Uncommon Opportunities


The Next Millennium

We are on the threshold of a new millennium. All civilizations have recognized the special significance of new beginnings – the dawn of a new day, a new year, a new century. These are moments of new birth when fresh vision and greater energy are available for setting out in a new direction or accelerating progress along our chosen course. The dawn of a new millennium brings with it a tremendous power for renewal and advancement. It can mark a decisive transition or staging ground for speeding humanity’s evolutionary progression.

The remarkable events of the past few years – the fall of the Berlin Wall, the turn to democracy in the former USSR and other countries of Eastern Europe, the peaceful end of apartheid in South Africa, and concrete steps toward lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians – confirm this truth. In an age of incredibly rapid and revolutionary change, who can confidently claim the wisdom to predict what can or cannot be accomplished in the coming decade? Looking back on this moment ten years from now, we may well be able to chronicle what now appear as equally extraordinary achievements.

The glimpse of possible changes in the world over the next decade afforded in the box on pages 7–8 may appear outlandish and unrealistic to some. It is an indication of what is possible, not a prophecy or projection of what is inevitable. It presents a set of real opportunities that can be tapped, provided that we take best advantage of the present situation. The progress it heralds is no more inconceivable and remarkable than the chain of recent achievements seemed seven years ago – yet those we have already come to take for granted and, underinsistent prodding by the media, to replace in our consciousness with ever new concerns.


PROSPECTS FOR THE YEAR 2005
  • According to the provisions of international treaty, the final batch of nuclear weapons has been destroyed, ushering in a world free of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

  • Global military spending has fallen by nearly 50 per cent since 1994 to $400 billion per annum (in 1990 US dollars), half of which is now contributed to a global military force responsible for enforcing a total ban on war between nations.

  • Not a single inter-state or civil war is raging due to the extension of the UN's mandate to prevent all forms of war and its vastly strengthened military capabilities.

  • International drug trafficking has declined by more than 80 per cent since the signing of the UN declaration granting the UN special powers to eradicate the drugs trade.

  • An accelerated schedule for dismantling trade barriers and the formation of regional economic unions, such as the Middle East Economic Area that incorporates Israel and the Arab states, and other initiatives to promote larger bilateral trade between countries and regions, have helped to more than double the growth rate in world trade.

  • With the assistance of the UN's World Development Force, proposed in this report, food shortages have been eliminated from the last famine danger zones in Africa, and total food production on that continent has doubled within a decade.

  • Poverty is its direct forms has been eradicated in China and India by strategies that have led to the creation of hundreds of millions of new jobs.

  • Rapid economic growth in developing countries has acted as a powerful engine for vigorous expansion among the industrialized nations.

  • In partial fulfilment of their common commitment to generate Full Employment Economies, the member states of the OECD have announced that unemployment in industrialized countries has dropped to the lowest level in half a century.

  • Most of the nations of Eastern Europe and Central Asia have achieved a significant measure of political and economic stability combined with unexpectedly high growth rates ranging from 5 to 10 per cent. This region has emerged as an important source of trade and economic growth for the industrial nations.

  • Global expenditure on education and training as a percentage of GDP has doubled during the decade. One remarkable result has been the complete eradication of illiteracy and universal enrolment in primary education.

  • Scientists report that the ozone layer is being restored to pre-1970 levels far more rapidly than had been anticipated. This has been aided by a worldwide rush to renewable energy power generation led by such regions as California, which now produces 10,000 megawatts of electricity from wind power and has mandated an increase in pollution-free motor vehicles from the present level of 5 per cent to 25 per cent by 2010.

Common sense tells us it is not possible simply to wish away the serious problems barring these achievements. We need the technology vastly to improve productivity in poor countries. We need the organizational know-how to create effective administrative and political systems in transition states and to restructure international institutions. We require enormous investments in constructive economic activities – as opposed to lavish arms spending – to generate jobs and higher incomes for hundreds of millions of people in the developing world, and by extension to stimulate further economic growth and job creation in the West.

All these essential ingredients are available in abundant measure, if only we choose to employ them for our common benefit. Yet even this is not enough. Otherwise, we would already have accomplished many of our goals. Above and beyond these material, social and financial resources, we need a new vision, a new perspective and new attitudes about what can and must be done. If the events of the past seven years prove anything, it is that a massive change of attitude and perspective, such as the one brought about between East and West, is imminently possible and incredibly powerful. The one we have all been party to has immensely altered the world’s political and economic landscape – sweeping away at a single stroke the very real danger of another world war and widespread nuclear destruction.

The recommendations formulated in this report call for profound changes in the way we think, feel and act to meet the challenges and tap the opportunities of the coming decade. We should not underestimate the magnitude of the changes required or the collective effort needed to bring them about. Nor, as recent events confirm, should we under estimate the capacity of humankind to make these changes and realize the benefits.

