“Think globally, act locally” – David Brower (1912 – 2000) – Friends of earth.
“The clearest way to show what the rule of law means to us in everyday life, is to recall what has happened when there is no rule of law.” – Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969).
In a recent interview with Fareed Zakaria of the Time magazine (Asian edition of 18 Oct 2010), the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao described his country’s goals as:
- To let everyone lead a happy life with dignity;
- To let everyone feel safe and secure;
- To let the society be one with equality and justice;
- To let everyone have confidence in the future.
In fact, these are and should be the mission goals for every single leader who is entrusted with and accepted the role of governance – be it at the national, sub-national or local level.
The world has changed. Nations are no longer limited or isolated. Technology has brought us closer. No one can hide or feel safe with terrorism on the rise. Likewise, contemporary leaders cannot hide from the economic consequences of a global market. Globalization has brought the world together.
Jamail Jreisat, author of Governance in a Globalizing World, argues that globalization provides a deepening of intercontinental relationships and “worldwide interconnectedness in all aspects of contemporary social life, from the cultural to the criminal, the financial to the spiritual.”
Peter and Donnelly, authors of Designing the Global Corporation, maintains that there are several factors, including structure and culture, which impede or facilitate any nation, state or even any functioning entity dealing with human activities globally.
Furthermore, author Galbraith maintains that multi-national companies must understand their competitors and determine whether they can transfer to their competitive advantage in an international environment.
Given this pressure, are global leaders any different from those in the international, national or local scene? I believe that the leaders and leadership, wherever they are have many essential qualities in common, and at the same time there are specific attributes applicable in relation to their area of influence, governance and accountability requirements.
Having worked and observed in the Americas, African, Arab, and Asian countries, the essential qualities of any leadership – be it at the political, social, economic, sports, spiritual, et al – all have some key commonalities:
The first one is intelligence, although not the overriding one.
This is not based on any academic test scores, it is the intelligence that springs out of real experience and wisdom to see things in different perspectives, to see in new ways and consider new ideas, especially conducive to the human situation around, and other environmental aspects.
The second important universal requirement is the quality of decisiveness, born out of intellectual understanding, courage of conviction and total integrity.
The third important value is the true sense of belonging, ownership of the responsibility undertaken/entrusted, and total loyalty to the cause and people being served.
It’s what Shakespeare said in Hamlet: “To thine own self be true.”
Remember what you are. All the other qualities, attributes and qualifications can be imbibed, internalised and practised so long as there is commitment and devotion to the tasks and goals ahead.
The last, but not the least, quality should be practising what you preach. Many political pundits may or may not agree with this attribute all the time because for them, leadership is more an expedient than real absolute, and so long as the so called leaders can deliver, by hook or crook, everything is acceptable and anything goes.
Fortunately, yet, there are Mahatma Gandhi’s and Martin Luther King’s appear on the scene to demonstrate the difference between mere existence and a life of values and dignity. The difference between such great souls and us is that we just know the price of everything, and value of nothing.
Reducing the Gap in Income Inequalities
Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, who was a Prof. of moral philosophy, addressed the issue of income inequalities and why any leadership in political governance could not afford to ignore the increasing gaps in the incomes. Larger gaps and rising inequities could only increase the financial distress as well as the social and emotional upheavals and will make the principles of justice and fairness as its first casualty.
Multi-Culturalism vis-a-vis Globalized World
Delivering an articulate, thoughtful and highly inspirational meditation on the challenges and imperatives of multiculturalism in today’s world, H.M. Queen Rania of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum, reminded the audience of the many pitfalls of false multiculturalism, of “being connected without really connecting,” of taking pride in living in a diverse neighbourhood but failing to actually invite different neighbours into your house.” And that it is as “important to teach people to be curious about other cultures as it is to respect elders.”
Her Majesty struck two themes. One was the need to internalize multiculturalism, to make a celebration of diversity part of everyone’s quotidian experience. “Children do it right,” she observed, by interacting with their peers without preconceived notions, without stereotypes. Parents have a duty to inculcate an appreciation for the other; after all, Her Majesty remarked, “education begins on a mother’s lap.” Multiculturalism is vital for a healthy society, but multiculturalism is also central to a healthy psyche. “Being able to see things from a different perspective is just more interesting, so very enriching,” said H.M. Queen Rania.
The second theme described the corporate responsibility towards instilling multiculturalism’s benefits, or as Her Majesty said, for corporations to become “ambassadors of multiculturalism.” Western businessmen who have lived in the Middle East would be better informed to make policy on the region for their governments than the politicians who do so from a desk back home, noted Her Majesty. “Multiculturalism needs more than a nudge and multinational corporations are well positioned to give a shove.” If business can take the lead in pushing for multicultural understanding they will not only do the moral thing, observed Her Majesty, but they are better positioned to make more profit in a world where multiculturalism is an essential part of doing business and caters to a globalized customer base. “Doing so is not just morally correct – although it is – but because it is profitable,” said the Queen.
H.M. Queen Rania further observed that youth is ahead of the older generation when it comes to practicing multiculturalism. “They are really plugged into each other almost like there is an underground global youth culture.”
In fact, the present younger generation with a much better exposure to the outside world is providing a good example in the process of assimilation and appreciation of multiculturalism in their everyday lives. They seem prepared to accept the manifested differences, and celebrate diversity even as they focus on what makes them as individuals contributing to collective good for a larger society and population.
