The risk of seeing the United Nations increasingly disunited is not a simple exercise for Sciences Po students ; nor for anti-globalization activists. This is an issue for all Changemakers, Peacemakers and Troublemakers, i.e. those (readers included) who challenge the status quo and want to make the world a better, fairer and less violent place. It will be up to the artisans of multilateralism to do better than to adopt a resolution1 proclaiming April 24 as the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy in the Service of Peace2, as the United Nations General Assembly did on December 12, 2018.
1-The house is burning, the arsonists know why
Let’s be realistic : we don’t have the tools to pacify the world, mend it, bring it back together. We have laid down the only weapons capable of healing the wounds of the world. Let’s go further : we do not want to associate the ’global South’ with the governance of global security. It is not one of our priorities. No offense to the sirens on multilateralism, every man for himself has a great future ahead of him. If we believe the predictions of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), climate change could accelerate the end of globalization by 2040.
How did we get here ?
We tout solidarity as part of global security by letting ten countries – which account for less than 2.5% of global GDP – host 56% of the planet’s refugees3. We manage to bail out failing banks. We impose our sanctions and our embargoes on the thugs and bankrupt states that we select. We practice apartheid in access to vaccination, as for the coronavirus, and ‘at the same time’, (sic !), we are unable to grant a roof to 21 million refugees, or 0.3% of world population. All this while shaking the scarecrow (the C02 has a good back !) of hordes of savages who would come to break into our peaceful lands...
Our planetary consciousness joins the “Big Lie” evoked by Secretary General Antonio Gutterez about the oil giants in the face of the climate. Although the logic of disarmament for development is enshrined in the UN Charter4, the rich States (or considered as such) spend 30 times more for their armed forces and their arsenals than to replenish the (almost empty) coffers of the Green Climate Fund for the most vulnerable states, including those affected by armed conflict and devastating. Thus we are witnessing a new sequence in the jungle of geopolitical tragedies that an ecology of war will shape in its own way.
2-The house burns and causes sparks
Militarization or re-militarization accompanies and fuels the number of armed conflicts, a number that has almost doubled between 2010 and 2020. Since the start of the Russian invasion, US military aid to Ukraine exceeds the budget Russian military.
This headlong rush of militarization stifles any chance of learning, teaching and cultivating multilateralism ; it constitutes the major obstacle to building multilateralism by and for the peoples because it excludes any common approach or vision ; including “common security”, this concept put forward in 1982 within the Palme Commission named after its initiator, the Swedish Prime Minister ; the same Palme who will appoint his friend the meteorologist Bert Bolin5 at the head of the IPCC, this new UN institution in charge of a unifying project around climate change.
Although the UN is paved with good intentions, global governance rests on certain States that are “more equal than others” (Orwell) who aspire to make rain or shine on the international scene. These 5 powers – three of which are Western – benefit “from the privileges conferred on them by a coincidence in history” as Jacques Attali writes6, and none of these States “will ever consider depriving themselves of them” ; including the right of veto in the Security Council (Article 27 of the Charter) which allows the powerful to maintain it.
Under an unwritten rule of double standards, these states set non-proliferation rules that they do not apply to themselves. They thus claim the right to impose nuclear abstinence on the vast majority of States, without intending to submit to the same rules. In short, the Western world denies its own values, like the Swiss who plan to revise their status of neutrality by moving closer NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization responsible for the security of everyone and marginally of the North Atlantic) in the name of a ‘differential neutrality’.
Military adventurism crippled the Disarmament Conference, nicknamed Sleeping Beauty. Admittedly, diplomats are still chatting at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, but the real subjects are dismissed, including those relating to naval disarmament, the militarization of outer space. Including the work around the ENMOD Convention7, which has been in hibernation since 1992. While there is reason to revive it, if only to protect the hydrological cycles8, or to prevent delusions and/or geo-engineering. Paradoxically, the danger is underestimated, to such an extent that the risk of self-destruction is zapped. Yet, as a Hungarian diplomat observed at the Conference on Disarmament9, “countries can, as history has already demonstrated, be destroyed in many ways. One of them is to desperately engage in an arms race.”