During the twentieth century, humankind has achieved an unprecedented mastery of its physical and social environment – soaring into space and landing on the moon, exploring the ocean floors, harnessing the power of the atom, delving into the secrets of the human brain and creating machines that imitate many of its functions, unravelling our own genetic code, generating unimagined wealth for many, proliferating national and global institutions, evolving the rudimentary foundations of world governance. Yet the very magnitude of these accomplishments has generated a sense of dependence and even helplessness. Our own creations have cast a spell over us. Impressed by the power of our works, we feel obliged to submit to our own incomplete and sometimes faulty constructions, rather than to complete or modify them to better meet our needs.

Instead of marvelling at the wondrous achievements of the modern era, we should marvel at the unlimited human capacity for invention and progress. The beginning of the third millennium is an opportunity for us to rediscover the ancient truth that human beings, individually and collectively – not material resources, nor the technology we invent, nor the institutions we fashion – are the primary resource, driving force, centre-piece and ultimate determinant of our development. The key lies within us.

Some Common Challenges

Listing future achievements does not mitigate the very real and pressing problems that confront us now. A brief catalogue suffices to indicate the magnitude of these challenges.

  • Population: In spite of the continued decline in birth rates, world population is expected to rise by nearly three billion people or 50 per cent over the next three decades, making the task of achieving food security, employment and education for all even more daunting than it is today.

  • Poverty: The incidence of poverty continues to increase both in relative and absolute terms. Presently, 1.4 billion people, constituting 26 per cent of the total population of developing and developed nations, live in poverty. The poorest 20 per cent of the world’s population share a minuscule 1.4 per cent of the world’s income. According to current projections, 300 million people, representing nearly 50 per cent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa, will live below the poverty line at the turn of the century.

  • Environment: Unsustainable lifestyles and consumption (in industrial countries) and population growth, along with rising levels of production and consumption (in developing countries), will place strenuous demands on the environment of the planet. Growing damage to the basic life support systems of soil, water, flora, fauna and the atmosphere is taking place in all parts of the world.

  • Unemployment: In the West, rising levels of unemployment have increased resistance to free trade and immigration. Rising levels of long-term unemployment and youth unemployment in inner cities are associated with the increasing incidence of crime. In developing countries, rapid population growth continues to outpace job creation in most regions, resulting in high levels of unemployment, increasing social unrest and large scale migration from rural to urban areas and internationally.

  • Gender discrimination: Gender remains a major determinant of privilege and discrimination worldwide. Women still suffer from unfavourable sex ratios, lower wages and restraints on property owner ship, as well as higher levels of illiteracy and lower educational attainments.

  • Rising violence: Violence is on the increase, especially violence within society in the form of civil wars, crime and drugs. During the first half of 1994, 36 armed conflicts were in progress. During the past year, more than half a million people perished in Somalia and Rwanda alone. Nearly 100 less-known conflicts rage at the present moment.

  • Refugees: Violence, poverty and environmental degradation are displacing people on a massive scale. Today there are more than 18 million refugees, far more than the number immediately following the Second World War. A rising tide of immigration is increasing ethnic tensions and intolerance in both industrial and developing countries.

  • Debt: Outside the industrial countries, global growth in the last two decades has come from a limited number of countries in East and South East Asia. Income inequalities are increasing rapidly, even between developing countries. More than 60 countries are unable to meet their debt obligations. Many are facing depressed prices for primary commodities, upon which they rely for their export earnings and debt servicing.

  • Economic collapse in Eastern Europe: The enormous spread and depth of economic decline among the former communist countries of Eastern Europe during the period 1990–3 exceeds in magnitude the catastrophe that engulfed the capitalist economies during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Falling production and incomes coupled with soaring prices are combining to cause political instability, social unrest and extreme hardship to the populations of these nations. If not remedied, this could result in a reversal of the remarkable progress towards world peace achieved during the past seven years.

  • Arms exports: The cutting of defence budgets has generated increasing pressure on arms manufacturers to seek export markets. Although the value (in 1992 US dollars) of arms exports fell by more than 50 per cent from 1988 to 1992, it still represents nearly $20 billion annually. These weapons, over 80 per cent of which are supplied by the five permanent members of the Security Council, directly contribute to the growing instability and violence. During the last decade, 40 per cent of these weapons were sold to trouble spots such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Sudan.

These are, indeed, severe challenges that call for urgent and determined action by the global community on a scale unprecedented during times of peace. But the lessons of the past decade should caution us against accepting as a fait accompli statistical projections that predict the outcome of our effort over the next ten years before it has even begun. No such determinism exists, except in our minds. Given the right leadership, we can change the course, amend the rules, alter the structures and accelerate action to achieve an entirely different and more favourable set of outcomes. Our future is not a question of fate. It is a question of choice.

Evolutionary Opportunities

What then is the justification for predicting a bright future? There are political, economic, social and technological forces active in the world today that can override the causality of past trends and combine together to make this a time of unprecedented opportunity.

