I. An uncertain world. The ‘governance gap’.
The post - Cold War world has proved to be less friendly than we expected.
We have pacified and reunified Europe, put an end to the Balkan conflict, enlarged NATO and the EU. And yet we should ask ourselves: are we more secure today than we were twenty years ago? I believe that very few of us could answer yes.
Look around and you see many area of instability: Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, Iraq and Middle East, and the Caucasus. Moreover, transnational and non-conventional threats are mushrooming everywhere: energy, environment, migration, the financial crisis, we all know the gravity of the actual situation, and the food crisis.
One of the first points I would like to make here today is the following : there is a growing gap between the complexity of the world and the international political community’s capacity to respond. The existing multilateral institutions are often running after the different events and crises. The ongoing transition of international power and the emerging of non-Western powers is exacerbating our difficulties. On the one hand, those powers are becoming indispensable to address the new challenges; on the other hand they are more interested in consolidating their positions rather than in sharing the costs and responsibilities of global governance. In other words, we have a ‘governance gap’.
II. Filling the gap : a “community of responsible powers”
How shall we fill the current ‘governance gap’ in order to make the world in which we live more secure or at least less insecure?
I believe that the theoretical paradigms that we have used over the last sixty years no longer suffice. During the Cold War, the guiding principle of our policy was the so-called “containment”. This was a winning strategy then: but it was so because we had only one enemy and a very specific one.
After the end of the Cold War our strategy was based on the pursuit of globalization and enlargement of the Euro-Atlantic institutions. This was also successful until globalization showed its “dark sides” and new and challenging non -Western powers emerged.
Finally, after 9/11, the “GWOT” (global war on terror) became our dominant paradigm ,and rightly so, until we discovered that, alongside terror, there are numerous and not less threatening challenges ‘out there’.
My point is that none of these known concepts could provide an effective guidance for dealing with the plurality of today’s challenges posed by globalization and the international complexity.
We need to devise a new paradigm, a broader one. The future of global governance cannot be but based on a principle of “shared responsibility”. We need to create what I can call a “new community of responsible powers”, old and new ones alike sharing common objectives and common responsibilities.
I’ll come back to this point at the end of my presentation.
I’d like now to turn to some of the other major challenges that such a new community of powers should address.
III. Two key horizontal issues : non-proliferation and economic multilateralism.
What our citizens are asking from us comes down to two main things : physical and economic security.
Our security and world stability today depend and will depend in the future on an increasingly number of factors. But among them, the one I would put on top of the list, would be the issue of non-proliferation. Today’s most serious challenges to our security, i.e. Iran and North Korea, are related to the problem of nuclear proliferation. Should these two states or other states go nuclear this would activate a nuclear race which would make the international system more and more unpredictable and risky. Democracies could be blackmailed tomorrow by an increasing number of ‘nuclear autocracies’, and/or rogue states. Not to mention the risk of nuclear weapons falling in the hands of terrorist groups.
Iran and North Korea are two key cases to test the political will of the international community and the ‘new community of powers’ to stop nuclear proliferation. Therefore, we need a firm and united international front to make sure that these two states comply with international obligations.
At the same time, I want to stress that we badly need a broader approach to non-proliferation, i.e. the strengthening of a comprehensive and multilateral regime. If we continue to deal with the challenge of proliferation on a case-by-case basis we will continue to have the same kind of problems with other states.
What we need , in other words, is to strengthen the NPT regime and to adapt it to today’s more complex reality. If it has become easier to proliferate, then it is obvious that we need to tighten our norms and the procedures for their enforcement. Enforcement is the key word to be used. The NPT Conference Review (2010) could provide the opportunity to make some significant breakthrough to this regard.
To this end, however, we would need to start our work now. Italy intends to put non-proliferation at the top of its G8 agenda next year. Needless to say, in order to succeed, we need the strong commitment of the US.
I cannot tell you how a strengthened non- proliferation regime should look like. I know it should be based on what one American expert, Graham Allison, some time ago called the “three no’s”: no loose nukes, no new nooks, no new nuclear states.
One last point on non proliferation. Let’s not forget art. VI of the NPT Treaty and the sort of linkage that it established between non- proliferation and disarmament. Any effort to strengthen the non- proliferation regime would greatly benefit from the existing nuclear powers’ commitment to reduce and gradually dismantle their nuclear weapons.
The other horizontal priority for the new community of powers to deal with is economic stability. Too many instability factors are crowding our lives: the credit crunch, the volatility of the exchange rates, the energy crisis, the food crisis, the increasing gap between haves and haves not, and the stalemate of the Doha negotiations on trade liberalization. These different problems and crises involve an ever broader number of countries,: developed countries, emerging powers, developing countries, energy consumers and producers, and so on and so forth.
I believe we need to seriously reflect on the adequacy of the current mechanisms of economic governance. Again, there should be a ‘shared responsibility’for the stabilization of the global economic environment. I think we should launch a debate on economic governance and involve in it the new economies. The shift of power over the last decade have created a new economic and financial multipolarity. We need to take into account the interests and views of these economic actors in order to create a better functioning economic governance, based on effective multilateralism. Should we fail to do so, economic nationalism and protectionism would take over paving the way for a dangerous zero-sum game competition among states as opposed to a win-win one, which can be realized only if multilateralism works…and works well.
