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Zone of Peace

Excerpt from: Tibet: Enduring Spirit, Exploited Land. By: Robert Z. Apte and Andres R. Edwards

A Zone of Peace

The Tibetans' drive for independence has been unshakable since the occupation in 1949. Looking toward independence, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has proposed that Tibet be transformed into a "Zone of Peace." As a completely demilitarized nuclear-free zone, it would serve as a buffer between India and China, formerly long-term foes. Intrinsic to this vision is a fully democratic nation dedicated to peace, fulfilling its historical role of neutrality. The inhabitants would be masters of their own fate. An intensive effort would be required to reverse the massive environmental damage brought about by the occupation. Wherever possible, the land and wildlife would be rehabilitated to their previous state.

A "Zone of Peace" is not a new concept. For thousands of years, places of worship have been established as sanctuaries and protected from outside infringement. In 1972, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization adopted the Convention Concerning World Cultural and Natural Heritage with a world-wide mandate to define sites of natural and cultural heritage. The concept is that their protection is the responsibility of the world. The Potala Palace in Lhasa has already been designated as such a site. Why not all of Tibet?

The Dalai Lama's vision of transforming all of Tibet into a Zone of Peace is an extension of this concept. It would be a precedent and a challenge for the world. A free, neutral Tibet would serve as a living laboratory. Other countries would observe the progress in returning to or reaching sustainable development, the rehabilitation of the environment, and the reintroduction of endangered species. In accomplishing this goal, it would be an invaluable model for regions with endangered populations and damaged ecological areas. Support from public and private organizations would provide an unprecedented opportunity to view positive environmental education and change in action. Students from abroad would observe the process and participate in the revitalization of the ecosystem returning Tibet to a healthy equilibrium. Participants would reforest the mountains and protect endangered plant and animal species. Tibetans would again practice traditional methods of herding, agriculture, and collecting of medicinal herbs. Tibetans would address current social problems including unemployment, apathy, and social malaise.

The Tibetan Government-In-Exile's guidelines for future development (see Appendix C) urge that environmental and industrial development projects be small in scale and compatible with improving the quality of life. Tibetans would implement sustainable technologies for both present and future generations. The teaching of Tibetan in schools would be reinstated. The principle in development would be "for and by the people of Tibet." Projects planned by the people, developed by the people, and operated by the people, would do much to reverse the spiral of alienation and despair. Many forms of technology that have been successfully demonstrated elsewhere could be introduced into Tibet.

During its period in exile, the Tibetan leadership has been keenly aware of the need to transform the culture and the government into one more akin to Western-style democracies. Aware of previous shortcomings, the Tibetan Government-In-Exile has organized itself along democratic lines with a representative government and elected parliament. The community of exiles in Dharamsala has taken the responsibility of educating itself so that it will have the knowledge needed to function in a responsible manner when it returns to Tibet. Tibetans who have immigrated to Western-oriented countries are working to develop skills in a full range of disciplines. Unlike most other immigrants, they wish to return to their native land.[FN5]

Effective change requires a personal commitment. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama states, "I believe that every individual has a responsibility to help guide our global family in the right direction. Good wishes alone are not enough; we have to assume responsibility. Large human movements spring from individual human initiatives."[FN6] Individual efforts have made a tremendous difference in the social justice, peace, and environmental movements. Now Tibet stands before us as an opportunity filled with hope. Through personal commitment and worldwide understanding, Tibetans can once again thrive in the Land of Snows.


5. During our interviews, Tibetans expressed an overwhelming desire to return to their homeland.

6. The Dalai Lama, Tibetan Review, August, 1992, 20.

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