  • Intellectual synthesis: War is the result of a conflict that leads to a forceful resolution followed by a fresh period of progress. The end of the Second World War marked the defeat of fascism. It gave birth to the United Nations, followed by the dissolution of colonial empires and freedom for more than forty subject nations. The end of the Cold War marks the end of a seventy-year confrontation between two opposing ideologies – capitalist and socialist – that reflected a more profound conflict between two fundamental aspects of human existence – individual freedom and social responsibility. The posing of these two as opposite and mutually exclusive forces has for long limited our freedom of thought and action and prevented us from boldly experimenting with new ways to reconcile them. The peaceful termination of this confrontation has lowered the mental barriers. It provides us with an opportunity to synthesize these forces in a manner which balances individual freedom with collective action to eradicate the blatant manifestations of poverty, social injustice and inequity.

  • Economic liberalism and rising investment in developing countries: One immediate result of this reconciliation has been the recent movement of economic liberalization spreading throughout the developing world, accompanied by the relaxation of bureaucratic constraints that impede growth. This trend has stimulated a dramatic increase in foreign investment in these countries, which has risen nearly six-fold during the past seven years. Private loans and foreign direct investment together are now approximately twice the level of total overseas development assistance. This investment provides additional benefit in the form of increased transfer of technology and management skills, increased access to export markets and a reduction in the cost of capital.

  • Defence cuts: The monumental and extravagant waste of human, material, scientific and financial resources resulting from the preparation, execution and consequences of armed conflict are too staggering to quantify. In financial terms alone, direct expenditure on defence over the past decade was roughly equivalent to the value of the entire world’s gross annual product. The $400 billion reduction in global military expenditure achieved during the past seven years can be matched by a further saving of equal or greater magnitude, representing four times the current combined annual levels of foreign aid and international capital flows to developing countries. The freeing of an additional $400 billion a year for development would be sufficient to finance the eradication of poverty worldwide. Less than 3 per cent of this saving is sufficient to eradicate the diseases that now claim the lives of 25,000 children every day.

  • End of war: Cessation of war and of the threat of large-scale warfare are essential preconditions for more rapid social progress. The end of East–West confrontation and withdrawal of support for proxy wars fuelled by superpower rivalry provide us with the opportunity to build upon and extend peace in the Middle East and South Africa to all regions, to eliminate the use of war as an instrument of policy, and to impose peace within and between nations as a condition for membership and participation in the world community.

  • Expansion of world trade: The end of international political confrontation has given a strong impetus to global economic cooperation. The successful conclusion of the international trade negotiations, culminating in the establishment of the World Trade Organization, opens up vast potential for nations to increase mutually beneficial economic activity, predicated on the under standing that more trade is good for everyone. Studies cited by the World Bank estimate that the removal of trade barriers by the industrial nations would increase the exports of many developing countries by as much as 50 to 100 per cent, representing a gain in real income of $40 billion to $80 billion annually. For the least developed countries, these gains could be double the amount of official development assistance. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has cited reasons for concluding that actual gains may be significantly higher than these estimates.

  • New engines for global economy: Economic growth in the developing world is projected to remain strong throughout the decade, averaging 4 to 5 per cent per year in low- and middle-income countries. At a time of slackened demand and low levels of growth in most industrial nations, developing countries have become the principal engine driving expansion of the global economy and employment generation, whereas until recently the Third World was perceived primarily as a drag on the world economy or a threat to jobs in the West. The potential for much higher rates of growth in these countries, as recently achieved by China, can result in much larger flows of capital, technology and organizational know-how. Recognition of this opportunity should be central to the strategy of industrial nations for stimulating their own job growth.

  • Advancing technology: The pace of technological development continues to accelerate. The application of biotechnology in agriculture offers significant opportunities to raise productivity and generate higher incomes for farmers. Medical biotechnology is opening up the prospect of longer, healthier lives of better quality for the elderly. Over the next 40 years, child mortality is expected to fall to half its present level and life expectancy is projected to rise by 10 per cent. The shift to renewable energy sources and reduced material consumption in manufacturing can lighten the environmental burden of economic growth. Concerted action now could bring these benefits much sooner.

  • Information superhighways: Information is a catalyst and stimulant to social development. The speed of information, like the speed of transportation, is a critical determinant of economic activity. Innovations brought about by the marriage of computers and telecommunications will make possible more, faster and better communication in developing countries at substantially lower cost through global computer networks and satellite-linked telephone systems. In some areas, such as finance, news and sports, the barriers to the flow of information are already crumbling. The increasing quality, quantity and speed of information flows about markets, technologies and significant events are quickening growth of the global economy. One consequence has been the globalization of financial markets, resulting in increased financial transfers to developing countries. The technology exists for similar achieve ments in many other fields related to development.

  • Global consciousness: The impact of the 1992 Earth Summit goes far beyond the decisions taken to protect the global environment. By focusing on critical threats that can only be met through common action, it has changed the way people and nations think about the world and each other. A consciousness of One World is emerging above the din of individualistic and nationalistic self-interest. This new perspective will enable us to generate effective strategies for addressing many problems that have thus far defied solution.

In addition to these nine factors, two powerful revolutions are re-drawing the landscape of the global society and generating an unparalleled dynamism for rapid progress on the issues of critical concern to humanity.

