Our Global Neighborhood

Report of the Commission on Global Governance

Chapter Two -- Values for the Global Neighbourhood

 The Preamble of the United Nations Charter pledged the resolve of the peoples of the world 'to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours'. Those who drafted these words were not the first to hold out a vision of one world in which all people are neighbours. A similar ideal had inspired the League of Nations earlier in the century. And long before that, philosophers and religious and political thinkers had spoken of 'the family of man'.

The commitment to care for others, to the highest quality of behaviour among human beings, is for many cultures embodied in the metaphor of being a 'good neighbour'. As human social organization has evolved to encompass knowledge of, and loyalty to, wider and wider human groups, the scope of neighbourly duties has expanded. Even in 1945, few could envision the world as one neighbourhood. But the changes of the last half- century have begun to transform the incipient global neighbourhood into a reality.

Neighbourhood Realities

Never before have so many people had so much in common, but never before have the things that divide them been so obvious.

The term 'global village' captured the impact of the electronic conquest of space. Technology, by telescoping distance and time, had made the world smaller. Photographs from space confirmed the insignificance of terrestrial frontiers. But much has happened since satellites first girdled the globe, and advances in transport and telecommunications are only one set of factors making neighbours of far- flung people.

As noted in Chapter One, trade, industrial development, transnational firms, and investment also link the world's different parts much more closely than before in a multitude of ways. Few developments have conveyed the sense of global interdependence as strongly as the growing evidence that all depend on the earth's ecological resources and are vulnerable in the face of their degradation. A thickening web of interdependence requires countries to work together.

Indeed, in the global neighbourhood, citizens have to co- operate for many purposes: to maintain peace and order, expand economic activity, tackle pollution, halt or minimize climate change, combat pandemic diseases, curb the spread of weapons, prevent desertification, preserve genetic and species diversity, deter terrorists, ward off famine, defeat economic recession, share scarce resources, arrest drug traffickers, and so on. Matters requiring nation- states to pool their efforts--in other words, calling for neighbourhood action--keep increasing.

What happens far away matters much more now. Aerosol use in Europe can cause skin cancers in South America. A crop failure in Russia can mean more hunger in Africa. Recession in North America can destroy jobs in Asia. Conflict in Africa can bring more asylum- seekers to Europe. Economic difficulties in Eastern Europe can lead to xenophobia in Western Europe. By the same token, economic vigour in East Asia can protect employment in the United States. Tariff changes in Europe can ease pressure on forests in the tropics. Industrial restructuring in the North can reduce poverty in the South, which in turn can enlarge markets for the North. The shortening of distance, the multiplying of links, the deepening of interdependence: all these factors, and their interplay, have been transforming the world into a neighbourhood.

Movements motivated by a sense of human identity transcending national divisions are another mark of the world's evolution into a neighbourhood. These transnational movements--in working to emancipate women, to protect human rights or the health of the planet, or to bring about a world without nuclear weapons--have underlined the common humanity of the world's inhabitants. But these developments are not sufficient to make the neighbourhood agreeable to all who live here.

The global neighbourhood we have today is, like most neighbourhoods, far from ideal; it has many imperfections. Its residents are not all fairly treated; they do not have the same opportunities. Millions are so deprived that they do not even think they belong to a neighbourhood, as the tides of progress of recent decades have passed them by. If the communications revolution has touched them, it has served to confirm their sense of isolation. This reaction does not disprove the emergence of a neighbourhood, but it does pose a challenge to its governance to reduce alienation among neighbours.

Nor, at another level, does the world's becoming a neighbourhood mean that the nation- state is no longer relevant. But states, as well as peoples, are challenged to devise ways to manage their affairs--to develop new approaches to governance for the global neighbourhood in the interests of all. Much of this report is about how the world might make the shared neighbourhood a satisfactory home for all its citizens.

Neighbourhood Tensions

Neighbourhoods are defined by proximity. Geography rather than communal ties or shared values brings neighbours together. People may dislike their neighbours, they may distrust or fear them, and they may even try to ignore or avoid them. But they cannot escape from the effects of sharing space with them. When the neighbourhood is the planet, moving to get away from bad neighbours is not an option.

The emerging global neighbourhood is forging new bonds of friendship and interest, but it is also creating new tensions. Never before have so many people had so much in common, but never before have the things that divide them been so obvious. In a vast, uncrowded space, diversity often goes unnoticed. As people bump against each other more frequently, however, even minor differences become more evident and more contentious.

Multicultural communities are facing strains in many parts of the world. The partition of British India and the green line dividing Cyprus bear witness to the failure of the modern state to reconcile community and territory by substituting nationality for entrenched religious, ethnic, or linguistic sources of identity. But so, too, do riots in U.S. cities or the burnt- out homes of Belfast. And now many industrial countries face the challenges of a new multiculturalism fuelled by post- war migration. The more that people accept the logic of growing interdependence of human society, the more ready they will be to seek opportunities to overcome destructive notions of 'otherness' and 'separateness', and to find ways to work together.

The ferment rippling across the global neighbourhood is a consequence of several changes discussed in Chapter One, notably the end of colonialism and of the cold war. In an equally important transformation, the industrial age is giving way to an uncertain post- industrial age. Traditional economic relationships are being rearranged; services are replacing manufacturing as the lifeblood of advanced economies. Entire sectors are being made obsolete and jobs eliminated. But new economic niches are opening up for some people, just as old ones are closing for others.

Change of such magnitude creates stresses within society. Some arise as people confront a complex and uncertain future. Others are created by a clash between the familiar and the different. People are being forced to come to terms with new circumstances. Many find themselves living among people previously considered strangers--and they are being asked to behave differently in public, in the workplace, and in the home.

