The thesis I want to argue today is that we’re at a turning point in human history. The Cold War is over, as we know. But, on top of this, the forces of globalization are speeding up global integration. There are also more people in the world than ever before, which is straining the environmental resources of the planet. Better global communications mean the levels of poverty and inequality in the world are clear to the poor of the world in a way that they haven’t been in the past. The poor now see how people in the OECD countries live and are more aware of the injustice of it all.
We live, also, at a time of massive availability of knowledge, technology, and capital. We have experience of great success in development. In the last 50 years, more human beings have lifted themselves out of extreme poverty than in the previous 500 years. And when you think that the previous 500 years included the time when the whole of Europe and North America made that lift, to think that, in 50 years, more people have made the journey is important. So Better global communications mean the levels of poverty and inequality in the world are clear to the poor of the world in a way that they haven’t been in the past. The poor now see how people in the OECD countries live and are more aware of the injustice of it all.in the world now, after the last 50 years, many more people are living longer, more children are surviving, more people are literate, more people have access to clean water. There has been great progress. But there are also more people in the world than ever before; and, therefore, more poor people. So we know what to do. We’ve had a lot of success.
But we need to scale up our effort to build on that success.
Otherwise, the numbers of poor will grow, and, obviously, the suffering of poverty is individually experienced. So what I want to argue is that, if we’re wise, we could have an era of enormous reductions in poverty, a great advance across the world, a growth in a sense of justice and security.
This is all completely possible within our knowledge and experience and what has been achieved over the last few decades. The question is, Do we have the wisdom to grasp that opportunity? If we don’t have that wisdom, what we’re looking forward to is a world of growing division, bitterness, and polarization, environmental degradation, conflict, failed states, big refugee movements, and terrorism. And there’s a real danger that post September 11, the likelihood of us taking the unwise route seems bigger.
The U.S. is obviously the world’s hyperpower. We don’t have the balance of power through which the world has tried to manage itself in the past. We now have one overwhelmingly strong economic and military power in the world. And even before September the 11th, the U.S. found it difficult to work with the rest of the world. It Without the wisdom to grasp the opportunity, what we’re looking forward to is a world of growing division, bitterness, and polarization, environmental degradation, conflict, failed states, big refugee movements, and terrorism.seems to be a country that is more inwardlooking than most other countries, which is extremely strange, since it’s a country made up of people who’ve, in very significant numbers, moved from elsewhere in order to have a better life. And it’s surprising, too, that a country that bestrides the world stage and is so dominant in world affairs has such an inwardlookingculture.
And just some of the examples, pre September 11, of issues where the world was largely united, but the U.S. was different, we passed a convention recognizing basic rights for children all over the world, and the U.S. felt unable to sign it; whereas, virtually every other country has. At Kyoto, we recognized that global warming was threatening the future of all of us; and, again, the U.S. found it impossible to cooperate. We’ve been building an international criminal court, and we thought that that would help us all to deal with extremism, war crimes, dictators, the Milosevics of this world, the Mugabes of this world and other dictators. I think most people in Europe think that’s an advance in civilization, but the U.S. finds it difficult.
And the attitude at the United Nations. Across the world, people treasure the U.N. We know we have to make it more efficient, but we see we need a place where we all come together and have laws that apply equally to all of us; whereas, the U.S. has a much more awkward attitude to the United Nations.
So the point of saying this is that the new Bush Administration and the effects of September 11 make this attitude in the U.S. of not working multi-laterally with the rest of the world worse, but the trend was there before. It wasn’t new with the Bush Administration. There’s now a feeling, for us, a lot of us in the world, that the U.S. is like a wounded giant, hurt and lashing out, looking for countries to hit to deal with the sort of pain and anger it feels about the events of September 11th. And yet the sympathy across the whole world, post September 11, was enormous, and a worldwide process was put in place through the United Nations to require every country to deal more effectively with terrorism, money laundering, the possibilities of providing support for organizations that would do such things as attack the twin towers.
