"International Challenges after September 11"
Speech by Gareth Evans to Cranlana Programme Alumni, Melbourne.
Thank you for inviting me to address this first in a series of discussions on the subject of ‘Challenges to Democracy Post September 11’ - and for asking me to do so from an international rather than an Australian perspective. I really am more comfortable these days not talking about anything from an Australian perspective. One reason is that when you’re out of the political scene after a long time in the middle of it, it’s much better to let your heirs and successors get on with it without burdening them with your punditry.
A second reason, frankly, is that while home will always be where my heart is, if you live and work in the public policy community overseas – as I have been now for more than two years - it’s not quite as much fun as it used to be owning up to being an Australian. On the great current international issues of the environment, human rights, the treatment of refugees, arms control and disarmament, development finance and now even the international criminal justice, the present Australian government continues to walk away not only from any leadership role, but I’m afraid any kind of good international citizen role. It’s noticed, and it hurts.
When I’m asked, as I am from time to time overseas, ‘Aren’t you Australian?’ - or, more poignantly, ‘Didn’t you use to be someone in Australia?’ (or, more poignantly still, ‘ Didn’t you use to be Gareth Evans?’) – it has almost got to the point where I routinely say ‘Nej, Dansk!’, which I’ve found since my earliest travelling days to be a perfect conversation stopper (except of course if it’s a Dane doing the accosting!).
A third, more positive, reason for preferring to talk to you from an international perspective is that that is very much the perspective that consumes me in my present role as President and CEO of the International Crisis Group. ICG is unique, private, non-profit, multinational organisation which tells governments around the world what they should be doing to prevent and contain deadly conflict. We give them analyses of what’s going wrong, and policy prescriptions as to how to put things right, which they usually don’t want to hear, and often don’t even want to think about - but which they are certainly increasingly taking notice of. It’s hard to measure success when, as in all preventive work, you succeed when nothing happens and no-one notices, but I think it’s fair to say we are now regarded as the pre-eminent non-government body in the world in the field of conflict prevention policy and advocacy.
The organisation began in 1995 essentially as a response to the policy disasters of the early 90s in Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda. Its founders – including the inaugural Chairman, Senator George Mitchell - were a group of well known international figures from the US and Europe, who have now been joined on a rather glittering governing Board full of former Presidents and Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers and the like. ICG has grown rapidly, especially in the last two years, to the extent that we now have region-based field operations in nearly 30 countries across four continents – with programs in Africa, Asia, the Balkans, Latin America and the Middle East, along with advocacy offices in Brussels, Washington, New York and Paris, and a media office in London.
We now produce over 70 reports and briefing papers a year which go out on our website www.crisisweb.org as public goods, as well as being distributed more directly to senior policy makers and those who influence them around the world. ICG has these days some 80 full-time staff, and our budget this year is over A$18 million ($US 9 million), raised roughly 55 per cent from major foundations, 30 per cent from governments, and 15 per cent from individuals and corporations.
I spend nearly two-thirds of my time travelling out of Brussels, mainly elsewhere in Europe, in North America and in Asia, talking to governments and intergovernmental organisations like the UN, EU and World Bank; fund-raising; and generally managing an organisation full, as you can imagine, of the most wonderful prima donnas ( a perfectly comfortable state of affairs so long as, as Gough Whitlam once famously said, I remain prima donna assoluta).
The world as we find it after 11 September 2001 is not all that different from the world that existed before. Nine months after the event, we can now see that the main impact 911 was to change perceptions rather than realities. Some things are different, but the fundamentals of the global security and social justice environment remain pretty much as they were.
As to what’s changed:
- Yes, there is a horrifying new sense of vulnerability, with more lives lost to terrorism on that one day than in fifty years of terrorist attacks in Ireland and Israel – and without any kind of unconventional weapons being deployed. The vulnerability is being felt not only in America – where the shock of losing both the physical and psychological protection of the two-ocean cocoon has been particularly acute, but everywhere around the world.
- Yes, we do now understand much more about the interconnectedness of the world - in particular that grievances bred elsewhere can have catastrophic consequences half a world away, and that the ease of transport, international communications and personal movement in and out of countries have made it easier than ever before in history not only to plot evil but to deliver it. We may not have seen the end of unilateralism in US foreign policy, but we can wave goodbye to isolationism.
- Yes, we now know that we can no longer treat with erratic neglect the problems of the Arab and Islamic world, with its almost complete democratic vacuum from Morocco to Pakistan, ignoring those problems except when oil supplies appear threatened.
- Yes, 911 and its aftermath does seem to have made some old problems easier to solve, like the terrible civil wars in Sudan and Sri Lanka, and some difficult relationships easier to manage, with relations between the U.S. and Russia and China are on a more stable and substantial basis since 911 than they have been for some time – albeit at the cost of Chechnya and Xinjiang being turned into even more open free fire zones.
