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Rethinking Global Governance

¤ Introduction: From international equilibrium to global governance
¤ Historical Heritage
¤ The materialization of philosophical models
¤ The rupture effect
¤ A realistic approach: the State at the heart of global governance
¤ The democratic equation
¤ A realistic global governance
A three-part structure

¤ A few concrete issues
Organized violence

¤ The terrorist threat
Nuclear power
The new wars

Introduction: From international equilibrium to global governance

The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, more than the shock of September 11, 2001, marked the end of a very long period in international history, that of the “balance of powers”. Since this historical event, the planet has been in a phase of geostrategic rupture. The model of “national security”, for example, even though it is still in use by the majority of governments, is being gradually replaced by an emerging collective conscience that leaves behind this overly restrictive framework.

For some – including ourselves – the future of global architecture will come into existence only through a system of global governance. Whereas before it was essentially a matter of regulating, or limiting, the individual power of states in order to avoid disequilibrium and maintain the status quo, today the equation becomes considerably more complicated. It is, hereafter, imperative to collectively shape the world’s destiny by establishing a regulatory system for the numerous interactions that bypass the State action. On the contrary, the political homogenization of the planet, brought about thanks to the arrival of so-called liberal democracy, and which comes together in many forms, would seem to facilitate the installation of a system of global governance that by-passes the “laissez-faire” attitude extolled by the liberals and the democratic peace elaborated by Emmanuel Kant.

From the 18th to the 19th century, the chief issue is one of power and equilibrium. Starting in the 19th century, nationalism emerges as the engine of international relations and it, combined with revolutionary, or reactionary, ideologies, provokes strings of war and genocide. The 19th century sees the emergence of freedom as the philosophical superstructure that nourishes both the revolutionary ideology and the development of democracy, both of which express themselves with varied outcomes in the 20th century. The 21st century is not setting out to be a religious one (even though religion has progressed as a political force) – as per the famous prophecy of André Malraux – but rather as one of equality, at least as one of equal rights — both of the states and of the people (equality making up the second philosophical chapter, with freedom, inherited from the Age of Enlightenment).

The will for equality, and the egalitarian ideology that sometimes accompanies it, simultaneously overturn the geopolitical situation — because it is the “powerful” that always determine the world’s collective destiny, and reassess globalization. In fact, globalization redistributes the cards, in a fundamentally non-egalitarian manner, to a planet for which economic growth henceforth occupies the role that previously belonged to that of political power — in other words, the primary objective that all governments want to achieve. How to reconcile this legitimate desire for equality with a reality that nips it in the bud? This is one of the questions to which we must one day find an answer.


Historical Heritage

Let us take a step back for a moment to take a look at the system we have inherited and certain mentalities that come with it, particularly those held by those in power, in order to better project us towards the future.

The modern political architecture put in place in 1648 at the end of the Thirty Year War – a religious and political disaster that marks the height of European religious wars and that sees the last hegemonic attempt of the Hapsburg Empire. The Peace of Westphalia puts an end to this conflict and installs a sustainable geopolitical system that will govern Europe, and then the world, until 1914. The Westphalian revolution is characterized by the establishment of a chessboard of nation-states that holds its own through a complex balance of powers. The system is amoral, but not immoral: the raison d’Etat governs inter-state relations. War is a normal recourse to maintain equilibrium but it is “limited” and progressively codified. In 1648, the Church starts to fade away from the political arena, whereas international law makes a significant breakthrough, the brilliant synthesis of Hugo Grotius, which integrates a number of theological concepts, being in a certain way integrated in the new geopolitical architecture. The “Westphalian” system asserts itself between 1648 and 1789. It is obliterated by Napoleon before being reestablished at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Then a long decline emerges with the first global conflict that, after a short parenthesis of twenty years, is followed by World War II. Another “post-Westphalian” balance of powers takes root in 1945, a bipolar one upheld by the threat of a nuclear disaster. 1991 marks the end of the balance of powers. As in 1919 and 1945, when collective security systems are established, 1991 opens up the theoretical and practical field of possibilities that take shape for the future. The idea of global governance – a pre-1991 concept – makes its way.