I think now, honestly, that atmosphere is gone. There’s growing antagonism for the United States across the world. It’s seen as a bully that’s not committed to justice for people across the world, that doesn’t find it possible to treat other people of different traditions and religions with respect.
The anger in the Arab and Muslim world is growing intensely and, indeed, amongst Muslim populations in Europe. And I have no doubt that this atmosphere is leading to greater recruitment to terrorist organizations, which is threatening to all of us.
The feelings in Europe are similar to the feelings in the Arab and Muslim world, though quite not as angry and probably not recruiting many people to terrorism. But this alienation is widespread across Europe, as well.
And people, I don’t know if you hear this in the U.S., but the parallel that keeps coming up is that the Roman empire, I mean, obviously, there have been other empires the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, Spanish Empire, and so on But they all had competing other centers of power. But, like Rome, now the U.S. is the great hegemonic power in the world. And people talk about the rise and falls of civilization, the likelihood of the U.S. overstretching itself, allocating too much money to spending on defense, spreading its soldiers across the world, and cutting its public services atThere’s now a perception that the U.S. is like a wounded giant, hurt and lashing out, looking for countries to hit to deal with the sort of pain and anger it feels about the events of September 11th. home and having a growing unhappiness of its own people at home. And this leads people to speculate about whether the era of U.S. hegemony will come to an end as it over-tretches and overspends and creates unhappiness at home.
Now, what I think we need, and I think what the world is groping for and what most of the people of the world want, are new ideas and that new shared vision for managing this era. The old politics of left and right that divided the world, in most places, after the second world war, are not any longer articulating a clear way forward. Some of the values that we argued over freedom, the role of the market, social justice remain the issues that we need to discuss, but many of the remedies of that era are now outdated. In the old argument about the proper balance between state and markets, the left’s tendency was to want to give more power to the states, going, in the extreme, in the communist system, to state power that was overwhelming and oppressive and economically inefficient, or the right’s alternative, excessive market power and letting markets rip, weakening the state and allowing inequality to grow. Both are oldfashioned and out of date, and we need to agree on the proper role of the states and the proper role of markets to get beneficial economic development and justice and inclusion. We need to find ways of articulating those values within our own countries and internationally in order to better manage this era that we are living in now.
Just to give an example of that, the British Labour Party was, in the 1970s, very anti- the European Common Market, as it was then called because we had a vision of a just and fair country and thought that by subjecting the UK to market competition with the rest of Europe would stop us creating this paradise of justice that we were committed to.
And we later understood that as the world integrates and, as we all need to trade, you can’t insulate your country from the rest of the world, and we needed to be part of the European project and tried to create a Europe that was just for its people and played a constructive role internationally.
But now we’ve got the argument in Europe about ”Fortress Europe” and whether Europe can insulate itself from the rest of the world, and we’ve got a movement to extremist rightwing parties because of antagonism and anger about large numbers of asylum seekers coming to Europe. And we see it in The Netherlands, in Austria, in Denmark, right-wing rather racist parties moving forward very rapidly, arguing about the issues of asylum and the kind of people that are coming to Europe as asylum seekers came from the Balkans, where there was war and ethnic cleansing, from Afghanistan, from Iraq, and people coming from Africa.
And Italy and Spain have the experience daily of people risking their lives in old fishing boats coming out of Africa, often having to come across the desert and risked their lives there just for the hope and dream of a better life in a more economically advanced country. Asylum seekers are arriving in increasing numbers and are a mixture of people escaping mis-government and oppression and those looking for economic opportunities – very like the people who moved to the Americas in the last era of growing globalization in the early part of the 20th century.
And the point of mentioning that set of issues, which are a real issue for Europe at this time, is that we can’t make Europe a fortress and have a good life for the people of Europe if people in surrounding countries are suffering the consequences of mis-government, oppression, or poverty. But, in order to make our own country safe and just, we need to spread those values across the international order.
