Today (8 May), the commemorations of the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War will go almost unnoticed, overshadowed by the COVID-19 crisis and the progressive and problematic ending of the quarantine in Europe.
The year 2020 should also be an opportunity for the international community to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Hiroshima and the creation of the United Nations. Its Secretary-General Antonio Guterres launched a few months ago a major “global conversation” to reflect on the future of the United Nations and international cooperation. As we gradually emerge from the first stage of the COVID-19 crisis, this return to 75 years ago, when humanity experienced the worst and the best, is not without interest.
As Hubert Védrine remarked during a webinar organised last week by the Aspen Institute, for the first time in its history, the whole of humanity is facing the same threat. Global threat, disordered, dispersed national responses. And behind the foreseeable economic cataclysm is already emerging the geopolitical impact on an already unstable and precarious world order.
For some people like Joseph Nye, it will be negligible; for others like Jean-Yves Le Drian, the world of tomorrow will be like the one before, but worse! It is difficult today to place the cursor on this, but certainly, as Richard Haass, the head of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, says, the pandemic will accelerate history rather than reshape it. In other words, the “battle of the giants” between the United States and China that was to take place over the next few decades will take place over the next few years.
Between two countries and two leaders, one flayed by its calamitous management of the crisis and its economic consequences, the other for its possible responsibility for the crisis and its lack of transparency. Last February, at the Munich Security Conference, even though the United States thought it was protected from the virus, the tone had already risen several notches against China.
Do we, Europeans, do you, Indians, Russians, Turks, Africans, want to go back to a world polarized to the extreme, and become the adjustment variable of one of the two camps? In view of our history, our culture, don’t we have a role to play to avoid this disastrous escalation and to put pressure to choose “the other road”, that of a multipolar world that is just, stable and balanced, respectful of cultures and civilizations, and driven by the promotion of reasonable and sustainable development? Do we want to go against what 20th century history has taught us?
Seventy-five years ago, when the world was at a crossroads, a handful of visionary leaders were able to put in place a framework for international co-operation which, although imperfect, made it possible to preserve peace and development within a few decades.
At a time when the whole of humanity faces the same threat, we must seize this unique moment to develop a sense of common belonging, shared responsibility and shared destiny, “one humanity, many cultures”. And to do so without compromise or candour.
It means being able all together to finally open this global conversation and ask ourselves what binds us to the 21st century, the shared values we are ready to commit ourselves to, the new contract we can agree on. And to reinvent a fair and effective model of international cooperation, in particular by breaking the lock of supremacy, of the absolute monopoly of representation and decision-making by Governments.
Everyone knows that if the World Health Organization had been free to alert the public and the media, what was still a local epidemic last December would never have become a global pandemic. It is well known that the complexity of global challenges requires collective intelligence to ensure their resolution, and not exclusive reliance on the promotion or defence of national interests.
The governance of the Internet by ICANN, the regulation of the diamond trade with the Kimberley Process and the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are illustrations of the success and effectiveness of multi-stakeholder mechanisms from which we must draw inspiration and lessons learned in rethinking appropriate international cooperation mechanisms. The choice is clear. The world is at a crossroads, and it is up to everyone to mobilize to ensure that the spirit of the San Francisco conference that laid the foundations of the UN prevails, and to give birth to a new internationalism adapted to the challenges of global threats.
The Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute has taken the initiative to launch a global consultation with a view to rethink in depth the functioning and nature of the United Nations and international co-operation, which will culminate next October at its annual Rhodes Forum with concrete proposals from all the actors and countries of the international community.
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