Even so, it would be counter-productive to deny the resilience of certain key concepts inherited from the Westphalian, or post-Westphalian, system and to overestimate the capacities of a system of collective security put in place in 1945, of which the is the most handsome feather in its cap. The evolution of international relations proceeds via revolution and rift. Nevertheless, each era inherits, for better or worse, certain, sometimes heavy, baggage from the past. The result is a complex architecture composed of sub-layers that accumulate one upon the other with a coherence that is not always perfect or harmonious. This architecture is unavoidably made up of paradoxes. In other respects, over time, certain elements from the past take on new dimensions, at times because they are more important; other times because some elements disappear. Globalization, an ancient phenomenon, is perceived today as the great revolution of present times, on the one hand because past rivalries have disappeared, and, on the other, because global political liberalization and technological revolutions have changed the current state of affairs. This is also the case with terrorism, a phenomenon as old as the planet but that, by order of the disappearance of other risks, seems today more worrisome because it is the only one that threatens the integrity of our over-protected societies. The ever-worrisome problem of nuclear proliferation is, after all, the all-positive outcome of the end of the (nuclear) “balance of terror” that, as we tend to forget, threatened to annihilate the entire planet.

Societal evolution and sudden awareness of the environment, sustainable development, the biosphere, and inequality, modify the nature of the person-to-person relationship, as well as that of the relationship between Humanity and its planet. This intellectual evolution, more rapid than that of institutions, has the effect of creating a permanent discrepancy between our collective vision of reality and reality itself.

The world, twenty years ago or so, seemed surprisingly simple. The predominant “paradigm” of global anarchy – inherited from the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes – envisioned a world dominated by governments that, in rational terms, acted according to the principles of national security and balance of power, following the simple rules of an ideologically heterogeneous system that saw two blocks in direct confrontation with one another. The stability of this system came from a complex equilibrium, fed by a terror of nuclear war, where, in the end, each side looked to maintain the status quo all the while trying to gain ground on their adversary. The absence of a global regulator of the struggle for power fed the anarchic character of a system which was otherwise relatively stable. The model of collective security, embodied by the U.N. – a theoretical rival of anarchy, in fact did nothing more than support the status quo because the dominant powers of 1945 constituted those that also held, via the permanent Security Council, the trump card of a collective security that was more virtual than real.

It is this “misunderstanding” of the nature of collective security that, sixty years after the creation of the U.N., contributes to the fact that this institution, indeed useful and essential, is so complicated to reform. Nevertheless, today’s discourse on the reform of the United Nations, as in the past, constitutes a dominant discussion on the future of global governance. But it is a discourse that seems to be without end and to progress slowly. The U.N. does indeed evolve, but does it truly represent the future of global governance?


The materialization of philosophical models

In the 17th century, Thomas Hobbes brought to us the anarchical model that Thucydide had described earlier in a penetrating manner in his recounting of the History of the Peloponnesian War. Rousseau and Kant proposed federal models of collective security that inspired the (leaders of the) 20th century. Karl Marx admirably described, in ways whose echoes can still be heard today, the effects of capitalism and globalization. At the same time, Tocqueville understood from the outset the limits of modern democracy. Today, this development of political and economic thought started by Hobbes leads to the paradoxes of the current-day situation.

Today, the Hobbesian anarchy still prevails with a hybrid international system where the state continues to play a predominant role; where the power and influence it exercises in an individualistic, though sometimes collective, manner, determines the relationships of the moment; where war continues to be a political instrument (Afghanistan, Iraq, the Near East); where the U.N. system makes a place for itself without always imposing itself; where democracy makes a quantitative leap forward while simultaneously asserting itself as the only model of political organization; where globalization considerably changes the social arrangement of the planet as a whole; where Europe demonstrates unheard of possibilities at the federal framework level; where long-lasting peace affects entire areas across the globe.

Even so, this “system” that is not, and no longer, one, broke with the balance of powers of the past. At the same time, globalization, which is taking over the geopolitical sphere, is slowed down by the weight of the State, creating a gigantic gap between political and economic globalization. At the same time, liberal democracy, “victorious” model of the anti-totalitarian and Cold War battle, demonstrates its limits and weaknesses. As we have already suggested, the U.N. is globally irreparable even though it continues to represent, in spirit, the future of global governance. Europe, which remarkably integrated the whole, or almost, of its continental area, and admirably negotiated the post-Cold War turn, equally demonstrates the limits of its model. In sum, the world of the 21st century is in some ways the materialization of an historical cycle that started many centuries ago but that is also, paradoxically, an unfinished model, imperfect and on on the long-term, unviable. The Hobbesian model should, in theory, lead to a global government of authority: that of Rousseau to an international confederation, and that of Kant to a reformed, pacific collectivity of the State acting for the good of Humanity. At present, not one of these models seems to figure on the horizon. In other respects, if inter-State war has practically evaporated, other conflicts, often extremely violent, and other threats, paint a horizon whose sky is perpetually darkened by clouds. And, in spite of the end of totalitarianism and large-scale conflicts between nations, the 21st century perpetuates a regrettable tradition begun in the previous century, that of the civilian victim whose ratio vis à vis the military victim continues to grow (even if, in absolute terms, the (total) number of victims is decreasing.)


