Jan 29, 2002

Editorial: Karl von Habsburg

On 19 January 2002, the UNPO Steering Committee appointed me as new Director-General of the organization. This is indeed a great honour for me given the long-lasting relationship I have developed with the UNPO, particularly during my time at the European Parliament. I am also fully aware of the great responsibility that goes with my appointment.
The UNPO is more than just an international organization. It is a living example of the absolute necessity to establish the right to self-determination as a legal norm and standard recognised and practised all over the world.

Since the shocking events of September 11, many of our members have been denounced deliberately as "terrorist" and/or "separatist" organizations, when all they have been doing is to point out that also they have a right to their own history, their cultural heritage, their language, their religion, their own territory, and their right to decide their own destiny.
It is our duty and responsibility to stand up and tell the international community that democratic principles do not stop when and where a majority is voting down a minority, or where people in the name of a "higher" rule get deprived of their fundamental rights.
This has to become an inherent part of democratic principles that the right of peoples, how small they may be in terms of numbers and territory, has to be protected for the sake of peace and stability. Strong nation-states have to be there for the weak nations and peoples among us.

No doubt, there is a long way to go. Changing circumstances call for new action. My first priority is to bring our own UNPO house in gear to meet the challenges of our time. We will soon relocate the Secretariat to a new and more suitable office in The Hague. Similarly, we have to intensify the contacts and communications to, and between our members. Mere lip-service means nothing. We, the Secretariat and the members, have to strengthen our programs such as the Effective Participation Program, giving our members a voice that cannot be overheard in the international fora. This also applies to the Conflict Prevention Program, which is so desperately needed to assess potential dangers to our members, their communities, and the country they live in.

This will require a new commitment and effort from all of us: members, staff, as well as the reliable collaborators of the UNPO worldwide. Being responsible for the daily activities of the Secretariat, I will seek wisdom and conduct my duties with passion for the cause to achieve our common goals. I respectfully call on you to strengthen my hand in this.

Karl von Habsburg