Speech at the Seventh World Peace Forum

Speech at the Seventh World Peace Forum
Beijing, China, July 2018

By Shaukat Aziz 

We meet at a time when many key countries are struggling to adapt a new world order- and to each other.

Many countries appear to be at an inflexible point. The old order, established after the Second World War, has been eroding - but a new structure for the maintenance of peace and security among nations has yet to emerge. As a result, we rely on lots of working and institutions which are clearly outdated. 

At the same time, we are riding the tide of an even more fundamental global transformation. In the past century our world changed more fundamentally than it did over the history of mankind. The pace of change is accelerating at a record speed. 

This is our modern paradox. How we respond to it will affect the course of history. 

Today we have the ability- and the tools- to build a prosperous and equitable world- or risk falling behind, being stuck in the past-and failing to change with the times.  

Let me begin by first outlining three key trends in the global security order- geopolitical changes which will determine the nature of human condition and the emerging security order. 

Firstly, we have seen the economic, political, military and technological emergence of China as a world power. At no time in history has a nation brought so many people out of poverty in such a short time. 

We are now seeing another shift towards the world's increasing acceptance of China's emergence on the world stage.

This is to be expected for the following reasons:

As a permanent member of the Security Council, a country of its size and historical importance, it is natural that China should play an increasingly active role in the world

China already has economic clout - and it is also transforming the economies of its neighbors. President Xi's Belt and Road initiative is an ambitious initiative which will change the landscape in the region. This bold initiative will allow China much more reach in the World

China has driven the establishment and success of the AIIB, which has already shown it is a world-class institution. It runs on modern management principles – it focuses on meritocracy and efficiency, and it reflects the global landscape today, not that of decades ago. In my view, the Bretton Woods institutions need to reform themselves. Those who preach reform must reform themselves. 

We must welcome china sharing its success with the developing world. This will help global stability and touch the minds and hearts of millions of people, be win-win for all. All countries would benefit from making the relationship with China more holistic- expand to include security defense and economic growth. 

Pakistan has been a major beneficiary of its rich and deep relationship with China. In recent years, the work being carried out under the BRI will be a game changer for Pakistan. Key infrastructure developments will help connect the country and help spread growth more equitably among the people. 

In the wider world of diplomacy, China has always set an example of how to conduct world affairs. Never in my experience with Chinese people did I see it seek to interfere in the domestic affairs of the country- or use bilateral relations to pressure another power. 

The second key global trend is – the global centers of influence are evolving.

We are seeing an America which is increasing withdrawing from the world stage- whether in the role it plays in the Middle East or by calls for other nations to play a larger role within NATO. The current administration’s pursuit of ore protectionist trade policies further reinforces this trend. 

Moreover – the global financial and economic crisis has contributed to the erosion of the economic leadership of past centers of power. It has had a lasting effect. The clock cannot be turned back by reversion to the politics or economics of a bygone era; by protectionism, military alliances, and more. 

At the time, Russia has been playing an increasingly assertive role- both in the way it conducts diplomacy and through its involvement, for the first time in decades, in the Middle East.

In addition, Russia has spent years investing in upgrading its military capability. It has forged a strategic partnership with China and with members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Whatever your view on Russia’s resurgence, it is hard to imagine sustaining emerging security order without engaging Russia. In my experience, it is important to keep channels of communication open- even with the most difficult circumstances. Dialogue and diplomacy are key.

A new security order will need to find a peaceful adjustment between the old and new centers of power, in particular between China and the US. It goes without saying that a confrontation between them would be disastrous for global peace, security and prosperity. Every effort must be made in avoiding the so-called “Thucydides Trap”. This is a theory that when new powers rise- the risk of conflict increases. 

On the contrary:

- A multipolar world is better than a unipolar world

- I firmly believe the emergence of new powers should not be a reason for people to fear for global stability- instead, it can be a source of strength for the world. 

- We need to put our heads together- a number of issues will not be solved unilaterally.

- These include: terrorism, climate change, global poverty and rising inequality, natural disasters, the threat of cyber-attacks. 

- Helping your neighbor develop and prosper will help you in the long run, too. It is in the interest of every country to have prospering, stable neighbors at their borders. 

And you do not need to look far for proof of this. 

The recent historic softening in relations with North Korea is an important step in solving one of the security challenges faced by the world. 

It was a good example of major powers working together. China’s role in mediating in the talks between the US and North Korea is significant and demonstrates that- together, we can achieve a level of dialogue which can be a step in a longer journey of peace and harmony. 

It was also an example of proactive diplomacy. This is important to note, since we have seen years of reactive action- and intervention- in countries and regions. 

The major powers should build on these successes of cooperation and work together in solving global challenges. 

In some ways, our world is becoming less stable- events move at a faster pace. Governments struggle to respond quickly enough. 

We are seeing the gradual dissipation of the “European Project”. The global financial crisis raised questions about wider and more intensive European integration and the role of the Euro in exacerbating the debt crises in Greece and some other Southern EU members. 