The rupture effect

Before talking about the architecture of a global governance, let’s summarize the current situation of “international relations” marked, even if by an accumulation effect, by a deep break with the past.

  • Strong Westphalian heritage with the preponderant role of the State, with power struggles favoring the major powers and inter-State relations governed by the rules of the past
  • Retreat, relative and maybe momentary, of two superpowers from the Cold War, including the USA after the Iraqi fiasco that demonstrated the limited projection of its power and a legitimate weakness of the United States political model.
  • Increase in power of new actors, generally ancient, and even very ancient, superpowers: China, India, and Iran.
  • End of the western hegemony, dating back many centuries, on international relations.
  • Globalization that allows certain countries and peoples access to prosperity, even liberty and democracy, but that also projects other countries into historical ruin.
  • Stagnation of the U.N., the institution that, in spite of it all, incarnated the model of collective security that was meant to replace the Westphalian model.
  • Breakthrough of democracy as principle model of political organization, in spite of the dissatisfaction that it can generate.
  • Significant move forward of peace and an almost complete end of classical conflicts between States.
  • Irresolution of endemic conflicts (Near East, Great Lakes Region of Africa, Sri Lanka, Columbia).
  • Stagnation of entire areas of the planet with, as in the Middle East, serious risk of potential crisis.
  • Unexpected and quick demographic transition over the last three decades.
  • Rejection of certain principles of the Westphalian system, such as respect of national severance (duty to interfere).
  • Increased role of non-State actors such as Al-Qaeda.
  • Significant progression of religion in the political sphere.
  • Potential problems concerning nuclear proliferation.
  • War increasingly considered as a collapse of politics and no longer as its continuation.
  • Increasing awareness of environmental threats, of the importance of ecology, more generally, of the human being’s place in the environment.
  • Technological revolution and its consequences, including on international politics.

Contrary to a sentiment shared since 1991, and especially since 2001, the world is, globally, much more safe and peaceful than it was during the previous time period, a fortiori during the first half of the 20th century, in spite of the eruption of new conflicts and the non-resolution of ancient conflicts. Now, if the state of the world does not allow us to let down our guard, or even more, to make merry, almost every single study on this matter demonstrates that the world, on the whole, is much more peaceful today – or more to the point, “less bellicose,” than it was during the previous decades, and even centuries.

This observation is important, even very much so, because it allows us to focus our attention and energy on other problems that, even if not new, seem today to be of first priority whereas they seemed inexistent a few years ago. This statement of peace is essential, above all because today’s challenges are no longer only within the scope of the State as was previously the case. This allows civil society to make a strong showing, giving an idea of what it can accomplish (with)in a democracy. Environmental issues, for example, affect not only the State, but also its inhabitants. Yet, this less bellicose world is not less unstable and uncertain, perhaps precisely because it is more peaceful and, therefore, because these problems of stability seem less urgent. In effect, and contrary to the previous periods of geostrategic rupture, the end of the Cold War is unique in the sense that it did not produce a “geopolitical contract” (in other words, international treaties) between constituent States of this new chessboard. It is this absence of a “contract” that poses a problem today, as it means that a crisis, from out of nowhere, could possibly set the world as a whole on fire — a world that everyone agrees is increasingly interdependent and decreasingly organized.

Today, the problems that concerned us before have either disappeared or are markedly diminished. Let us take a look:
- End, or almost, of inter-State conflicts that defined the very essence of international relations;
- End of the threat of a nuclear disaster, the major threat from 1945-1991;
- Disappearance of the great colonial empires of which the last to fall was the Soviet Union;
- Emergence of a peaceful and united Europe whereas, for centuries, it had been the primary nucleus to armed conflict;
- End of the ideology shock characteristic of the 20th century and disappearance of the great totalitarian State;
- Disappearance of the “superpowers”, the United States, last superpower to date, has compromised its chance to durably maintain this status with the post-9/11 events, mainly because of the politics of George W. Bush which were, paradoxically, destined to amplify this status.

