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It's a Small World After All | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

It's a Small World After All

The International Ethical Collegium is an important new global voice. Its membership includes philosophers, diplomats, scientists, human rights activists and current and former Heads of State and governments, like ex-President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, who want the global community to respond "intelligently and forcefully to the decisive challenges facing humankind." (The group has recently published an important Open Letter to George W. Bush and John Kerry, which is reprinted below.)

The Collegium sees three great challenges confronting the modern world--all of which require robust multilateral solutions: an ecological threat that includes global warming, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and a shortage of drinkable water in many of the world's poorest regions; a global economy in which deregulation has created massive disparities in income and a less secure world; and, finally, a "crisis of thought and meaning" whereby humanity is thwarted by forces like "violence and intolerance [and] materialistic obsession."

In an interview this week, the International Collegium's Secretary General Sacha Goldman talked about how sovereign states' own self-interest, threatened to undermine the hope of collective action to confront the world's most immediate problems. "The US is losing its moral leadership," Goldman said, and that's troubling because nations "don't exist anymore on their own." Interdependence, as the Open Letter states, "is the new reality of this century--from global warming to global markets, global crime and global technology."

The Collegium was formed in the period leading up to the Sept. 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. The former President of Slovenia, Milan Kucan, and the former French Prime Minister, Michel Rocard, serve as its co-chairs. While the group has proposed solutions to specific transnational problems, the Collegium is most valuable for its ethics-based approach to problems like terrorism, poverty and environmental degradation.

The Collegium's Open Letter is another sign that our upcoming election isn't just about the American people. It's about America's future role in the world. Citing a "new era of interdependence," the Collegium's members are asking Bush and Kerry to make clear their views about large issues like the prospects for democracy at the global level, and the possibility of formulating common interdependent values.

Sadly, however, the possibility of the global community working together to tackle the world's vast inequities has been greatly diminished due to Bush's hyper-militaristic approach to solving global problems, his illegal and un-necessary war in Iraq, and his contempt for the UN in particular and the international community in general. Worse, Bush's policies have made the US more isolated--even hated--among former friends and foes alike. Recent polls conducted by GlobeScan and the University of Maryland show rising international mistrust of the US. Transatlantic Trends 2004 recently released a survey revealing that 76 percent of Europeans disapprove of Bush's handling of foreign affairs, up 20 percent in the last two years.

"If the people of the world were going to participate in the US election, Kerry would win handily," said Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland. While that fact might be exploited by the Bush campaign, the Collegium's open letter should serve as a wake-up call to Americans that the US is stronger when it builds alliances. This assertion isn't new, of course, but this fact has gotten lost in this stormy campaign in which Vietnam--and a debate about whose service was nobler--has eclipsed the debate about Iraq's future, the genocide in Darfur, rising tensions in the Middle East, and Iran's nuclear weapons programs.

For the first time since 1972, international affairs and national security are the top concern of the American electorate. In turning his back on the concept of multilateral action to solve common problems, however, Bush has made America less secure by turning internationalism on its head.

Bush and Kerry have an obligation to listen to the Collegium's concerns and begin to address our greatest challenges in a serious and intelligent way. The Collegium's letter to the candidates provides an opportunity for both candidates to take that step. Read it below.

*****

Collegium International

To The Candidates of the 2004 United States Presidential Elction: President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry.

On November 2, one of you will be elected the next President of the United States. Because your great country is powerful far beyond its borders, billions of women and men who cannot vote will be profoundly affected by the choice made by the United States electorate.

We, the members of the International Ethical Collegium, write to you as citizens of the world who are in effect your constituents, but who have no vote. We ask that you consider your responsibility not just to the United States and its citizens but also to the world in this new era of interdependence, when sovereignty still circumscribes elections but can no longer circumscribe the consequences of elections.

Interdependence is evident in our world, from global warming to global markets, global crime, and global technology. However, more than anything else, terrorism has unveiled this fateful interdependence that defines our twenty-first century world. The atrocious attacks of September 11, 2001, like those that followed in Casablanca, Bali, Madrid and elsewhere, elicited the condemnation and sympathy of the entire world, even as they showed that no nation can any longer be secure or sovereign by itself.

We believe that the realities of interdependence require that the promise of its benefits be realized in affirmative ways through an architecture of interdependence that assures full equality in the distribution of economic, social and human resources. This condition requires the United States to recognize four crucial principles and needs, that define the central concerns of the Collegium:

** the need to establish democracy at a global level, where it can regulate and offer popular sovereignty over global anarchic forces that have escaped the sovereignty of individual nations, and at the same time secure diversity and equality among diverse democratic cultures and civilizations;

** the need to define the public goods of our common world, and to protect them as common heritage--including such crucial goods as access to knowledge and information and communication technologies, as well as to such non-renewable resources as drinking water and fossil fuels;

** the need to establish and formulate common interdependent values that can act as a bulwark against relativism and cynicism, even as they invite intercultural and intercivilizational dialogue and democratic deliberation;

** the need to define economic, social and cultural rights as intrinsic to and inseparable from political rights, extending across cultures and generations.

We believe that these needs represent the fundamental concerns of the world's voiceless citizens who will have to live with the consequences of United States leadership. At the same time, we recognize that, as leaders of your great nation, you are agents of hope, capable of using the power given to you by the American people to the advantage of all humankind. We also know that since the United States can no longer find peace or justice without engaging cooperatively and multilaterally with the world and itsinternational institutions, the world can have neither justice nor peace without the involvement of the United States.

In this spirit, although you have a legal obligation only to your countryís citizens, we would ask you to read this letter and offer the world's citizens--your other invisible constituents--a considered response. You can be sure it will be met with a gratitude that recognizes that you have moved beyond the responsibilities of politics to embrace the responsibilities of ethical leadership and in doing so, have affirmed both the reality and the promise of interdependence.

Endorsed on behalf of the International Collegium members by:

Milan KUCAN , former President of Slovenia andMichel ROCARD, former Prime Minister of France,Co-chairs of the International Collegium

Andreas VAN AGT, former Prime Minister of the Netherlands;Henri ATLAN, Bio-physicist and Philosopher, France;Lloyd AXWORTHY, President of University of Winnipeg, former Foreign Minister of Canada; Fernando Henrique CARDOSO, former President of Brazil; Manuel CASTELLS, Sociologist, Spain;Mireille DELMAS-MARTY, Professor of law, Sorbonne and College de France; Ruth DREIFUSS, former President of the Swiss Confederation; Gareth EVANS, President of the ICG, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Australia; Malcolm FRASER, Chairman of the InterAction Council, former Prime Minister, Australia; Bronislaw GEREMEK, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Poland;Bacharuddin Jusuf HABIBIE, former President of Indonesia; H.R.H. HASSAN BIN TALLAL, Jordan; Vaclav HAVEL, former President of the Czech Republic; Stephane HESSEL, Ambassador of France; Alpha Oumar KONARE, former President of Mali; Claudio MAGRIS, Author, Italy;Edgar MORIN, Philosopher, France; Sadako OGATA, President of Japan International Cooperation Agency(JICA), former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Japan; Jacques ROBIN, Philosopher, Founder of Transversales, France; Mary ROBINSON, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, former President of Ireland;Wolfgang SACHS, Economist, Germany; Mohamed SAHNOUN, Ambassador of Algeria; George VASSILIOU, former President of the Republic of Cyprus; Richard VON WEIZSACKER, former President of the Federal Republic of Germany; Huanming YANG, Director and Professor, Beijing Genomics Institute, China.

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