The Nordic-Baltic foreign ministers’ meeting here in Tallinn took place as the final meters of Estonia’s accession negotiations are at hand. The new situation and the opportunities it creates for cooperation in the Nordic-Baltic region rightly dominated the agenda yesterday. Likewise a new chapter in the bilateral relations between Finland and Estonia will be opened and – equally importantly – the new situation will offer us possibilities to face together challenges of global order.
Estonia has concentrated in an active integration policy towards the European structures, towards European Union and NATO. With a few years of experience in the EU we Finns can say with confidence that joining these organizations will create a new agenda and release energy for new members to pursue these larger issues.
In Finland we have often been asked, do we really need such a large network of embassies around the world as we have today, particularly now that we are members of the European Union. EU representatives, some say, could replace our own embassies in the future.
This is not the case. On the contrary, membership in the EU has greatly enhanced the need for us to follow, study and understand events also in so-called far-away places. As members of the EU we are expected to have a view on all the issues on which the EU, as a global actor with global responsibilities, will have to strive for a common foreign and security policy. Thus Estonia too has to be prepared to shoulder these common responsibilities in the field of global governance.
Our world is characterized by many paradoxes. Take the one concerning democracy for example. Democracy has never been as widely spread in history as today, as measured by both the absolute number and proportion of people who can elect – and dismiss – their leaders in free and fair elections. At the same time we have probably never witnessed the same degree of disillusion regarding the ability and will of our democratically elected representatives to deliver what their electorates expect of them.
There is a growing feeling that the forces and events which shape our lives are out of control – certainly beyond the reach of the controls exercised by democratic governments.
The result is steadily falling participation rates in elections on the one hand and growing extra-parliamentary activity on the other. A small minority even sees violence as justified political activity in democratic countries.
Another worrying result is the growing support which right-wing populist parties, some of which openly flirt with racism and xenophobia, have won in some recent elections in Europe.
The key to understanding this paradox is globalisation. Internationalisation and growing economic and political interdependence is nothing new as such. What is new is the combination of internationalisation and the spectacular development of new technologies, information and communication technology in particular, which passes well for a shorthand definition of the phenomenon we call globalisation.
Globalisation is not only something inevitable but, on the whole, potentially positive.
Positive because of its obvious wealth-creating powers through an enhanced international division of labour and a more effective use of scarce resources.
Positive also because of the increased scope for individual freedom to blossom and for making societies more open. The micro-chip has turned out to be an invention at least as revolutionary as the steam engine and maxim gun were in history, and it played a much larger part in the fall of Communism than the Cold War rhetoric and increased military expenditure of the Reagan era ever did. Regimes, which in the extreme example of Ceaseuscu’s Romania were unwilling to allow people access to such 19th century technology as the typewriter, without a typed example from every machine deposited with the Securitate, were doomed to lag behind and finally implode, as their more open competitors were freely making use of the opportunities opened by the new communication and information technologies which repressive governments could not trust their own citizens with.
Any country which aspires for a better life for its people must take full use of the opportunities new technologies offer, and this will inevitably bring pressure on authoritarian, centralizing and non-democratic governments to open up. Repressive governments are also finding it increasingly difficult to censor or control the use of new information technologies. It has also made it more difficult to cover up human rights violations, and for others to ignore them without reacting.
But the qualifying word potentially is needed, because the increase of wealth and prosperity created by globalisation is being distributed more unequally than before, both between and inside countries and regions as well as globally.
It is needed also because globalisation based on neo-liberal free-market values can intensify environmental damage. It can also threaten core labour standards and weaken trade unions as well as challenge national and minority cultures.
Globalisation can also be socially damaging, destroying sustainable traditional communities and threatening established welfare systems, which can never be replaced by purely market-based solutions.
”All that is solid melts into thin air” is how Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels characterized the world more than a 150 years ago, but it describes our own time even more aptly. But the threats and challenges identified in the Communist Manifesto were successfully thwarted and dealt with, in what was the Democratic Western world, because new social movements – primarily, but not only the labour movement – for democracy and social justice were able to harness capitalism and lay the foundations for the welfare societies of today’s developed world.
The Welfare State – a concept which we in the Nordic countries continue to use without qualms – has been essentially a national project realized through the democratic institutions of independent and sovereign nation states. A similar project for a Welfare State in One Country is no longer workable. Nationalism could be a progressive force in an era where the enemy were often highly identifiable dinosaurs like United Fruit, Union Miniere or Royal Dutch/Shell. Now we live in a world where global market forces – even more threatening because of their anonymity – have the ability to undermine or dilute the instruments we have historically employed to steer our economies, create prosperity, guarantee social security and redistribute wealth.
Thus globalisation calls for democracy that works on a global level and is able to deliver the kind of global governance that is expected by our increasingly sceptical electorates.
