This year the entire world celebrates the anniversary of the end of World War II. A victory over Nazism for the benefit of humanity. Many experts and media commentators have drawn parallels between that global conflict and the COVID-19 crisis. Today, humanity is fighting against a new, invisible enemy. The scale of the changes we are witnessing and the mobilization necessary to combat the current threat are unprecedented.
The end of the post-WW2 era and lessons to be learned
Today we are all focusing on the global crisis caused by COVID-19. However, this is not a reason to forget about the strategic conditions that prevailed just before the outbreak – and in fact continue to do so. We are all well aware of the Doomsday Clock project, which was developed by scientists to show how close humanity is to a man-made global catastrophe. At the beginning of this year, the clock reached the closest point to midnight since the project’s inception in 1947. A lack of trust and an inability to cooperate properly against new threats suggest that the 75-year “post-WW2 era” has ended, and we must rethink the world order and look for new models of global development.
What achievements can we draw from experience? 75 years ago, the leaders of the Soviet Union, the United States and the United Kingdom defined a new world order for the post-war period at the Yalta and Potsdam conferences, including the creation of the United Nations as the international peacekeeping organisation. The leaders were able together to create a successful mechanism for global cooperation – the UN is still the only organisation of its kind. The key factor that allowed them to move forward was their willingness to put aside ideological, political and economic differences for a higher purpose. In my opinion, this remains the most critical element in effective international relations, as opposed to the highly ideologized approach that we see today.
The search for new international leadership
In the last few years, more and more major powers have put their own national interests first. This raises the question what kind of “leadership” the world actually needs. The problem with what we are seeing today is that we have so-called leaders who follow ideologies of exclusivity and superiority. Adopting a zero-sum perspective is an over-simplified way of understanding international relations. A multilateral world consists of civilisations that should be equal, not necessarily in military or even economic terms, but with equal ability to engage in global dialogue.
The new leadership that is needed requires a number of qualities that are currently broadly missing:
- The ability to see the global picture;
- The ability to see the pathways to long-term sustainable global development, without limiting views and thoughts to electoral cycles or short-term political gain;
- The ability to unite people in the face of global threats;
We need to offer a new system and principles, and build a new type of international leadership that will take into account the interests of the emerging world in Asia and Africa, and will help to avoid future global threats.
The world needs a new protocol for international relations
This crisis shows that the world needs a new protocol for international relations and new responsible leadership if it is to be better prepared for future crises of this scale. Until now, development has been based on values such as market capitalism, GDP growth and competition. Going forward, I am convinced we need to be driven by values of solidarity, responsibility and a shared commitment to overcoming poverty and inequality. We must offer a new platform and paradigm for global powers to cooperate.
The practice of dialogue of civilisations is in fact a way of building the global community. It combines the positive human potential of civilisational identities, state structures, social and economic features, as well as cultural and historical diversity. Only by working together we can correct and recast the existing global disorder and find a way to greater prosperity for humanity.
My hope is that coronavirus may act as a leveller when it comes to nations, and that after a short-term spike in focusing on national interests, we will see countries coming back together around shared interests. But I hope coming back to the table as equals with the ability to cooperate towards forging a new model of sustainable development.
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