- And yes, conversely, 911 may have made a number of old problems harder to solve. Some reasonably contained or containable problems may be in danger of reigniting in the new post-911 atmosphere, not least with Washington’s new enthusiasm – at least rhetorically – for ‘hot pre-emption’: it’s hard to find anyone else in the world outside the US (Australia’s current government always excluded) who thinks the lumping together of Iran, North Korea and Iraq as coaxial evildoers was other than simplistic, provocative and counter-productive. Less visibly but no less worryingly, there is the very real diversion of attention, and diplomatic and other resources, away from unfinished or unresolved problems in the Balkans and many parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
But, for all this, I would suggest that there are three big categories of things that haven’t changed – what I would describe as the fundamentals of what people want from their governments, the fundamentals of global security and the fundamentals of global social justice.
On the first of these themes, there is no great secret about what people want from their governments – from the people who make decisions that affect their lives, whether at local, national, regional or global level. In its barest essentials, it comes down to just two big things: security and liberty. Or, if you want to tease it out in a little more detail, it comes down to these five very basic needs:
- national security – or freedom from the fear of military conflict;
- community security – or freedom from the fear of violence: with law and order, and a decent justice system;
- personal security – freedom from the fear of want: with income and employment, housing, health and educational opportunity;
- environmental security- freedom to enjoy decent physical conditions in which to live and work and play; and
- personal liberty – freedom to move, and speak and assemble; to live in dignity and without discrimination; and to participate in the political process, at least of selecting those who make the decisions that affect our lives.
There are many different ways of expressing these basic needs or interests, and at least in public discourse, in different parts of the world some of the items or sub-items in my list – particularly in relation to liberty - are given different weightings and priorities, or no priority at all. But whether openly acknowledged or not, it’s hard to argue at the level of ordinary, individual human beings that all these things are not universal aspirations.
The capacity and will to deliver them is what we call at the local or national level, democracy or, more generally perhaps, ‘good government’; at the regional and global level, where executive institutions are much less well developed, it’s what we call good governance. The challenge of delivering good governance may have become even bigger since 911, but in its essence it’s the same set of challenges that has always been there.
My second category of things that haven’t changed since 911 goes to the fundamentals of global security. There are two considerations here in particular:
- The distribution of power in the world remains incredibly lopsided, with the US just as much after 911 as it was before a military and economic hyperpower in comparison with everyone else – and a target as a result for a great deal of envy, resentment and outright hostility from a lot of the rest of the world. (The further increase in US defence expenditure which has been at least partly prompted by 911 makes the disparities even starker: the increase of $48 billion requested by the President is itself larger than the total military budget of any other country in the world, and will bring U.S. military spending to 40 per cent of the global total, double its share of global GDP, and eight times its share of global population.)
- Throughout the world, in many parts of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Latin America, there are major unresolved political problems – some of them with underlying economic and social causes - that have been inadequately addressed, incompetently addressed or deliberately left to fester, and nearly all have potential to generate significant conflict.
What are the challenges we are all going to have to face as a result of these fundamentals being as they are?
- Wars between states are much less common than they used to be, but can’t be discounted. The situation between the two new nuclear powers India and Pakistan remains extraordinarily fragile, with a huge risk of miscalculation on both sides; the Taiwan Strait remains quiet for the moment, but will need a lot of continuing work to remain so; and tensions between many states in Africa remain very close to the surface. And if the US chooses to go to war unilaterally against Iraq, without the cover of a UN Security Council resolution (citing, for example, non compliance with WMD inspection regimes) then there is a large chance, to say the least, of the benefits proving grossly overstated and the risks wildly understated.
- Wars or conflict within states remain overwhelmingly the most likely cause of continuing disturbance, and spillover impact elsewhere. In the last decade 53 of the 56 major armed conflicts were of this kind, whether driven by grievance, greed, state failure or all of the above. From Colombia to Zimbabwe to Somalia to Macedonia to the Caucasus to Central Asia to Indonesia – and many places in between, in most of which ICG has a presence – there is a very real risk of major conflict breaking out, or escalating, or recurring or continuing. Ongoing attention to all of them by the key players in the international community is very hard to ensure, but it’s crucially necessary.
- Wars on states are hardly a new phenomenon, with terror being used as a weapon by the weak against the strong since time immemorial, but it’s the security challenge we have of course been focusing on most since 911. Just as with the concept of globalisation, the notion of ‘asymmetric’ security threats moved in an instant from abstraction to alarming reality. How to best deal with these threats, apart from just shoring up homeland security and punishing the perpetrators has beome the big policy issue on which everyone is currently focused, but it’s not the only one around.
The security challenges we will all confront can be approached from another angle – in terms of the way that violence is or can be perpetrated. The concern here is about three different kinds of weapons:
- Conventional weapons, including small arms and landmines as well as those of a higher-tech variety, in which the world is awash – and where the policy options for reducing the flood are very limited.
