YI: Is there a sense that not enough is being done to instill this sense of urgency, at a certain level, at a practical level among the people, to address serious environmental problems like forest degradation, and the excessive use of non-renewable energy
Prince Hassan: Speaking here in Pakistan I think we'll find that Pakistan is among the most consuming countries of firewood. The whole of West Asia today is turning to firewood with the rise of energy prices. Electricity is going to increase 160 percent, that's equivalent to the total aid to Africa and total write-off put together, or it seems bigger. So we're living in a situation where an alternative agency has to be promoted and this is why we're proposing a trans-energy collaboration: a solar city, really in Gaza, providing water and electricity and Sanaa, Yemen, where water is being mined. This historical city will need a new source of water and we have again, presented this suggestion through the Club of Rome and through the German Science Community. Today, Germany makes Euro 15 billion out of alternative energy, and creating 170,000 job opportunities. Why are we not doing the same for ourselves?
YI: What are the prospects for such alternatives as bio-fuels?
Prince Hassan: Absolutely. I think the package of prospects justify the creation of an alternative development emphasis. We're talking about bio-fuels, we're talking about solar energy, we're talking about separation of membranes from desalination, which is technically a difficult task. But unfortunately the buyer and the seller prefer to keep that cost of purchase of equipment as it is for purely commercial reasons. But more importantly, this energy region should also be talking about LEU - light enriched uranium - which cannot be militarized, as opposed to HEU - high-enriched uranium. In the case of Kazakhstan I'm happy to see that the US Department of Energy has negotiated with the government of Kazakhstan a new packet with HEU reactor will turn to LEU. We have a dawning of an agreement with the North Korea. I am hoping the term nuclearization vis-à-vis Iran or North Korea can mean clean energy and can be distinctly understood in the minds of the general public, that if they're looking for energy this is the way to go.
YI: You are here in Islamabad to chair a seminar on a process for cooperation on security. Can you elaborate on that and what is the WANA concept?
Prince Hassan: The West Asia North Africa - WANA - is the new terminology, which the government of India employs, for example, in explaining this region. Iran is an Asian power, Iraq is not a power but it is also in Asia. And according to the United Nations, I am an Asian. If we look at this region, it is a region that includes the energy ellipse from the Caspian to Hormuz and the water and energy spine of the region is the great African river valley, which starts in Africa and terminates in Anatolia in Turkey, including Lake Victoria, including the huge wealth of the potential of the Tigris, Euphrates, of course, I mentioned the region of Lake Victoria, more hydroelectric power than the whole of East Africa would need. So, we are proposing supra-national concepts here, with huge force presence in the region, could be used as leverage for a regional conference on security and cooperation, a regional security pact, a regional stratum for stability, and the cohesion fund as with the southeast European countries, to address the problems of the poor. Not to leave the poor to the militants.
YI: To be inclusive?
Prince Hassan: Well, it's all about inclusion and exclusion. I think that the cut-off today between governments and people is an issue that has to be addressed, and I am happy that the Helsinki process is participating with us in this meeting - the Nordic Council. We met in Copenhagen - five Nordic parliaments, three Scandinavians and two Baltic. And we're developing with them, a pact of co-existence, and we're very grateful to the Sasakawa Peace Foundation for having provided its support in a continuation of 'Voices from Asia,' which started as you recall, as a human development group in Southeast Asia then South Asia. Maybe West Asia will be a more attractive focus than speaking about Middle East, North Africa or about the greater Middle East, from Marrakesh to Bangladesh which of course is the poorest and most populous and most dangerous region in the world.
YI: Veering a bit from the environment and talk about a more serious problem if not equally so - which is religion. There is so much suspicion between the major religions of the world right now. At one point, you even mentioned 'the dangerous rise of Islamophobia in the West.'