Period of deep rupture, post-1991 has a particular characteristic in that it did not engender a revolution in the realm of international relations, which was the case, for example, in 1648, in 1815 (in this case, a “counter-revolution”), 1919, and 1945. The institutions have remained essentially unchanged; the geopolitical architecture, excluding the dismemberment of the USSR, was hardly changed. There has been, as in 1945, neither a creation of new modes of international regulation (Bretton Woods, the U.N., etcetera), nor of “Marshall” plans, nor even of a more or less coherent driving political thread (containment strategy). The theories of the end of history or of the clash of civilizations constitute no more than interpretations – dubitable, even ill-fated, in the eyes of many observers – of new, undoubtedly complex, realities of contemporary times.

The September 11 attacks, even if they have barely changed the world as did the fall of the U.S.S.R, have nevertheless had the effect of revealing, principally in an indirect or involuntary manner, the gap that has become entrenched over the previous decade between, on the one hand the new reality, and, on the other hand, the dominant vision of this reality presented to us, in particular by governments, in other words by the principle actors of international politics. The negative effects of globalization; the erosion of the State power; and the increase of inequalities, notably between nations; seem unacceptable at a time when the dominating ideology promises us a world that is increasingly free, prosperous, safe and egalitarian. The State, the great international institutions (and the NGOs) and the “market” know only how to respond to threats and challenges already present in the 21st century and of which we only see the tip of the iceberg.

This is why the elaboration and construction of a new architecture of global governance appears as a necessity and even as a moral duty in a world where everything, for better or worse, is possible and whose outcomes depend, in large part, on the way in which the matter of global governance will be approached in the years to come.

Whereas today’s main “emerging” powers – China, India and even Europe — with some reservation on its abilities to progress in the future – are potentially going to play a considerable role in the resolution of this issue because they, in their own way, embody various models of economic (for China and India), social and political (for Europe) success, the powers of the (recent) past – Russia or the United States –still accord their actions in reference to the Cold War, such as George W. Bush’s anachronistic foreign policy – in a way a continuation of the Cold War— and Putin’s brutal domestic policy as brutal and his foreign policy as anachronistic. This type of dialogue is, in a way, a continuation of this Cold War. Although our egalitarian resolve would push us to believe that all countries, big and small, have equal say, the reality that characterizes international politics shows us every day that main actors have much more say than do “second string” actors, the European model, moreover, allowing the latter, when they have the opportunity to occupy a geographical space within Europe, to integrate themselves with a participating body of main actors. It remains that each of these three political entities has problems – political, economic and social – that can constitute paralyzing impediments for the superpowers of the future.


A realistic approach: the State at the heart of global governance

Whether we want it or not, the future of global governance is forced to undergo an in-depth reconfiguration of the modes that govern the relations between the primary actors of the international arena: the States. This observation might seem paradoxical because the “State” is characterized, above all, by its limits, blind-spots, bad habits, and inability to affront the issue of globalization. It is, for that matter, commonplace to talk of an inevitable erosion of the State, with the idea that it is, in the end, condemned. This brings nothing new to the table since Marx himself put forth this hypothesis in the 19th century. Even if other more or less legitimate actors have taken on a growing role in the global arena following the thaw of the Cold War and the arrival of the communications revolution, they have but a secondary role – including the U.N. or the major multinationals – in the conduct of the world’s major affairs. The State will indeed be at the heart of the installation, if it takes place, of a new architecture of global governance.

As with the story of the chicken and the egg, it is difficult to know whether the (necessary) reform of the State would engender this new architecture or if it would be the new architecture that would provoke the reform. Let’s wager that this double transformation will be simultaneous, a new architecture being impossible without a reformation of the State model and, in the end, provocation of a reformation of the State model not being possible but by pressure from the tectonic plates of global geopolitics (and geoeconomics).

Moving forward, it is necessary to establish some groundwork, and also to throw out a few preconceptions. Let’s start with the latter. Until now, the architecture of international relations defined itself with three models: that of the Empire, that of the balance of power, and that of collective security. It is these three models that, even today, dominate debates and politics, even if one calls them by other names (Hegemonic Model, unilateral, or multilateral, politics, for example). Now, these models were formed in order to manage the power of the State, in an environment where the goal of each was to simultaneously preserve security, and, according to each case, to increase territory, power, and influence (the various rankings – economic or military weight, for example – that one regularly finds in newspapers certify this attitude of aggressive competition between countries).

