Opening keynote address by Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva
“Adapting to the new global order: the role of the United Nations and partnerships”
Mr. Ivo Šlaus, President of the World Academy of Art and Science
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a privilege to welcome you all to the Palais des Nations. This time we have come together to discuss acute problems of today’s international situation.
Geneva represents an ideal platform for a deeper reflection on where we are headed as the international community and which kind of future we wish to build on. The international conference on Syria, which is taking shape now, is another demonstration of Geneva’s enduring value as a global hub. We appreciate the Host Country represented by Ambassador Alexander Fasel for its consistent support to the United Nations. We also welcome the presence here of State Councillor Pierre-François Unger. Let me also thank the Fondation pour Genève and its President Mr. Ivan Pictet participating in this event, highlighting again the valuable role that the Foundation and the Diplomatic Club, led by Ambassador Luzius Wasescha, play in building bridges across the different communities in Geneva.
I am grateful to see so many representatives of the entities that make “International Geneva” unique. This conference is intended to take time out of daily technical and policy discussions to pool our experience and know-how to come up with fresh and forward-looking ideas and solutions.
I am grateful to our partners in the World Academy of Art and Science – and in particular its President Ivo Šlaus and its Chairman Garry Jacobs – for organizing the event with us. The World Academy has a long and distinguished tradition for cutting-edge thinking that goes across boundaries, leading to creative approaches. I believe that your motto – “Leadership in thought that leads to action” – is very appropriate for our discussions today.
The world is undergoing profound changes, and we need both political will and immediate action to react to this transformation.
Political, economic and social balances are shifting. New dynamics have come into play, moving centres of gravity – from west to east, and from north to south. As just one example, it is projected that by 2020, the combined output of the three leading South economies – China, India and Brazil – may surpass the aggregate production of the United States, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Italy and Canada.
While some of these developments begin to address long-standing global imbalances, they also bring new contradictions and inequalities. 1.1 billion people still live below the internally-accepted poverty line of 1.25 dollars a day. Over 785 million people have no access to clean drinking water and 2.3 billion lack sanitation. The world is more connected than ever before, but still close to 4.5 billion people – predominantly in the developing world – are not online, and 1.5 billion people do not even have electricity.
At the same time, we are experiencing increasing division and distrust among communities – both ethnic, religious and national. Despite our increasing interconnections, we in the human family also feel more distant from one another. We witness growth in extremist rhetoric and action based on religious and ethnic hatred.
Well-known mechanisms and tools no longer seem adequate to respond effectively to these negative trends. The international conferences are not delivering the results we need: despite years of negotiation, the Doha Round of trade negotiations remains blocked….we have no legally-binding agreement to curb carbon emissions post-Kyoto…and in this very Chamber, the Conference on Disarmament has not been able to agree even a Programme of Work for over 16 years.
Against this background, we need to embrace a different type of governance – a new paradigm for how we work together to build a better world. Let me highlight three key components of this governance, which I hope may become issues of our discussions today.
First, nurturing partnerships. The challenges we face are interconnected. No single country, no single institution can confront them in isolation. Individually, they have neither the capacity nor the expertise. Let me give you an example: Over 200 million people are without jobs – of these, some 75 million are young people. We cannot hope to create meaningful and sustainable employment without involvement of the private sector. And this is not simply an economic issue, it is a political one. Lack of employment has already led to the undermining of social stability in many regions and countries, to the mistrust of just and efficient governance.
Second, reaching across boundaries. We are all aware that the challenges before us touch upon many disciplines. Climate change, for example, has a core scientific component, in analyzing the phenomenon and its consequences, and in proposing solutions. But these solutions have to be agreed and implemented at a political level. Therefore, we still have a long way to go in including different types of knowledge at the policy level, in particular from the scientific, technological and academic communities. As policy-makers, we need to get better at reaching out for the knowledge that we need so that we base decisions on the latest evidence and thinking. I am therefore particularly pleased that we have with us today representatives of these communities. I hope this can become a model to follow, and I welcome therefore the presence today of the Director-General of CERN, Professor Heuer, who is also a strong advocate for such an engagement.
Third, embracing different models. No one size fits all. We need to embrace different types of governance models for different issues. The large-scale multilateral negotiations, driven by Governments, still have value. There will be contexts and issues where they are the only way of doing business. But they cannot stand alone. Action through regional organizations. Action through smaller groups of like-minded States. Action led by civil society, or at sub-national level. These are complementary, not competing, models.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
We have posed as the overarching question for this session: Can humanity realize the apparently conflicting goals of prosperity, security, sustainability and social justice? I believe that the answer is yes. But it will require a new way of doing business, probably with the three elements that I have just outlined at the core and with a strong United Nations bringing these elements together.
Some observers consider the new governance a threat to the United Nations. I see it as a unique opportunity for it to play a more important role in connecting the different layers and partners for a cohesive and coherent global approach.