Democracy, Peace and Development

The first is a revolutionary movement from authoritarianism to democracy that has travelled around the world during the past decade. The initial wave swept through Latin America in the early 1980s, replacing military regimes in Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay and Bolivia. In 1979, 12 out of 19 Latin American countries had authoritarian governments. By 1993, every country except Cuba and Haiti had a democratically elected government. Glasnost and perestroika in the USSR initiated a second and more powerful tide of freedom that expanded rapidly through Eastern Europe and then to other continents, in the same way that India’s attainment of freedom from colonial rule gave birth to a host of freedom movements and new nations after the Second World War. The number of single-party or military states and people under autocratic rule has fallen dramatically since 1980, and the trend continues.

This shift to multi-party democracy, when coupled with a free press and an independent judiciary, vastly reduces the threat of large-scale wars similar to those that have twice shaken the world in this century. Three factors are at play in most conflict situations: the absence of developed democratic institutions, the absence or abuse of fundamental human rights, and the inability to make those choices in the management of public policy on which good governance depends. Authoritarian governments find justification for their existence in the presence of external threats to national security, in times of war and during periods of imperialist expansionism. They have a vested interest in maintaining a state of tension or initiating conflicts. In contrast, empirical evidence shows that liberal democracies do not go to war against one another. A study by Dean V. Babst of 116 major wars from 1789 to 1941 revealed that ‘no wars have been fought between independent nations with elective governments’. The reasons for this are several. Democracies tend to be more prosperous and better educated. They share common political cultures based on individual rights and liberties. They establish orderly and peaceful processes for conflict resolution within society. In addition, elected governments find it extremely difficult to win public support for initiating and sustaining wars in which the country’s own citizenry must fight, except in order to rebuff or forestall external aggression, as illustrated by domestic opposition to America’s role in Vietnam.

War is the engine of dictatorial power. Peace is the social dividend of democracy. Peace is not merely the absence of war. It is a settled, stable, secure condition which thrives on a foundation of political maturity, social freedom and economic well-being. A world in which all major military powers – with the present exclusion of China – have democratic governments removes the ideological basis and political pressure for confrontation between states. If it is maintained, the adoption of democratic forms of government by the nations of Eastern Europe and the developing world will help ensure peaceful relations between states, which is the most fundamental precondition for accelerated economic development. The marriage of democracy and disarmament can transform the world – abolishing wars, eliminating nuclear arsenals, liberating hundreds of billions of dollars for building a better common future.

In economic terms, the shift to democratic government presents an opportunity for more rapid development in these countries. During the post-war period of technology-driven industrialization, there is a strong correlation between a representative form of government and rapid economic development. This relationship is reciprocal. In democratic countries freedom of expression and exposure to independent media awaken people to expectation of a better life and encourage them to take initiatives that lead to prosperity. At the same time, the democratic tendency is strengthened substantially by rising standards of living. As democracies distribute political power, they also tend to distribute the benefits of science, technology, information and education, which are the essential building blocks of economic development. Democracies provide greater access to resources, permit greater social mobility, and encourage institutional innovation. Not surprisingly, today all of the high-income industrial nations, as well as the top 25 ranked nations on UNDP’s Human Development Index, are liberal democracies. In contrast, only eight of the 43 poorest nations have multi-party democratic political systems.

Even among the poorest countries, democracy has served to protect the population from the worst scourges of war and poverty that have ravaged many authoritarian countries. Economist Amartya Sen was one of the earliest to observe that no country with a democratic government and a free press has suffered from famine during the last four decades. India, the world’s most populous democracy, suffered its last major famine prior to independence in 1943. Although a major famine threatened ten million lives in India during the mid-1960s, it was averted by the government’s emergency measures and timely launching of the Green Revolution. In contrast, as many as 30 million persons may have died of famine in China during the late 1950s. The political necessity of maintaining popular support and the threat of exposure by the media force elected governments to take all necessary steps to ensure sufficient food supplies.

Modern democracy is the political counterpart of the market economic system. Historically, democracy broke the monopoly of the aristocracy over governance of the people, giving freedom and rights to the individual politically. The market system – basing itself on property rights and self-determined initiatives of the individual producer and consumer – is an economic expression of the same principle. Both democracy and market-oriented economies decentralize authority and decision making, providing the essential legal and regulatory framework and empowering the individual to choose and act with minimum direction or interference from above. Both depend for their success on the quality of those choices, which means on the quality of education and information possessed by the mass of people, and on the freedom and dynamism of the population.

In contrast, authoritarian systems and command economies centralize decision making, restrict the flow of information to the public, foster vast unresponsive bureaucracies, limit individual freedom and initiative within narrow bounds, and encourage obedience and conformity rather than innovation. The spread of education, which fosters independent thinking, and dissemination of information through the media were important factors in undermining public acceptance of communism in Eastern Europe. In a real sense, it was Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost that brought down the Iron Curtain. It opened up an insular society and exposed it to an avalanche of new information, new ideas and new possibilities, which released a fervent aspiration in the people for a better life.

