A new world order

Barack Obama’s election coincides with the search for a new global dispensation of power and responsibilities to succeed the system which has regulated the international community for the past 60 years. We are at a turning point, similar to that of Yalta in 1945, when the victors of the still unfinished war carved the world into spheres of influence. A little later, with the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the foundations for the other spheres of global political and economic governance were established. The system worked remarkably well and even appeared to absorb the shock of the collapse of the East Bloc in 1989. That’s when talk began of the need for a new world order. First to mention this was Mikhail Gorbachev, who was struggling in vain to hold the Soviet Union and its clients together and needed to move away from the pure power politics of the Cold War. Then, more famously, President George H.W. Bush, used the phrase in September, 1990, as he assembled an unprecedented international coalition to drive Iraq out of Kuwait. «A new partnership of nations has begun, and we stand today at a unique and extraordinary moment. The crisis in the Persian Gulf, as grave as it is, also offers a rare opportunity to move toward an historic period of cooperation. Out of these troubled times… a new world order can emerge: A new era – freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice and more secure in the quest for peace. An era in which the nations of the world, east and west, north and south, can prosper and live in harmony,» he told a joint session of Congress. President Woodrow Wilson used «a new world order» at the end of World War I, envisioning a world in which traditional power politics would be replaced by collective security, democracy and the nations’ right to self-determination. In all these instances, hopes were dashed: Policy continued to be dictated by the nations that had the power to enforce their will on others. Today, though, we are in a different era, where the dynamics that determine relations between countries and economies have changed radically. The globalization of the economy has created new factors, which no country on its own can affect – and new problems that no country can cope with on its own. The economic crisis, the prices of food, fuel and other commodities have tied all the world’s countries together the way a rope unites climbers on a cliff. And so, for the first time, we are seeing coordinated action by governments and central banks on a global level, because they know that only by working together can they save their own economies and the global financial system. The same applies to issues of security and the effort to limit climate change. President George W. Bush’s unilateral and largely failed actions of the past few years have shown that not even the sole superpower is able to impose its policy on others, nor to secure the stable environment that all countries need for their people to prosper. The summit of the 20 strongest economies in Washington this week, which will debate a new global economic dispensation, is a powerful indicator that even before Obama’s election Bush’s United States had realized the absolute need for cooperation. A new president, who believes in the need for a diplomatic approach to problems and for broad coalitions may just be the catalyst for the creation of a new system aimed at achieving security, economic justice and social progress. Never has the world been more ready for such a new order.