A global upheaval in the 21st century. In search of fair multilateralism – Valdai Club
National and regional needs and interests will find their best atmosphere in a growing, renewed and equitable multilateral system. We must act there, within the framework of our possibilities and our realities, as actively as possible, writes José Octavio Bordón, president of CARI (Argentinian Council for International Relations) and participant in the 18e Annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club.
Governments around the world have taken different steps, depending on their perspective on the best short-term solution to the dilemma posed by the coronavirus. From risk denial to hope for “natural herd immunity” or strict confinements, responses have been triggered in accordance with the postures and ideas of the leaders. Coordination, while necessary, was limited. Overall, the results were negative. Not only did they highlight the absence of a governance model in line with current challenges but also increased the risks for the governability of our democracy in the region.
Andrey Bystritskiy has said in previous roundtables that the center of global development, strength and self-confidence is changing. Ricardo Lagos, former president of Chile, made clear the challenges ahead as “the old recipes are no longer useful due to the profound changes generated in this new era”. He proposed a sort of new deal: we must govern for democracy as a system and for a new multilateralism. We have to adapt to new realities, sectors, demands and a new world situation. The old model of globalization is losing its meaning. Consequently, we need a constructive dialogue between the great powers and the rest of the countries.
While the advances and possibilities offered by the rapid and profound technological changes which have animated this new era of humanity are recognized, the uncertainties in the face of the transformations which dominate the present are just as worrying. Moreover, the weakening of cooperation and of multilateral and regional organizations, precisely at a time of greater globalization, affects the new scenario of challenges not only between states but also against world powers. These challenges are both legal, posed by finance or communications, and illegal, represented by organized crime and the gray areas that are created between them.
Throughout this year and the next, we will continue to coexist, albeit at different intensities, with COVID-19 both in our region and around the world. The outlook for the future presents us with worrying aspects: citizens physically and psychologically exhausted; impacts on health due to the direct consequences of the disease, its derivatives and the hundreds of diseases with which we already coexist; more exposed savings and tax resources; greater inequalities between countries, regions, productive activities and social sectors. This situation presents serious risks for the stability of our countries, but it also presents an opportunity to rethink our development models, to build new social contracts and to move towards more inclusive and better democracies: a desire that many citizens have expressed in social protests since 2019.
As Ukrainian intellectual Mikhail Pogrebinsky and American Thomas Friedman point out, we are living in a time of “exponential technological acceleration”. This perception is shared by intellectuals all over the planet. These deep and rapid changes are transforming human relationships and societies. How can we overcome the tension between the acceleration of these technologies and the relative backwardness of our social and political institutions? First, by understanding that we are more interconnected and in a relationship of interdependence, a situation that is neither balanced nor fair, thus being a source of both international and domestic tension.
As a result of these rapid and profound changes, new conceptions of citizenship are emerging. This obliges the Systems of Representation and Political Participation to adapt, without abandoning their values and identities, in order to regain the confidence of citizens in their representatives and of the latter in citizens.
It is imperative to analyze the state of governance and governability in our countries. Governance as a mode of governance that aims to achieve sustainable economic, social and institutional development, by promoting a healthy balance between the State, civil society, the economic market and people. Manuel Alcántara, professor at the University of Salamanca, refers to governability as a situation in which a set of conditions favorable to government action come together. In this sense, we can suggest that effective governance enables governability. Climate change will challenge everyone in the international community in this regard. Giving meaning to climate governance will be a major effort for human society.
The COVID-19 pandemic, while scientifically predictable, has taken various leaders and institutions by surprise. Its confluence with pre-existing problems generated a perfect storm that exposed the weaknesses or inadequacies of national states, as well as regional and global organizations. At a time when the challenges are more globalized than ever, multilateralism is showing itself to be weaker than several decades ago. Latin America, which was already the most inequitable region in the world, but not the poorest, suffers the greatest negative impact.
As Latin Americans, we must develop an intense pedagogy on the advantages of facing the new challenges of the 21st century and solve those of the 20e century that we still have pending. Latin American political systems must not only organize the competition for power, but also contribute to the exercise of full citizenship with free, fair and transparent electoral processes; in its exercise regulated by the democratic rule of law and with the inalienable objective of continuing to develop political, civil, cultural, economic and social citizenship, which was the first victim of this pandemic.
Technological changes in the 21st Century and a new citizenship require the renewal or creation of the institutions which allow to contain and develop these new demands, challenges and risks. It is essential to learn to relate to these new actors. Adaptation is a dialectical relationship that should not be confused with subordination without leadership, which would only generate more anomie and uncertainty.
In this decade of non-hegemonic, conflict-driven bilateralism, it is necessary that Argentina, our region and the world, not allow itself to be drawn into or aggravate tensions. National and regional needs and interests will find their best atmosphere in a growing, renewed and equitable multilateral system. We must act there, within the framework of our possibilities and our realities, as actively as possible. Know and better understand global trends and find the best opportunities. Agree on regional and multilateral proposals that show that they are based not only on knowledge of our needs and potential, but also on knowledge and understanding of the world situation.