Some stresses arise because great transformations do not affect everyone equally. Change benefits some, but disadvantages others. It gives authority to groups previously on the margins of power, while weakening the authority of groups accustomed to being in the driver's seat. Society is enriched by the increasing freedom of women to control their own lives and to shape and participate fully in governance structures, but changing understandings of gender roles involve difficult abandonment of deeply embedded attitudes and social mores.

At the international level, the traditional great powers face the demands of the rest of the world for a greater say in global governance, and stresses could increase as those demands are pressed. Stress is also caused by corrupt, criminal, and self- serving forces that exploit the instabilities created by change in the global neighbourhood.

As the physical and other boundaries that have separated communities, cultures, and states are eroded by waves of intellectual and technological change, cherished notions of citizenship, sovereignty, and self- determination are being challenged. There is less ideological contention and less global confrontation in the world of the 1990s.

Yet it is not a unipolar world, but a more plural one. It has the potential to foster a range of cultures and sources of personal identity much broader than either the United States or the Soviet Union could easily tolerate during the cold war, least of all at home. There is less call than in the past for ideological uniformity and cultural policing. All this means that this is, or could be, a better world. But a world order geared to the needs of the global neighbourhood is not yet in place.

Given the unsettling trends, it is no surprise that so many parts of the world are in turmoil, that so many communities feel threatened, and that so many people seem to be searching for direction and meaning. This makes it difficult to reach agreement on common action among the world's many governments, institutions, and peoples. But it also creates opportunities and puts pressure on the world community to fashion global governance to new realities.

In this chapter we reflect on the norms and values that should guide the world, the ethics that should inform life in the global neighbourhood. The Commission has been convinced from the outset that whatever ideas it advances for institutional and other change must be grounded in values that speak to the tasks facing the contemporary world.

Neighbourhood Ethics

The quality of global governance will be determined by several factors. High among them is the broad acceptance of a global civic ethic to guide action within the global neighbourhood, and courageous leadership infused with that ethic at all levels of society. Without a global ethic, the frictions and tensions of living in the global neighbourhood will multiply; without leadership, even the best- designed institutions and strategies will fail.

Being global neighbours requires new ways of perceiving each other as well as new ways of living. Few recognize this better or acknowledge it as clearly as did Barbara Ward when she wrote in a 1971 paper to the Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace:

The most important change that people can make is to change their way of looking at the world. We can change studies, jobs, neighbourhoods, even countries and continents and still remain much as we always were. But change our fundamental angle of vision and everything changes--our priorities, our values, our judgments, our pursuits. Again and again, in the history of religion, this total upheaval in the imagination has marked the beginning of a new life....a turning of the heart, a 'metanoia,' by which men see with new eyes and understand with new minds and turn their energies to new ways of living.

People have to see with new eyes and understand with new minds before they can truly turn to new ways of living. That is why global values must be the cornerstone of global governance. We believe that many people world- wide, particularly the young, are more willing to respond to these issues than their governments, for whom the short term in the context of political expediency tends to take precedence. People and governments alike need to pay greater heed to the interests of future generations, for whom this generation acts as trustee.

In our rapidly changing world, the standards and restraints provided by commonly accepted values and norms become ever more essential. Without them, it will be hard--if not impossible--to establish more effective and legitimate forms of global governance. These norms have to suit today's circumstances, which are radically different from those of previous eras in three important respects: the changing nature of violent conflicts in the world, which today often arise among people within states; the growing ability of private, independent actors both to provoke crises and to solve, or exacerbate, them; and the new understanding of the threats to the integrity of the planet and its life- support systems, and therefore to human survival.

As described in the remainder of this chapter, establishing an ethical dimension to global governance requires a threefold approach:

  • Enunciate and encourage commitment to core values concerned with the quality of life and relationships, and strengthen the sense of common responsibility for the global neighbourhood.
  • Express these values through a global civic ethic of specific rights and responsibilities that are shared by all actors, public and private, collective and individual.
  • Embody this ethic in the evolving system of international norms, adapting, where necessary, existing norms of sovereignty and self- determination to changing realities.

Neighbourhood Values

People should treat others as they would themselves wish to be treated.

We believe that action to improve global governance to cope with contemporary challenges would be greatly helped by a common commitment to a set of core values that can unite people of all cultural, political, religious, or philosophical backgrounds. These values must be appropriate to the needs of an increasingly crowded and diverse planet.

Despite the far- reaching changes outlined in Chapter One, states remain the single most important set of international actors. As long as this is true, traditional norms of interstate relations will provide a critical source of stability. But there is a need now to adapt some of these norms to new circumstances. It is fundamentally important that governance should be underpinned by democracy at all levels and ultimately by the rule of enforceable law (see Chapter Six).

In stable times, when the authority and capacity of established institutions is strong and secure, the fundamental values and principles guiding human behaviour are usually taken for granted. In unstable times, prevailing values are more likely to be doubted, questioned, or challenged. Paradoxically, then, values are often most in doubt when they are most needed. By providing a sense of direction, shared values can help people to see beyond immediate clashes of interest and act on behalf of a larger, long- term, mutual interest.

We believe that all humanity could uphold the core values of respect for life, liberty, justice and equity, mutual respect, caring, and integrity. These provide a foundation for transforming a global neighbourhood based on economic exchange and improved communications into a universal moral community in which people are bound together by more than proximity, interest, or identity. They all derive in one way or another from the principle, which is in accord with religious teachings around the world, that people should treat others as they would themselves wish to be treated. It is this imperative that was reflected in the call made in the UN Charter for recognition of 'the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family'.