Over the last few years, democratization has been especially dynamic in Africa, where it has been dubbed Africa’s Second Liberation. During the first three decades of post-colonial independence, almost all of the continent’s 54 states had come under either single-party or military rule. The preference for authoritarian rule was often justified by the need for rapid economic development, which could be impeded by opposition to government policies and by the need to contain regional and tribal conflicts. Neither of these claims has proven true. Living standards have actually declined in most African countries during the last two decades. Regional and tribal politics have flourished. Dozens of civil and inter-state wars have been fought, accounting for millions of lost lives. Food production and employment have lagged far behind population growth. In the absence of legal channels of protest, opposition parties have frequently resorted to violence. By the end of the 1980s the lack of material progress and the emergence of young educated professionals in leadership positions had fostered, on the one hand, a revolt against single-party rule and, on the other, popular pressure for multi-party democracy that have together resulted in a democratic domino effect, similar to the spread of communist rule which Western democracies had feared would overwhelm South Asia twenty years ago. As recently as 1989, only four African countries could be considered stable democracies and three more were moving in that direction. Only three years later, 18 African nations could be classified as democratic and a number of others were in the midst of far-reaching political change. The peaceful end of apartheid in South Africa is one remarkable outcome of this process. There are even winds of change in the Middle East, where Jordan has recently shown the way by conducting free elections.

The role of democracy in development would be even more compelling were it not for the apparently contradictory evidence posed by the recent experience of Russia and China. Russia hastened to introduce democratic reforms in the hope that they would lead to rapid economic advancement. China preferred to postpone political reforms until the economic transition was much further advanced. As an immediate result, China has the highest economic and employment growth rates among the nations of the world, while Russia has experienced three successive years of steeply declining national income. These differences are of vital importance, but they centre around the issue of the best strategy for the transition in human terms, not on the ultimate importance of democracy to continuous economic development. The opening up to foreign trade and investment, the spread of higher education which is essential to achieve global competitiveness and the rising living standards which the market system will generate – all serve to undermine the legitimacy and staying power of the single-party system. China has released a social movement that is rapidly shifting power from the Party to market-responsive institutions and special interest groups, which include wealthy entrepreneurs, provincial officials, workers and peasants. Final assessment of China’s strategy will be determined by the further response of the political system to rising social expectations and growing pressure for greater individual freedom.

Restructuring the UN

The movement towards democracy is not merely a question of idealism. In some countries, particularly in Africa, it is an essential step towards over coming the desperate economic conditions that threaten the lives of millions of people. In many others, it can vastly accelerate the development process by releasing greater social initiative. In his message to the ICPF quoted earlier, the UN Secretary General emphasized the importance of democratization – what he chose to call political development – as an essential foundation and complement to peace, and to both economic and social development.

There have been cases where development was accompanied by an authoritarian political system. But, we have invariably seen that if the participation in the market place is not accompanied by political participation, development efforts are brought to naught by social and political instability.... Once again, therefore, we see the inescapable relations governing the goals of peace, development and democratization – these are the goals of the United Nations.

In order for this revolution to have its full beneficial impact on the world’s political and economic affairs, its principles need to be extended to cover all nations and international institutions. The end of the confrontation between democratic and autocratic superpowers within the UN system opens up the possibility of finally translating the idealistic aims of the UN into practical realities. First and foremost is the prospect of extending representative government to all nations. This effort will be given strong impetus by establishing democracy as a minimum condition for membership and participation of states in the affairs of the UN. It is true that the UN stands for diversity and pluralism, but not when it comes to freedom and human rights. True pluralism and diversity can only be exercised and enjoyed by people in freedom.

Recognizing the considerable effort that will be needed to prepare still subject people and to train national leaders in democratic institutions and processes, all possible support should be extended by the international community to make available the knowledge and skills needed to build viable political institutions. The UN should establish a graded, time-bound programme for the transformation of authoritarian states. Should the people of any country themselves prefer an alternative system, let them freely make that choice by electoral process. Suspension of voting rights or of the privileges of membership should be the ultimate penalty for the failure of governments to comply with this condition within a reasonable period of time.

The affirmation of democratic principles cannot and will not stop with the domestic governance of member countries. It is inevitable that the same principles be extended to the relationships between the nations that make up the international community. The present structure of the UN system is a product of the Second World War, just as the League of Nations was of the First. The Allied powers conceived it at the height of the war and evolved its structure to reflect the immediate post-war realities. Russia, the USA, France and the UK emerged from the war as the arbiters of the world order. The defeated Axis powers, Germany and Japan, were relegated to the back ground. Mainland China had become communist and was therefore excluded from the power structure. India and the other colonies had not yet gained their freedom. In recognition of the mutual suspicions between Russia and the Western powers, the rule of unanimity usually adopted by political conferences was applied to decisions made by the five major powers that became the permanent members of the Security Council. The rest of the world was poorly represented. Only 51 nations – including only two African states, two East Asian nations and three Soviet republics – out of the current total of 184 UN members were present at its founding. This structure is based on political realities that no longer hold true. As the limitations of the League led to renewed conflagration two decades later, so the arrangements underlying the establishment of the UN contained within them the seeds of the confrontation between the superpowers and the Cold War.