What is required is just simple: don’t shackle the younger generation in any of dogmatic belief systems; educate them in self-analysis and seeking self-knowledge; help them to know their self correctly and objectively; and secondly, understand their relationship with anyone and anything other than self (that is, what we call the world made up of all the five elements). The third dimension of knowledge and understanding is what I would say as “call of spiritual awareness” to know one’s relationship with his/her own creator/mentor, but this is only “optional” if one wants to make his/her global citizenship and take it to the level of universal leadership.
Challenges on the Way
Despite the strong growing awareness of our inter-connectedness in almost all departments of life, from climate to neighbourhood lawlessness, we seem to lack the emotional maturity for collaborative creativities to solve our common problems. We are continually governed compartmentally with our borders by man-made laws and regulations that seem to have little or no relevance to ground realities.
How can legal principles be strengthened and enforced more consistently to address global challenges? UN seems helpless in bringing the rule of law consistent with today’s realities.
- Global law-making has become gridlocked – the void has been filled with regional systems of law, and a tendency towards unilateralism; the Copenhagen climate conference represents the failure of a UN-centric, law-based process to adequately address complex global issues;
- New decision-making structures such as the G20 are emerging that may substantially replace the UN legal order, but they suffer from potential legitimacy problems;
- The principle of the sovereign equality of states impedes effective rule setting an uniform application or implementation;
- Both international legal structures and domestic legal structures need to be improved and updated to improve human welfare and allow effective global action;
- International law is a lagging indicator of shifts in global power, both in terms of the states most predominant in international law-making and in terms of the limited but growing role of non-state actors (companies, NGOs, campaign groups) in shaping law.
The rule of law is essential to human welfare locally, and vital to solve common problems globally. But the rule of law, traditionally understood, has come under assault in recent years. The international legal system has become messier. In place of a simple division between two legal orders – domestic and international – global society must increasingly accept an overlapping, multilevel set of legal regimes dealing with legally distinct but practically interconnected issues: a law of the sea, environmental law, human rights law, the law of war and laws that apply in war.
Despite these complexities, the demand for improved legal frameworks – both internationally and domestically – has never been greater. Two-thirds of the global population does not enjoy the rule of law. Domestic legal orders need to be improved “from human rights to traffic lights”, not only as a matter of improving human welfare, but as a matter of allowing the domestic roots of trans-border issues to be adequately addressed. Dealing with trans-border health issues or establishing global carbon trading requires functioning frameworks of domestic law and regulations.
This does not necessarily mean more laws, but more effective legal frameworks. Many global problems, such as environmental despoliation, are not exogenous to the current legal order but to some extent the product of their weaknesses, biases and gaps. There can be bad law as well as good.
In the end, at the international level, there may need to be a trade-off between efficacy and legitimacy. The G20, representing 88% of the global economy, may offer an excellent forum in which to agree to new regulations and new management mechanisms for global issues. But the G20 decisions need to gain some form of legitimacy on the floor of UN General Assembly and ratified by all member states without exception. Unfortunately this may still have to remain as a dream and we still have to resort to the politics of the possible.
World Statesmanship Award of 2010
The World Economic Forum awarded this year’s World Statesmanship Award to the Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Probably this is the only award in the recent times that has been given to the right global citizen for the right reasons. Not only the Brazilian President has led and helped during his two terms in office (eight years) to lift his great country and people from difficult socio-economic conditions to an emerging and respected democratic country in the south, but has shown to the world how and what an enlightened leadership could accomplish by pragmatic socio-economic policies and implementation skills with honesty and sincerity to reduce poverty and inequalities among his country’s diverse population through expanding prosperity based on fairness and justice for all sections of the population.
His administration has not been without criticisms, but his personal charisma, integrity, perseverance and his people-skills both at home and abroad made things move forward in his efforts to reduce and eradicate poverty. He honestly believes widespread poverty is the true obstacle to progress and development.
His commitment to global well-being through sincere partnership, shared destiny and enlightened socio-economic policies and strategies has been so visible every time the Brazilian leader participates in any world event. His leadership and contribution to evolving the Millennium Development Goals at the UN and the follow up toward actual realisation of these important goals – not just for Brazil or South America, but for the sake of people in all developing countries – has been praised by the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. His wonderful grasp of global and national issues and his affable instant chemistry with many of the world leaders at the UN, G20 and other regional and important groupings have been so visible from day one. Lula has a pragmatic foreign policy, seeing him as a negotiator, not an ideologue, and this makes his dialogue with world leaders easier and acceptable.
The respectable Washington Post applauded 16 Oct 2010 the Brazilian leader as he is successfully completing his second last term in office, paving the way for a new leader and smooth transition in a democratic manner.
“Under Lula, Brazil became the world’s eighth-largest economy, more than 20 million people rose out of acute poverty and Rio de Janeiro was awarded the 2016 Summer Olympics, the first time the Games will be held in South America.”
No wonder, President Lula da Silva has won the heart of many in the developing world. This world can certainly do with more such leaders. Amen!
Acknowledgement: WEF reports; and academic research papers available in public domain.
V. Muthuswami, Chennai, India.
UN Retiree Activist Group striving for justice in the UN.
Copyright © 2010 • UN Post • All Rights Reserved