THIS WORLD of OURS – January 2011


By Bob Harwood

Transitions In Global Leadership


The G20 was created to bring together finance ministers and central bank governors to oversee the international financial system. G20 heads of state have also met periodically for broader discussions and they have now superseded the more exclusive G8 Club. The UN continues to make enormous contributions to our world but its very size and structure make it unwieldy for matters requiring more urgent attention.

America’s global influence has fallen as that of others rise. This was patently obvious as the Seoul G20 summit in November addressed the sluggish and uneven recovery of nations from the global recession. Obama’s position was weakened by his trouncing in the US mid term elections, fears of a dysfunctional Congress and by his program to stimulate the sluggish American economy by buying up 600 billion dollars of US government bonds. This while accusing China’s of manipulating its exchange rate to gain competitive advantage. Predictably, the summit ended in stalemate with the vaguest of undertakings to coordinate stimulus efforts to ensure currency wars don’t worsen already fragile economies.

Obama was better received on his visit to India when he gave unqualified American support for India’s bid to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. In the 1940s I was privileged to participate in inter university student discussions as the UN was being formed. At that time with Cold War distrust already looming we grudgingly accepted the veto power as a pragmatic necessity. A single member,- the USA, Russia, UK, France, or China could block the wishes of the rest of the world on any issue before the Council. Democratic India’s case for membership is compelling with its burgeoning economy and a population second only to China’s and twice that of the other four permanent members combined! The challenge will be to get China and the three veto wielding powers of Europe to accept this dilution of their own power.

The BRIC nations– Brazil, Russia, India and China, have clearly become major global powers. If the Veto Club is enlarged by the addition of India, Brazil should follow. Fifth in world population, it represents another continent and its innovative, well-regulated economy has flourished during the recession. Ground breaking research and applications have almost quadrupled the value of agricultural production, and not at the expense of rain forests. It has became a key exporter in this area and of many raw materials. Equally impressive is its expanding role in the aviation sector. And it is about to become one of the world’s most promising sources of new oil with vast new offshore fields. Brazil’s first woman president has vowed to continue the social / economic balance struck by President Luis da Silva whereby entrepreneurship is promoted vigorously while other programs ensure that education and access to medical care are available to the poorest. And, beyond the BRIC nations, what of Japan who meets all the criteria but for being on the wrong side of a war that ended 65 years ago?

From my lifetime view reforming the Security Council and total elimination of the Veto are but steps along the way to my ultimate vision of a world replicating what the European Union continues to refine for a continent and nationalism is subordinated that “war drums throb no longer and the battle flags are furled in the Parliament of Man, the Federation of the World. (Tennyson’s Locksley Hall)

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