There was an old assumption, and it crops up endlessly in political and moral discourse, that what is morally right and what is in the selfinterest of individuals and countries, is constantly clashing. I think, whether that was ever true, it’s certainly not true now. My argument is that in order to protect our self-interest in the OECD countries that is the 40+ countries that are wealthy and more developed, we need to work much more actively for a stronger commitment to justice and equity across the world. And that is obviously right and needed for the poor of the world; but if we do not do it, we threaten our own self-interest and the damage will come back to haunt us.
So we need to work together through the multilateral institutions we already have in the international system – World Bank, the IMF, the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, and so on for these values. The institutions are not as bad as those who damn them claim, but they can be made more effective. And if we’ve got a commitment to use them – we’re all members of them – to generate economic development for the poor and more social justice, we can make the world safer and more stable for all of us.
I want to turn quickly to the levels of global inequality and some of the challenges we face. We’ve got sixIn order to protect our self-interest in the OECD countries that is the 40+ countries that are wealthy and more developed, we need to work much more actively for a stronger commitment to justice and equity across the world. billion people in the world now. There were just over one billion of us in 1900. And the demographers say that was as many human beings as had ever existed since humanity first evolved. We now know the most recent remains was in Ethiopia, about 160,000 years ago. There were just over a billion in 1900, three billion by 1960, there’s six billion of us now, and world population is going to rise to eight to nine billion by 2030 to 2050, when, on present trends, it will stabilize.
And this is not some peculiar rapid growth of population in developing countries that threatens the much more stable industrialized countries. If you look at the history of Britain, for example, in 1710 there were about five million people in Britain, and now there’s approaching 60 million. And what happens, when you break the back of poverty and economic development takes place, people live longer, children survive, you get a growth of population, and then it stabilizes. And that’s the pattern we’re getting across the world. What we’re going to stabilize at is around eight to nine billion, and this growth of world population is straining the resources of the planet and requiring us to manage our environmental resources more wisely, or we’ll all face difficulties.
Of the six billion of us, 2.8 billion live on less than 2USD a day, so it’s very nearly half the world’s population. And that 2USD a day is the purchasing parity equivalent of what 2USD would buy in the U.S. It’s not what 2USD would buy in the poor country in Africa. And 1.2 billion of the six billion of us live on less than 12USD a day. That is for all their needs. Less than the local purchasing parity equivalent of what 1USD a day would buy in the U.S., which is abject poverty. And those people, the one in five of us living at that kind of level, have some life expectancy in their early 40s, see a lot of their children die before the age of one and five, rarely get the chance to be educated, are mostly illiterate, don’t have access to clean water. Half of humanity don’t have access to sanitation. Those levels of poverty are like the levels of poverty there were in Britain in the 1820s and ’30s, at the time of the Industrial Revolution – child labor and widespread illiteracy, disease, suffering and early death.
And on top of all of this, the world is rapidly urbanizing. Half of humanity are now living in cities, and this is speeding up very rapidly. And it’s projected that in about 15 years, it will be 65 percent. My own view is that this will lead to all sorts of change, but one of the changes will be a greater likelihood for the poor of the world to protest their condition. The rural poor suffer often in silence partly because they Of the six billion of us, 2.8 billion live on less than 2USD a day, so it’s very nearly half the world’s population. And that 2USD a day is the purchasing parity equivalent of what 2USD would buy in the U.S. It’s not what 2USD would buy in the poor country in Africa. are widely dispersed. Urban masses of poor or marginalized people are more likely to complain and protest. And then, in terms of our environmental resources, forests continue to be lost across the world, deserts continue to spread, global warming continues. For example, Bangladesh, which is a country of, what, 130 million people, a very poor country, its population growth is slowing, but it’s set to increase its population by 50 percent over the next 30 years, and, on the most likely trends in global warming, lose a third of its territory, because it’s a quite big river delta. The effects of global warming on islands in the Caribbean, the Pacific, and low-lying parts of the world are going to be enormous if we don’t take urgent action.
