Tuesday, July 24, 2012
People Who Need People: Utilizing Opportunities and Coping with Challenges in a Globally Interdependent World
An imagined speech of the United Nations Secretary-General to the opening of the next session of the General Assembly
By Bakampa Brian Baryaguma
[Dip. Law (First Class)–LDC; Cert. PELD–NALI-K; Cert. Oil & Gas–Mak; LLB Student–Mak]
We meet at a critical moment in human history when the world is truly a global village. Thanks to technological advances more so, in the area of Information Communication Technology and fast, efficient transport systems, it is now possible to instantly link up with virtually anyone around the globe. People’s interaction and connectivity, has instantly improved thereby leading to a globally interdependent world, in which we are not strangers to one another any more. It is interdependent because people from all corners of the world are indispensable to one another. This has ushered in the concept of people who need people.
This concept represents a situation where everybody needs everyone and this is evidenced by the emergence of international governance and financial institutions which fortunately have been welcomed and embraced worldwide. This global interdependence has brought with it immense opportunities and presents huge challenges too.
On a positive note for instance, it facilitates the creation of more markets and business opportunities, thus boosting job creation and employment for our people especially the youth; sharing ideas and connecting knowledge, thereby enabling easy transfer of expertise and free flow of information. These are incredible achievements in this information and technology driven world and they are vital to achieving our grand common dream of eliminating poverty and its attendant challenges like conflict.
On a negative note however, it poses stiff challenges for global cooperative action, more so where there are divergent social and cultural interests; for power relations, where there is disharmony and lack of consensus on economic and political issues; and for development generally, especially, at critical moments like the present, when economies are struggling to cope with the global financial crisis; nature is facing its biggest threat ever – climate change.
It is no wonder therefore, that there is emerging a shared global culture of intellectual social responsibility to consolidate the real and potential opportunities and work together to solve global challenges. This entails concerted global action to fix things in order to keep the wheels running, thereby keeping the hopes and expectations of many alive and burning.
As a matter of course, it is absolutely necessary to address the issue of what sort of a global civics is necessary and feasible for us to navigate our growing interdependence because as intellectuals, we are obliged to transcend state boundaries and streamline international civics. In order to understand what responsibilities we can all take on towards and the rights we can claim against people who happen not to be our compatriots, we need to know the right messages, tools and ideology to employ so as to adequately exploit our shared culture of intellectual social responsibility, as we work to solve global problems together. This is a cause dictated by Article 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
(UDHR) whereunder, ‘Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.’
Civics is understood to denote the study of governance as well as the rights and duties of citizens. As we may be aware, rights and duties are correlative concepts in the sense that where there is a right, there is a corresponding duty and the reverse is true. As stated earlier, the critical issue here is rights and duties we claim against and owe to one another as members of a globally interdependent world. For me, these are a direct consequence of the opportunities and challenges presented by this world system. Once the latter are grasped and comprehended, so will the former.
It is notable that the market in the contemporary world has been elevated over and above the people it is supposed to serve. For example, interest rates especially, in the third world, are unreasonably high and prohibitive of growth at the expense of production. Due to neo-liberalism, it is now unfortunate that our world is unequal. The global equation is vertical and dominated by a select few. There is economic disequilibrium that has created imbalanced power relations and caused exploitation of the weak and peripheral. The last 50 years have disproved neo-liberalism as a solution to contemporary problems because it stands in the way of the new world order of global interdependence. New realities have emerged where the South needs the North as much as the West needs the East and vice versa. As Mr. Robert B. Zoellick said, all these ‘... are now points on a compass, not economic destinies.’
Thus, there is the right and duty of fairness and exercise of restraint especially, in trade related activities. This underlies the obligation to promote global equality where everyone contributes. In order to successfully navigate our growing interdependence, vertical and market globalization should be gradually replaced with horizontal and people centred globalization. The dominants of the contemporary economy especially, the West, owe a paramount duty to the rest of the world to put in place a self-sustaining moral economy, free of en masse want and deprivation.
Consequently, it is the right of the West to demand that subservient economies of the global market should mobilize and organize themselves in a manner that boosts their growth and development potential by desisting from undemocratic tendencies and practices that frustrate human growth and development, to create a just and secure world.
Then definitely, there is need for unity in diversity. When God created the world, he tactfully endowed it with abundant beauty in many respects. One, there is the difference in our living environment such that whereas for instance, some of us are from the ever-green tropical areas, others are from the arid deserts or the snowy planes. Two, there is the subtle difference in our physical body appearances: we are male or female; black, white or even coloured; short or tall, name it. This diversity is reflected in our unique cultures and beliefs as well as tastes and preferences. Yet in spite of all these differences, our global interdependence today inevitably connects us and raises our consciousness that we need one another more than ever before in human history. So, the potential for conflict is particularly high.
It is for this reason that we ought to teach and emphasize to the world population that there is need for unity in this diversity and that our differences are resources, not curses or impediments to contend with and overcome. That the essence of our wonderful and fearful creation in God’s image is so that we may be able to tap into and exploit the special good naturally endowed in each of us. And that therefore, it is the right and duty of all of us to tolerate one another’s differences. We must tirelessly remind our people that this will not be a walk in the park or a cup of tea but a sacrifice requiring commitment and discipline. Further more, that this is not the time to give up but to stand together for the wellbeing of mankind because when you are weak in crisis, you are weak indeed.
And last but not least, if an international order where inherent dignity and rights of all are fully realized, as envisaged by A. 28 of the UDHR, is to be achieved, it is important to move beyond the individual human rights narrative which limits the context to the individual person. Therefore, as a matter of principle, we need to create a more reciprocal and inclusive society by promoting virtues alongside individual rights and interests. It is time to fully embrace the Ubuntu philosophy of I am because you are. The collective duty is to enable the inculcation of virtuous social interests; the right is to prevent the hobbling of the same. It is common knowledge especially, in the academic and scholarly circles that human rights is a language of struggle more so, where there is deprivation. But deprivation can be widespread and social, going beyond individuals members. Our globally interdependent human rights discourse ought to take note of and cater for this.
In summary, as people who need people, aspiring to utilize available opportunities and cope with looming challenges in the murky waters of this globally interdependent world, we need everybody on board–the majesty and luxury of Europe; the vigour and gentility of Asia; the brevity and enterprise of America; the exuberance and pride of Africa; and definitely, the candour and resilience of the Middle East. Our guiding principle should be as emphasized by Federico Mayor that, ‘In order to change, the world needs everyone.’ That way, everyone is a winner, able to realize the full potential of their inherent dignity and rights.