Respect for Life

Respect for life and its corollary, non- violence, are vital to the well- being of any neighbourhood. Violence against persons negates the inherent dignity of all human beings. And its widespread use in diverse situations undermines humanity's claim to be civilized. Recent history is replete with instances of conflict and oppression in which human life has been treated with the utmost contempt and callousness. Extensive carnage, sometimes genocidal in intent and scale, has occurred in several parts of the world.

At a broader level, the security of people is imperilled by the culture of violence that has infected many societies, with a consequent loss of respect for human life. This trend is in some cases linked to political extremism of one kind or another, but elsewhere it is part of a breakup of the value systems that give stability to societies. The sanctity of life is a concept shared by people of all faiths as well as by secular humanists. Dealing with the political, economic, social, or other causes of violence and promoting the principle of non- violence are vital objectives of governance.


We believe that all human beings are born equal in their right to human dignity and are entitled to certain basic liberties: to define and express their own identity, to choose their form of worship, to earn a livelihood, to be free from persecution and oppression, to receive information. Basic liberties also include free speech, a free press, and the right to vote. Without these, the world becomes a battleground of warring individuals and groups, each seeking to protect its interests or to impose its authority on others.

Next to life, liberty is what people value most. In its richest conception, liberty is all that enables people to choose the paths of their lives and to become whatever they can be. The rights and entitlements people actually enjoy across the globe fall far short of attaining liberty in this sense. Global governance is fundamentally concerned with enhancing rights, capabilities, and well- being.

People around the world have become more aware of the possible threats to their liberty from a variety of forces and circumstances. The threat could come from autocratic rulers, from political groups that try to cling to power unlawfully or to usurp power, from action to suppress or drive out ethnic groups (sometimes even those who constitute a majority within a country), or from the collapse of a state and the accompanying anarchy. Even where order prevails, liberty is threatened by deprivation, economic dislocation, oppression based on gender or sexual orientation, abuse of children, debt bondage, and other social and economic patterns. The threat could also be external, from a state that turns predator, or even from an enterprise whose activities overwhelm a local community or its traditional culture.

The threat to liberty in any part of the global neighbourhood needs to be seen as a threat to the entire neighbourhood. Action against attempts to violate the right to liberty is a common responsibility.

Justice and Equity

Justice and equity are essential human values. Respect for them is indispensable for peace and progress, as their absence can give rise to resentment and be destabilizing. Although people are born into widely unequal economic and social circumstances, great disparities in their conditions or life chances are an affront to the human sense of justice. Where large numbers of citizens are treated unfairly or denied their due, and where gross inequalities are not addressed, discontent is inevitable and conflict likely. When people lived in a less integrated world, the inequities that mattered were local or national. Today, with the enlarged reach of the media, global disparities have become increasingly obvious. There is also wider recognition that many inequities are caused or sustained by developments in other, once distant places.

A concern for equity is not tantamount to an insistence on equality, but it does call for deliberate efforts to reduce gross inequalities, to deal with factors that cause or perpetuate them, and to promote a fairer sharing of resources. A broader commitment to equity and justice is basic to more purposeful action to reduce disparities and bring about a more balanced distribution of opportunities around the world. A commitment to equity everywhere is the only secure foundation for a more humane world order in which multilateral action, by blunting current disparities, improves global well- being as well as stability.

Equity needs to be respected as well in relationships between the present and future generations. The principle of intergenerational equity underlies the strategy of sustainable development, which aims to ensure that economic progress does not prejudice the chances of future generations by depleting the natural capital stock that sustains human life on the planet. Equity requires that this strategy is followed by all societies, both rich and poor.

Mutual Respect

Tolerance is indispensable for peaceful relations in any society. When it is transmuted into the more active attribute of mutual respect, the quality of relationships is distinctly raised. Mutual respect therefore offers a basis for making a plural society--which is what the global neighbourhood is--not only stable but one that values and is enriched by its diversity.

Throughout history, intolerance has tended to intensify in difficult or uncertain periods. Racial and religious extremism has shown a marked increase in many parts of the world recently. There have been virulent eruptions of ethnic animosities, and some nationalist movements have displayed xenophobic edges.

Neo- Fascist movements have appeared or gathered strength in some parts of Europe, and ethnic minorities have been early targets of their violence. Elsewhere, religious extremists have been ready to use violence to achieve their goals. Many civil conflicts have shown extreme levels of violence and brutality. Some assertions of particular identities may in part be a reaction against globalization and homogenization, as well as modernization and secularization. Whatever the causes, their common stamp is intolerance.

In several parts of the world, the resort to violence to achieve political ends has become the pattern. This has been most obvious in terrible civil conflicts, in such places as Afghanistan, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bosnia- Herzegovina, Liberia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, and Tajikistan, but it has also been evident in many societies where governments have used violence to suppress opposition or to forcibly incorporate unwilling groups.

The world community should reassert the importance of tolerance and respect for 'the other': respect for other people, other races, other beliefs, other sexual orientations, other cultures. It must be resolute in upholding these values and offering protection against the actions of those who would trample them. The guiding principle should be that all groups and individuals have a right to live as they see fit so long as they do not violate the coequal rights and liberties of others.


The quality of life in a society depends to a great extent on its members accepting a duty to care for their neighbours. Its sense of community and well- being are enhanced when more citizens are imbued by a spirit of care and concern for other citizens, whether deriving from African tradition, the Moslem obligation of hospitality, or the practices of other cultures.

Attitudes such as these generally lead a society to initiate action to alleviate distress and hardship and deal with problems of many kinds. The instincts of caring and compassion provide the impulse for humanitarian action--and for sharing with those less advantaged--that all societies need. In addition to motivating people to undertake voluntary action, the citizen's instinct of care can be a catalyst for action by official agencies.