However, today neither territory nor even unabridged power constitutes important stakes for the majority of States after all. The desire to influence remains but it is no longer necessarily connected with considerations of prestige or national security. Globally, and with well-known exceptions, the State has become a tool at the service of the people and not a tool at the service of the nation – a historical distinction whose consequences are fundamental. It is in having misunderstood this distinction that the Bush administration, to take the most striking example in the last decade, engaged itself by choice in one of the most disastrous ventures of the last fifty years, exceeding even the textbook case of the Vietnam conflict.

The primary characteristic of the concept of global governance is to go beyond the idea of power management that was as the heart of international relations. It remains to be seen why wealthy countries, in a context where they are at an advantage, are looking for or favoring a system of global governance that would risk overturning the status quo. The simple answer to this question means the grand return of ethics in political choices, and a new awareness that a global destiny unites us where the principle challenge would be the preservation of our environment more than, as has been the case until now, the elaboration and diffusion of a political, economic, social and cultural model for universal use (United States and France after 1776 and 1789). This attitude change, in contrast with laissez-faire economics characteristic of globalization, constitutes a way for “policy” to take back the wheel that it lost at the profit of the “economy.”

Globally, the State that serves the people is, by definition, democratic. Of course, the United States is a model of democracy whose current balance sheet in this area is dubious but a country’s democratic capacity is measured over the medium and long term, not over the few years that an electoral term can last. Democracy, thus, is at the heart of global governance, to use the terminology of Rousseau, Kant and Woodrow Wilson, among others.


The democratic equation

In theory, a community of democratic States would be able to provide a durable peace since democratic countries, as is well-known, do not go to war with one another (which does not prevent quarrels or even non-military conflicts). The thorny issue of “democratic peace” is that it requires a geopolitical environment consisting entirely of (fully) democratic countries, which, in spite of progress in this area, is far from being ensured. In other respects, this global democratization cannot be artificially imposed, above all by force. The process of democratization is difficult and is a source of instability. The democratization of a region such as the Middle East, for example, is far from simple or won. Above and beyond complete, or quasi complete, democratization of the global chessboard, other problems postbellum demand solutions that democratization cannot automatically provide. It is necessary, therefore, to proceed beyond democratization, even though it is a prerequisite for moving forward.

To complicate the task further, societal evolution, more rapid than that of institutions, generated a crisis for the democratic State — that of suffering from a growth deficit of legitimacy in a context where it is incapable of directly treating the problems and / or constraints imposed by the electoral system hindering the evolution necessary for the political reflection essential to the regeneration of the systems. This results, as with the United States, in a notorious increase of recourse to an institutional fetishism (absolute and narrow-minded respect for the Founding Fathers’ principles) and a political contagion for the sacred in the States that were, ironically, founded on principles of secularity.

Democracy is a system of governance that touches, above all, the State. Conceived in antiquity for micro-States, democracy has shown, beyond all expectations, that it could, within a State, govern many hundreds of millions of individuals, as is the case in India, and, above all, that it could adapt itself to all national, social and cultural modes because the experience of democracy, contrary to widespread belief, is not a pre-condition for its implementation and success. For this reason, the idea of a world democracy is so tempting. Nevertheless, (it) is not realistic because States, small or big, are not ready to abandon their national sovereignty. Now, the problem for global governance, as it has been historically for international relations, is to reconcile the political structure that governs the people with that which governs the relations among the people.

Now, just as with physics and its separate theories of the infinitely big and the infinitely small, political management of a nation is completely separate from political management of the intra-, or supra-, national. From whence comes the notion of “anarchy” so dear to international relations experts who see the system of international relations guided by a total absence of government where the State, traditionally, focuses precisely on the “State apparatus.” In fact, the principle problem of the organization of politics, and, therefore, of governance, is in knowing just how much the State can interfere in the management of affairs of society and its citizens. Plato addressed this issue in The Republic, as did Aristotle in The Ethics and Politics, texts that remain relevant even today. Democracy is a relatively efficient means of controlling the State apparatus, one that has a natural tendency to want to increase its power and reach. Even if, in certain developing or transitional countries the situation is reversed because the State is incapable of handling vital societal responsibilities, it still remains that the main question concerning governance is how to adjust the power of the State and the political regimes put into power. We, of course, are talking about traditional governance – that of the State – and in a context where the government is legitimate. The international context is different because it is characterized by the fact that it is not governed by any state or political institution. Yet, the fundamental issue remains the same because it is a matter of managing power, in this case that of States, and of controlling it. In the absence of truly efficient political, legal, and legislative bodies – in spite of the presence of international organizations, conventions, treaties, et cetera – the international system navigates between anarchy and clumsy self-management.