Globalisation affects our security as well. With the end of the Cold War traditional war between states is – current tensions between Pakistan and India notwithstanding – no longer the most relevant threat. Security and threats to it have to be understood and dealt with in a much wider context than before. This is a central challenge as our national defence policies as well as efforts to enhance collective security, including the Charter of the United Nations, have been founded on preparing for and preventing traditional war between states.
As the possibility of traditional warfare has receded new threats to security have come to the fore. These include long-term environmental degradation or sudden environmental crises, the spread of HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases, uncontrolled migration and refugee flows, human rights violations, the many-faceted consequences of failed states, cross-border crime, drugs and terrorism.
These new threats to security differ from the traditional threat of military conflict in two central aspects. The first one is that the accumulation and use of military means can only to a very limited extent, if at all, be used to counter them. If the military might of the world’s only superpower was unable to prevent September 11th it was not because of any shortage in aircraft carries or the lack of a missile shield.
The second one is that you cannot isolate your country from these new threats by erecting ever higher barriers with high-tech sensors on your frontiers. Isolationism is not the answer to threats that call for increased international engagement and multilateral cooperation at all levels.
The United States has long ago given up isolationism, but it has not as yet clearly opted for genuine multilateralism. For Europe this has become very much the issue with an American administration that has in many important processes opted out of multilateral agreements and treaties. Although American actions in the war against terrorism have so far been mandated by the UN there is no firm commitment to this. The US seems to be willing to work together with other countries and organisations only if and when it regards this cooperation as serving rather narrowly understood American interests.
Compared to security issues the economic and social challenges linked to globalisation are not always self-evidently regarded as calling for global answers.
It would be nice to be able to say that we already have established the institutions for democratic global governance. Many people, however, see organisations such as the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organisation and the OECD as being the problem rather than the answer.
That there are valid arguments for regarding these institutions as tools of uncontrolled free-market globalisation cannot be denied. Have not the most concrete achievements of the European Union been the Single Market and Monetary Union with its strict and rather anti-Keynesian convergence criteria? While committed euro-enthusiasts see these as important political milestones on the road to ”ever closer union”, they can also be portrayed as typical neo-liberal projects serving to enhance the power of market forces over political democracy. Similarly the efforts of the WTO to formulate rules for the multilateral trade system can be assessed from rather opposite angles.
In fact international organisations like the EU, the WTO and even the IMF are instruments which can be used for very different purposes, depending on the will and ability of their decision makers. There is no inherent reason why these organisations could not be used for bringing about better global governance based on democracy and solidarity and for making sure that the fruits of globalisation are distributed more equally.
My own analysis is that we are once again experiencing a profound sea-change in our attitudes towards government and what we expect it to do. After WW II the west experienced a decades long period of social welfare reforms and Keynesian macroeconomic policies in the industrialised western countries.
This period of social democratic welfare policies – and here I use their term without associating it necessarily with any parties using this particular label – came to an end in the beginning of the 1970’s. This was when neoliberalism – again a concept which should not be directly linked with any political groupings as such took over the position of the leading paradigm governing our views on the proper division of responsibilities between public and private, governments and markets.
Now the tide has once again turned. The general trend has for some time now been away from neo-liberalism and the boundless admiration for the work of market forces and unrestrained individualism, towards more communal values and realisation that, yes, there is such a thing as society and that governments are needed to provide security, be it of the social or air travel variety.
Thus the central fact is, that whatever form it may take there clearly is a growing demand for governments to provide global governance that can effectively address the challenges of globalisation.
What would be the elements, then, of the better global governance I am seeking? They can be broadly divided into issues concerning the environment, security and crisis management, democracy and human rights, and the economy and trade, although these are all obviously interrelated.
The growth of world population is a fundamental challenge affecting each and all of the tasks we face in bringing about better global governance. After World War II, only during my lifetime, the world’s population has grown from 2.4 billion to over six billion people. While the rate of population growth has peaked the world’s population will reach at least 10 billion before it can stabilise.
This is obviously a fundamental challenge for how we can live in harmony with the requirements of sustainable development. We may have only a few decades to adjust our social, economic and production models and practices to the demands for sustainable development.
But population growth also makes it imperative for societies to live in harmony and close cooperation with each other. There are no longer any so-called national interests in today’s world which could be successfully promoted at the cost of others’ interests.
While some progress has been made in addressing local and regional environmental challenges, the biggest challenge of global warming remains unanswered. Implementation of the Kyoto treaty is only the first step and must be followed with negotiations on a much more ambitious Kyoto mark 2, with US and developing country participation.
The need for arms control and disarmament has not diminished after the end of the Cold War, rather the opposite. The non-proliferation regime concerning nuclear arms and delivery systems has to be strengthened, as also the existing multilateral conventions on biological and chemical weapons.