The present international system of governance is as far from being truly representative and ‘democratic’ as many erstwhile authoritarian governments that incorporated the popular adjective in the names of their parties or states. The UN Charter assigns primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security to the Security Council of 15 members, of whom five are permanent members with veto power over all matters. In no other constitution or organization founded on democratic principles is it accepted that a few members may thus invalidate the decisions of the majority. The General Assembly, in which all members are represented and which is headed by an elected Secretary, is only an advisory body, constituted to ‘discuss any questions relating to the maintenance of international peace and security’ and to ‘make recommendations with regard to any such questions to the state or states concerned or to the Security Council or both’. This authorization is restricted by the provision that in regard to any dispute or situation in which the Security Council is exercising its functions under the Charter, the General Assembly will not make any recommendations with regard to the dispute or situation unless the Security Council so requests.

It may have been the wisdom of the great powers to fashion this non-democratic structure and maintain it, so long as the superpowers and the military blocs stood in firm opposition to each other, and so long as military power was a primary factor in world affairs. Equally, it will be wisdom now to recognize that this system is no longer justifiable or tenable. The end of the East–West confrontation, the rise of economic power and economic issues to a dominant position in international relations, the proliferation of new member countries from the developing world, and, most importantly, the emergence of development along side peace as a primary mission of the UN system, are all arguments for radical change.

The same rationale that warrants an insistence on the adoption of democratic institutions and democratic rights within all member countries also justifies their adoption by the international community. A system that is not truly representative will not have the credibility and cannot generate the necessary participation and cooperation required for effective action on issues of crucial importance to the whole world. The rule of unanimity or veto power cannot be an effective principle of governance in a world of complex and diverse interests, as the recent conflict of interests within the European Union also illustrates. Those nations that regard themselves as the standard bearers of democracy and human rights within nations cannot justify denying these principles between nations. World peace and prosperity in the coming decades will depend on our willingness boldly to confront this issue. At the end of the Second World War the victorious nations joined together to found the UN. At the end of the Cold War, the organization needs to be re-founded, and restructured according to democratic principles, to give a more active role and more equitable representation to people of all nations.

To deem such considerations unrealistic given the present alignment of power in the world is a short-sighted view. It ignores the incredible speed and scope of changes that have radically transformed international relations over the past half decade. It assumes that the present system has the backing of the international community and that it can and will sustain itself regardless of whatever steps we may contemplate. A fundamental change in structure is essential and inevitable. The break-up of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War have resulted in the demise of the bipolar system which dominated international relations after 1945. The United States is now recognized as the sole superpower and the primary determinant of actions by the UN Security Council. But neither America’s culture nor its historical economic and political development and present outlook will permit it to take on the extraordinary responsibilities and overseas commitments which fulfilment of this role necessitates, as its reluctance to get involved in Bosnia and Rwanda, and its quick withdrawal from Somalia illustrate. Indeed, no one nation can or should assume such responsibilities on behalf of the whole world. The rapid shift of Eastern European and former Soviet republics to radically different political and economic systems demonstrates that changes of even greater magnitude than this can be brought about rapidly.

There is likely to be far greater support for this change than may at first appear possible. Russia may actively support and China offer only nominal resistance, once a clear conception of the new structure has emerged. Ironically, the major opposition to this change is most likely to come from the past defenders of democratic principles in the Western world, rather than from the newly liberated nations of Eastern Europe. If so, this will follow the normal law of social development in which the vanguards of previous revolutions become the principal opponents of the next stage of progress. Even here it is likely to come primarily from entrenched vested interests, not the general public.

A mere tinkering with or modest amendment to the structure of the UN will only perpetuate the inherent inadequacies of the present system and postpone its maturation into a truly effective instrument for global political, economic and social integration and collective accomplishment. Many proposals are being floated to modify its workings, mostly by expanding representation on the Security Council. As an interim measure and first steps, the immediate addition of five more permanent members to the Security Council, based on the criteria of population and economic status, and the abolition of the veto power are fully justified. However, these changes do not go far enough in furthering the interests of global peace and development. They will not fundamentally alter the out-dated, non-representative structure which perpetuates the status quo. It is time to devise a new formula and a new structure for international governance that will reconcile and harmonize the political rights and economic interests of all the world’s peoples. The institution that had come to symbolize the Cold War must be restructured in such a manner as to symbolize the abolition of all war and the establishment of peace and democracy as the foundations for global development.

Global Social Revolution

A second revolution also possesses tremendous transforming power to accelerate human progress – the revolution of rising expectations. This revolution is not new in conception or expression, but what is new is its rapid extension to encompass people and nations around the globe. Although the term was first applied to describe the growing aspirations of the middle class in North America forty years ago, it is now widely applicable to all social and economic groups in both developed and developing countries.

