Governance

A New World Political Architecture

Mikhail Gorbachev delivers the closing presentation on A New World Political Architecture (1)

Introduction by Nancy Roof

It was a dedicated and globally diverse group of leaders who
gathered together at the beautiful old monastery in Bosco Marengo,
Italy on October 27-28, 2006. These leaders had been invited by
Mikhail Gorbachev and The World Political Forum to participate
in the inauguration of a high level think-tank dedicated to A New
World Political Architecture. This type of meeting would not have
been necessary a few decades ago, when the political structure of
the world was still based on the sovereignty of national states.
Recognizing the political crisis that globalization has engendered,
Gorbachev initiated this wise council of innovative thinkers to
develop foundational ideas and approaches that address the new
realities of the 21st century. Seasoned political figures and world
leaders such as foreign ministers and ambassadors were seated at
the table—tastefully decorated with seasonal flowers. But new
political players graced the table, also: academic experts on global
affairs, members of civil society, and journalists. I was privileged to
be at that table.

As we integrate new players into global governance, we will need
to develop trust between all sectors in order to move forward. The
hospitality of the staff and principals of The World Political Forum
created a relaxed and open atmosphere that made it easy for us to
trust each other and to share deeply our concerns and hopes for positive and realistic outcomes to our efforts.
Let us now turn to Mikhail Gorbachev for a summary of the
deliberations at The World Political Forum’s initial meeting on

A New World Political Architecture –
Edited Remarks by Mikhail Gorbachev

Today we can say that we have a world political crisis. Generally,
the world is even more dangerous than the world of the mid-1980s.
And the question is: What are we supposed to do? And, generally,
what kind of world do we need?

We will not be able to achieve anything unless there is a sea
change in the attitudes of politicians, who neglect common human
interests and do not put them at the top of their agendas. One
common problem is that we politicians emphasize our national
interests, since we have another election ahead of us and this is
our greatest concern.

Today our problems are global, and they can be addressed only
through pooling our efforts. Recommendations of think-tanks
and pressure from non-governmental organizations should be a
basis for new politics.

The conference has fulfilled its task of productive brainstorming
about the issues, revealing the scope of the endeavor, and it has laid
a strong foundation for our continued efforts to build a new world
order. We need to deepen our perception of the reality of today’s
world and identify developing trends based on those realities.
We should take an evolutionary approach to building the new
political architecture. This means reforming existing organizations
and adapting them to the challenges of the 21st century global
world, while eliminating outdated organizations and methods.
I want to illustrate this through the example of organizations
like the United Nations (UN) and the World Trade Organization
(WTO). We just had a meeting with the press, who asked: Is it
time to eliminate the United Nations? That question floats around
mostly when someone wants to get rid of international law,
international institutions, the UN Security Council, and start
acting without taking anyone else into account. I think everyone
is aware of such ideas, and we will not dwell on them further.
Need for an Economic Security Council at the United Nations
There are defects in the UN structure. A very serious one is the
structure of the Security Council, which does not reflect new
realities. The UN is not sufficiently effective in the social and
economic spheres. Many problems are rooted here, including
the problems of security, stability and democracy.

For example, political scientists are attempting to provide convincing
explanations for the roll-back we are witnessing in about
one hundred or more countries, where big democratic changes
took place in the late 20th century. Several dictators and
authoritarian regimes left the world stage then; but now we see
a roll-back of those processes, and authoritarian-minded politicians
are again popular. We see it even here, in Europe. At the most
recent congress of political scientists in Cape Town, South Africa,
its participants (particularly those representing the developing
countries) were clearly saying that people were unhappy with
the fact that hopes for democracy proved unwarranted. They are
ready to support anyone who proposes an effective social and
economic program.

Some argue that the most important thing is freedom and political
rights. Others try to prove that it is important to create social and
economic preconditions for a normal life, worthy of a human
being. In fact, both are important and need one another to
function successfully.

All our efforts and projects will not be worth a penny if we do not
consider that the number of poor people is increasing and the gap
between rich and poor is growing. Today, half of the world’s
population lives on a dollar or two a day, while well-off people
engage in lengthy discussions and seem not to care much about
the fate of those less fortunate.

We must pay attention to this issue, since this is potentially a
delayed-action bomb. What were the origins of the Porto Alegre
protest movement? At first, they wanted to portray their protest as
simply a variety of almost rioting forces. Now these same forces
are engaged in dialogue. We can no longer avoid addressing these
urgent issues. I would probably put establishing a new organization
for social and economic concerns at center stage of the new
world order.

Mr. Stephane Hessel [Ambassador, France] was talking about the
dangers lying within the current global financial system. Today, any
country can be brought to its knees. You remember how Indonesia
was praised and its experience extolled, but the country was bogged
down in short loans. At the time it was enough to push a button
or two, and within 24 hours Indonesia turned from a prosperous
country into a backward one. The value of the national currency
decreased three times.

