Secretary-general of the Council of
the European Union
High Representative for the
Common Foreign and Security Policy.
What is the best route to peace and
justice in the twenty first century? For some the answer is crystallised in
the choice between traditional, feel-good multilateralism and militant
unilateralism. The case of Iraq appeared to embody these two stark alternative
strategies: The power of rules-based attraction versus the power of raw military
compulsion. Although appealing in its simplicity, this binary choice is useful
only to headline writers, not policymakers. Practical experience suggests that
over-reliance on a single strategy leads only to different versions of utopia:
the utopia of liberty spread from the barrel of a gun, or the utopia of
international rules and institutions based on goodwill alone. Both are equally
illusory and equally dangerous.
The enduring lesson of the war in
Iraq is its
illustration of the links between force and legitimacy. Without the use
of force, Saddam Hussein would still be in power in Iraq. No one in Europe would
wish that. But force alone will not and cannot advance the cause of a
pluralistic modernity. For that mission, legitimacy is required. And in the
international sphere, legitimacy comes through multilateral action. The best
way to advance the cause of political and economic freedom in the next
century is through effective multilateralism —rules with teeth.
Today we are confronted by two, interwoven challenges. The first is the
challenge of addressing
grow out of the patterns of interdependence in a border-less
world. They include terrorism, the proliferation of
weapons of mass destruction,
crime. The second challenge is that of “transition". How can
encourage political and economic freedom in very different parts of the world,
with different traditions and varying starting points?
Such change will require success
on three, inter-linked fronts: economic development, political democratization,
and conflict prevention and management.
feed network threats,
is within an environment of failed or failing states, poverty, repression,
despair and forced migration that criminal and terrorist networks
If we fail
counter network threats,
will endanger transition.
integration has been
for global growth and the “catch-up” of poorer countries.
security concerns out-trump our interest in human and commercial freedoms
then growth will slow and transition will be hindered.
The starting point in confronting both challenges must be to
create stable frameworks of law and physical security.
Strengthening the capacity to govern, effectively and legitimately,
will be key to success in countries as diverse as
Afghanistan, Iraq and Haiti.
The world may be business driven but it still relies on governments.
in world affairs is not a recipe for building the stable frameworks necessary to
support wider political and economic liberty. The world needs more, not less,
multilateralism. But this multilateralism must be action-oriented and capable of
delivering results. No single country—not even the United States—has the
wisdom, resources, or patience to tackle today’s challenges alone. Because the
most urgent contemporary challenges are transnational in character, they can be
tackled only as a cooperative venture.
Making the case
for multilateralism might seem odd, given its many recent setbacks. The
international community was deeply divided on Iraq. The validity of
international verification mechanisms
aimed at controlling the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are
under stress—not only in the case of Iraq but also with regard to Iran, Libya,
and North Korea. We have seen blockage of the World Trade Organization’s Doha
round of negotiations, with no realistic chance of resumption until after the
U.S. elections in November. And the utter collapse of the Oslo peace accords was
dramatized by the appearance of a new “wall.” Yet, the pendulum is beginning to
swing back. The international community is learning important lessons from
We appreciate more clearly that the
quality of international society depends on the quality of the governments that
are its foundation.
And we see that effective action to achieve this end relies on a mix of
that can best be assembled
and deployed as part of a collaborative
Power alone will not deliver
a safer and more prosperous world. Global trade, telecommunications, air
travel, the international financial system: all of these need rules. So does the
international political system.
International agreements and international
organizations are a good start. But it is no use agreeing to treaties only to
ignore them. It is no use setting up international organizations only to prevent
them from functioning. If we want the world to work, we want multilateralism.
But if we want multilateralism to work, then the powerful need to put their
power behind it. A complex world needs multilateral bodies—but it also
If we prefer a
future based on mutually beneficial inter-dependence rather than strategic
rivalry, then a
and more universal attachment to international rules is in all of our long-term
Defending and promoting the liberties of modern life will require an
unprecedented level of international cooperation. Success will require shared
decision making and shared responsibility for making decisions stick. Effective
multilateralism must be at the heart of this strategy.
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