Prince Hassan: I was one of the people who contributed to that coinage of Islamophobia in the human rights preparatory meeting for the West Asian region in Teheran a few years ago, before we went to Johanesburg. And, of course, we have xenophobia, all the anti-discrimination legislation in the world, but nobody is actually working for something, they're always working against discrimination of one kind or another. So, I think the time has come to recognize that we can work for an encounter of religions. That is to say, we're talking about Islam, Christianity, the fountains or sources of wisdom in Asia - of Buddhism, Confucianism. We all share the same values. But if we're talking about politicized movements that call for willful killing of innocents, then I think we're seeing a polarity of hatred, which is very difficult to overcome. On the one side you have President Ahmadinejad of Iran talking about the arrival of the Mahdi, the Savior to save Muslims from their enemies, and on the other side you have the Evangelist messianic school in the United States also talking about the end of days, fields of blood, Armageddon. And between these two extremes, I ask myself, what is left for humanity, let alone for religion? I know of no religion that calls for willful killing, no religion that calls for breaking the golden rule, I think the time has come now to emphasize the importance of human dignity. And in that context, to end the deregulation or as I call it the privatization of religion.
YI: To end the privatization of religion?
Prince Hassan: Yes, but I think the bin Ladens of this world are privatizing religion in the absence of a moral authority, a consultative moral authority in Mecca. Will all due respect to any one of these new cults, new schools. They are not more important than Shafei, Maliki, Hanafi, Hambari school in Mecca, they should be meeting on a regular basis with their counterparts of the Imani, Zaidi, about the schools and if we could meet with a hundred Muslims, why we're not meeting 365 days of the year to address everything in Mecca from stem-cell research to the global war on terror. Why is there no consultation? Why is there no moral authority? Why have we locked the legitimacy of consultation? And I think this has to happen. It's not just a one off meeting to discuss patching up differences between Palestinian factions. That is politics. What we need is a moral authority that rises above politics.
YI: Which brings us to the question of how, even within Islam is there a conflict between Shia and Sunni.
Prince Hassan: Well, in jurisprudence there is no conflict, but today, unfortunately, nationalist Pan-Arabism, for example, or Pan Islamism is all a thing of the past when you think of a clean break of this report by the neo-conservatives in 1996. They basically talk about the fragmentation of the region into sectarian ethnic groupings. What is happening in Iraq is hovering on civil strife and if that leads to a Balkanization or Lebanization of the region as a whole, Balkanization we saw very clearly broke up the former Yugoslavia into smithereens, into several component parts. I always maintained that there are those in Israel who believe that Israel should become a dominating minority in a mosaic of minorities. So I say if you want to recognize the individual component parts of any society, recognize it within pluralism, within working for richness and diversity. But if you want to have a self-fulfilling prophecy the region will fragment. Then we are reminded of the old colonial adage of divide and rule.
YI: This unfortunately seems to be happening in many places in the world.
Prince Hassan: My sadness is that tribalism is increasing. The tribes of the rich, the tribes of the cronies of the rich, the tribes of the intermediaries. The other day in Davos, we spoke of a meeting of over 50 percent of the world's GDP. What cultural affinity do these people have, which use cooperation with the public at large. Why do you need an alternative meeting at Porto Allegre or in Nairobi? Why cant we envisage in this 60th year of the United Nations and Bretonwoods, a meeting in which multilateralism is redefined, in terms of a new mission, a new comprehensive mission focused on altrucentric, human dignity, rather than securo-centric or ethno centric. The reason for that is we're not doing our job in our regions. ECOSOC is only a name in many regions. So we go to the United Nations, we listen to 120 speeches, when in fact we should be going with our own speech. Each region should be representing its own priorities, having discussed them fully and having established the regional commons that unfortunately we're losing. We're losing the public realm, and that is why unfortunately you see this increase in tribalism under the name of religion, under the name of hard-line ideologies, motivated by material agendas. Sixty five billion dollars leave the developing world every year to go into the pharmaceutical industry in terms of plant life. I think the time has come for countries of the South to recognize these priorities and to recognize in the North also that one cannot talk about globalization without a globe.