- Weapons of Mass Destruction – nuclear, chemical and biological – where non-proliferation regimes are under real stress, and there is real concern about such weapons falling into the hands of non-state actors with terrorist agendas. The problem is a real one and has to be addressed with every ounce of cooperative spirit the international community can muster – including the business community, which has a critical role in relation to chemical and biological inspection regimes in particular.
The only serious policy goal for all of these weapons, including nukes, is absolute elimination, on the basis that so long as any state has them, others will want them, and as long as anyone has them there is a fair probability that they will eventually be used, by accident or design, to catastrophic effect. It’s not a very good argument that you need to retain some nuclear – or chemical or biological – weapons to deter rogue states producing or using them, when current generation conventional weapons give all the deterrent or retaliatory muscle that could ever possibly be required.
- Weapons of Mass Disruption are the third class of weapons we have to worry about and perhaps the hardest of all to deal with even with much more sophisticated intelligence gathering and exchanges than we have now: cyberspace attacks on critical communications networks; highly strategically focused simultaneous physical attacks on key electrical stations, causing cascading power failure throughout the country; and miscellaneous other nightmare scenarios now being written about.
The third big thing that hasn’t changed since 911 is the reality of global social justice fundamentals. Secretary General Kofi Annan made the point succinctly in his end of year press conference last December:
"For many people in the world 2001 was not different from 2000 or 1999. It was just another year of living with HIV/AIDS, or in a refugee camp, or under repressive rule, or with crushing poverty."
The trouble with globalisation is that, while the dramatically increased flow of capital, goods, people, technology and information around the world has undoubtedly dramatically increased overall wealth, the rising tide has not been lifting all the boats:
- At the end of the 1990s a third of the world’s countries had lower per capita incomes than they did at the beginning. According to the ILO, around one-third of the world’s labour force, or one billion people, are already unemployed or underemployed. The digital divide – the inequality of access to the equipment and infrastructure needed to derive any benefit from the IT revolution – is for much of the world a bigger chasm than ever.
- As HIV/AIDS wreaks its havoc, access to one of the most absolutely basic of all human needs, health care, has been for much of the world’s population getting harder and harder to maintain at even a rudimentary level - let alone at the sophisticated and expensive level demanded in the West.
- And at the very time in the world’s history when education has never been more important, in many countries the quantity and quality of the public education system has been falling away: something of which we’ve been particularly reminded in recent months as attention has focused on the extremist Islamist sentiment being fostered in the madrassas, where in Pakistan and elsewhere many poor families have been sending their children for an education they simply couldn’t afford elsewhere.
Nobody seriously argues that globalisation as we now know it can be halted or reversed. The real policy division is between those who regard the kind of globalisation we have today as close to the best of all possible worlds, and just want to let its dynamics work themselves out - on the basis that in the long run we will all be trickled down upon – and those, on the other hand, who don’t: who believe, rather, that for all the benefits of global interconnectedness and interdependence, globalisation as we have known it so far has a number of rough and ugly edges, and cries out to be tamed and civilised, and compensated for, especially through strategies of aid and trade.
I am one of those in the latter camp, as indeed – if the debates at the World Economic Forum are any kind of guide – are an increasing number of world business leaders. There is just too much evidence on the downside for even the most dewy eyed optimist to ignore about the widening gaps between rich and poor people, rich and poor countries and rich and poor regions.
The developed world is slowly beginning to show signs of having understood how comprehensively it has abdicated its responsibility, in terms of development assistance, to redress the fearful deprivation - starting with basic health, housing and education – that exists in so much of the developing world. But the recent Monterrey Conference on Finance for Development hardly changed anything in terms of serious commitments made – including those by both the Bush and Howard governments.
Apart from aid, the other great contribution the international community can make in addressing global inequality is to facilitate trade. The problem for the world’s poor and dispossessed is not that too much trade is going on, but that there is still too little. There are still some fundamental inequities in the world trading system – above all the innumerable barriers placed by the developed countries on trade in areas of absolutely critical importance to the developing countries – agriculture, textiles and clothing – and the misuse of ‘trade defence’ instruments like anti-dumping. It’s very much to be hoped that the new WTO Development Round at last now set in train will at last address these inequities, but nobody should be holding their breath.
The challenges to good governance, or more narrowly democracy, that I have been describing in the world as we now see it, and the policy tasks that I have been outlining along the way, cry out for imaginative, engaged commitment by the world’s governments, intergovernmental organisations and business leaders. After 911 no less than before, no government – not even that of the most rich and powerful the world has ever known, and certainly not that of a country of 20 million people with no great economic or military clout of its own – can solve for itself, without international cooperation and reciprocal support, the full range of problems which can affect its people, whether they be risks from terrorism, international crime, health pandemics, unregulated population flows or environmental catastrophe.
