Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Davos highlight

I didn’t get to the World Economic Forum in Davos this year either. But then again, their website is certainly a very good substitute. I can recommend taking a good look around, there is an amazing amount of good information – among them a great deal of very instructive slides prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers that capture a number of central global predicaments in a nutshell.

A good part of the speeches are available as podcasts, although I would say that to me they were not nearly as interesting as the sessions last year.
The one that captured me the most was the closing remarks by Tony Blair. It’s great to hear someone with ten years of experience as one of the top global players who insists on a vision of better world and even manages to stir up some optimism. I realize there’s a lot of Blair-fatigue in the UK, but I found his speech quite constructive.

Here’s a couple of quotes:

“What is really happening is that nations - even the most great - are realising that they cannot pursue their narrow national interests without invoking broader global values. They are obliged to recognise that interdependence is the defining
characteristic of the early 21st century world”.

“Above all, nations find that they need to confront and deal
with challenges that simply do not admit of resolution without powerful alliances of other nations. And every nation, even the most powerful, is obliged to find such alliances or find their own interests buffeted and diminished.
That is why we call it interdependence. It is the ultimate joining together of selfinterest and community interest. Afghanistan was a failed state, its people living in misery and poverty but in days gone by it would have stayed that way without the world much noticing. September 11th brought it to our notice in the most unforeseen but catastrophic way. Look how the world has changed because of it.
We know Africa’s plight is shameful in a world of plenty. But I have never shrunk from confessing another motive. I believe if we let Somalia or Sudan slip further into the abyss, the effect of their fall will not stay within their region never mind their nation. I will argue for the presence of peace in Palestine on its own terms; but there is no question that its absence has consequences on the streets of cities in Britain amongst people who have never been near Gaza or the West Bank.
And, of course, there is climate change. Assume even a possibility of its threat being real. It would be madness not to act to prevent its realisation – just as a precaution. Its challenge is the supreme expression of interdependence. America and China, even if they had no other reason for a relationship and they have many, would need one simply for this alone".

Blair further speaks about his frustrations that often action is hampered not by lack of political will but because the instruments we have to take decisions and act at a global level are inadequate:

"Global purpose, underpinned by global values requires global instruments of effective multilateral action.
A UN Security Council without Germany, Japan, Brazil or India, to say nothing of any African or Muslim nation, will, in time, not merely lose legitimacy in the eyes of the world, but seriously inhibit effective action. By all means let us have some form of bridging mechanism – perhaps semi-permanent status without a veto – to a reformed Council; but get it done. Likewise with reform within the UN – greater power to the Secretary General, merging agencies, one UN organisation incountry. But reform now has to happen.
There is a powerful case for merging the IMF and World Bank and for increasing the influence of the developing countries within them.
The G8 is already well on its way to metamorphosis into G8 +5. At G8 +5, it can be a forum for agreement between the most powerful nations with a true modern global reach.
But sooner or later, the metamorphosis should be complete.
We need to make the regional blocs more effective.
I strongly believe in changing the rules of the EU to build efficacy in Europe'spower. The EU at 27 cannot operate within the system used for an EU of 15 countries.
It would hugely help the cause of Africa if the AU became a strongly and cohesive voice and instrument of Africa's interests".

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