Democracy is more widely implemented in the world than ever before. At the same time, democracy may never have been as widely mistrusted in the old democracies as today.
More voters stay at home, right-wing populism flirting with racism gains ground, extra-parliamentary activity is on the rise.
The key to this paradox is globalisation. Internationalisation and growing interdependence are familiar developments, but new technologies have brought about both quantitative and qualitative changes to both.
How do we as socialists understand globalisation in general, and its effects on our security in particular?
Globalisation is a controversial phenomenon. On the positive side, internationalisation and a deepening division of labour can promote prosperity and welfare all over the world. The greatest challenge brought about by globalisation is the more uneven distribution of the growing wealth, both within countries and globally.
This is something which people all over the world are becoming more and more concerned about. We are dealing here with a major political sea-change: Some thirty years ago neo-liberalism replaced social democracy as the leading ideology guiding political debates. Now it seems to be ebbing out. People no longer believe in the beneficial effects of unregulated market forces and unlimited selfishness. They do not accept the growing inequality. Instead, they demand the strengthening of social values and equality.
People are no longer ready to accept the TINA-doctrine – There Is No Alternative. Politics are back and there is a growing demand for social democracy. In many recent elections, however, the winners have included right-wing populist movements of different hues. Social marginalisation and the threat of it, insecurity in face of all kinds of perceived threats to security, not support for racism, lie behind this development. People who have been left without a share of the prosperity brought about by world trade and macro-economic stability and enjoyed by the majority can easily believe, rightly or wrongly, that they have been ignored, or even betrayed by social democracy.
Globalisation is at the same time both an impetus and a challenge for democracy. The new communications technology requires openness, decentralization, and democracy from countries wishing to prosper as information societies. It is also more difficult to get away with human rights abuses in a globalising world. Globalisation has contributed to the strengthening of democracy and human rights.
Up to now democracy has been a national project. This is no longer enough in a globalising world. What used to work at the national level must now be implemented internationally. The European Union is one answer to this need, but it is not enough. The worst possible scenario would be a ”Fortress Europe” trying to stave off the outside world. The right way is for the EU to become a strong player in developing world-wide governance of globalisation. The EU has indeed shown the right kind of leadership both in the case of the Kyoto climate convention and in the World Trade Organization.
The global challenges we face come in many forms. After the Second World War the population of the world has grown from 2.4 billion to over 6 billion people, and is unlikely to level off before reaching at least 10 billion.
This is a fundamental challenge for how we can live in harmony with the requirements of sustainable development. But it does not only effect man’s relation with nature, it also makes it imperative for societies to live in harmony and close cooperation with each other. There are no so called National Interests any longer in today’s world which could be promoted successfully at the cost of other’s interest.
The fact that we now use more than 800 billion dollars every year for military spending – 15 times more than for development aid – shows how far we still are from understanding this yet. Billions are also thrown away in developing weapons of mass destruction, that are really useful for terrorist purposes – certainly not for obtaining rational objectives.
And the nature of conventional weapons and warfare has also changed. Soldiers are much better protected than civilians today. The victims of September 11th were all innocent civilians.
We are rightly concerned about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, with focus on the open or suspected weapons programs of a group of countries whose stability and record of behaviour is particularly worrying. Efforts to prevent such countries from acquiring these weapons must continue. At the same time we must recognize that the credibility and success of our efforts to stop proliferation also depend on the commitment of all countries, particularly the nuclear weapons states, to reducing their stockpiles and reliance on such weapons and on strengthening the international arms control regime. Thus the recent agreement between the US and Russia on nuclear weapons reduction is a welcome step, although a very small one.
Most of the human suffering and casualties in the world is caused by hand guns, light arms and landmines. Efforts to reduce these as well as the international trade in arms must be central in our efforts to promote disarmament.
Other new challenges to security such as the slow degradation of the environment or sudden environmental crises, man-made or natural disasters, cross-border crime, drugs, trafficking in human beings, disintegrating state structures, refugees, the consequences of human right violations, and terrorism all pose a challenge to the doctrines of national defence and the collective security arrangements that have been established to cope with the threat of traditional war between states.
Military power is seldom the best, or even a workable option in countering these new security threats. Even when it is needed, it cannot provide the full solution.
Afganistan teaches us how important it is to address all conflicts early enough. The country was ravaged by a bloody civil war for decades, at times with the support of the great powers. It only attracted a decisive intervention after it had become evident that the country had become a base for global terrorism – and after the damage inflicted by this terrorism became intolerably high.
Afganistan will now need a long and sustained peace-keeping support, both military and civilian. A huge development effort is also needed for reconstruction, the creation of an economy no longer dependent on poppy cultivation, and the establishment of democracy and respect for human rights.
In the Western Balkans, comparable efforts are under way, and the first fruits of these efforts are slowly becoming visible. The military engagement of the international community is being scaled back, while the local ownership of problem solving begins to take hold.
What can we learn from these examples?
Firstly, the resources of the international community are limited. Disaster relief, humanitarian assistance, civilian and military crisis management, and development efforts all cost huge sums of money. To a significant extent, this money comes from the same sources, namely from the tax-payers of the more prosperous countries. Are we allocating these funds wisely?
Secondly, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. This notwithstanding, it seems to be in the human nature to avoid action until absolutely necessary. With such procrastination, the damage gets done, and the most costly forms of intervention will ultimately have to be chosen.
Clearly, we need to change our ways.
We have to recognize that no conflict, however limited or local it may seem, should be left unattended. Non-intervention means not only neglecting human suffering, but may also lead to a rapid internationalisation or even globalisation of such conflicts.
What must also be clear is, that the threats to our security can no longer be contained through isolation or fortifying our outer borders. Nor can they be contained through unilateral action, by choosing the international cooperation countries want to be involved in or by trying to impose one’s own agenda on the rest of the world.
Our striving for security and better crisis-management will succeed only if we strengthen our commitment to multilateral cooperation. This should be the most important lesson to be learned after September 11th.
The European Union’s efforts to develop its civilian and military crises-management capabilities must enhance this aim of strengthening collective and multilateral security. It should not and does not aim at building a European super-power capability to compete with others or to bypass the United Nations, or, for that matter, NATO.
In general it is important that the various actors improve their capability to work together, also outside their own borders. The work done in both the European Union and NATO to improve the availability, interoperability, and quality of military and civilian peace support capabilities is laudable. Equally encouraging is the improving cooperation of these organizations with the United Nations in particular. The extension of the area of stability and prosperity in Europe ever further is most welcome. But we should be doing more.
As for the European Union I believe that we should proceed steadily and realistically. There is no point on starting a debate on the idea of a common European Defence, not to mention the so-called European Army, on which there is no consensual agreement in sight, and which can only hamper our efforts to make real and workable what we have already decided and which still remain to be implemented, namely our European crises-management capability. The European Union should build on its special advantage in crises management, namely it’s ability to bring into use the full range of instruments, which in addition to military and civilian crises management includes macro-economic and project aid for reconstruction and achieving economically, socially and ecologically sustainable development.