Students at a China-aided school in Vientiane, Laos, on September 15, 2020. A 2019 World Bank report said, by 2030, Belt and Road projects could help lift as many as 7.6 million people from extreme poverty and 32 million people from moderate poverty across the world (XINHUA)
Pandemic, war, climate change, hunger—all are of grave concern to humanity, and all create doubt about the current world architecture, which is seemingly based on control as opposed to collaboration, on power and individual profits as opposed to the common good. These topics were highlighted at an online conference hosted by the Schiller Institute, a think tank based in both Germany and the U.S., on April 9. Participating political and institutional leaders from China, the United States, Russia, India and South Africa called for ushering in a new era of governance and cooperation, one that truly serves the whole planet.
Despite differences on particular issues, all speakers concurred that only an international security and development architecture totally different from the existing one can make the necessary process tangible.
Touching new base
The conference was themed New International Security and Development Architecture for All Nations. The participants unanimously underscored the need to reform the post-World War II (WWII) international system, which comprises international organizations such as the UN, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, NATO and the World Trade Organization (the successor of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade signed in 1947).
"Many times I say we have a 19th-century mindset, 20th-century processes, and 21st-century needs," said Sam Pitroda, an advisor to former Indian Prime Ministers Rajiv Gandhi and Manmohan Singh. "This design [after WWII] did pretty well in growth, prosperity, as well as rebuilding Europe and Japan. But at the same time, it has not solved the problems related to poverty, hunger, violence and war."
This design was based on democracy, human rights, capitalism, consumption and military, according to Pitroda. Capitalism, however, hasn't delivered fruits to everybody. "It has increased inequality, creating a world where very few people have lots of wealth, and lots of people don't have anything," he pointed out.
"WWII gave rise to the establishment of a system of international relations that reflected the balance of power and was based on the maximum consideration of national interests. Perhaps, the founding of the UN with the fundamental role of the Security Council and a reliance on international law was the core element that united all nations," said Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov.
"China has long understood it was obliged as a major economic power to contribute to world development, and intended to do so through existing multilateral institutions including the IMF and the World Bank. But over decades, these organizations have failed to move any significant number of low-income nations to medium-income, or medium-income nations to high-income status," said Justin Yifu Lin, a Chinese economist and former World Bank chief economist and senior vice president.
In addition to economic failures, geopolitical confrontations have also played a key role in dividing the world. Antonov said a psychological, ideological, and economic war was waged against the Soviet Union during the Cold War, where the already dissolved state was branded an "evil empire" and a source of constant global tension.
Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, international institutions not dominated by the U.S. have seen their role diminish, according to Antonov.
"Part of the American mission would be to ensure its role as the only superpower in the post-Soviet world, which would have sufficient military might to deter any nation or group of nations from challenging its primacy," Schiller Institute founder Helga Zepp-LaRouche said, quoting a document that was originally leaked to the New York Times in March 1992, which became known as the Wolfowitz Doctrine and widely criticized as imperialist.
"The UN Security Council is an anachronism of a world long gone, constrained by the divisions between its five permanent veto-wielding members: the U.S., Russia, Britain, France and China," said Jay Naidoo, a cabinet minister in Nelson Mandela's government in South Africa.
Africa, a continent with 54 countries and roughly 1.4 billion residents who believe they are excluded from meaningful participation in decision-making, wants to be part of a global movement that bridges the old divides of East and West, according to Naidoo. "We don't need any global power acting as our policeman. We strive to rise above the paradigm of war driven by imperial and colonial thinking," he added.
Reset and rebuild
There must be the intention to create a new international security and development architecture, which takes into account the security interests of every single country on the planet, Zepp-LaRouche said.
Chen Xiaohan from the Chinese People's Association for Peace and Disarmament shared the proposition offered by Chinese President Xi Jinping: "Build a community with a shared future for humanity; rise above differences in social systems, history and culture; work together to build an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity."
"The idea is to take democracy to inclusion; human rights to human needs; capitalism to new economy; consumption to conservation and sustainability; military to non-violence," said Pitroda. "I believe some institutions have outlived their utility... It is about time to think of the redesign of the world. And that redesign must have people and the planet at the center."
In the opinion of Zepp-LaRouche, a new system is already emerging, centered on China and the Belt and Road Initiative, Russia, India and others, as well as many new strategic alignments, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the many associations among nations in the Global South.
Lin said the key sustainable development goal is to "deliver decent jobs to the people," and this requires good infrastructure above all. "If you want to become rich, first build roads," Lin said, citing an effective Chinese approach. "China develops infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road Initiative to build these roads in other developing countries."
"The proposal of China for an alignment of the Belt and Road Initiative, the American Build Back Better World program and the EU's Global Gateway program can become the actual development underpinning global security architecture. Ukraine, rather than being the cannon fodder in a geopolitical confrontation, can be the bridge between Europe and Eurasian nations," Zepp-LaRouche said.
"Even a multipolar world still implies the danger of geopolitical confrontation. We need a dramatic, sudden change in the way we organize our affairs. It has to start with an honest, explicit insight that a continuation of the present policies risks conflict, in which there would be no winner," she concluded.
(Print Edition Title: Our Destiny: Common, or None)
Copyedited by G.P. Wilson
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