress, and global enlightenment. But while scientific progress is universally embraced, progress on understanding, mutual understanding, and acceptance of others is not. It is such progress that would lead to an attitude that says, yes they are different from us, yes we both claim the same land, but they have as much right to exist as we have.
If we fail to make progress in eradicating retrogressive attitudes, then great misfortune lies ahead for the entire humanity. It is therefore incumbent on all people of good will, whatever their religion, their culture, and their nationality, to make a determined effort to overcome these prejudices and misunderstandings. We must all wage this war on ignorance.