I am grateful to the outstanding speakers and skilful moderators and rapporteurs who will take part in all our sessions today. It is their input that gives us today a good chance to have an in-depth look at the problems we have to confront. The final session will bring together the different threads of the debates. The aim is a truly inclusive exchange.
Thank you very much for your active involvement.
Goals and issues that need to be addressed by a new paradigm for global development
Welcome address by Ivo Šlaus, President, World Academy of Art & Science
The contemporary world is plagued by numerous problems, threatened by economic, ecological, social, political and moral crises. Each of these subjects has been subject to in-depth analysis and endless expert discussion. This is the time to focus on solutions, rather than on further analysis. The lack of significant progress on addressing these issues in recent years has seriously raised doubts about the collective capacity of the human community to effectively address them. Do solutions really exist for the complex multidimensional problems confronting humanity today? Is there any way in which apparently mutually contradictory goals of prosperity, security, sustainability and social justice can all be realized? If so, what is lacking? Do we even know of approximate solutions? Do we at least know "solutions" that are not worse than the present problems? Our record is not very good. In the 20th century many attempts to remedy problems and reduce threats led the world into even greater calamities. We should be guided by the course proposed by Hippocrates: Try to help so as not to inflict damage on a patient. Not to act would be a mortal sin of omission that would lead to destruction, so act we must. This conference co-organized by the United Nations Office in Geneva and the World Academy is a call for solutions – a call for ideas, out-of-the-box ideas. It is a call for a paradigm change.
In the past we have made several important paradigm changes, at least in science. Although the physical world, the particles composing it and laws governing it, did not change for the last 14 billion years, our understanding of the physical world has been dramatically altered; first by the Copernican Revolution, then much more through Quantum Physics and the Theory of Relativity, when our concepts of time, space and certainty changed radically. In place of perfect certainty, we have realized that our physical world is based on the uncertainty principle, and that uncertainty still allows quantum electrodynamics to predict with accuracies of one in billions. Our social world is even more complex that the physical. Human beings and society change constantly and the laws governing them evolve over time. We change ourselves and we change the world we live in. It would be vain, even preposterous, to assume that the laws we formulated millennia ago for that different period and very different people are still valid today. Although we resemble in many ways our predecessors from before the Agricultural Revolution, we are in fact very different!
Addressing the current problems and threats confronting humanity today requires a fundamental paradigmatic change! It is not enough to merely change the course. We must change the paradigm, but which one? And how? Again, Physics, the simplest of all sciences, can help. We realized that the conception of time has changed, but we preserved the Newtonian laws in domains where they are still valid. The situation in the socio-economic-political domain is much more complex. First, it is a moving target, rapidly moving! So, our first conclusion should be that the new paradigmatic change we look for has to be dynamic, not static! Our second conclusion should be that whatever the new paradigm is, it has to be consistent with the existing paradigms in domains where they remain valid and useful, if there are any.
There is one area in which the old paradigm must clearly be abandoned. Although humanity has enjoyed several long intervals of peace, war and violence have been endemic throughout our history. The new paradigm must absolutely call for elimination of violence. No war, no violence – under any circumstances! There is no domain where violence is acceptable! No war, no weapons of any kind, much less weapons of mass destruction or their 21st century successors. Let the incomplete steps initiated by Reagan and Gorbachev in Reykjavik become a reality. Abolish nuclear weapons now! Instead of MAD – Mutually Assured Destruction – let us focus on mutual economic development.
The new paradigm may still retain the principle of competition, for competition helps to release human energy, innovation and creativity; but competition is augmented and complemented by cooperation (as biologists from J. Maynard Smith and W. Hamilton argued almost half a century ago). Private property is another feature of the existing paradigm which we cannot dispense with, but private only within limits. Private ownership of the oceans, water, air, would be disastrous. As Mahatma Gandhi said, the world has enough to satisfy everyone's need, but not for everybody's greed. It is essential that we recognize the value of need as supreme. Greed is a threat to those afflicted by it, but also to those advocating it. At a time when income inequalities have increased from the ratio of 5:1 approved by Plato and 20:1 endorsed as the maximum by J.P. Morgan to thousands and thousands to one, it is time to remember that humans are social animals, that the Golden Rule is imbedded in our biology, that we need each other and that human capital is our most precious capital. Human capital is the basic foundation stone of the new paradigm. It is the source of all our creativity and innovation and, as Aristotle claimed, it is the main source of our happiness too!
The world faces many problems, but they are all interconnected and interdependent. They will not lend themselves to fragmentary, piecemeal solutions. We need to evolve a comprehensive, holistic approach, but one that is at the same time individualized so as to be applied to different conditions. We cannot rely on the model of physical science for our answers, but we can and should apply the same intense creativity and imagination that have enabled physical science to answer the famous Thales' question "How and from what is the world made?" That creativity is our greatest resource for meeting difficult challenges and availing of the expanding opportunities that lie ahead.