After countless centuries of slow, often imperceptible progress, humanity everywhere is on the move. A rising tide of technological advancement has brought with it wave after wave of social innovation. Democracy has liberated long suppressed populations from military or political oppression. With the passing of colonialism, a new generation of youth has come of age in developing countries that never lived under the fear, compulsion and humiliation of colonial rule. The knowledge imparted by the spread of universal education has removed much of the ignorance and superstition, the submissiveness and sense of inferiority that limited people’s mental and social horizons in the past. The elimination of deadly epidemic diseases has replaced an ever-looming shadow of fear with vibrant health and prolonged vigour for billions. Improved methods of cultivation have converted food shortages into abundance or surplus in many countries which until recently suffered from chronic hunger. Advanced production technologies have made accessible to greater numbers the comforts and conveniences that until recently were exclusively in the purview of the élite. Vast sections in developing countries now have access to wristwatches, bicycles, televisions, travel, houses and motor vehicles of all descriptions. Although China produced only 178,000 refrigerators between 1949 and 1979, production has now soared to the highest level in the world to meet the surging demand. More than 39 million house holds, representing 56 per cent of all urban households, have acquired them in the last fifteen years. Similarly, between 1981 and 1990 India’s production of televisions rose more than ten-fold from 450,000 per year to 4.8 million. Exposure to lifestyles elsewhere through the media, cinema and travel has created greater awareness of possibilities and generated higher hopes. The enormous recent achievements of East Asian countries, which are quickly closing the economic gap that separates them from the wealthiest nations, act as a constant reminder and goad to those who have achieved less. In the new atmosphere of peace and greater freedom brought about by the end of the Cold War, all these factors combine to add urgency and intensity to the aspirations of the lower and middle classes everywhere.

Not long ago most people expected to end their lives in the same place and largely in the same position as they and their predecessors began. Growth was confined to the advancement of a small number of individuals, mostly within existing levels of the established social order. Development was a slow, haphazard and largely unconscious result of countless individual efforts. Today, people in most developing countries are motivated by an expectation, an urge, a feverish drive for rapid advancement that has acquired the characteristics of a social revolution. The search for greater comfort, convenience, security and enjoyment motivates entire societies to embrace progress as their primary goal and collectively dedicate themselves to achieve it. The race for development has become an intense preoccupation of every nation. The slow pace of trial and error growth is no longer adequate to meet the rising demands of the people.

The awakening of this compelling urge has unleashed a powerful social force for human progress. That force refuses to be bound by either rationality or morality. Revolution means to bring future results more quickly, sooner than they would come through normal evolutionary processes. In earlier ages, people revolted when their most basic needs were not met, when they were denied rights or oppressed. Today, vast sections in developing countries are stirred to action because their expectations are not fulfilled. Economic liberalization has unleashed people’s expectations: witness the rush of Chinese peasants to invest in the stock market and the increasing demand of Indian villagers for a range of consumer goods. The same movement continues in the West as increased physical and social mobility, the growing demand for higher education and the widespread urge for greater recreation and travel.

These expectations are the seed and driving force for social progress. They provide the energy and create the openness and willingness for change. But they also increase the danger of frustration, disappointment and violence. The end of the Cold War was expected to usher in an age of peace, but actually violence is on the rise in both developing and developed countries because of the widening gap between human expectations and achievements. This growing gap between expectations and achievements is at the root of contemporary turbulence worldwide. The popular and some times violent demand for freedom and participatory democracy, the return of religion in politics, surging ethno-nationalism and intolerance, and rising urban crime are disparate expressions of this phenomenon.

In Eastern Europe, where a peaceful revolution from within has broken the shackles of statism that long confined the energies of people, these energies now surge forward in high and eager expectations of a better life. Already there are growing signs of impatience, disappointment and frustration arising from the greater hardships that have come in place of the greater benefits that all expected. It is essential that these energies be channelled into constructive pursuits that generate tangible improvements. Otherwise they may recoil from the effort and look backwards to a failed system or be guided by false prophets on a path that once again poses a threat to other nations.

The phenomenon of growing violence in an age of increasing affluence seems to contradict the thesis that poverty is one of the major causes of violence, until we realize that the increasingly visible signs of prosperity the world over raise the expectations and aggravate the sense of deprivation and revolt among those that have been by-passed by the general progress. Greater political and social freedom can only further magnify this tendency. This suggests that violence at the international, national and community levels cannot and will not be eradicated before poverty itself has been abolished, and that, if poverty is left unaddressed at its source, further economic progress is likely further to aggravate conflict in society, unless we are able to extend the benefits of progress to everyone. This realization would be quite disconcerting were it not for the fact that we are fast approaching the time when both these persistent ills of humankind can be banished forever – the way slavery and colonialism were banished in the past. The recognition that it is neither desirable nor possible to go backwards adds urgency to our efforts to move forward.

Revolutions of the past have been partial and localized negative reactions against an existing social order, and benefited only a small part of society that, in turn, blindly resisted change. They resulted in war and usually much destruction. The revolution of rising expectations is a positive, constructive movement spreading to encompass people at all levels of all societies around the globe, and pressing for the establishment of a higher social organization that can meet the expectations of all humanity. But the energies liberated by this revolution have to be properly converted into an evolutionary effort for development, otherwise they will fly off in unwanted directions. Society must provide the conditions and opportunities for these energies to express themselves positively and constructively in pursuit of their own fulfilment.