If, in any particular moment in history, the hold of the Christian Church in Western Europe had momentarily rendered State governance almost synonymous with supra-national governance, world history, in terms governance, is one that walks at two speeds, where progress made in the area of “national” governance has had, at best, only secondary indirect effects on global governance. And, if the State, in the 21st century, has little in common with the State of ancient, medieval or modern times, one can assert that supra-national governance has but little evolved over time: the confrontation between the U.S.S.R. and the United States was not all that different from that between Sparta and Athens.

How to reconcile national governance and global governance? Herein lies the heart of the problem because the key to the history of international relations resides precisely in the fact that these two problems have been approached in radically different, even opposing, manners. By way of example, States will not rest until murder of another is rendered illegal, a path culminating in the abolition of the death penalty, even when a number of “international” problems continue to be resolved by the use of force, with the death of individuals – sometimes numerous – that this choice can be carried out and that, in this framework, is considered as completely legitimate.

Moreover, and maybe this is the essential characteristic of our current position, it needs to be known that we must, from now on, bring together these two parts. In other words, the reformation of national governance will not be possible except by way of a reformation of global governance and vice versa. Therefore, and to keep with the example given earlier, a phenomenon has been recently produced that does not lie: for the first time in history, a government has refrained from making public the number of enemy victims, for fear of shocking public opinion: it concerns the United States’ government during the Golf War (1991).

The principle problem of governance, a problem that we need to face every day during our daily life, is that institutions have been put into place that define their objectives according to their competences (and their limits) whereas they should do the opposite. The dilemma of global governance is characterized by the fact that these objectives are defined through an institutional vacuum at the international level – the U.N., and more generally international public law, playing the role of the tree that hides the forest – forcing States to resolve problems that are beyond their competence and even their comprehension. Thus. one might ask how the State, whose institutions are poorly equipped for resolving domestic problems, can claim to resolve problems that go beyond its political framework? As such, the concept of “collective security” simply aggravates the problem because this security in not more than an aggregate of State institutions. It is no coincidence that the concept of governance itself is perceived as a whole that makes little distinction between local, national and global governance, the objectives at these various levels often being close or interconnected.


A realistic global governance
A three-part structure

The problem that confronts those who would like to see a true global governance architecture emerge is that constructing what one dreams to build does not at all resemble what one might possibly construct, given the constraints, the limitations and the obstacles that we might face, and that one is often tempted to conceal or minimize. Thus, rather than dreaming of an illusory global democracy or a hypothetical global government, it seems much more reasonable to us to advance progressively and to define the problems and objectives. In this manner, we might envision the type of structures and institutions susceptible to bring about the type of vigorous action that one might need to resolve given problems. Only by advancing in this manner will a “global governance” possibly be able to take shape that is worthy of its name, one which it is impossible to foresee since it will espouse a shape that will be defined by the objectives it sets as it goes along.

This approach does not at all resemble that of the architects of the League of Nations after the First World War or of the U.N. after the Second, nor even, going back further, of the internationalist dream that Henri IV of France maintained with his “Grand Design” for Europe. From a philosophical point of view, our approach would be closer to that adopted by Jean Monnet and the first architects of the future European Union.

A three-part structure

It seems necessary, before tackling the issues of concrete order, to give this plan for a global architecture a basic structure, a framework of sorts that will guide the project implementation.

In order to accomplish such a regime of governance, we can envision a method that defines objectives (through a global constitution), a plan of action to meet these objectives, and an ethic (for example a Charter of human responsibilities) that serves as the guiding political and moral thread.

The idea of a “global constitution” based on a few precise concepts – notably in an area previously forsaken by “international relations” – that of ethics. Such a structure could be based on four pillars:

Overcome poverty: A duty to defeat poverty and to save our planet for us and for our children.

Establish dignity: The dignity within each of us calls on us to uphold the freedom and dignity of others.

Establish Peace and justice: A sustainable peace cannot be established without justice respectful of dignity and human rights.

