Any polycentric system entailing the coexistence of various forces (states, corporations, religious associations, trade unions and so on) is fraught with additional conflicts. But it is precisely the latter circumstance, coupled with global problems of social development, that is pushing countries to accelerate the search for cooperation and the establishment of better regulation mechanisms, writes Valdai Club Chairman Andrey Bystritskiy.
Despite the fact that people have lived with conflict throughout their history, they have always dreamed of a peaceful and harmonious existence. It cannot be said that all efforts were in vain: it is obvious that today we live better than centuries ago. The world has become less cruel, and undoubtedly more convenient. But looking at current events, one understands that considerable effort is required to build a future which is acceptable to everyone.
Of course, even without any explanation, it is clear that the process of improving the world, rethinking norms, and finding agreement between the huge number of forces operating on the world stage is very complex and contradictory.
Actually, when we talk about the emergence of a new world order, we are referring to the process of building a world in which it would be possible to resolve conflicts with minimal losses, a world equipped with mechanisms of regulation, the coordination of interests, the protection of rights and much more, which is necessary in securing the comfortable, prosperous coexistence of billions of people.
History knows several cases of success along this path: this is not the first time that people have had to invent the space in which they live, practically from scratch. In this regard, the achievements of the Peace of Westphalia and the Congress of Vienna in the 17th and 19th centuries, respectively, are considered textbook cases. In the first case, after the Thirty Years’ War, in the course of a series of agreements, it was possible to establish relative peace in Europe and, more importantly, to some extent determine the rules of the game, actions applicable when resolving certain problems in relations between states. Of course, an ideal outcome was not achieved, but progress was significant and affected many issues: from religion to trade, rules and laws of war and peace, borders and much more. In the second case, in 1815, after the devastating wars of the Napoleonic era, the victors established new rules of behaviour. There is no need to explain that this system was not ideal either.
People still often remember the so-called Yalta Peace, which arose at the end of the Second World War, just as imperfect and, as of today, just as irrelevant.
But it deserves a separate discussion, if only because the current crisis is a direct consequence of the end of the Yalta peace.
In general, today humanity is faced with a huge number of challenges: a growing number of conflicts and a general increase in hostility, growing interdependence and a lack of means to regulate this interdependence, intense competition between elites for positions in the world hierarchy, and much, much more.
Moreover, the situation is unique, at least because of its global nature, extreme complexity and the lack of opportunity to develop a holistic solution for the entire Earth.
In the case of the Yalta and Westphalian peaces, and specially the Vienna Congress, state leaders directly and systematically discussed the future world order. In today’s situation, this is impossible to imagine. Of course, the elites of the whole world are, to one degree or another, thinking about what kind of world should be built. However, many of these elites (not all) are not yet ready to search for a comprehensive solution. Moreover, this applies primarily to the elites of Western countries. They expect that they can maintain a world hierarchy based on the ruins of the Yalta world for a long time. Incidentally, they are ready to turn the real world, the one we live in, into ruins, just to maintain their hegemony.
Thus, in the absence of the opportunity to develop a unified, global system that would contain solutions to the most pressing problems — security, economic and environmental regulation, communications and so on — we will inevitably see multi-vector, polycentric development. We will see attempts to find sustainable forms of development within the framework of unions of states, various types of associations, some individual agreements, etc.
That is, to create a kind of development network based on a mosaic system of nodes supporting the aforementioned development.
Naturally, any polycentric system entailing the coexistence of various forces (states, corporations, religious associations, trade unions and so on) is fraught with additional conflicts. But it is precisely the latter circumstance, coupled with global problems of social development, that is pushing countries to accelerate the search for cooperation and the establishment of better regulation mechanisms.
A rather interesting example of this approach is BRICS, an association that emerged relatively recently. Its purpose is to create a system for taking into account mutual interests and promoting the development of each participating country. As I already said, if the global world gave rise to global interdependence, then with the birth of global regulators there was a misfire. No one knows what was born. Instead of mutually beneficial regulation, global market participants were actually captured by several Western countries.
Thus, the payment systems which are so necessary in the modern digital world ended up in the hands of individual countries, or not even those countries, but rather some groups of administrators subordinate to political leaders (and perhaps even managing them). SWIFT, card payment systems, and so on have turned from platforms for economic activity into weapons and means of manipulating dissent.
The same thing happened in the banking sector itself. The communication sphere also turned out to be a means of struggle and coercion, and not at all a space for free communication. Social media like Facebook have become examples of outright propaganda.
Naturally, most of the world does not like this, which largely explains the attention to BRICS and similar organisations. They are the ones which can offer an ecosystem (to use a vogue word) necessary for the development of countries, which will include banks, payment systems, and communication platforms that are equally accessible to everyone. More importantly, the possibility of unfair use of these resources will be eliminated.
Thus, in a multipolar world, various centres for coordinating decisions, regulating interdependence, and resolving disputes and conflicts will be created. Hypothetically, new types of courts and other venues of arbitration may emerge, measuring and collating the data needed for planning and decision-making. For example, data on the consumer activity of the population of the countries of a particular organisation: an honest assessment of the market is extremely important for the truly sustainable development of countries.
In general, the world is at a turning point. Although it is split, it still needs to develop and make this development safe; it needs to come up with a systematic world order so that there is no single hegemonic power. At the same time, many Western elites cling to their hegemony and are not ready to recognize the equality of other civilizations and value systems, which rules out the direct possibility of developing a new world order immediately.
Consequently, development will go through the creation and development of new world centres in the form of associations, unions of states, the organisation of interaction between them, and the formation of new mechanisms for taking into account the interests of the more than 8 billion people living on Earth. Overall, we have a chance to see how a new connectedness based on respect for diversity will be formed in a world full of differences.
Of course, a lot will depend on which model of the future is supported by the majority of people. There are many such models. Some people think that global society should be like a family. Some people think that this will be something like a union of clans, a kind of tribalism, while some see a planetary representative democracy, and some envision something like an oligarchy (capital is already distributed extremely unevenly), and so on and so forth. It is clear that now this is idle talk, especially since no one can say exactly what a modern family is, or what representative democracy is, not to mention everything else.
Nevertheless, with all the intellectual complexity of the modern world, it is necessary to think about its future. You can’t give up, or become disheartened. This is especially important in such difficult times as ours. We need plans for the future.
The issues mentioned above, and many others, will be discussed at the 20th Annual Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club, titled “Fair Multipolarity: How to Ensure Security and Development for All”, which will be held in Sochi on October 2-5.