Education is the most essential ingredient for this transformation. It is a great leveller of social hierarchy. It has the power to transform the propensity for violent revolution into ordered evolution. It can temper and mature aspirations and enlighten expectations by an under standing of what can reasonably be sought after and achieved. It can impart knowledge of opportunities, attitudes that support constructive initiative and skills for productive application. Production technologies that make consumer goods available at lower and lower cost to more and more people also level social differences by extending the benefit of development more widely and evenly.

The soaring of human aspirations is a natural and irresistible result of goals that humankind has been striving for over the last century. It is a direct product of the great advances in freedom and democracy, human rights, social equality for women and minorities, health and education, science and technology, the rule of law, social institutions and social welfare. Society has no alternative but to meet these growing expectations by channelling the awakened energies into productive pursuits. For that we need to acquire a greater understanding of the social and psychological process that has already enabled so many to achieve so much. The challenge and the opportunity now presented is to make conscious the previously unconscious process of development, to accelerate it, and to convert the revolution of rising social expectations into a positive energizing movement of the entire global so ciety.

This is the all-powerful driving force that has so radically transformed the social landscape during this ‘century of the common man’. This is the ultimate ‘rationale’ behind the inevitable claim of the poor everywhere that will be made with ever-growing insistence and impatience until it is finally granted – as the birthright of every human being – freedom, food, education, employment, prosperity and fulfilment for all.

Perspectives for the New Millennium

The individual effect, complex linkages, mutually supportive interactions and consequent cumulative impact of these two revolutions and the nine other factors propelling global change are incalculable. They make this a rare moment in history for a quantum leap forward, which many have dreamed about but few believed achievable. Seizing this opportunity requires, most importantly of all, a change in awareness, attitude and perspective. Several ideas will be of abiding value in our endeavour to make the most of this rare moment.

  • Our present problems and future potentials can only be understood when viewed from a wider historical perspective that avoids getting lost in the media-driven drama and intensity of momentary crisis and short-term trends. As recent global action to protect the environment amply demonstrates, public awareness and understanding are growing too rapidly and becoming too important in global affairs for us to rely on the present positions of governments or current public sentiment as gauges of what may be achieved in the near future. More reliable indices of what is possible are the underlying currents that are rapidly raising the value of the human being, bringing nations together in ever-closer co-operation and mutual interdependence, and pressing the international community to raise its goals.

  • The world is blind to the measure of its own accomplishments. We need fully to recognize the astonishing magnitude of the achievements of the present century and fully to understand the process that made them possible. This process expresses itself as scientific, technological, commercial, political, economic, social and cultural development. But its driving force is social and psychological. Its prime mover is human beings. Becoming conscious of the process of society’s past achievements is a key to more rapid future progress.

  • There needs to be a two-fold shift of our attention and emphasis from solving problems to tapping opportunities and from seeking to meet minimum needs to achieving our maximum potential. Preoccupation with studying problems often becomes an excuse for not dealing with them, while sapping our enthusiasm for action. Recognition of opportunities releases fresh energy and constructive initiative. Setting goals to achieve minimum needs ensures that the minimum is the most we will accomplish. Seeking to tap the maximum potentials challenges us to strive unceasingly for higher goals.

  • The world possesses the technology, resources and organizational abilities needed to eradicate poverty from the globe. Positing material constraints becomes a justification for non-action. The true constraints are not material, but psychological and social. Recognizing the real barriers will help us overcome them.

  • Human beings are our most creative, productive and precious resource. Human capacity increases the more it is drawn upon. It can never be exhausted. Developing the human resource should be the centrepiece of all development strategy.

  • We can solve today’s most pressing problems if we adopt a total approach which takes into account all the interrelated factors – political, economic, technological, social and environmental – rather than relying on partial strategies. Partial remedies, however welcome or desirable, can always generate side-effects – such as the increase in social tensions and violence observed when increasing political and social freedom are not matched by increasing economic opportunity, or the rise in unemployment and arms exports that accompany a reduction in defence expenditure. The success of the Green Revolution was due to its integration of technological, institutional, commercial and public policy measures, while its short comings arose from its failure to integrate environmental factors, which are now being incorporated in agricultural development strategies. Comprehensive measures can eliminate the side-effects of partial progress.

  • The progress of the whole depends on the progress of all its parts. Humankind is infinitely enriched by the qualitative diversity of culture and individual expression, but it is immeasurably impoverished by the quantitative abyss which separates the more fortunate from the rest of humanity. The most prosperous levels of society cannot fully and finally rise to higher levels of accomplishment and enjoyment without first ensuring that the less fortunate and less productive are helped to obtain the full fruits of life at the present level of social achievement. Social equity, apart from its moral value, is an essential condition for continued progress.

  • A proper balance has to be found between the principles of freedom and social responsibility, competition and co-operation, and between public good and private profit.

  • All individual achievement is based on prior social accomplishment. The courageous pioneer and talented individual who achieve more for themselves always draw upon a rich social legacy and build on the ideas, knowledge, discoveries, inventions and innovations of countless people and societies who have come before. Policies should be formulated to reflect the contribution of the collective to all individual achievement.