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Peace Advocates Gather in The Hague

Subject: Peace Advocates Gather in The Hague (AP)

Wednesday May 12 3:07 AM ET 

Peace Advocates Gather in The Hague

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) - Peace advocates are gathering this week to
promote a 21st century without war, launching campaigns against nuclear
weapons, child soldiers and small arms.

Some 5,000 participants - including Nobel laureates, religious leaders, and
the U.N. secretary-general - will meet in the Netherlands for a four-day
conference beginning today to discuss how to create ``a culture of peace''
in the new millennium.

The conference is launching several political campaigns including efforts to
stop the use of child soldiers, nuclear weapons and small arms. Two other
new programs will promote education about peace and raise support for the
permanent international criminal court.

The Washington-based Worldwatch Institute also hopes the conference will
produce a peace proposal for the Balkans. Special sessions on the crisis in
the Yugoslav province of Kosovo have been added to the schedule.

The Hague Appeal for Peace Conference commemorates the 100th anniversary of
the First International Peace Conference, an 1899 meeting that sought to
avert violence in the 20th Century.

The 1899 meeting was called by Russian Czar Nicholas II, who feared German
aggression and hoped to avert danger.

Worldwatch estimates that by 1995, 110 million people had died in war.

``There are no guarantees for a different outcome, but there is more
political space and open discussion about what can be done,'' said Michael
Renner, a senior researcher at Worldwatch. ``Just the experience of the 20th
century can be seen as a warning. We have to pay closer attention to the
root causes of conflict.''

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Queen Noor of Jordan, Archbishop Desmond
Tutu of South Africa, Jose Ramos-Horta of East Timor and John Hume of
Northern Ireland are among those planning to attend.

One Nobel laureate who will not attend is Myanmar's pro-democracy leader,
Aung San Suu Kyi.

In a tape due to be played at the conference, Suu Kyi said that a life
without peace was not worth living. Life in military-ruled Myanmar, also
known as Burma, is like a ``battlefield'' where human rights are constantly
abused, she said.

``When we talk of peace we cannot avoid talking about human rights,
especially in a country like Burma where the people are troubled constantly
by the lack of justice, by the lack of peace,'' she said.

Myanmar has been run by the military for decades. In 1990, the junta refused
to recognize elections that gave Suu Kyi's party a landslide victory.