National and regional needs and interests will find their best atmosphere in a growing, renewed and fair Multilateral System. We must act in it, within the framework of our possibilities and realities, as actively as possible, writes Jose Octavio Bordón, President of CARI (Argentine Council for International Relations), and participant in the 18th Annual Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club.
Governments across the world have adopted different measures, according to their views on which was the best short-term solution to the dilemma posed by the coronavirus. From the denial of risk to the hope on the “natural herd immunity” or strict confinements, responses were triggered in accordance with the postures and ideas of the leaders. Coordination — although necessary — was limited. Overall, the results have been negative. Not only did they evidence the absence of a Governance model in line with the current challenges but also increased the risks for the Governability of our democracy in the region.
Andrey Bystritskiy said in previous roundtables, that the centre of world development, strength and self-confidence is shifting. Ricardo Lagos, Former President of Chile, has made a clear point concerning the challenges ahead as “the former recipes are no longer useful because of the profound changes generated in this new era”. He proposed a kind of new deal: we should govern for the democracy as a system and for new multilateralism. We should adapt to new realities, sectors, demands, and a new global situation.
Throughout this year and the next we will continue coexisting, although in different intensities, with COVID-19 both in our region and in the world. The future outlook presents us worrying aspects: physically and psychologically exhausted citizens; impacts on health as a result of direct consequences of the disease, its derivatives and the hundreds of diseases with which we already coexisted; more exposed economies and fiscal resources; greater inequalities among countries, regions, productive activities, and social sectors. This situation poses severe risks for the stability of our countries, but it also presents an opportunity to rethink our development models, build new social contracts and move towards more inclusive and better quality democracies: a desire that many citizens expressed in social protests since 2019.
As the Ukrainian intellectual Mikhail Pogrebinsky and America’s Thomas Friedman point out, we are living in a time of “Exponential Technological Acceleration”. This perception is shared by intellectuals all over the planet. These profound and rapid changes are transforming human relationships and societies. How to overcome the tension between the acceleration of these technologies and the relative backwardness of our social and political institutions? First, by understanding that we are more interconnected and in an interdependency relationship, a situation that is neither balanced nor equitable, being thus a source of tension both international and domestic.
As a consequence of these rapid and profound changes, new conceptions about citizenship are emerging. This forces the Systems of Representation and Political Participation to adapt, without abandoning their values and identities, with the aim of regaining the trust of citizens in their representatives and of the latter in citizens.
It is imperative to analyze the State of Governance and Governability in our countries. Governance as a way of governing that aims to achieve lasting economic, social and institutional development, promoting a healthy balance between the State, Civil Society, the Economic Market and People. Manuel Alcántara, Professor of the University of Salamanca, refers to Governability as a situation in which a set of favorable conditions for government action concur. In this sense, we can suggest that effective Governance enables Governability. Climate change will defy in that sense to everyone in the international community. Making sense of climate governance will be a major endeavor for human society.
The COVID-19 pandemic, although scientifically predictable, took different leaders and institutions by surprise. Its confluence with pre-existing problems generated a perfect storm that exposed the weaknesses or insufficiencies of National States, along with Regional and Global organizations. At a time when challenges more globalized than ever, multilateralism shows itself weaker than many decades before. Latin America, which was already the most inequitable region in the world, although not the poorest, suffers the greatest negative impact.
As Latin Americans we need to develop an intense pedagogy on the advantages of facing the new challenges of the 21st century and solving those of the 20th century that we have still pending. The political systems in Latin America must not only organize the competition for power, but also should help to exercise an integral citizenship with free, equitable and transparent electoral processes; in its exercise regulated by the Democratic State of Law and with the inalienable objective of continuing developing the political, civil, cultural, economicб and social citizenship, which was the first victim of this pandemic.
The technological changes of the 21st Century and a new citizenship require the renewal or creation of the institutions that allow containing and developing these new demands, challenges and risks. It is essential to learn to relate to these new actors. Adapting is a dialectical relationship that should not be confused with subordination without leadership, which would only generate further anomie and uncertainty.
In this decade marked by a Conflict-driven Non-Hegemonic Bilateralism, it is necessary for Argentina, our region and the world, not to be dragged by tensions or to increase them. National and regional needs and interests will find their best atmosphere in a growing, renewed and fair Multilateral System. We must act in it, within the framework of our possibilities and realities, as actively as possible. To know and better understand global trends and find the best opportunities. To agree on regional and multilateral proposals that show that they are based not only on knowledge of our needs and our potential, but also on knowledge and understanding of the global situation.