On 8 May 2020 Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute held a webinar to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, titled “75 years after World War Two: Achievements and future prospects”. This occasion was set against the backdrop of an unprecedented pandemic bringing the world to a standstill, and ushering in calls worldwide for a reset of the international order, along with rethinking of socio-economic relationships and responses to international crises. As such, the magnitude of the present COVID-19 crisis is often compared with the upheavals caused by the 20th century world wars. The post-war response of world leaders 75 years ago was to strengthen international cooperation by establishing the UN-based multilateral framework to guarantee peaceful cooperation and development. There is a geopolitical crisis looming behind the COVID-19-induced economic crisis, and thus the DOC wished to explore the following guiding questions in this webinar:
- Will the Covid-19 crisis lead to a reset in international relations and an acceleration in the re-composition of the world order inherited from World War Two? What lessons of unity can we draw when ideologies were secondary to building humanity together? How to revive the need for international leadership in the contemporary world?
- Is the ‘battle of the giants’ between the US and China inevitable? What roles can Europe and Russia play?
- Does the UN, created 75 years ago, still have a role to play? If radical reform is necessary, what should it look like? Has the globalisation bubble finally burst and will we see the emergence of new kinds of capitalism, new kinds of regionalism? Will we see a resurgence of the primacy of nation-states?
DOC was joined by Jean-Pierre Raffarin, former Prime Minister of France and Chair of La Fondation Prospective & Innovation, Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov, Permanent Representative of Russia to the EU, and Dan Hamilton, former US Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs, President of the Transatlantic Leadership Network and Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy. DOC Chairman Dr Vladimir Yakunin chaired the discussion.
In his opening remarks Dr Yakunin remembers the millions of lives lost, from Russia to Japan, China, Germany, the US, and all over the world. The new international threat, COVID-19, has also claimed lives worldwide, and threatens to accelerate the dismantling of the post-war order. “75 years ago, the leaders of the Soviet Union, the US, and the UK defined a new world order for the post-war period, at the Yalta and Potsdam conferences, including the creation of the UN,” said Dr Yakunin, adding that differences were put aside in favour of cooperation and peace, as opposed to the highly ideologized politics we see today.
Opening the discussion, Mr Raffarin pointed to the possibility of a new Cold War in the present situation, since the US, as the first leading nation, is not accepting the rise of the other (China). He called for a refreshed thinking in order to avoid the world splitting in two again and descending into this new Cold War. With regard to the present crisis facing the globe, he said “we all seem to be making efforts to eradicate it individually. This is probably the first sign of a loss of appetite for multilateralism.” In order to tackle this problem, and to stave off another international face-off, any multilateral approach must include the US, and there ought to be dialogue between the US and China to make this work.
Mr Chizhov raised concern regarding the consequences of the pandemic for globalisation, as the global economy will be hurt, as infrastructure, transport and energy sectors are all impacted. Primarily, the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the world’s unpreparedness, he said, and we should not engage in blame-games but rather look ahead. A new model of international cooperation, much like 75 years ago, must be built “in spite of considerable ideological differences,” he stated, “based on the principle of equal cooperation among sovereign states.”
Mr Hamilton pointed out that the world does not think of pandemics the way we do wars; he maintained that pandemics absolutely do require international cooperation to address, saying that “it’s only through international cooperation that we were able to exterminate smallpox, but only by doing it together.” He praised the speed with which the international scientific community has collaborated on the issue, “in a way that has never happened before in human history”. With regard to global order, he pointed out that despite the peace conferences and the creation of the United Nations, tensions continued with the Cold War and the division of Germany. He referred to the Paris Charter as the real peace that ended WWII, “the only peaceful systemic change in 500 years of history”, he said. We should reflect, he added, on what was done to end the Cold War, since while it was peaceful, no mechanisms for a new world order were created. We only ended the old world order.
Forty countries were represented in the webinar’s audience, which had the chance to pose questions for the speakers to answer live. Audience member Paul Goldstein, asked what the new international order would entail, and how China could be brought in as stakeholder, to which Mr Chizhov highlighted that the post-WWII world order wasn’t actually liberal, since not all of the participants at Yalta were liberal-minded. Mr Hamilton added that Yalta wasn’t the solution, that in fact it was the problem for the next 45 years. Later conferences which enshrined peaceful cooperation in world order became the solutions. Questions turned to the impact that COVID-19 will have on international collaboration, to which Mr Raffarin asserted that international diplomacy and dialogue must not be forgotten in the “reset” of international order, while Mr Hamilton asserted that while significant international collaboration is happening now, we are still too focussed on the nation-state and the “analogue world”.
In his closing remarks, Dr Yakunin stated that COVID-19 must act as a leveller, after which the new multilateral world must bring in all civilisations on equal terms to engage in a global dialogue. Whether new institutions are created out of this or not, he asserted that we need a new paradigm and new mechanisms for the way forward.
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