The mortgage crises that started in the US in 2008 soon turned into a global crisis. This event had a more drastic effect on the citizens of different countries throughout the world than the fall of Berlin Wall or the terrorist event that brought down the World Trade Center in 2001. Remembering that the 1929 economic crises was the culprit of World War II, one could easily begin to appreciate the potential ramifications of the current crises.
The economic crisis increased the awareness of Americans to the limitations of unilateralism, even by a superpower such as the US. The crisis has shown the Russians the fragility of depending on ever increasing commodity, oil, and gas prices to finance the new rising of Russia. It has also clarified the dependence of Chinese miracle to global economic growth and the level of integration of economies across the Atlantic.
The impact of global developments on our daily lives is certainly not limited to the impact of the economic crises. Excessive energy consumption in some region of the world can lead to floods in some other region due to global heating. A disease neglected because it is rooted far in Africa might become a dreadful epidemic in America. A terrorist organization backed for hitting other targets may turn its weapons to its very supporter. Humiliation and isolation of those with unconventional beliefs and opinions can result in reactions that threaten global peace. The solution to such problems and responsible utilization of natural resources lie only in the solidarity of all humankind. Consequently, our governance systems and attitudes should also gain a global dimension as our daily life increasingly does so.
As the organized crime networks gain global dimensions in trafficking of drugs, arms, humans, and organs, the mankind is coming under threat of chemical, biological, and nuclear mass destruction weapons. In the future, mankind may have to protect itself from spatial threats. Regardless of their mightiness, individual governments will be unable to deal with global threats, alone. Therefore, to be able to deal with global threats, we need to organize on a global scale as well.
If a management guru coming from a different planet was consulted on how to establish a well working global governance system, the recommendation would certainly not be the current structure. The fact that jurisdictions for key governance issues such as elections, taxation, military organizations are all based on national boundaries makes it difficult to organize and mobilize resources on a global scale.
It would be naïve to suggest dismantling national structures and moving towards a global government. Yet, longer perspective and more collaboration are needed to address global issues. Forward-looking politicians need the support of the public in such a collaborative approach.
Yet, as most democratic governments are elected for about four-year terms, the average perspective of an elected national leader is about two years, and this makes collaboration for long term goals difficult.
Global solutions require consensual delegation of sovereignty, in certain areas, to global institutions with adequate resources. Raising adequate resources for global institutions needs appropriate power-sharing arrangements. For example, it is difficult to justify the lack of veto power for India at the UN when France has one, regardless of which criteria is utilized: number of citizens, economic might, or being a nuclear power.
In thinking about global governance mechanisms, one could possibly learn from institutions with longevity. Religions have generally survived for much longer periods than even the mightiest empires. One of the reasons for this is that religions focus on sustainability of communities.
One of the common principles of religions is to bring a perspective longer than one’s own lifetime (e.g. hell and heaven or reincarnation). As the world gets smaller and more interconnected, we need to understand that sustainability requires a perspective longer than individuals’ life and that others’ problems are also our own. If we fail to understand these, we will be endangering our own future.
Many religions ask for almsgiving to help others who are in need. If we take our global responsibilities seriously, we should organize our global institutions in such a way that the rich countries contribute significantly to ensure that the global institutions would have the means to deal with the problems of the poor. In a way, national almsgiving by the developed countries for the poor countries may be a more effective way to ensure global sustainability than ever increasing defense budgets.
Common teaching of religions is focused on building sustainable communities. As the world gets smaller and more interconnected, we need to address the global problems jointly and apply good governance principles to global institutions.
The real legitimacy for global institutions will be achieved if we can establish inclusive decision making and power sharing processes for global institutions. The essential principle driving modern human rights and democracy is this: People should have a say in shaping their own future and be able to contribute in the global decision-making processes that influence their lives.
An essential ingredient to participative democracy and good governance is educated people. However, curricula of many national education systems focus on nation building, with insufficient emphasis on global citizenship.
If we could utilize the sensitivity that the global crises have raised to mobilize the resources to initiate a Global Education Initiative, it would be a great step towards forming the basis of sustainable global governance.
Such an initiative would help people understand their mutual dependence, rather than seeing neighbors and other foreigners as scapegoats for local problems. Living together requires sharing power — whether in the family, in the village, in the city, in the nation, or in the world.
In short, global issues can only be handled by global institutions with inclusive governance mechanisms. This can only be achieved through a Global Education Initiative to help the masses reach a level of wisdom where we would all open our eyes and hearts to our mutual interdependencies and “regard others, as we regard ourselves.”