Ensure the legitimacy of power: The use of power is not legitimate unless it is at the service of all and controlled by the people.

In sum, we need to reaffirm the founding principle of the international community: our world belongs to everyone and no government or institution can avail itself of its authority without the democratic will of all.

The Charter of human responsibilities invites us to tackle the challenges of the 21st century by defining a new global social contract that serves as a universal ethic based on the notion of responsibility that complements the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Charter of the United Nations.


A few concrete issues
Organized violence

Next, it is a question of precise issues. We could evoke a lengthy list of more or less long term problems that concern us in the areas of public health, the environment, sustainable development, emigration, et cetera. Instead, we will limit ourselves here to a few issues that have been, and still are today, classic problems of “international relations.”

Organized violence

Let’s start by this problem that, since antiquity, is at the heart of the debate on governance – that of organized violence and its legitimacy.

Today, with the issues related to nuclear proliferation and terrorism, and with the questioning by some of the sacrosanct principle of respect for national sovereignty and its corollary, that of non-intervention, this subject is one of burning topicality.

From this point of view, the dubious United States 2000 presidential elections and the invasion of Iraq, which is one of the consequences, have twice demonstrated that democracy – even in the country that parades itself as its universal model – is unable to respond to the issue of legitimacy of organized violence from the moment that a small number of individuals (for example in a neighborhood of a city in Florida) decides the destiny of an entire nation and even of an entire region (the Middle East) without even knowing that their choice will have an effect on this nation, or this region. The Israelian example, in the context of the Middle-East conflict, demonstrates how the action of an otherwise exemplary democracy becomes in practice a hard core policy devoid of the all important moral dimension that is the foundation of democratic principles.

In other respects, the invasion of Iraq decided by the United States government demonstrates the futility of traditional principles of the “raison d’Etat” in a geopolitical context where the use of military force has become extremely limited, and of very weak bearing – the “superpower” being incapable of imposing itself on a secondary theater. At the same time, would not multilateral use of diplomacy, indeed of military force, be useful in Darfur or even in Zimbabwe, two cases where (very) bad governance is responsible for indescribable wrongs for the affected populations?

And yet, neither the concerned States – nor those that should have been – are, today, capable of resolving this crucial question of the legitimacy of use of violence. The United Nations, which certainly carries a certain weight, is also incapable of responding to this issue even though it cannot question the principles because it is the States that make up this organization, with the more powerful among them as overseers.

What to do? For the moment, it is public opinion, in democracy, that causes the evolution of mentalities in this area. It is thanks to this public opinion, some will also say to social movements for emancipation, that decolonization was made possible. It is thanks to public opinion – some will say because of it – that the United States cannot apply its full weight in Iraq and elsewhere. But public opinion evolves slowly and can be engineered, especially in the short term, by the media and by governments.

We need, therefore, to go further in order to overturn mentalities that are solidly entrenched in the traditional idea that the State is the sole source of legitimacy for the use of force and that the exercise of its prerogatives in this domain concerns essentially its national security or at least the government’s understanding of it, a concept that is, in the end, very malleable.

Thus, one needs to determine if another source of legitimacy might be able to serve as compass, if not as authority, for all that touches on issues related to the use of organized violence (principally, but not exclusively, military force). What would this source be? Would it be a sort of “High authority of independent international governance”? Would it be a Council of Wisepersons or a supraconstitutional board? Would it be a committee of State, government, or civil society representatives? In any case, it would consist of an independent institution functioning in line with rigorous democratic and ethical principles because it is here that we find the novelty, namely that ethics occupy an important part in decision-making.

The question deserves to be asked even if, in the beginning, it meets with elevated reticence because such an initiative would transgress the liberty of action taken by the more powerful States, and by others as well. For the establishment of such an entity could be done, in the beginning, with limited means, and with the idea that its growing success would progressively increase its legitimacy and power to weigh in on important decisions.


