Ted Turner, who in 1997 established the United Nations Foundation with his $1 billion contribution to support the world body's goals, was honoured today with a peace award for his outstanding work to end threats posed by nuclear weapons, his advocacy for sustainable development, and his visionary leadership in communications.
Presenting the 2005 Alan Cranston Peace Award on behalf of the Global Security Institute (GSI) was former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, in his first public appearance at the UN since his historic "glasnost" address to the General Assembly in 1988. The award honours leaders who, through their actions, demonstrate commitment to global security and nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.
Speaking at a press conference Wednesday, Mr. Turner said that he had been inspired by the work of former Senator Cranston – who founded the Institute – in the field of disarmament. "I'm an abolitionist," he said, "I believe we ought to get rid of all [those weapons] as quickly as we can." And while perhaps nothing could stop nations from "cheating" and building one or two weapons, those few wouldn't destroy the world. "After we get rid of all those weapons, the next step is to preserve the environment," he added.
Joining Mr. Turner at the press conference was Mr. Gorbachev, who called the media mogul one of his "heroes" for his efforts on behalf of the environment and world security. Responding to a question, he said he continued to stand by his position, and that of late US President Ronald Reagan, that no one could "win" a nuclear war. That being the case, the weapons must be substantially reduced and eliminated. Military doctrine needed to be reviewed and trust between all interested parties needed to be restored.
"I really think that the United States and Russia must move forward," Mr. Gorbachev said. "But we need trust and we need cooperation." He believed Russia was ready to cooperate, but wondered whether the United States – the world's only remaining super power – was equally ready.
GSI President Jonathan Granoff said Mr. Turner, a world leader in business and philanthropy, was being honoured because of his courageous leadership in bringing people together with his vision for a "world communication capacity." Mr. Turner had also founded the UN Foundation, as well as the Nuclear Threat Initiative, bringing together the core themes of a sustainable environment and addressing the threats of nuclear weapons.
Former Prime Minister Kim Campbell of Canada, who presided over the awards ceremony in her capacity as a member of the GSI Advisory Board, said she was pleased that the Institute could honour Mr. Turner for the role he has played in "getting people to talk to one another" – through his work in the communications field as well as through the remarkable faith he has shown in UN, the world's most important multilateral institution.
Also at the press conference was Dr. Jane Goodall, renowned primatologist and conservationist, and UN Messenger of Peace. She said it was desperately important to make peace with the environment. By helping people – particularly youth – understand the pressures facing the world's natural resources, Mr. Turner's own efforts had underpinned much of the work of the UN as well as that of the Institute.
According to its website, the Institute is dedicated to strengthening international cooperation and security based on the rule of law with a particular focus on nuclear arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament.