mppu international


Unesco 15.11.2016.

Pasquale Ferrara*


Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I have the difficult task to keep you awake at this very late hour in the afternoon, talking about order and disorder in the international system, but I promise you that I only have 3 points and just one last point of possible future perspectives.

International politics today operate basically in two different modalities. The world can be represented depending on the point of view as a game or as a field. First, international politics it is a game. At this level of analysis, we see the role of international organizations and more broadly of the international law. This game, as all games, has predefined and accepted rules and the behavior of the players can be anticipated, foreseen. And this is the world of multilateralism, the world of fine multilateral institutions like UNESCO. However, international politics is also a field. Contrary to the game, in the field the rules are not stable and sometimes are created by the players during the very game and the most powerful players can influence the result. Examples of this situation are, for instance, the concept of self-determination of peoples that is interpreted in very different ways according to the international and regional context. I will just mention the case of Kosovo, from one side, and the case of Crimea, on the other side, and the principal of responsibility to protect used against Libya in 2011, but not applied in other situations.

International politics, as a field, where rules are created by the most powerful players, is the world of multipolarism. The world where States and most powerful States count much more than international organizations. But what about the States that still are the main actors in the international arena? There is a profound ambivalence of the States today. From one side, we must acknowledge that without them it seems impossible to enforce law and guarantee rights. At the same time, States are the usual suspects for violating human rights and fundamental freedoms. In many contexts, political power doesn’t seem capable of governing economic and financial processes and reveals a structural lack of resources to respond to an overload of social demands, demands of jobs, healthcare, welfare.

On the other hand, we see States becoming pseudo-authoritarian or para-authoritarian, ready to use all the available tools for keeping political and social control. So, not enough power to deliver good results for society, from one side, too much power on the other side; super States, on one side, weak or even failing States, on the other. Where the State is strong, a new political form appears: the form of illiberal democracy.

Another outcome of assertive stateness is a narrow vision of society where the ethnos, the ethnicity, is considered more fundamental than demos, citizenship. However, we forget sometimes that in our complex world, all States, even the ones that we consider superpowers, are fragile in certain conditions. Think of the United States of America in 9/11; but we have seen that in Europe, between the deficit crises in the Euro Zone and the recent wave of terrorist attacks.

There is a growing divergence between politics and economy. The more the economy integrates at the global scale, the more politics disintegrates at the local level. The paradox is that, the more politics downsizes and communities become inward looking, the more the issues that we have to face become transnational in nature and difficult to manage at state and local level. In a world where State, trade, capitals, services tend to be increasingly liberalized, borders remain and become even stronger for persons. Modernity might well be liquid in Bowman’s metaphor, but borders are becoming more and more solid. From one side, we see economy becoming a flux, from the other, politics is articulated as a stock, as a fixed quantity in terms of frontiers and borders.

The ideological divide in many countries and regions of the world is no longer between left and right, but between open and closed. From this point of view, we are perhaps moving towards the age of post globalism, mainly due to the asymmetrical consequences of globalization on the different categories of peoples and workers.

So, what do we have to do? I think that we need to restart from a very simple concept: a true world politics, not international relations or such, but a true world politics need to be a panhuman politics, not humanitarian, panhuman. In the reflection on globalization, globalization is perceived sometimes as an inescapable and inevitable condition for the simple reason that it is impossible to run away from it. In these circumstances, even cosmopolitans take the form of a necessary brotherhood, quite different from an elective brotherhood.

So, we as an interpretation of Edgar Moran, a very well-known French intellectual that we respect, we are obliged to be brothers, not because we are saved but because we are lost. However, can we really call such a condition fraternity? Since it looks like a desperate fraternity, rather than a hopeful fraternity. And perhaps we need to reverse the old slogan “act locally, think globally” into a different one: “think locally and act globally”. In fact, from one side, the new ideas are generated from the experiences from the territories, from the other side, the remote causes of the problems that hit our cities originate in many cases at a global level. For instance, global financial speculation produces local unemployment, conflict raging in a global land reduce their consequences in our everyday life, as in the case of the arrival of the refugees at our doorsteps.

One concrete step towards a viable and hopeful fraternity could be the institution of a world citizenship. Each person on the face of the earth is entitled to this citizenship. A citizenship that adds to the national citizenship, but with a different ground, since it is attached not to a national constitution, but to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In modern society, security should address not only States, but also peoples. We need to launch a new narrative at international level. Instead of attempting to dominate the world, we need to take care of it. “Tout empire périra,” wrote in the French historian Duroselle. Caring for everybody and especially for distant strangers is no longer an utopian naivety, it is only a condition of survival. It’s a precondition for peace, development and unity.

Thank you!


* Ambassador of Italy to Algeria

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