The terrorist threat
Nuclear power
The new wars

Since 2001, we have spoken much about the terrorist threat, even in an exaggerated manner on the part of certain governments that have exploited this threat to their gain. Indeed, terrorism does not threaten the stability of the planet, and, even less, the survival of the West. Nevertheless, it is a threat that goes beyond the framework of national boundaries and that, potentially, touches everyone. It is even one of the rare security issues that straddle the international, national and local arenas. The anti-terrorist fight, for example, involves cities, law enforcement authorities, intelligence agencies, national armies, the United Nations and Interpol, to name the more major entities. More generally, this struggle involves the citizen as well. Faced with this threat, one can see since 2001 – the year that marks the start of a large-scale awareness of this centuries-old threat – that no apparatus exists that is qualified for coordinating the anti-terrorist fight at the international level, nor even institutions capable of informing citizens about the nature of this threat whose target is precisely the every-day citizen and that makes an appearance almost exclusively on the stage of psychological confrontation where the wager is public opinion. Of course contacts have been made between various agencies and networks have been established but it often consists of ill-matched actions that lack a true point man.

Nuclear power

Nuclear power presents a perfect example of a problem that should have been resolved many years ago but for which we now fail to see a foreseeable resolution. Even the end of the Cold War did not bring about a significant evolution in this domain if not the pursuit of agreements started under full confrontation between the two camps. If nuclear strategy might have had perhaps a certain political sense – even in an absurd context on the ethical and philosophical level – during the Cold War, the possession of nuclear arsenals, even reduced, by a small group of countries, including the traditional nuclear powers (those of the permanent Security Council of the U.N.) plus three or four other countries, cannot today be justified.

Yet, what do we see? Not only do the traditional powers not ask themselves whether or not they could abandon their arsenal and their programs, but they attempt to refuse certain countries (Korea, Iran) – who certainly have dubious objectives – access to nuclear technology while at the same time supporting other nations (India). Is this not simply another way to affirm that power and the law of the strongest continue to dictate international affairs?

Contrary to terrorism, which is a complex and multi-dimensional phenomenon, nuclear proliferation is a simple problem as it, up to now, only concerns States (who like to wave the flag at so-called nuclear terrorism), and but a handful of them at that. But, if the problem is simple, it is nevertheless thorny because a nuclear explosion has, by definition, a tremendous potential for destruction. Yet, neither the States concerned, nor the United Nations (same thing, or almost, in this case) have the willpower to abandon an instrument of prestige possibly able to twist the diplomatic arm – and let us not forget that the new United States nuclear doctrine envisions a rather large use of nuclear weapons (pre-emption, fight against terrorism, et cetera). Nuclear power, residual by-product of the Cold War, should be resolved. For the present, it is far from being so.

The new wars

The time-honored prototypical conflicts are on the road to extinction. Today, there are practically no wars between States. The collapse of all empires also signified the end of wars of national emancipation. The new conflicts are of a different sort. First, they concern mostly “peripheral” or “marginal” countries that are removed from the geopolitical epicenters. These countries are often both poor, or impoverished, and poorly governed. New causes of conflict are also born. They are less political and increasingly economic and environmental. Environmental problems (drought, access to drinkable water) are now the cause of conflicts with all the possible consequences (population displacement, for example) and they transplant themselves to other potential sources of conflict (historical resentments, inter-ethnic animosity, conflicting opinions). For these conflicts, new approaches are necessary, including good knowledge of the issues at hand, a shared will to prevent escalation, the right or duty to intervene (devoir d’ingérence)in the affairs of a State often incapable, at best, to prevent conflict.

It is imperative that prevention of new conflicts, like the one in Darfur, become one of the international community’s priorities in the future. There still, how to move forward? In this area, the traditional approach is vowed to fail because these conflicts, both by their complexity and by the fact that, often, they occur in regions considered as carrying little strategic weight, do not interest à priori the countries that could intervene. It is in this area, more than the others, that we need to develop new conceptual tools destined to lead to concrete actions of prevention for this type of conflict that, if not put down, are going to multiply in the future, with truly catastrophic humananitarian consequences. Other problems, concealed until now, also need to be studied. Let us take an example: resentment. How many conflicts, crises, tensions are born from resentment, some of which date back several centuries? Today, at a very time when colonial wars are over or when the major conflicts of interest or the battles of power between States seem to be in decline, resentment is quite possibly the current principle cause of war and crisis. Yet, what are governments doing to understand this phenomenon nevertheless crucial to history, and particularly contemporary history? Even historians and political scientists, at present, have failed to study the question in any depth. And yet, if preventive war is but a delusion, peace is fundamentally preventive. To prevent, to act as well, it is imperative to understand. To build the world of tomorrow, we must understand the world of today. This could be a hollow political slogan. And yet it is the illumination we often lack, but need, in order to build the architecture of an effective, united, and responsible global governance.