3- The house is burning and we rekindle fires
By anchoring the E.U. in NATO, by considering that military multilateralism is the only common denominator that suits the situation, the Europeans thus believe that they are protecting themselves against any “strategic downgrading”. However, the reverse is going to happen. The Europeans will lose on all counts, including on the diplomatic front. While NATO imposes itself by claiming to solve the problems…created by the existence of NATO, our alignment is at the expense of a real multilateralism adjusted to the requirements of empowerment or empowerment of peoples . Putting on the costume of useful idiots from Washington deprives us of multilateral forums. Our elites have derailed the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), ex-CSCE from before 1995, put on track to mitigate and transcend bloc politics. They have shrunk the Council of Europe, now reduced to 46 members, without Russia, Belarus, Kosovo, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC)10. At the same time, failing to be a bridge between East and West..., European NGOs have been sacrificing their chances - since February 24, 2022 - of bringing together the conditions for cultural multilateralism, including a component linking the peoples of Europe and the peoples of Russia. By being so vassalized, the Brussels bureaucracy has consumed our precious ammunition in the field of peace diplomacy. Certainly, the 10 million euros invested in the European Institute of Peace (IEP) do not weigh heavily against the 8 billion euros (2021-2027) of the European Defense Fund. Except that the said Institute, born in 2014 following a joint initiative by Sweden and Finland, aimed to revamp a peace diplomacy of a EU awarded (in December 2012) without fanfare or trumpet a Nobel Peace Prize ! Once Sweden and Finland have converted to Atlanticism, we understand better why we have just witnessed the second death of Olof Palme11.
Before being returned to the locker room of History, here is the U.E. which is struggling in this European Economic Area (EEA12). In reality, it struggles within a common market which is above all the “economic base of NATO13, as Michel Rocard wrote 50 years ago, before becoming famous as ambassador of the Poles14. For Europe, back to square one.
Europe’s strategic downgrading stems from many factors, including its failed foreign policy, the fallout from its colonial policy, its catastrophic and criminal handling of decolonization, and the hints of neo-colonialism. It will lead to a certain ’de-Westernization of the world’. If the years of the “Western parenthesis”15 are numbered, take note of those who do not invest in multilateralism : it will first be a European parenthesis that will close up.
4- The house burns with or without fake news
Long before the appearance of an information war in this “post-truth” world that the GAFAM exploit thoroughly, the double talk of the West was already well established. Among the leaders above suspicion, General Dwight Eisenhower. He who made himself the destroyer of the military-industrial complex is the same who approved Operation Ajax to overthrow Mr. Mossadegh in 1953. Eisenhower frustrated the process undertaken by a Third World country to acquire mastery of its natural wealth. This fiasco also led to other offensives in the propaganda war to maintain the mechanisms of domination. Indeed, in the early 1980s, a report entitled "Multiple Voices, One World", nicknamed the MacBride report16attempted to lay the foundations for a new world order of information and communication (NOMIC). He denounced the almost exclusive practices of 5 international press agencies broadcasting 80% of the news while de facto neglecting the events concerning the States and the peoples of the ‘Third World’. But Westerners cried foul and banded together to block this questioning of the old world and its relays ; the United States withdrew from UNESCO. The report was buried.
Since then, the United States has taken the lead : in a report from the Institute for Strategic Studies of the U.S. Army War College aimed at assessing (on behalf of the Pentagon) the risks that America runs in a ‘post- supremacy’17 mention is made of the necessary recourse to the ’strategic manipulation of perception’. With or without cyber, info-propaganda battalions are mobilized. Is the counter-offensive preparing ? For now, the Lebanese historian and economist Georges Corm recommends setting up an observatory to capture the way in which conflicts are sparked and fueled in the major Euro-American media (the same as those pointed out by the MacBride report), decipher the way in which they take sides in a conflict, idealizing one of the parties and demonizing the other.
5 - The house is burning and... the firefighters are accomplices
If the West is so amnesic, those left out of international disorder are much less so. Their vigilance has been sharpened by ‘strategic manipulations of perception’18 of sinister memory. Everyone remembers the invasion of Iraq 20 years ago, the staging of high-ranking military personnel brandishing the specter of weapons of mass destruction (WMD)…which did not exist, to resume the IAEA’s Hans Blix formula. Other departures from the truth have made the buzz. Like the promise made to Gorbachev by NATO leaders not to expand NATO’s borders east of the Iron Curtain. Or the shelling of Gaddafi’s Libya by Sarkozy’s France in support of NATO’s Operation Unified Protector in 2011 : an intervention justified by a massacre in Benghazi…which did not take place. Not to mention Afghanistan targeted in order to “revenge” the 9/11 attack, as if the Afghan people had any responsibility for the destruction of the Twin Towers.
In a rather tragicomic register, the CEO of the MDBA missile manufacturer (4.2 billion in turnover) suggests that "producing armaments in France guarantees the autonomy of action of our armies" 19. Macron promises more : the strategic autonomy of Europe.