IV. The ‘new community of responsible powers’ and the regional crises: the Middle East and Afghanistan.
The new community of responsible powers should commit itself also to the solution of the major regional crises. Among these crises, two are particularly important for international stability: the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Let me start from the Middle East. The ME and the Gulf have been for far too many years the most unstable regions of the world. It is certainly the area from where most of today’s security challenges come from: ranging from Islamic fundamentalism, to terrorism, ethnic and religious conflicts, and proliferation. To consolidate international stability we need to find sustainable political solutions for this region. I’ve already discussed the Iranian problem, but I would like to reiterate that Iran has to accept, as soon as possible, a diplomatic solution to reassure the international community, its neighbors and Israel in particular, of its intentions. The other priority is the Middle East Peace Process. Even though - as it seems likely - the Annapolis Process will not come to fruition by the end of this year - we need to do everything in our power to make sure that the Process will not be interrupted or reversed. We need to save what has thus far been achieved and further build on it.
To succeed we would need a strong engagement of the next US administration from the very beginning of its term, a stronger European engagement and an active engagement also of the other key international and regional players.
We also need the active support of the international community to build a “regional compact” in the Middle East based on inter-state cooperation, a compact that would create the basis for a sustainable peace in the region.
I would like now to talk about Afghanistan. Again, this is an extremely complex undertaking whose success requires the full commitment of the broader community of powers I have been talking about. The stabilization of Afghanistan cannot be seen only as a preoccupation or an obsession of the Western powers: it should be - and for obvious reasons - in the interest of everybody, also of the other non-Western major powers and the countries of the region.
Therefore, Italy has all along advocated a stronger regional approach to the Afghan’s conflict, involving more closely ,besides Pakistan, also India, China, Russia , and Central Asia.
We are convinced that a regional approach would usefully complement the other elements of our common strategy in Afghanistan. As President of the G8, Italy intends to strengthen such regional dimension of the Afghan conflict. I also believe that the EU should devise a more active policy toward Pakistan, whose stability is crucial for the future of Afghanistan and the entire region.
I would like to end with Russia. As we have seen in the Caucasus, Russia is not at easy with the current situation in the European neighborhood. The European Union has played a crucial role - and we should thank particularly the French Presidency - to come up with a diplomatic solution to the crisis. We have unanimously condemned Russia’s ‘disproportionate’ reaction to Georgia’s initial attack to South Ossetia as well as Moscow’s decision to unilaterally recognize the two secessionist entities. At same time, however, we need to be aware that Russia is also part of the solution, starting from the European neighborhood itself : it will be difficult to envisage a regional peace in that region ‘against Russia’ instead of ‘with Russia’. Moreover, we need Russia to address the many global challenges I have already mentioned: from Iran, to Afghanistan, non-proliferation, and energy security. Therefore, we need a two-level approach toward Moscow. In other words, we need to firmly stand by our principles (no return to ‘spheres of influence’, respect of its neighbors’ sovereignty, etc) and at the same time to keep Russia closely engaged to seek common solutions both regionally and globally. A policy of isolation or an attempt to return to a policy of containment would play in the hands of Russian nationalists and would make Moscow a further reluctant partner. This would not be in our interest.
Let me conclude on Russia: I believe that the Georgian crisis has demonstrated that we need a new strategy for what we call the ‘neighborhood’. A strategy that would reconcile two goals: a gradual and spontaneous anchorage of those countries to the Western space, on the one hand; and the preservation of a positive relationship with Russia, on the other. It is not going to be easy. But we should patiently try.
V. Norms, institutions and the transatlantic agenda (conclusions)
Up until now, we’ve always thought that multilateralism from a normative standpoint strictly depended upon institutions. This was based on the belief that only formal institutions could produce norms. What we have built since after WWII is in fact a top-down multilateralism. We did the same in Europe, through the EU process, though gradually and pragmatically through what we call Jean Monnet’s “ neo- functional” approach.
Therefore, and as result of such institutionalist approach, we have been spending a lot of time over the last two decades discussing on how better to reform our global institutions: the debate has ranged from the enlargement of the UN Security Council; to the enlargement of the G8 and, more recently, the idea of a League of Democracies. None of these attempts for a ‘grand reform’ of global institutions seem to be going anywhere for a variety of reasons which I’m not going to discuss now. The problem is, however, that the longer we’re paralyzed with the debate over the reform of global institutions, the longer we are condemned to live under a ‘normative disorder” and a ‘governance gap’ that will reduce people’s faith in multi-lateralism and encourage the resurgence of nationalism and negative competition among the states.
The question I would like to pose therefore is : can we fill the current governance gap and save multilateralism using a new approach, namely a “bottom -up” approach, rather than a top-down one ? Putting aside, without abandoning, the time-consuming discussion on a ‘grand reform’ of global institutions, could we not instead focus first on the attempt to pragmatically create ‘ from below’, and for each of the challenging areas I have described, a web of norms and commitments that an ever broader community of responsible powers would subscribe to and commit to share? Targeting first those areas I have discussed or at least mentioned: non proliferation, trade and development, energy and environment and building up in each of these areas common principles, common codes of behavior and common responsibilities shared by the major stakeholders of the international system. Pragmatically promoting such global normativism should maybe become our priority. It would help to consolidate the ‘new community of responsible powers‘. This, in turn, would facilitate, at a later stage, the necessary and I would say inevitable reform of the formal institutions.
This brings me to what should my very last point. I believe that at the center of the future transatlantic agenda there should be the common objective of expanding such ‘community of responsible powers’, shaping it and developing it step –by- step, area by area, and eventually formalizing it as soon as the circumstances mature.
What I have in mind when I speak of a community of responsible powers is not something like the XIX century ‘Concert of Powers’. The Concert had a ‘negative’ agenda, and its main purpose was to avoid war among powers through mutual restraint. The community of responsible powers, instead, will have to have a ‘positive’ agenda’ to actively address today’s many challenges. We need the US leadership and a strong and united Europe to make it happen.