Thus in our world at the beginning of the twenty-first century we have great progress in development but we’ve got these enormous challenges of gross inequality, large numbers of people suffering, and yet seeing the riches other people have. In the face of this and to mark the new millennium through the United Nations, at the General Assembly in 2000, the whole world committed to working together to achieve what are known as the Millennium Development Goals – to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty, to get all children in the world into school, to reduce the number of women who die or are left permanently disabled by childbirth , to reduce the levels of infant and child mortality, and so on. And we’re, in fact, on track worldwide to achieve the halving of the numbers in poverty.
The targets were originally set in 1995, and we’re on track for a billion human beings, between 1995 and 2015, lifting themselves out of abject poverty. But then after that, there’ll be another billion because of world population growth. We could now build a world order that is capable of taking responsibility for the whole world together and driving forward progress in systematically reducing poverty. On the other targets – getting all children into schools, an improvement in child survival and maternal survival, and access to clean water, and sanitation, and so on – we’re making progress, overall, but we’re not on target, and we could do better. So, we’ve got a global agreement about what we should do, and if we would take it seriously, I think we could drive massive progress across the world. Similarly, on trade, we all know, in the wealthier countries, that the chance to have access to modern technology and to export and to trade has helped us grow our economies and generate jobs and give people the improvements that come from modern technology, but the trade rules of the world are very skewed against poorer countries. Africa, for example, relies on exports of unprocessed commodities. The minute it starts to process its coffee, cocoa tea or its cotton, it hits growing tariffs, and, therefore, current trade rules keep it in a state of underdevelopment, while we in the US, Europe and Japan subsidize our agriculture by 350USD billion and then dump on world markets, undercut prices and undermine the livelihoods of poor farmers . It’s a very unjust order. And we agreed, through the World Trade Organization, in Doha in November 2001 , to a trade round that would give developing countries a fairer chance to grow their economies and to trade. And there’s to be a meeting in Cancun in September, where it’s enormously important that we drive forward that agenda and give the poorest countries a chance to grow their economies and get access to modern technology.
Now, Asia, which is almost certainly the continent of the future, if we look ahead 30 years, with two massive countries with over a billion in population, India and China. But Asia, literally two thirds of the poor of the world live in Asia, but China has, over the last 10, 15 years, achieved an enormous improvement in its economic development and its reduction of poverty. India, less so. A third of the poor of the world live in India. In India, Pakistan, we have the biggest risk of a nuclear exchange in the world, and this is agreed by all experts to be the biggest risk of nuclear war.
Both countries have large numbers of very poor people, very high defense spending, a high risk of a nuclear exchange. Bangladesh, I’ve talked about. It is making progress, but is one of the least developed countries and faces enormous environmental problems. China – there’s a fear of China, I think particularly in the U.S. There is a real prospect, I think, that if China continues to commit itself to economic growth and if it can adjust and open up its political system China will become a very major power in the world in 20, 30 years’ time. I think we all need to engage with China. You can’t marginalize 1.4 billion people.
Come to Africa, the poorest continent, by far. Half its people are a dollar-a-day poor, 20 percent of them living in conditions of conflict, many failed states, a real risk of a failed continent. And if Afghanistan was a threat to the world as a failed state, where Al Qaeda could hide and organise, then the danger of a failed continent is even greater. Yet there has been success in Africa on which with enough determination we could build. Conflicts have been ended – in Uganda, Mozambique, and Rwanda and they are reforming and are growing their economies and reducing poverty. Ghana and Tanzania are also making progress and there is a prospect of peace in massive countries like Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. We need to work with Africa. Otherwise, we’re going to have a continent suffering disease, poverty, conflict, refugees. This is a very big issue for Europe, because, of course, Africa is the near neighbor of Europe.