Efforts to contain the spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction and their delivery systems will lack credibility and support unless the Nuclear powers with the greatest arsenals of these weapons commit themselves to reducing their own qualitative and quantitative reliance on them.
Most people are killed by small arms in local or regional conflicts. Thus progress in conventional weapons disarmament processes, particularly limiting small arms and light weapons, is also needed.
The international trade in arms has to be regulated and run down. Consideration should be given to the idea of introducing an international tax on all arms sales.
For crisis management to be successful we have to recognize, that no potential crisis, be it military conflict, persistent human rights violations, failed states, environmental or humanitarian catastrophe, however small and limited it may seem, should be left unattended by the international community. Apart from the fact that turning a blind eye on these means condoning human suffering, it also runs the risk of letting them develop into major crises affecting global security.
We also need to recognize the fact that the use of military force, even if sometimes necessary and justified as it clearly was against the Taleban and Al Qaida, is never enough as the solution to crisis. Military force should not be deployed without a firm commitment to civilian crisis management, reconstruction and development efforts at the same time.
Above all: for conflict prevention and crisis management to be able to deliver sustainable security we have to have a firm commitment to multilateralism and to the United Nations. The EU’s and others’ international crisis management capabilities must be UN-compatible. The UN should also be reformed to be able to better deliver what is expected of it.
As noted in the beginning democracy is more firmly established in the world then ever, but the commitment of the democracies to support democracy, human rights and the rule of law consequently as the guiding principle in international relations still leaves a lot to be desired. American efforts to circumvent and dilute the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court, one of the most promising achievements in strengthening the rule of law in recent years, is an illustration of the problems involved. It is of vital importance that the EU pursues a common policy on this issue.
Getting globalisation and trade to deliver prosperity and welfare to those in most in need of it is the core economic challenge. While multilateral free trade is indisputably the best basis for increasing prosperity also in the poorest countries the trade system will have to be adjusted to better meet the needs of the developing countries.
The latest round of trade negotiations in the WTO got off to a promising start in Doha. There was general agreement that we must aim at a result which can rightly be called a development round, with the aim of strengthening the trade capacities of the developing countries. Some progress was also made in interpreting agreements on intellectual property rights to better meet the needs of poor countries.
But whether the Doha round as a whole will live up to the expectations, or indeed end in any agreement, is still very much open. The onus is on the developed countries to fulfil the still to be implemented previous commitments and open up their markets for the developing countries, in particular their protected agricultural markets.
In general trade rules have to be developed, in cooperation between the WTO and the ILO and other international organisations, to give more weight to legitimate concerns about the environment, core labour standards, human rights, national and minority cultures, consumer protection, balanced treatment of intellectual property rights, etc.
While the World Bank has shown an encouraging readiness to reform itself and its policies, reform of the international financial institutions, in particular the IMF, is still wanting. This means more transparency and democracy, burying the neoliberal Washington consensus and a return to the original Keynesian visions behind the founding of the Bretton Woods institutions.
This also means, i.e., action against tax-havens, more monitoring of, and where necessary controls on, capital movements including arrangements such as the currency transaction tax (Tobin-tax), other anti-speculative measures etc.
The world is still waiting for the oft-repeated commitment to increased development financing to be met, on the basis of the 0,7 % goal of GNP, using such instruments as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development to generate new funding.
Granted, it is not difficult to present lists such as this of all the good things that should be done to bring about a safer and better world, and even to get general agreement on them, at least in principle. The real question is how to bring these about.
We must ask can we get an European agreement on a global governance programme and how do we get it accepted and implemented globally, when the United States is pursuing a different policy? I have no better answer than the one we give when talking about the future of Russia. Yes, we must continue to try and engage all countries in multilateral cooperation, whatever the difficulties, without giving it the right of veto, and moving forward, where possible, on a more limited basis and work on those who do not immediately join to do so later, as with the Kyoto process or the International Criminal Court.
In contrast to many programmes for better global governance my ideas do not start out from institutional issues, which is the usual approach particularly when discussing the European Union. To make realistic progress we must accept the present institutions of EU, warts and all. At the end of the day this approach too will sooner or later call for institutional reforms, but they will meet less resistance if and when they are clearly understood as being necessary to move forward with concrete policies which otherwise are unattainable.
I am confident that Estonia as a future member of EU will for its part be a creative participant in this thinking. The Estonian input and its particular view is pertinent for many reasons. This country has through its harsh historical experience seen an antithesis of a just and reasonable order for distributing wealth, be it in global or in a national framework. Participating in the global economy is bringing fruit to Estonia while we speak. Through this participation Estonia has also been able better to tackle the challenges it inherited from the Soviet bankruptcy, like the pollution of environment. Direct investments bring new resources to the country. I am sure that Estonia will benefit from the participation in the ongoing global process.