The need for these qualities has deepened as the result of contemporary social trends that, while prominent only in industrial nations, have begun to show in other countries as well to varying degrees. These include tendencies towards looser family ties, more frequent marital breakup, a high incidence of single parents and elderly people in the population, and increasing anonymity in urban life.

In the global neighbourhood, the instinct of care must be given a global reach. Millions of people already demonstrate that they are moved by this when they help voluntary agencies that support anti- poverty projects or undertake humanitarian relief in different parts of the world. The ranks of those who are stirred by such instincts need to be enlarged. The task for governance is to encourage a sense of caring, through policies and mechanisms that facilitate co- operation to help those less privileged or needing comfort and support in the world.


Integrity is the basis of trust that is necessary in relationships among people and organizations as well as between them. Vital to the orderly functioning of any organization or society, it is of paramount importance in systems of governance at all levels. The quality of governance depends to a crucial degree on policy makers and those in positions of authority adhering to the highest principles and ideals.

The importance of integrity is underlined by the enlarging evidence of fraud and corruption of many kinds among persons in high positions in both public life and the private sector. Ranging from bribery to insider dealing to money- laundering, corruption is a form of social pollution that weakens democratic governance. People are its main victims, and it is their insistence on the highest standards of public and business conduct that can ensure that integrity prevails. The widest concern with standards of integrity and commitment to upholding them must be a feature of the global neighbourhood.

A Global Civic Ethic

Over the long run, rights can only be preserved if they are exercised responsibly and with due respect for the reciprocal rights of others.

The realities of the emerging global neighbourhood require that, in addition to promoting the values just described, we should develop a global ethic that applies equally to all those involved in world affairs. Its efficacy will depend on the ability of people and governments to transcend narrow self- interests and agree that the interests of humanity as a whole will be best served by acceptance of a set of common rights and responsibilities.

The global ethic we envisage would help humanize the impersonal workings of bureaucracies and markets and constrain the competitive and self- serving instincts of individuals and groups. Put differently, it would seek to ensure that international society is imbued by a civic spirit.

An important consequence of the emergence of a global neighbourhood is that national civil societies have begun to merge into a broader global civil society. Groups of many kinds are reaching out and establishing links with counterparts in other parts of the world. Without the objectives and limits that a global ethic would provide, however, global civil society could become unfocused and even unruly. That could make effective global governance difficult.

Rights and Responsibilities

During the past fifty years, the world has made great progress in elaborating universal human rights. This process began with the drafting of the United Nations Charter and has been furthered by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; by conventions on civil and political rights and on economic, social, and cultural rights; by regional human rights charters; and by the Declaration on the Rights and Duties of States. Almost all governments have signed or subscribed to at least one of these treaties, conventions, or declarations. They provide an important starting point for a global ethic, but they need to be supplemented in two important ways.

First, as presently conceived, rights are almost entirely defined in terms of the relationship between people and governments. We believe it is now important to begin to think of rights in broader terms by recognizing that governments are only one source of threats to human rights and, at the same time, that more and more often, government action alone will not be sufficient to protect many human rights. This means that all citizens, as individuals and as members of different private groups and associations, should accept the obligation to recognize and help protect the rights of others.

Second, rights need to be joined with responsibilities. The tendency to emphasize rights while forgetting responsibilities has deleterious consequences. Over the long run, rights can only be preserved if they are exercised responsibly and with due respect for the reciprocal rights of others.

We therefore urge the international community to unite in support of a global ethic of common rights and shared responsibilities. In our view, such an ethic--reinforcing the fundamental rights that are already part of the fabric of international norms--would provide the moral foundation for constructing a more effective system of global governance. It should encompass the rights of all people to:

* a secure life,

* equitable treatment,

* an opportunity to earn a fair living and provide for their own welfare,

* the definition and preservation of their differences through peaceful means,

* participation in governance at all levels,

* free and fair petition for redress of gross injustices,

* equal access to information, and

* equal access to the global commons.

At the same time, all people share a responsibility to:

* contribute to the common good;

* consider the impact of their actions on the security and welfare of others;

* promote equity, including gender equity;

* protect the interests of future generations by pursuing sustainable development and safeguarding the global commons;

* preserve humanity's cultural and intellectual heritage;

* be active participants in governance; and

* work to eliminate corruption.

We believe this list of rights and responsibilities is the minimum basis for progress in building a more civil global society. In the final analysis, each individual and institution will have to decide exactly what is required to live up to these responsibilities. Over time, we hope that these principles could be embodied in a more binding international document--a global Charter of Civil Society--that could provide a basis for all to agree on rules that should govern the global neighbourhood.

The Democratic Tide

The spread of democracy has been one of the most heartening trends of recent years. It is democracy that can ensure that a country's affairs are conducted--and its development directed--in ways that respond to the interests and wishes of the people. Democracy provides the environment within which the protection of the fundamental rights of citizens is best safeguarded. It offers the most favourable foundation for peace and stability in international relations. Though democratic regimes may not all or always be virtuous, even recent history suggests that autocratic regimes are more likely to behave aggressively.

The recent tide of democratization has swept away many autocratic systems and several leaders who had clung to power for too long. Multiparty elections have been held in a large number of countries, allowing the public for the first time a real choice in who governs them. The implanting of a democratic culture is, however, not an instant or easy process. While many parties may emerge quickly and electors embrace their new opportunities with enthusiasm, the traditions of democratic behaviour and the institutions that support them take time to become established.