So what, at least in general terms, has to be done? My checklist for governments and intergovernmental organisations is pretty straightforward:
- Act comprehensively, which in the case of security problems means addressing security problems in a way that recognises they are not one-dimensional, and that social, economic and cultural factors can be at least as important as political and military ones in explaining why people and governments act as they do, and in persuading them to act otherwise.
- Act cooperatively, which means recognising that in the real contemporary world, however big you are, most international problems are only solvable with the help of others. In the case of security threats it means recognising that acting together rather than in splendid isolation is also what for the most part is required by the UN Charter – the only dominant system of security law that we have, and which we would have to invent if it didn’t exist.
- Act intelligently, which means acting not only comprehensively and cooperatively, but in a number of other ways as well:
+ Before the event, act preventively – on the basis that nothing is so cost effective in terms of dollars, lives, property destruction and misery.
+ During the event, in reacting to a situation, act productively rather than counterproductively. For example, to take three areas where ICG is currently involved:
o Don’t solve one problem by creating others – as may have happened with buying support for Afghanistan at too high a price from some of the authoritarian governments of Central Asia.
o If you’re determined to take out Iraq’s WMD capability, do it in a way which has some chance of bringing rest of international community with you.
o If you’re going to make a helpful contribution to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, recognise the limits of security-first incrementalism - and the absolute necessity to get people talking again immediately about the substance of a fair and comprehensive political settlement.
+ After the event, act sustainably - be prepared to devote as many resources to post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding as to the initial intervention. (There is a real danger, despite all the rhetoric, of this not happening in Afghanistan).
I have long argued, in and out of government, that governments have a hard-headed self-interest in acting decently, intelligently and cooperatively - in seeing their national interests as not just being bounded by traditional security and economic interests, but extending to being, and being seen to be, good international citizens.
I strongly believe that the international business community has exactly the same kind of enlightened self-interest in making a positive contribution on global issues, including security issues. Global business leaders – and I know there are some in that category, or who aspire to be, in this audience - have an enormous business stake in a safer and saner world; many have the resources to make a difference, and collectively they certainly have a voice that can make a difference.
International business does have a significant role – and should not just see itself as passive bystander, prisoner of events. It’s twofold – not to contribute to the problem, and to contribute something positively to the solution.
In the area of security, not contributing to the problem means not making things worse, for example:
- by acting in a way that directly or indirectly supports the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, or the illegal distribution of conventional weapons;
- by trading or investing in circumstances that directly generate revenue for those engaged in illegal armed conflict – eg the conflict diamonds issue;
- by not investing in activity which is directly reinforcing or perpetuating a grievance based conflict - eg. oil in Sudan;
- by contributing in other ways – eg. environmentally and socially insensitive resource exploitation – to the creation of grievance based despair and hostility;
- by giving encouragement, whatever the temptation, to corrupt practices of the kind which undermine the quality and effectiveness of governance.
International business can also contribute to the solution in the security area, for example:
- by being a voice for intelligent government engagement in conflict prevention and resolution;
- by being a voice in particular for intelligent, cost-effective, before the event preventive action - whether that involves diplomatic strategies, or legal and constitutional strategies, or economic development strategies or military strategies;
- by being an active and helpful voice in the building of effective non-proliferation regimes for WMD, even if that support has some commercial implications;
- by being prepared, if you have the capacity to do so, to put effort and resources into the rebuilding of shattered post-conflict societies - to get them on their feet, functioning, consuming and trading again.
Let my final word be on the subject of individuals, and individual leadership. In all my years of engagement in public policy, both domestically and internationally, I have never ceased to be amazed at the capacity of individuals to make a difference, for better or for worse – whatever the cherished views of analysts and historians about deeper underlying currents and causes, and the ultimate insignificance of individuals in the real scheme of things. The capacity of individual leaders to choose cynicism over statesmanship, and votes over principles, is notorious enough, but just as common is the capacity, against the run of the logical play, to miss opportunities or to otherwise create havoc, in ways that are absolutely critical to outcomes.
In all the kinds of conflicts that my organisation has been trying to prevent or contain, so much seems to depend just on the luck of the draw: whether at a time of fragility and transition you get a Mandela or a Milosevic, a Rabin or a Sharon, an Arafat or an Ataturk, an Obasanjo or a Mugabe. That has always been so, and I suspect it will always remain so.
I’m not entirely sure whether good leaders can ever be made, or whether they just have to be born. But I certainly admire those organisations around the world which are dedicated to the task of developing and enhancing leadership qualities in both the public and private sectors. The Myer Foundation’s Cranlana Programme, modelled closely as it is on the Aspen Institute, is one of the best and most thoughtful exercises of this kind anywhere, and I feel deeply honoured and privileged to have been asked to speak to your alumni this evening.