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Global Government

Submitted by on 14 Sep 2011 – 13:39

Sir Harold Atcherley Sir Harold Atcherley, former businessman and public figure

Governments around the world will be increasingly challenged in the 21st century by a whole series of global problems, which will somehow have to be solved. The most obvious ones are the continuing population explosion, water, food and energy supplies, not to mention the effect of climate change. Any one of these could well be the cause of a future war unless appropriate action is taken.

The need for us to be better prepared to face them should be obvious to all. Muhammad El Baradei, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate wrote in an article in Prospect last month that our politics does not sufficiently take into account the increasingly globalised nature of society. The mechanisms for global government are consequently in dire need of a serious rethink. More specifically he considers that the permanent membership of the Security Council, unchanged since the UN was established almost seventy years ago, needs to be enlarged as it no longer represents the world of today. How right he is.

Enlargement of the permanent membership has been under discussion for the last 20 years or so without any action being taken, in spite of statements of support by present members, in particular the Russian President, Dmitri Medvedev. New members should clearly include those countries which have already been proposed, namely: India, Germany, Japan and Brazil.

It has been estimated that worldwide military expenditure last year alone amounted to $1.6 trillion. Expenditure on international development assistance by contrast was only $129 billion. Nothing could illustrate more starkly the folly of believing that international security, or indeed that of any nation or region, can ever be enhanced by investing such an appalling amount on weapons and so little on development – a ratio of 12 to 1.

The Security Council should be able to respond much earlier to the threat of armed conflicts and to make this effective there should be – to use El Baradei’s words – a “humanitarian force which would stand ready to intervene to prevent the kind of slaughter currently taking place in Syria and elsewhere”.

Had we already had in place the sort of global organization envisaged by  El Baradei and permanent membership of the Security Council, it is unlikely that Britain or the US would have embarked on such ill conceived adventures as they did in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, without the faintest idea of what the outcome might be.

There are, furthermore, lessons to be learned from the slow and inadequate   reaction to starvation facing so many millions of people in the Horn of Africa. This is not a new phenomenon. Voluntary organizations have shown a much greater sense of urgency than governments. Such disasters should be anticipated by the establishment of UN depots at strategic centres around the world where adequate emergency supplies of food, water and medical equipment could be stored for speedy delivery.

A year ago David Cameron rightly stressed the importance of long term thinking on the part of government, but so far there is little sign that his words have had any effect. Given the influence that the Government believes Britain continues to have around the world, it would seem to be a great opportunity for the Prime Minister to take a statesman-like lead in promoting the reforms so badly needed and see them through.