When issues like that are not addressed, a vacuum develops.
And G-8 and other organizations try to fill it. However, these
organizations are like clubs, geared to the interests of their own
members. For sure, they alleviate burning problems sometimes
and raise billions. However, they do not operate as a system for
the common good. Who authorized them to take up the functions
irrelevant to their missions? G-8 members feel the lack of their
legitimacy and therefore have recently invited China, India, Brazil,
South Africa, and Mexico to their meetings. Life itself is forcing
them to extend their representation. But still it is a club with invited
guests. The danger is that it becomes an alternative to the United
Nations. When they agree upon a decision there which is in
conflict with the interests of the entire global community, there
is a problem. And the UN is really the only legitimate universal
international organization. That is why, in my view, an Economic
Security Council is needed.

As for the World Trade Organization, people often ask: Can
the organization created to achieve a narrow-scope objective of
liberalizing the global trade meet the demand of today’s world? I
think history has shown that the WTO can adapt to new objectives
and the inclusion of new countries like China and Brazil. If we use
such an approach, then we will be able to adapt these organizations
instead of eliminating them. Adaptation is possible and may be
the main direction for us to think about in moving toward a new
world architecture..

Strengthening Global Civil Society.

Now about the second important idea that was also voiced here.
We are witnessing the formation of a global civil society. Most
notably, its influence on politics will grow, and it should have a
major impact on the architecture of the new world order. Analysis
shows that the main theme of protest movements, which have
already become international by nature, is dissatisfaction with the
social and economic situation and the state of the environment.

Furthermore, the civil society and the global civil society are
already taking to the streets and airing their demands. Cooperation
between the UN, international organizations and the civil society
is not perfect; it does not meet the requirements of addressing new
tasks, but a world architecture built solely on sovereign states is not
adequate to meet the needs of a modern world.

I think our task is to think about how to integrate and fully
legitimatize new international organizations into the global
process. I want to support fully the idea voiced by Giulietto Chiesa
[member of the European Parliament, Italy] that we should not
only assess the situation and develop a vision, but also move toward
a strategy and create some effective mechanisms through which
the new world order can function. Otherwise, we may slip into a
utopian approach.

Toward A Realistic
Structure for a Global World

And now we are approaching
the theme of creating a realistic
structure for the world order,
which would ensure effective
governance in the context of the
global world. Some important
points to consider:

  1. Global processes should not
    be controlled from one center.
    There can be no global government,
    nor claims by one
    or several states to govern the
    world.
  2. Our proposals should be developed on the basis of the examination
    of real trends. In my view, a realistic new world order
    is a complex multi-level system based on democratic principles.
    Nation states will still be needed. I attended one conference
    at which a Japanese delegate called for doing away with borders
    and states. He said that multinational companies and banks
    should decide everything. However, they proved to be
    unprepared and unable to shoulder the task. I think the role of
    nation states will not diminish, since the complex world requires
    very responsible and balanced action. However, authority will
    be shared, and nation states will have to cede part of their
    sovereignty, as they have in the European Union.
  3. It is important to find a proper balance between the common
    interests of humanity and national interests. Even the most
    prominent among our leaders are simply engaged in apologetics
    on this particular matter rather than on analysis. Addressing
    issues of security, creating safeguards against nuclear or bacteriological
    war, addressing the environmental crisis—these are
    common national interests. If we don’t address them also at the
    global level, all countries will be hard hit. Today the lack of such
    understanding is the cause of many serious political mistakes.
  4. We should welcome the formation and strengthening of regional
    systems in world politics. They are sweeping across virtually all
    continents. They are an inherent part of the new world order,
    the outline of which is just beginning to emerge. Many do not
    operate to their full capacity yet. Nevertheless they are of great
    importance.
  5. One should not forget about methods. I like the idea that a
    structure in itself is not yet a decision. You have to add political
    will and methods of addressing problems. Indeed, we live in a
    global world which is constantly changing. However, we still see
    the prevalence of old methods: force, sanctions, coercion, pressure,
    etc. As Lord Skidelsky [House of Lords, United Kingdom]
    reminded us yesterday, countries are all too willing to resort
    to instruments of force such as sanctions, although we are
    convinced that this should be an instrument of last resort.
  6. The question of preventive
    politics, preventive diplomacy,
    dialogue, and search for
    consensus has never been
    more important. I think the
    United States floated an idea
    that stirred discord in the
    European Union: there is that
    old and decrepit Europe that
    should not be dealt with. It
    is the new Europe that we
    should do business with. The
    new Europe differs in that it
    very quickly bends to U.S.
    demands. It dances not to the
    tune of its own Polish mazurka, but to the tune of American jazz.
  7. We should be looking for new effective organizational forms,
    including forms of peoples’ diplomacy. If civil society is set up
    under the United Nations, or even some regional organization,
    it can engage in settling crises at the stage of their emergence,
    and many potential crises can be eliminated or minimized.
  8. Everything we discussed here will operate efficiently only when
    based solely on international law. Recently we have seen how
    departure from international law, even under most noble
    pretexts—like war on terror, spread of democracy, prevention
    of ethnic cleansing—leads to even bigger problems and sometimes
    to stalemates, such as we see now in Iraq.

The Work Ahead

So we have lots of interesting, important, and necessary work ahead
of us. I once again thank you all for participating in this conference.

(1) Excerpts from translated remarks made by Mikhail Gorbachev at the
World Political Forum, October 2006. Selected and edited by Nancy Roof.