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In Search of Wisdom

The international system is troubled by deep structural problems. How can Germany contribute to shaping a new global order?

By Prince Turki Al Faisal, Chairman of the Board, King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, Riyadh

Great transformations throughout history bear opportunities for states, societies, and the international community at large. However, they also carry with them risks. The world we knew is fracturing before our eyes. Today, anarchy, power vacuums and even great wars are real threats facing the international community. Wherever we look, there is a crisis, and appropriate solutions are often out of sight. These crises in the Far East, on the Indian sub-continent, in the Middle East and North Africa, in Africa, in East Europe, and in Latin America are clear indications of a troubled world. We notice this even in the mood of the population, which in many countries reinvigorated populism, nationalism and Islamophobia. The backward-looking nature of these trends threatens the progressive achievements of humanity in all fields since the end of World War II.

The current international, regional, and national crises are symptoms of deep structural problems in the international order. On the one hand, they reflect the failure of our world community to live up to the principles of good governance, as set out in the charter of the UN more than seventy years ago. On the other hand, they painfully remind us that although our interdependent and globalized world has dramatically changed, its organizing principles still breathe the mentality of 1945 and the Cold War. The world is conscious of the unfairness of the present order, and sees it as an outdated structure that is not able to tackle today’s challenges. A future international order needs to be restructured towards a more fair and inclusive reflection of an international reality, where power in all its aspects is shared by many power centres. Without such restructuring, geopolitical upheavals will continue to threaten world peace and security. For example, the Syrian crisis illustrates the failure of the international community, and especially the failure of the two great powers USA and Russia, to address this conflict in accordance with the principles of the UN charter. What happened in Syria could recur in another crisis. Issues like the Israeli occupation of Palestine, increasing tensions with North Korea and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine are other cases at hand.

 

Only through international wisdom, cooperation and leadership, can the world avoid the potential disasters that face us at this juncture. In the past, world orders were a by-product of major wars. After 1945, the victors of World War II created an international order with the aim to preserve peace and security in the world. This time, failing to respond to the current challenges would be a failure of the entire international community. What is more, the world should not risk another war in order to change the system. World leaders need to come to their senses, since reforming the existing order requires new thinking by all UN member states, including the five permanent veto members. A sustainable international order that preserves peace and security in the world must be an equitable one in order to meet the pressing challenges and threats facing humanity.

However, progress has been slow. Although reforming The UN system was the dominant theme of this year’s UN General Assembly meeting, the world is still waiting for real tangible reforms. In this situation, Germany, as one of the success stories of a peaceful, stable international order, has a special responsibility in leading international efforts to transform the international order. No country has learnt the lesson that changes in international order can be accompanied by the most severe and brutal conflicts in such a hard way as Germany. And today, its prominent role in Europe and the entire world, for example reflected in the P5+1 negotiations on the nuclear deal with Iran or its generous hospitality towards victims of the Syrian war, are but tangible proof of its emerging leadership. The world is in need of this kind of outlook to avoid the possible dangers along the way towards a new world order.

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