Elections are therefore only a first step on the democratic road, but they are a profoundly important one. The legitimacy of administrations depends on elections being free and fair--and being widely seen by electors to be so. International monitors observing elections, and pronouncing on their conduct, have been performing a useful service in many countries, with the UN, other international institutions, governments, and civil society contributing to the success of these exercises.

We welcome the efforts now under way to provide institutional support for the improvement and consolidation of the democratic electoral process world- wide. The experience of recent efforts to monitor elections and to train election officials points to the need to broaden the understanding of the norms, rules, and guidelines that apply to democratic processes. It is also necessary to strengthen national capacity to develop the full range of democratic instruments. Much research and analysis is needed. We believe that all those now involved in these efforts would benefit from closer institutional co- operation for the support of electoral processes.

As events in Haiti and Angola have demonstrated, international support for democratic transformation should not always end with the election returns. It needs to be sustained in some cases through a physical presence and almost always by support for long- term development.

The withdrawal of restrictions on political activity and free expression following the shift to democratic systems has in some countries allowed the emergence of movements that seek to deny the rights of others. Many newly created democratic systems have also to devise ways to reconcile conflicting demands and interests before they imperil national stability. Such difficulties are, of course, not exclusive to new democracies, and many countries with long democratic traditions have been troubled by the strains inherent in plural societies.

A wide variety of democratic constitutional models exists, and different models are suited to different traditions and social contexts. Although the winner- takes- all system of parliamentary democracy, for example, may have been successful in some countries, in others it clearly failed to ensure the rights of minorities or preserve national cohesion through conciliatory approaches. In this context, other constitutional models that have recently emerged may warrant serious consideration. In Francophone Africa, for example, some countries (Benin, Congo, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, and Togo) have recently developed the practice of holding a national conference in which all major political parties and forces are brought together to determine the political destiny of the country. This arrangement has worked well in ensuring a peaceful and consensual transition to multiparty democracy. In South Africa, the concept of a national compact has been carried a step further to include a power- sharing arrangement during a five- year transition period.

Whether through voting systems, coalitions, separation of powers, or other means, a way must be found within democratic systems for opposition voices to be heard and taken into account. Governments will govern, but governments- in- waiting need to be listened to even while they wait. Where, as in all too many countries, national reconciliation is a matter of pre- eminent need, creative approaches to power- sharing must be developed in the interest of good governance.

Centrifugal forces are not the only hazards for democracy. In a number of countries, democracy has suffered because the military has gained too dominant a position within the national polity. The countries where people have to put up with rule by soldiers are now fewer than they used to be. But even when soldiers are not in power, a high profile for the military, besides distorting the distribution of national expenditure and reducing the share devoted to development and other social purposes, can produce traits that undermine democracy and are hostile to a free society. The military ethos is inherently authoritarian and secretive. Particularly in developing countries in which the armed services is one of the few sectors offering stable, well- paid employment, the appeal of the soldier's uniform can be an unhealthy influence. The military's ascendance can be related in some cases to the instability arising from the action of dissatisfied minority groups. This further underlines the importance of strengthening the capacity of democratic systems to reconcile competing claims.

Societies in which there are deep and expanding social or economic disparities face enormous obstacles, whether in creating or maintaining democracy. Citizens who must struggle daily to meet basic needs and who see no possibility of improving their circumstances are unlikely to have either the interest, or the ability, to work on behalf of democratization. To be sustainable, democracy must include the continuing prospect of contributing to the prosperity and well- being of citizens.

As a result of the transformations of the past four decades, the participation of people in governance is now more critical than ever. Governments that do not have the active support of their people are finding it more and more difficult to survive. But democracy is not merely a matter of voting. It is a dynamic process, involving a commitment to democratic principles and institutions that meet the needs of citizens routinely and in times of crisis. Truly democratic institutions continuously engage people directly in a multiplicity of ways. The gap between governments and citizens needs to be narrowed. A viable democracy requires an active civil society. At its best, civil society is citizens acting in pursuit of a range of interests, many of which have implications for public policy. There is, at the same time, a need to ensure democratic functioning in the many institutions of civil society. Their leaders should be held to the same standards of accountability as political leaders.

Good governance requires good government. And government depends not only on state structures, but on political power. Political parties have key functions in a democracy. Yet in the debate about democracy and civil organizations, little attention is given to political parties. There is a widespread need to improve the way parties work, to attract more participants to the democratic process. To function, parties need resources; to avoid corruption, they should open their finances to public scrutiny. Political parties, a crucial part of national civil society, also have a role in the growing global civil society. Politics is vital for transforming values into action.

There is a symbiotic relationship between state, civil society, individual citizens, and democratic structures; together they set the framework and provide the substance of democratic governance. Not all democracies look alike, however. The form that a democracy takes is determined by a country's governing traditions and experience, by the economic and social conditions of its citizens, and by the nature of the democratic institutions that exist or emerge.

Nevertheless, there is a consensus that democracy, whatever form it may take, is a global entitlement, a right that should be available and protected for all. At the same time, some international standards are emerging with respect to democracy and to the systematic monitoring of compliance with democratic norms. The development of international human rights law and of procedures for international monitoring of elections underscores the links between national and international efforts to promote democracy.

The emergence of a global civil society is an important precondition of democracy at the global level, although it cannot guarantee it. More and more people are making connections across borders and developing relationships based on common concerns and issues: the environment, human rights, peace, women's roles, and many others. Advances in communications have greatly facilitated the process. The information and communication revolutions are helping to diffuse power throughout society, often transferring it from hierarchical structures to small groups, and increasing the ability of dispersed groups to communicate. Indeed, computer- based networking capabilities are giving new form and strength to civil society and facilitating partnerships with intergovernmental institutions.

