The global order needs a reset


From Gaza to Ukraine, the shifting of geopolitical plates is disrupting all strategic balances. The old model of Multilateralism cannot cope with the rapid changes but the world does need global governance. To be effective, this must include the South which is currently kept out of the main power structure. Opinion by Hamza Hraoui, co-founder of the international public affairs firm, MGH Partners.

The crumbling of the bipolar power game, marked by the rise of states previously considered marginal, poses a major challenge to the current architecture of global institutions, prompting their reform. This is a major step in the global rebalancing.

The UN General Assembly’s March 2, 2022 first vote of a resolution against Russia at the UN General Assembly presented the West with an unexpected headache. Believing that most African countries, considered ‘friends’, would follow the West’s condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the fact that 35 countries, more than half of them African had abstained came as a rude shock.

This capacity for independent analysis and decision making by African or Arab countries only affirms the fading centrality of the West but also points to a deeper misunderstanding: the North and the South no longer share the same grammar of international relations – even as global challenges require a convergence of narratives, at least between the two shores of the Mediterranean.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, there was real hope of building a more horizontal global conflict resolution system. Yet, reliance continued on to be placed on the power of the Atlantic Alliance as the only guarantor of the balance of international play.

In the euphoria that followed globalisation, it was easy to believe that an international, even constitutional order was possible: the EU was expanding, the American and Soviet nuclear arsenals were drastically reduced, and unique institutional bodies such as the World Trade Organisation (WHO), the International Criminal Court (ICC) and IP were created: the WHO, the ICC, the International Panel on Climate Change among others had been created..

But the increasing regression of liberal democracies has been sounding the possible death knell of the international cooperation system. Countries like Russia or Turkey have succumbed to populist or authoritarian temptations and countries like China now openly stand as a Western counter-model for a new world order that is avowedly anti-democratic.

These models are seductive and export quite easily, including to Africa. Between 2020 and 2023, more than 8 coups d’état were successfully executed on the continent.

In the meantime, the UN has remained frozen in the same organisational architecture as in 1945. The Security Council, in particular, is criticised for its inability to effectively respond to current crises, exacerbated by the frequent use of the veto by permanent members.

This club of nuclear powers, waiting for a “reset,” needs to be rethought to include a more equitable representation of emerging and developing nations. Recall that since the end of World War II, five countries, including two former European empires, share the right of veto, which, used excessively by the United States and Russia, impeding any strong action and methodically distances other countries of the Global South from the Western arc.

Saving the UN soldier

Yet, the UN remains the only forum that can globalise national security issues of states. Hence the urgency for a reformist resurgence.

The real threat to humanity no longer lies primarily in rivalries between neighbours, but in the global challenges of the Anthropocene, foremost among them: health security and climate insecurity.

The UN must therefore evolve to reflect contemporary realities, marked by complexity and structural interdependencies. And this will have to start with integrating an African and a Latin American country, with veto rights in the Security Council.

Today we cannot ignore the accelerated emancipation movement of the Global South around international issues. It’s a movement that has been built on since decolonisation and has led to the principle of “free diplomatic union” as expressed by international relations researcher Bertrand Badie. This doctrine explains, for example, why Morocco or Saudi Arabia no longer focus on Paris or Washington but rather on Tel Aviv or Beijing.

The addition, last August of six new members to the BRICS+ grouping which controls more than 54% of the world’s oil production is a clear message that world affairs will no longer be the preserve of the West. Emerging countries also want to reorganise the international financial architecture. The United States and Europe must now see it, understand it, and accept it.

Accelerating the exit from the interregnum

Let’s be clear, the planet will always need global governance. So it is now that we must define a framework for it which includes the South.

The integration of traditionally considered secondary countries into the instruments of global diplomacy is a first step towards renewed and effective multilateralism. These nations play an increasingly significant role in their respective regions and bring unique perspectives on sub-regional and global issues.

Their involvement in international institutions can only enrich the decision-making process as it will be more legitimate, and thus promote a more balanced management of world affairs.

To do this, it is necessary to understand the language of the ‘other’ those who were considered weak 10 years ago, to understand that it is possible to have a different perspective of the politics of the world. It also calls for an end to the arrogance that projected the models of the rich countries of the north as universal and rational benchmarks.

The current debate on the double standard, against the backdrop of the Soukkot War (Israel – Hamas), proves the limit of wanting to make moral values the cardinal principles of diplomacy.

This does not have to be antinomic with a diligent and coherent defense of humanist values. Contrary to popular belief, the countries of the Global South do not have a defined ideological base that is anti-Western. In other words, they will always need to cooperate with the United States for their security, and with China for their prosperity.

It will therefore not be a question of reproducing alliances in the image of NATO, because these countries project themselves into strategic agreements based on their national interests and not on a rigid ideological camp as during the Cold War.

Even the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, admits that the current structures of global governance reflect yesterday’s world.

We know that the fragmentation of global diplomacy and the trend towards nationalism weaken international cooperation at a critical moment for humanity, against a backdrop of climate collapse.

The reform of the multilateral system will be a long process. But it is already underway, under the constraints of the interregnum we are living through. If the West wants to be an actor, it will have to now attach the South to world affairs.

Ultimately, it will require the ending of the Westphalian concept wherein all states have exclusive sovereignty over their territories and the advent of new forms of power between Big Tech and states.

In short, a new chessboard of distribution of global governance between an old world (the nation states) and the aggregation of technological powers, which already overwhelm, our daily lives.



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