As a good lesson giver, the tenant of the Elysée Palace diagnoses the "brain death" of the Alliance (in The Economist’ in November 2019). But since France has been an integral part of NATO since November 2007, the ’coming out’ of the watered sprinkler is "pschitt". Mr. Macron, the house is on fire, watch out for the smoke ! It would have been better to remember that the Europeans hold 25% of the world’s military capabilities, which is not negligible for a heterogeneous coalition representing 5% of the world’s population.
In short, in this world which “is not as it was before” (Bertrand Badie20), the Global South no longer believes in our promises and that is why multilateralism is moribund. The Global South has enough arguments to reject the universalist principles to which we refer so readily.
6 - The house is burning and…can enlighten us
Recognizing that our societies are damaged, fractured, our elites must come down from their pedestal ; try to achieve some of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. By stopping to differentiate themselves through arrogance, to insinuate that certain peoples have not yet entered history. By appropriating a new compass to initiate dialogue and exchanges on an equal footing tomorrow, with or without the use of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. The demand for truth catches up with us. It will catch up with Putin, who does not have a monopoly on the use of forgery, but distinguished himself by qualifying his invasion as a ’special operation’, an operation so special that it mobilizes mercenaries from Wagner to rid Ukrainian territory of ’Nazism’.
It would also be appropriate to no longer be in denial about the democratic deficit that plagues our ranks. Opposing Western democratic regimes to authoritarian regimes like Vladimir Putin’s Russia and Xi Jinping’s China does not allow us to assess the true value of the need to insert multilateralism into a human security doctrine, the very one that the ’E.U. presented in 2004..., before reserving the fate of the Sean MacBride report.
Finally, since the doctrine of human security has been marginalized, it is good to remember that the very idea of security in today’s and tomorrow’s world is not so much about the balance of forces, no offense to Brzesinski fans. It is rather due to our ability to intelligently manage all the challenges (in the North as well as in the South) in terms of energy, food and climate. The science of international relations cannot afford to underestimate the global social, ecological, health and human issues. True multilateralism comes at this price.
To all those who want to seize a new compass, advice by way of warning is essential. That they advocate rewards for states and their peoples working for the general interest, as should have been done with regard to Gaddafi’s Libya, which had renounced its (military) nuclear program. To Mongolia, which has declared itself a nuclear-free zone (by a vote in the National Assembly). In Bhutan, which has kept its carbon sink intact, thanks to its Constitution which obliges the country to devote 60% from land area to forests. In Ecuador, whose government was willing, in return for financial compensation, to suspend all extractivism (Yasuni Park). Or in Nepal or Bolivia which have enshrined the principle of food sovereignty in their Constitution. In Cambodia, which has inserted a ban on hosting the presence of foreign military bases on its soil.
In this world that "is no longer as before", will have to advocate sacred reconversions or assume all the consequences of the farewell to multilateralism.
Ben Cramer, Paris, February 2023
1 See (A/RES/73/127)
3 See Amnesty International report, October 2016
4 See Article 26
5 One of the authors of the Brundtland report
6 Cf. The Economy of the Apocalypse, sponsored by the Secretary General of the UN
7 officially Convention on the Prohibition of the Use of Environmental Modification Techniques for Military or Any Other Hostile Purposes, entered into force in October 1978. Among the non-signatories, France.
8 Cf. inaugural lecture by Laurence Boisson de Chazournes, College of France, January 2023
9 Peter Naray (1999)
10 self-proclaimed in 1983 and recognized only by the Ankara regime
11 Cf. Francis Wurz, MEP (from 1979 to 2009) in ‘Humanité Dimanche’, May 2022
12 The European Economic Area brings together the 28 EU Member States and the three EEA-EFTA States (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein)
13 Cf. The Common Market against Europe, Seuil, 1973.
14 Michel Rocard was the initiator of the negotiations which led to the Madrid Protocol protecting Antarctica
15 Expression of Kishore Mahbubani,
16 4 named after its coordinator, Sean MacBride, first president of Amnesty International, Nobel Peace Prize in 1974, Lenin of Peace in 1977
17 Titled at our own risk ; June 2017. see https://athena21.org/securite-ecologique/destructions- durable/apocalypse-now-non-mais-a-prevoir
18 Cf. Samuel Huntington : ‘The West conquered the world not because its ideas, its values, its religion were superior, but rather because of its superiority in using organized violence. Westerners often forget this, but non-Westerners never.’
19 See L’Express of June 2, 2022, report by Sébastien Pommier
20 Cf. The world will no longer be as before, Les Liens qui Libérant editions