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April 8, 2016

Responding To: Managing Security for a New World

No Peace without Renewal of Global Governance

Like President Obama in his Atlantic interview last month, former Defense Secretary Chuck Hegel believes the United States cannot serve as the world’s policeman. “We can help [other countries and peoples], he told a Georgetown audience in his Global Futures lecture on March 21, 2016, “but I don’t think we can help them by invading countries and occupying countries.”

“Ultimately,” Mr. Hagel said, “they will have to sort it out. They’re going to have to determine what they can’t tolerate and what they will tolerate for themselves.”  

Mr. Hagel is right. Much will depend on what other nations and their leaders will do—for themselves and for the global common good. But peace depends as well on changes the United States must promote not only abroad but at home as well.   

The geopolitical environment is deteriorating. The “third wave” of democratization has been reversed; autocracy is on the rise. From Russia and Turkey to Egypt and China, governments have crushed popular movements and shutdown civil society movements and the free media.  

In an illiberal world, international NGOs like the Soros Foundation, Human Rights Watch, and the overseas institutes of the two U.S. political parties have come under tighter and tighter government control, even in supposedly democratic countries like Israel.  

The cooperative international spirit that led to the approval of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in 2005, stumbled in the aftermath of the half-intervention in Libya and has fallen flat, prey to a selective manipulation by both Russia and the United States, in the Syrian crisis.  

At the same time, the European refugee crisis has shown the profound inadequacy of the Cold-War era refugee and migration system at a time of globalization. 

Improving the prospects for peace requires three things. First, we must advance the repair of unraveling international systems, like the refugee regime and migration rules, so that people can enjoy the mobility that capital enjoys under globalization.  

Also, the renewal of the architecture of international organizations, beginning with the UN Security Council, must be a target of unrelenting attention until the UN becomes not a world government, but an effective system of world governance.  

Second, it requires expanding participation in the economies of developed countries, where dwindling middle classes and the growing underclass threaten democratic government and the liberal tradition of human rights.  

Thirdly, civil society movements and NGOs must devise new ways to promote a culture of peace outside their home countries. This may involve finding new allies in the business community and engaging with old ones, like the faith community, that has been too often taken for granted or shunned for holding traditional views on “social issues,” that is, reproductive ethics.

Drew Christiansen, S.J., is a distingished professor of ethics and global development in the School of Foreign Service and co-director of the Program on the Church and the World at the Berkley Center.

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