It is easy to exaggerate the impact of these revolutions, however. An infinitely smaller percentage of the people in developing countries than in industrial ones is currently included in this process of interaction. The vast majority are currently left out. More significant, perhaps, this partial democratization of communications and information has been accompanied by the concentration of telecommunications and media power in the hands of a small number of private firms. Technological advance seldom unambiguously or permanently favours democracy over tyranny any more than it favours defence against attack. Yet the spread of the new technology has been so rapid that it is hard not to conclude that it will be generally used before long and that the net effect will be to favour democracy.

Combating Corruption

Corruption is a world- wide phenomenon affecting both the public and private sectors, compromising the processes of legislation and administration, regulation, and privatization. Corrupt dealings between the worlds of business and politics at very high levels have come to light in recent years in dozens of countries, both industrial and developing. The widening operations of international drug rings have been a fertile source of corruption in both drug- producing and consuming countries. The expansion in organized criminal activity, particularly evident in some former socialist countries, has been another. The Mafia's role in corruption on both sides of the Atlantic has been legendary.

In a number of developing countries, corruption flourished under despotic rulers as well as under democratic regimes. Vast sums that should have been in government treasuries to be spent on national objectives were siphoned off to be invested or banked abroad. The people of these countries were effectively robbed. The great powers that supported corrupt rulers in the full knowledge of their venality must share the blame. So must the banks that help stash away ill- gotten funds and launder the money of drug dealers and other criminals.

Most opportunities for significant corruption in developing countries arise in interactions between their politicians and officials and the business sector in industrial countries. The latter, which includes arms manufacturers, is too often ready to offer sweeteners to secure contracts and orders. The business community of the industrial world has not lived up to its responsibility for ensuring that its members follow ethical business practices.

The strengthening of democracy and accountability is an antidote to corruption. While they are no guarantees against corrupt practices, as so many democracies confirm, a free society with vigorous, independent media and a watchful civil society raises the chances of the detection, exposure, and punishment of corruption. Public servants who respect the highest traditions of service to the public are another defence against the spread of corrupt practices. While action within countries remains critical, there is much scope for co- operation among national law enforcement agencies, not only in such specific areas as drug trafficking but more generally in the fight against corruption world- wide. The need for early action against criminal syndicates, before they have time to entrench themselves, has been underlined by recent experience. It is also important that the privatization of state- owned companies should be carried out without any taint of irregularity, so that the process of economic reform, of which privatization forms a part, is not discredited.

In 1990, the South Commission, chaired by former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, addressed the issue of corruption in its report, The Challenge to the South. We endorse the points made there:

In the South, the excessive concentration of economic power in the hands of the government and the corporate sector, poverty, insecurity, and the underpayment of public personnel also account for some of these undesirable practices. So do corrupting influences from Northern sources related, but not confined, to obtaining profitable contracts and to the trade in arms and the illicit traffic in drugs.

Regardless of these factors, governments must bear a large part of the responsibility for corruption in the South. By and large they have not regarded its eradication as a priority, despite its acknowledged economic, social, and political costs. Higher standards of integrity in public life could do much to strengthen the people's confidence in governments and the sense of community and civic responsibility. The issue bears not solely on venality in the public sector, but on encouragement and facilitation of corruption within society through governmental mismanagement, authoritarianism, inadequate systems of control and public accountability, and militarization. The genuine democratization of political structures can go a long way to arresting these harmful activities. Sustained progress must rely on the effective functioning of democratic processes. It is also necessary to minimize the scope for discretionary controls in the management of the economy, thereby reducing the temptations for arbitrariness. Since discretionary controls cannot be dispensed with altogether, built- in safeguards must be provided to avoid their misuse by the authorities.

Democracy and Legitimacy

While a global civic ethic is needed to improve the quality of life in the global neighbourhood, effective governance also requires democratic and accountable institutions and the rule of law. In the past, governance and law used to be almost entirely national concerns. Democracy was defined primarily in terms of the role of national and regional governments, and the enforcement of the rule of law was seen as the responsibility of national courts. Today, this is no longer adequate.

As at the national level, so in the global neighbourhood: the democratic principle must be ascendant. The need for greater democracy arises out of the close linkage between legitimacy and effectiveness. Institutions that lack legitimacy are seldom effective over the long run. Hence, as the role of international institutions in global governance grows, the need to ensure that they are democratic also increases.

It is time to make a larger reality of that 'sovereign equality' of states that the UN Charter spoke of in 1945, but that it compromised in a later article in allowing a superior status to a few nations. Particularly in the context of the moral underpinnings of a new world order, nation- states and their people cannot but question the double standards that demand democracy at the national level but uphold its curtailment at the international level. There will always be differences of size and strength between countries, as there are between individuals within countries. But the principle of equality of status as members of the body politic is as important in the community of states as it is in any national or local community. The ethic of equality before the law is essential to guard against the temptation to authoritarianism--the predilection of the strong to impose their will and exercise dominion over the weak.

We do not imply that there is a need at the global level for a carbon copy of national democratic systems. There are differences between the two levels, but the norms of democracy must be pursued in both. The fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations is an appropriate time to reassert the primacy of the democratic principle. We address this question in Chapter Five when discussing the Security Council, and put forward there proposals for its reform. It arises as well in other institutional arrangements, such as the voting structures of the Bretton Woods institutions, for which we also recommend a more democratic basis.

Democracy has to do with the exercise of power and the recognition that imposition and coercion, however contrived, are unacceptable and in the end unworkable. Fifty years after the end of the conflict whose victors saw the need to assume special privileges and special responsibilities, the time has come for the world to advance towards more contemporary norms. As we approach the twenty- first century, there is no ideal more dominant than that of democracy. In many ways, the UN is a custodian of our highest ideals. We do a great disservice to its standing, and ultimately its capacities, if we make it an exception to that most basic principle, or if beyond the system itself we acquiesce in arrangements that diminish democracy at the level of the global neighbourhood.