The subsequent mass migrations- caused by the conflict of Syria and other turmoil and economic disruptions across the Middle East and Africa- have eroded Europe’s liberal values and contributed to the rise of the far right in several European countries. 

Simultaneously, NATO’s credibility is under challenge due to divergent strategic perceptions and the differences with Turkey. Brexit is further eroding European unity. 

- Solutions to these issues will only be possible with good quality of governance and - above all- effective leadership

- However- the world today has a leadership deficit.

- We need more powers to come to the table, to boost their influence and contribute to global affairs- and the challenges we collectively face. 

There have been several serious repercussions. 

One of the most serious is the failure to curtain crises in the Middle East. 

The decade has been traumatized by decades of conflict, and the wounds of unsettled long-standing disputes. Recent military interventions and external regime change have only escalated this. 

First we saw the emergence of old and new terrorist groups, including the violent growth of Islamic State. While IS appears to be defeated in Iraq and Syria, it has not been eliminated. Its ideology and affiliates are spreading to other countries and regions by design or circumstance. 

All in all- the Middle East matrix of crises has become vastly more complex. There is as yet no overarching design to restore peace and stability in the region. Instead, we see major powers withdrawing from a mediating role. 

Instead, if withdrawing, we need to develop a sense of collective responsibility. The globalized nature of the world means instability in the Middle East has wide ranging effects. Terrorism knows no borders, it does not recognize formal treaties or boundaries. This is why we must put our heads together and develop a new strategy. Its objective must be two-fold. 

One: to start a serious dialogue with key stakeholders while boosting security cooperation to contain non-state actors.

Two: to boost prosperity- and clearly demonstrate the peace dividend of the population- which is predominantly young and has grown up knowing only war. A serious, Marshall-plan style commitment is needed. It may cost more in the short term but the benefits of achieving a more stable region would be priceless. 

The world’s population is growing rapidly. Where the states invest in the education and health of their peoples, growing populations can contribute to more rapid economic growth and development. Where they do not, growing legions of the poor and jobless can fuel conflict, terrorism and turmoil. It has become essential to plan and execute programs for the inclusive and equal development of all the peoples of the world, with a clear priority for the poor. 

Technology is developing at an unprecedented pace. The nature of human existence has been transformed completely by scientific and technological developments over the past century. Aircrafts, television, and the internet have shrunk the planet. Technology has expanded production, trade and prosperity to previously unimaginable levels. It can answer the world’s essential needs for food, energy and shelter. 

Yet, technology is a double-edged sword. It has enabled the development of new weapons and new concepts of warfare, such as cyber and drone attacks and mini- “usable” nuclear weapons. Technology can disrupt economic, social and political models and traditional ways of life and work. Closer interaction between diverse and unequal nations and communities, enabled by technology, can accentuate competing nationalism and identities and encourage populism, racism, and fascism. 

The threats to international security inherent in the geopolitical trends I have mentioned – the global challenges we face today- cannot be addressed by any one nation , no matter how great and powerful.

They require global cooperation of all major countries, working together through effective and empowered institutions. 

A vision for such international cooperation has been offered by President Xi Jinping in the concept of “Community of Shared Destiny for all Mankind”. This conference, and other such assemblies, should promote specific steps to realize this enlightened vision. 

All policy makers can benefit from being exposed to a wider exchange of ideas and shared practice- there are not many benefits to be had from trying to hold on to an exclusive on wisdom. 

- We should reaffirm or endorsement for essential international agreements- such as on non-proliferation, counter terrorism, and climate change.

- We should renew our efforts to improve the work of international organizations - such as the United Nations, the IMF, the World Bank, WTO, and other agencies. Institutions which were built more than 50 years ago need urgent reform to be able to move with the time. Because-  how can we play an influential role in the world when your very essence is stuck in the past?

- And if those institutions continue to resist reform, we should increase efforts to build a new architecture for global cooperation 

- We should openly and honestly address the principle areas of divergence and discord- in North Asia, South Asia, South East Asia, the Middle East and Europe. 

- We should seek solutions that adhere to the principles of justice, which are common interests of all and produce “win-win” outcomes. 

In almost all instances, economic cooperation is the key to conflict resolution. 

China’s Belt and Road Initiative offers the prospect of enlarged trade, production, and prosperity not only for its more than 60 participating states but also for the entire global community. This bold initiative sets an example for the world on how to bring about growth and prosperity through international development cooperation. 

I will conclude by pointing out- the world should learn a lesson from the Chinese symbol for “challenge”- it also means “opportunity”. 
That is how I view many of the hurdles we face today, from the technological revolution to the changing world order. 

Some of the greatest challenges we face could also be opportunities to build a better, more stable world. No change is easy of painless. It requires a lot of political will, buy-in from the important stakeholders in any country- and, above all, strategic leadership.

Unlocking these opportunities will not only help us on our path to a new global order- it will ensure it brings us peace, stability and progress- for all Mankind in this new Millennium. 

Shaukat Aziz is former Prime Minister of Pakistan.