So what I want to conclude by arguing is that we need, post-Cold War, a new politics. Not all state and not all markets. Seeing what both an effective modern state can do for people – this is both in our own countries and in terms of the values we bring internationally the way in which markets and the private sector can help to grow an economy and be creative, but how the state is needed to prevent abuse, monopoly, corruption, and to ensure that there’s a decent tax system and basic public services and the inclusion of all. The private sector’s got an important part to play in generating growth, particularly in poor countries. But the public sector, an enormously important role to create economic conditions that ensure economic growth benefits all and that services are provided to all.
And in the modern era, you can’t have a successful economy if there’s a big group of excluded people or a big underclass. That’s true in our countries and in developing countries. Education is the commanding height of a modern economy, and there must be quality education that includes all and provides for all to develop their talents. The private sector can and should be ethical. In Europe, there’s a bigger and bigger movement by the pension funds, by consumers, to boycott or pressurize companies that fail to behave ethically, in terms of the environment, in terms of their behavior in developing countries, in terms of corruption. And the growing group of successful companies that see behaving ethically as not just good for their reputation, but actually more successful businesses. They treat their staff with more respect, they nurture the talent and commitment of their workforce and therefore generate high morale, and it leads to a more effective organization.. And there’s a growing movement in the U.K. and spreading across Europe of that kind and, I think, means the private sector could play its role in this kind of new order in a way that will be beneficial for all. So we need to defend our best values at home and abroad. We need a deep commitment to social justice and mutual respect, in our own self-interest as well as in the interest of the poor in the world. We could, then, if we can pursue these policies, have a period of enormous uplift, of a reduction in poverty, of a more just world order. And if we fail to do so, I think we’re going to have a growth in bitterness and division.
The United States is the world’s hyperpower, but the fear is, right across the world, that the U.S. is driving down the wrong road to more bitterness, division, inequality, and anger. It’s possible that we could pull back. Maybe we can learn from Iraq, the danger of acting alone or acting alone with the U.K. If America relies on military power and fails to commit to justice, it will make the world more dangerousas a fig leaf to pretend there was a coalition. I think whatever view any of us take of the road to war in Iraq, we have to see the present situation is extremely dangerous and be determined to come together to try and help the people of Iraq to rebuild their country and ensure the coalition doesn’t get bogged down in a growing conflict that would simply hurt everyone.
And we must solve the Israel-Palestinian issue and establish two states which can create justice and hope for both peoples. That’s the core of the anger in the Muslim world and the feeling that the U.S. props up Israel to behave in ways that breach international law and yet is never corrected.
So my final point is that American power, this massive economic and military power, can’t make America safe.If America relies on military power and fails to commit to justice, it will make the world more dangerous. I think all serious commentators think it. But the events since September the 11, and particularly Iraq, have led to a growth of young people joining terrorist organizations and, therefore, strengthening the network of al- Qaeda organizations.
The U.K. experienced this in Northern Ireland when we first went in, 30 or so years ago, and acted repressively. It led to recruitment to terrorist organizations, and we learned the hard way that you have to commit to justice for everyone in order to get to peaceful settlement and not encourage terrorism.
I and a lot of people across the world find all of this extraordinary contradiction, because any of us who visits the U.S. knows that the people’s generosity is enormous, the welcoming of the visitor, the kindness and helpfulness to anyone who is visiting. There’s also a deep religious commitment in the United States. People are more churchgoing in the United States than people are in Europe. Christianity teaches a very strong commitment to social justice ”blessed are the poor,” ”whatsoever thou do to the least of my little ones, you do it to me.” And the question is, What is going on in the U.S.? I think a lot of us don’t really understand why the country seems to be so different in mood from the rest of the world. I would like to try to persuade the US for its own people and for the world, to work in cooperation with other countries toward justice, development, mutual respect. These are good human values and will make the world more safe for all of us. We need to make a change because the route we are on is dangerous and will lead to more bitterness, division, hatred and suffering.
Thank you very much. That’s my thesis.