2013

Leading global change in our time

Paul_HeinbeckerThe world has never been richer, safer, better educated or better connected. More people now die from climate change than terrorism. The world is not only heading in the right direction but this is the golden age.

So began last night’s speech titled “Constructive Power Diplomacy” by Paul Heinbecker, a former advisorto successive Canadian governments and permanent representative of Canada to the United Nations.

Continuing the refreshingly optimistic tone, Mr. Heinbecker pointed out that a key to the improved state of the world is the UN Charter, the rulebook of international relations that promoted nations to adopt rules-based behaviours which in turn provided a safe and stable  environment that has enabled the world to focus on growth and development. In other words, how well we live depends on how well we are governed. With the world transforming itself now at breakneck speed, the UN is still very much necessary, but it is not enough.

Then what next? Multilateral governance by constructive powers. And herein lies Mr. Heinbecker’s main point.

The term “constructive powers” refers to what has been traditionally known as the “middle power” which includes nations such as Canada, South Korea, Brazil, Australia and Japan. What the world needs is not the hegemonic dominance of the two superpowers but many of these constructive powers collectively or individually leading global change, dealing with issues that need our immediate focus such as cyber security, drug trafficking and climate change.

Why the emphasis on the constructive powers? The steering of global affairs cannot rely on the internal politics of the US or the domestic resource needs of China: it is simply far too limiting. Take Canada and Korea, for instance. Their respective GDP ranks them as 11th and 15th in the world, 14th and 12th in military expenditure, and both rank very highly in education according to OECD indicators. Naturally, nations such as Canada and Korea have strategic interests to participate in cooperative partnerships to strive toward greater security and stability.  This can be achieved more quickly, succinctly and worldly by these “constructive powers” together in smaller partnerships than anything requiring the consent of either disinterested or selfish partners.

The future of international relations lies in the hands of these constructive powers.  We can make a difference together.

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