The rule of law has been the ethical cornerstone of every free society; respect for it is at least as essential to the global neighbourhood as to the national one. Global governance without law would be a contradiction in terms. Its primacy is a precondition of effective global governance. In Chapter Six, we make recommendations for strengthening the rule of law world- wide.

Adapting Old Norms

Countries are having to accept that in certain fields sovereignty has to be exercised collectively.

Despite the use of the words 'we the peoples' in the opening line of the UN Charter, the post- war order was designed primarily to serve a world of states. Its architects assumed that states were the principal international forces. This assumption is reflected in the institutions they created and the norms they articulated.

In this respect, creating the UN system was simply a development in the continuing evolution of the system of international relations based on the sovereign rights of territorial states. This system was influenced most heavily by the development of the European state system, symbolized by the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. It took a long time to shift gradually from a Eurocentric order based on the primacy of great powers to a world- wide order supported by universal norms. The post-World War I Versailles Peace Conference of 1919 represented one phase in this shift, and the San Francisco conference in 1945 was a further step. Even now the shift is not wholly complete, but at least a system based on universal norms is in place.

Over the years, a large number of these norms have been defined, elaborated, and reiterated by a stream of declarations, conventions, and treaties. Two of central importance are sovereignty and self- determination.


Sovereignty--the principle that a state has supreme authority over all matters that fall within its territorial domain--is the cornerstone of the modern interstate system. Three other important norms stem from this central principle. First, that all sovereign states, large and small, have equal rights. Second, that the territorial integrity and political independence of all sovereign states are inviolable. And third, that intervention in the domestic affairs of sovereign states is not permissible. Throughout the post- war era, these three norms provided a crucial source of international stability. Because they were widely accepted, overt aggression against sovereign states was remarkably rare. And when it occurred, the international balance was heavily tilted against the aggressor.

These norms, and the claim that only the state could legitimately use force within its territory, also strengthened the ability of states to suppress dissenting voices. They served to increase the resources and support at the disposal of incumbent governments, while denying resources and support to dissidents. They have also restricted overt intervention by big powers in the internal affairs of small states, though they have failed to provide complete protection against intervention, much less subversion. Without these norms, the world would be much more insecure and less peaceful. Aggression and subversion would be far more common, and the small and weak constantly at the mercy of the big and powerful.

Sovereignty ultimately derives from the people. It is a power to be exercised by, for, and on behalf of the people of a state. Too often, however, this principle has been misused. In some cases, powerful countries have used their claimed sovereign right as a sword against weaker countries. In other cases, rulers have exercised their control of the instruments of government to usurp the prerogatives that flow from it. They have monopolized the benefits that derive from membership in the international community. They have used sovereignty to shield themselves against international criticism of brutal and unjust policies. And in its name they have denied their citizens free and open access to the world.

For these reasons, existing norms regarding sovereign equality, territorial independence, and non- intervention need to be strengthened in two ways. First, efforts must be made to ensure that they are universally enforced. Double standards must be eliminated: states should not be free to seek the protection that sovereignty affords at one moment and then ignore the limits it imposes at another. Second, ways must be found to ensure that those in power do not abuse sovereignty. The exercise of sovereign power must be linked to the will of the people. Unless the abuse of sovereignty is stopped, it will be impossible to increase respect for the norms that flow from it.

In an increasingly interdependent world, old notions of territoriality, independence, and non- intervention lose some of their meaning. National boundaries are increasingly permeable--and, in some important respects, less relevant. A global flood of money, threats, images, and ideas has overflowed the old system of national dikes that preserved state autonomy and control. The movement of people is still subject to rigid frontier controls, though these may sometimes be relaxed or overwhelmed when wars, famines, and other emergencies provoke people to seek safety. Territorial sovereignty is, however, under pressure from illicit crossborder movements, and there is concern in many countries that political or economic developments could add to these flows.

It is now more difficult to separate actions that solely affect a nation's internal affairs from those that have an impact on the internal affairs of other states, and hence to define the legitimate boundaries of sovereign authority. For example, changes in the interest rate policies of Germany, Japan, or the United States can have immediate effects on the national debt and employment prospects of countries all around the world; turmoil in Haiti and Russia can create economic, social, and political tensions in Miami and Berlin; environmental policies made in Washington can affect employment and pollution levels in Rio de Janeiro. Increasingly, countries are having to accept that in certain fields sovereignty has to be exercised collectively, particularly in respect of the global commons. Moreover, in today's world, most serious threats to national sovereignty and territorial integrity often have internal roots, and there is often criticism of other governments for wanting to stay aloof rather than for intervening.

For all these reasons, the principle of sovereignty and the norms that derive from it must be further adapted to recognize changing realities. States continue to perform important functions, and must have the powers to fulfil these functions effectively. But these must rest on the continuing consent and democratic representation of the people. They are also limited by the fundamental interests of humanity, which in certain severe circumstances must prevail over the ordinary rights of particular states.

Nothing brings this issue more forcefully to the fore than the question of 'humanitarian intervention'. Most threats to the physical security of people now arise from deteriorating situations within countries, from civil war and ethnic conflict, from humanitarian emergencies--natural or caused by humans--and, in extreme cases, from the collapse of civil order. Sometimes more than one of these factors could be present, or one could lead to another.

When there is human suffering on a large scale as a result of such factors, it inevitably provokes demands for UN action, notwithstanding the fact that such action would constitute external interference in the affairs of sovereign states. Small and less powerful states in particular have seen sovereignty and territorial inviolability as their main defence against more powerful, predatory countries, and they have looked to the world community to uphold these norms.

