Speeding Up Good Governance
The Globalist, USA
By Paul Martin
Leaders around the world are often blamed for taking too long to solve crucial problems. In response, Canada’s Prime Minister Paul Martin argues that he and his colleagues lack an efficient means to push through an international agenda. He suggests how to accelerate global decision-making.
The responsibility for good international governance falls ultimately upon the shoulders of the political leaders of the world’s sovereign governments.
But there is a real problem here. Many of today’s international organizations are not designed to facilitate the kinds of informal political debates that must occur between politicians.
In short, leaders cannot make the bold decisions required if international fora remain focused only on ratifying the product of bureaucratic negotiations. The most fruitful exchanges between leaders often take place in the corridors of great meetings — one on one, far removed from the actual agenda.
Get out of the box
Bureaucrats and diplomats can take an issue so far — and no further. Only political leaders can make the leap so often required to break an intellectual, emotional or historical impasse.
Born out of crisis
This means debating, exploring and searching for value-driven solutions that are inclusive rather than divisive, stabilizing rather than destructive, pragmatic rather than ideological.
How do we get there? An approach I believe to be worthwhile would be to look at the lessons learned from the Group of 20 finance ministers that was formed in the wake of the Asian financial crisis that began in 1997.
A new approach
We believe a similar approach among leaders could help crack some of the toughest issues facing the world. We need to get the right mix of countries in the same room, talking without a set script.
One issue at a time
I would suggest we should convene a select group of countries from North and South tackling just one issue — and see where that takes us.
It could be global terrorism or global public health. For instance, the United States, Canada and other G8 countries — working with the UN — have done much to develop a humane response to the AIDS crisis in Africa.
Getting there faster
But the need for cheap medicines goes beyond AIDS and beyond Africa.
Can we not find a balance between the clear need for the intellectual property rights that underwrite much of our medical research — and the equally clear need to help alleviate suffering among people who cannot afford the fruits of that research?
At the highest level
There are other issues a Leaders’ G-20 could deal with as well, such as rescuing the current round of multilateral trade negotiations, where the biggest stumbling block is agriculture. Agriculture is not simply a trade issue that will be decided solely on its economic merit.
In countries like France, Japan and the United States, it is first and foremost a political issue — one which only political leaders at the highest level can deal with.
Sending the right signals
This is a bad message to be sending, especially when we are trying — as a matter of the utmost importance to our security — to reassure countries that we care about their futures, that we want to extend the benefits of globalization to them and see them prosper.
What about intervention
But as we know, this is not always the case. What of those countries that are unwilling to take the first steps towards responsible national or global citizenship?
What do we do when their populations face humanitarian catastrophe? What do we do when people are confronted by a culture of hate or violence spawned by their own government, as occurred in Rwanda?
Under whose authority?
We in Canada find ourselves very much in agreement with Kofi Annan when he said: “Surely no legal principle, not even sovereignty, can ever shield crimes against humanity.”
Who’s on the victims’ side?
As Nobel Peace laureate Elie Wiesel has said: “Neutrality always
means coming down on the side of the victimizer — never on the side
of the victim.”
What is required is an open discussion about the need for intervention in situations that offend the most basic precepts of our common humanity.
Day by day, it becomes clearer that our long-term security requires the spread of freedom around the world: Freedom from oppression, freedom from corruption, freedom from hunger and ignorance and hopelessness.
This Globalist Document is adapted from a speech that Mr. Martin gave
at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington,
D.C. on April 29, 2004. For the full text of Mr. Martin's speech, click
Copyright © 2003 by The Globalist.
Copyright © 2003 by The Globalist.
© 2003 SARID, 675 Mass Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA