A Global Concert for a new Global Era?

By Asad Mirza

Promising the best and most realistic way to advance a new world order, the Global Concert promises peace and prosperity for every human being.

Well, the murmurs were already there in the pre-Covid era that the plans are afoot to change the present global governance and usher in a new world order. But now things have slowly started falling in place. Influential think tanks and world bodies are flush with new insights or analytical interpretation of the so-called new world order, which could usher in a new era of cooperation and economic and social prosperity for all nations, irrespective of their ideological base and past histories.

A recent article published by the influential Washington-based Centre for Foreign Relations (CFR), written by veteran diplomat and CFR’s president, Dr. Richard Haass and Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at CFR and professor of international affairs at Georgetown University in the Walsh School of Foreign Service, argues for a new international setup which will try to undo or overcome the fallacies of the past and instead try to setup a system which hears every voice and caters to the common well being.

In their article, Dr. Haass and Kupchan assert that most of the current world’s problems stem from the fact that the existing international governance architecture, which was framed soon after WWII, is outdated and not up to the task of preserving global stability. They regard the current global setup as too US-centric and term it as a club of democracies, which is poorly suited to fostering cooperation across ideological lines. Terming G-7 and G-20 as mere talk shops and the UNSC as grandstanding and responsible for a paralysis among veto-wielding permanent members, they urge for establishing a new world setup.

The Global Concert

The duo suggests forming a Global Concert (GC) of powers — which will be an informal steering group of the world’s most influential countries, and will be casted in the mould of the nineteenth-century’s Concert of Europe. It was a grouping of Britain, France, Russia, Prussia, and Austria formed in 1815, and successfully preserved peace for a half-century in the absence of a dominant power amid ideological diversity. Emerging after containing the bloody Napoleonic Wars, the grouping relied on a mutual commitment to conduct regular communications and the peaceful resolution of disputes to uphold the territorial settlements.

The blueprint for a new Global Concert, terms it as the best vehicle for managing a world not dominated by the US and the West. The proposed members would be China, the EU, India, Japan, Russia, and the US, giving it a geopolitical clout while protecting it from becoming an unwieldy talking shop, and collectively representing roughly 70 per cent of world GDP and global military spending.

The GC will have a completely different and thin hierarchical system to ensure efficiency and ensure quick response and decision-making. The member states would send senior permanent representatives to a standing headquarters in a place determined through mutual agreement. Summits would occur on a regular basis and as needed to address crises. Although they would not be formal members, four regional organisations — the African Union, the Arab League, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and the Organisation of American States — would maintain permanent delegations at the concert’s headquarters. When discussing issues affecting these regions, concert members would invite delegates from these bodies and other relevant countries to join meetings.

The concert would not replace the United Nations but will leave the operational oversight to the UN and other existing bodies. Instead it would be a consultative, not a decision-making body, addressing emerging crises, fashioning new rules of the road, and building support for collective initiatives. It would thus augment, not supplant, the current international architecture, by sitting atop it to speed up decisions that could then be taken and implemented elsewhere.

A contemporary concert, like its nineteenth-century forbearer, would enable sustained strategic dialogue. It would bring to the table the most influential states, regardless of their regime type, thereby separating ideological differences over domestic governance from matters requiring international cooperation. It would shun formal procedures and codified rules, instead relying on persuasion and compromise to build consensus.

The GC advocates further stress that the GC would also seek to generate collective responses to longer-term challenges, such as combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as well as terrorist networks, promoting global health, forging norms in cyberspace, and combating climate change. As these important matters often fall between institutional cracks which the concert could fill.

The GC votaries further say that establishing a global concert would be no panacea, however. Convening the world’s heavyweights hardly ensures a consensus among them, and success would often mean managing, not eliminating, threats to regional and global order. The proposed steering group would accept both liberal and illiberal governments as legitimate and authoritative, implying abandonment of the West’s longstanding vision of a global order made in its image. And restricting membership to the most important and influential actors would sacrifice representation in favour of efficacy, reinforcing hierarchy and inequity in the international system.

Need for a new world order

The moot paramount question is why a new GC is being mooted now, particularly after the Covid-pandemic. Or in other words, as the conspiracy theorists say, was the pandemic created in order to test the tenacity and resilience and response of the global community to such a threatening scenario, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of human beings. Or was it staged to analyse the response time and also hope of any camaraderie between different nations on an issue afflicting all of them, as the more demanding issue as compared to it but with less apparent results i.e. the Climate Change has been unable to solicit from them due to a hunger for profit and more luxuries?

In addition, the idea does not spell out how territorial issues would be resolved or how sovereignty would be implemented? It gives the member states the right to take unilateral action when they deem their vital interests to be at stake, though in the same breath it says that ideally, sustained strategic dialogue would make unilateral moves less frequent and destabilising.

However, the silver lining for us Indians is that the idea gives us a place at the top table, perhaps for the first time in history, and also due to the P5’s hesitancy to include India at the UNSC. But the move besides adding to India’s prestige would also make it responsible to work for the collective good and retain, nurture and strengthen those values, for which space has been shrinking recently in India.

(Asad Mirza is a political commentator based in New Delhi. He can be contacted at [email protected]. The views expressed are personal)

Courtesy Indo-Asian News Service

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