Spring 2005 - Vol 3 issue 3
Signs of Peace
In 1945 fifty delegates from around the world gathered in San Francisco to sign a charter to form the United Nations. Nineteen of those signatures came from AUB alumni. Nada Al-Awar talks with Saudi delegate Ahmad Abdul Jabbar (BA ‘43) about that historic day and his thoughts on the future of diplomacy.
It was to be the document that would make world peace a certainty rather than a goal impossible to achieve. Signed by delegates from the fifty original member states of the United Nations on June 26, 1945, the UN Charter stipulated that members would unite to maintain international peace and security in order to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.” The charter also pledged to respect the equality and sovereignty of all member states and promised to help preserve freedom and promote the universal recognition of fundamental human rights. Member states also agreed to support social progress and better living standards for people all over the globe.
An ambitious undertaking, perhaps, but one which all those present at the signing ceremony strongly believed in, says AUB alumnus Ahmad Abdul Jabbar.
“After the devastation caused by the Second World War, everyone hoped that signatories to the UN Charter would abide by its principles and that all wars would come to an end,” says Abdul Jabbar. “We were confident that a new page was being turned in international politics and that from that moment on countries would be willing to cooperate with each other rather than resort to violence in trying to resolve disputes.”
One of an astonishing nineteen graduates of the American University of Beirut to witness the signing of the UN Charter(an achievement that no other educational institution in the world can boast), the then 24-year-old Abdul Jabbar, who is a Saudi national, attended the session in his capacity as a member of the delegation from Saudi Arabia. Years later, Abdul Jabbar went on to serve as his country’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva for nearly twenty years, a task which he says was sometimes rewarding but more often than not frustrating.
“Everything at the UN depends on the big and powerful countries,” says Abdul Jabbar from his home in Geneva, where he has lived since retiring in 1995. “As long as they have the right to veto resolutions, it will continue to be difficult to achieve certain goals.”
Now serving as consultant to the Saudi delegation in Geneva, Abdul Jabbar nevertheless remains hopeful that the difficulties the UN is facing will be resolved.
“The UN is in a state of deterioration at the moment, because it has grown too big and unwieldy and because every country brings its own problems to it,” he explains. “But it will improve once member states make the decision to respect their commitment to the principles of the charter.”
Abdul Jabbar graduated from AUB in 1943 and served as Saudi ambassador to Japan, Germany, and Italy before taking up his post at the United Nations in 1977. He remembers his years as a university student in Beirut with fondness.
“The atmosphere at AUB was always healthy,” he recalls. “There was a general environment of tolerance between students and staff from different countries and of different faiths. There were Moslems, Christians, and Jews studying and working at the University, but everybody was treated in the same way and nobody felt discriminated against.”
The role that AUB has played in educating young men and women from around the region is invaluable, continues Abdul Jabbar, especially since alumni have gone on to practice in their professional as well as their personal lives the lessons they learned while at university.
“Graduates from all over the Arab world have gone on to spread the message of tolerance and open-mindedness that they experienced while they were at AUB, and this is something we can all be proud of.”
Abdul Jabbar’s fellow alumni on that historic day came from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.
AUB graduates who witnessed the signing of the UN Charter:
Iran: Ghassem Ghani
Iraq: Fadhil Jamli, Abdul Jabbar Chalabi, Darwish al Haidari, Abdul Majid Abbas, Majid Khaddouri, Salih Mahdi Haidar, Hashim Jawad, Mohamed Ibrahim Adham
Lebanon: Charles H. Malek, Subhi Mahmasani, Angela Jurdak Khoury
Saudi Arabia: Ahmad Abdul Jabbar
Syria: Faris al Khoury, Naim al Antaki, Nazem al Koudsi, Farid Zeiniddine, Raja F. Hawrani, Toufic Huneidi