Where people are subjected to massive suffering and distress, however, there is a need to weigh a state's right to autonomy against its people's right to security. Recent history shows that extreme circumstances can arise within countries when the security of people is so extensively imperilled that external collective action under international law becomes justified. Such action should be taken as far as possible with the consent of the authorities in the country; but this will not always be possible, and we have put forward in Chapter Three proposals in this regard. It is important that any such action should be a genuinely collective undertaking by the world community--that is, that it should be undertaken by the United Nations or authorized by it and carried out under its control, as the UN so vigorously tried to ensure in the former Yugoslavia.

The United Nations may stumble and even fail from time to time, but so has every country that has ever assumed a role of leadership. In the global neighbourhood, a primary duty of everyone--states and people alike--is to support, not usurp, neighbourhood action. It is also essential that UN action should follow principled criteria. It should be consistent and even- handed; above all, it should not be unduly influenced by powerful nations, within a region or globally. An activist UN will not long survive as a legitimate and effective actor if it is used as a cover for the intervention of particular states.

The readiness of the Security Council to authorize UN action, including military action, in support of humanitarian purposes represents a proper and necessary evolution of the exercise of international responsibility. So far, the Charter has proved capable of accommodating it, albeit not comfortably or perhaps sustainably. This is a dimension of internationalism that must be developed with care and circumspection and within the framework of the constraints just mentioned. Ideally, humanitarian efforts undertaken by the UN will come to be seen as neighbourhood action motivated by the highest purposes of collective support for the security of people--of neighbours. And, as discussed in Chapter Three, it must be clearly authorized by the Charter and taken under it, not on an ad hoc or arbitrary basis.

Self- Determination

The second core principle of the existing international order is self- determination. Not as venerable as sovereignty, it derives from the rise of democracy and the national idea, both of which contributed to the consolidation of divided European principalities into modern nation- states, the collapse of European empires in the Americas, and the breakup of the Habsburg and Ottoman empires.

The Versailles Peace Conference after World War I recognized the principle of self- determination, but it was not until the founding of the United Nations in 1945 that it became an effective norm equally applicable world- wide. Throughout the post- war era, self- determination was generally viewed as a right limited to territorially defined populations living under colonial rule. As such, it played a crucial role in the process of decolonization that has brought a succession of new sovereign states into being.

During the past decade, two kinds of developments have occurred that have forced the world to re- examine the issue of self- determination. The first was the breakup of countries, the two most dramatic being the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Both were multinational federations that had been held together by iron- fisted central governments. With the political cataclysms of the early 1990s, these governments lost both their legitimacy and their power--and the constituent national units were able to become independent states. Similar, albeit much more peaceful, negotiated separations occurred in Czechoslovakia and in Ethiopia, where there had earlier been a protracted conflict. While the violent and unsettling consequences of the Soviet and Yugoslav breakups have raised serious concerns about the exercise of the right of self- determination, it is arguable whether they involve any new issues of principle.

A much more far- reaching development is the growing assertion of a right to self- determination by indigenous populations and other communities in many parts of the world. In these cases, self- determination involves a complex chain of historical and other questions that go far beyond the issue of establishing a new state on the basis of a pre- existing territorial entity. Issues of identity, human rights, and empowerment that have little to do with previous boundaries are also involved.

Self- determination is a right of all nations and peoples, as long as it is consistent with respect for other nations and peoples. The challenge now is to find ways to define and protect this right in the environment of the global neighbourhood. It is becoming ever more difficult to resolve the problems raised by competing claims to self- determination on the basis of separate nationhood for each claimant. A process of territorial dismemberment could be set in motion that would leave much of the world far worse off and would greatly increase insecurity and instability. Moreover, redrawing maps will not succeed in reducing injustice and the risks of civil strife if the new states still lack workable formulas to reconcile conflicting claims to authority, resources, status, or land.

The problem is not made easier by the absence of any clear definition of what constitutes 'a people' or 'a nation'. It is time to begin to think about self- determination in a new context--the emerging context of a global neighbourhood rather than the traditional context of a world of separate states.

The demand for separation and the resort to violence in support of it often follow the frustration of constitutional efforts to secure less drastic changes. This points to the importance of governments being sensitive to the aspirations of ethnic or other groups that feel alienated or threatened. Most of the nearly 200 nation- states in the world consist of more than one ethnic group. There is consequently considerable scope for discord and conflict over the sharing of resources and authority and the policies that governments follow. But there is also a positive side to pluralism as manifest in several successful multiethnic states. Diversity need not become a cause for division. A challenge to governance is to make it a source of enrichment.

If tragedies are not to be multiplied one- hundredfold, concern for the interests of all citizens, of whatever racial, tribal, religious, or other affiliation, must be high among the values informing the conduct of people in the world that has now become a neigh-bourhood. There must be respect for their rights, in particular for their right to lead lives of dignity, to preserve their culture, to share equitably in the fruits of national growth, and to play their part in the governance of the country. Peace and stability in many parts of the world could be endangered if these values are neglected. The world community needs to strengthen protection of these rights, even as it discourages the urge to secede that their frustration can breed. Governance in the global neighbourhood faces no stronger challenge.

  • Cover page
  • Chapter 1 A New World
  • Chapter 2 Values for a Global Neighborhood
  • Chapter 3 Promoting Security
  • Chapter 4 Managing Economic Interdependence
  • Chapter 5 Reforming the United Nations
  • Chapter 6 Strengthening the Rule of Law World-Wide
  • Chapter 7 A Call to Action