In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Political Commentary on President of Slovenia’s lecture at University of Bosphorus in Istanbul

Posted by smeddum on May 29, 2009

Political Commentary on President of Slovenia’s lecture at University of Bosphorus in Istanbul
May 29, 12:34 AM ·

It is worth mentioning that Chavez, now thinks that China, with much supporting evidence, is leading the world.


During his first official visit to Turkey since being inaugurated as the President of the Republic of Slovenia in November 2007, Dr. Danilo Turk gave a lecture on May 21st at the University of Bosphorus in Istanbul entitled “Multilateralism in an Era of Uncertainty: The Role of the Institutions in the System of the United Nations.” 

Having read his speech, one of the things that stuck out to me was his observation that big economic powers like China, India and others compete and that they are relatively peaceful in the way that they compete.  He suggests that happiness is the appropriate response to competition being of a peaceful nature in today’s world.  He continues by asking the question how does the world organize for that competition?  From his perspective, he sees this remaining as an open question and he observes that at a recent meeting of the group of G20 in London he saw a pattern of competitiveness mixed with cooperativeness.

He also observes that the world of today is more one of ‘polycentricity’ rather than multipolarity.  By his meaning, from President Turk’s perspective, the word ‘polycentricity’ is different than ‘multipolarity.’  In most of my reading, including The Carnegie Moscow CenterThe World Public Forum (WFP) Dialogue of Civilizations, and Cambridge Journals, the words are interchangeable, however they both suggest what the President of Slovenia suggests and, that is, that there is one paramount power, the US, and it is active in every field of the world.  Other regional powers that are more regionally defined have more limited agendas.  He stresses that the situation of the world now needs a certain degree of rebalance since there are new powers on the world’s stage. 

From my perspective, I find the President of Slovenia’s assessment interesting in seeing the dominant importance of the United States in the foreseeable future while adjusting to include the perspectives of the other powers that are becoming more active or continue to be active in global matters. The US flexes its muscle by working with various regional powers toward defining a better world and has been doing so for decades.  This includes working with regional powers like China, Japan, Russia, France, Brazil, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa, Australia and others.  The acceptance of the emergence of these power centers has occurred before, for instance by former Secretary of State Colin Powell, in his essay on the “Broad U.S. Strategy of Partnerships.” Additionally, the US continues to take steps in current events in willingly working with emerging powers cooperatively in international forums.  

However, many of these regional powers are not only using the prism of US policy in formulating their own foreign policies.  Although good relations with the United States are critical, it seems that some experts have debated for the primacy of international law in the polycentric (multipolar) world. Some world leaders like the President of Slovenia may be seen as challenging US primacy with the notion that rebalancing is basically what is necessary since there are other regional powers on the world’s stage. Some research fellows have argued that multi-polarity does not exactly equal anti-US positions.  In fact several experts, including Dr. Dale Walton, in his book “Geopolitics and the Great Powers in the Twenty-First Century,” argue that Washington can play a key role in regional affairs by operating in a different political context. 

In this new context, I think that, given that many countries perceive the unipolar era as one that was conflict-prone and unstable, it is vital to see what the President of Slovenia discusses as a central question of US policy for the future. The fact that BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) is working toward becoming the new economic tigers according to Anthony Ling, managing director of Goldman Sachs International, and that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has fostered economic and investment cooperation regionally demonstrates that countries seem more willing to work on common problems using multilateral frameworks. This is also true with the work of ASEAN and CSTO. 

From my perspective, the US can benefit from learning from its past by developing multilateral foreign relations with countries by entering into cooperative dialogues with global leaders and make certain that the brand of multilateralism is acceptable.  Rather than overlook the importance of multilateral decision-making that are absent of intimidation and uncooperative competitive practices, the US can lean toward mutual support while safeguarding its interests and working with countries that wish to have mutually beneficial relations with the US. 

Many countries want to work with the United States within international institutions like the United Nations toward building a better future, and move beyond the unipolar world that caused a great deal of strained foreign relations, since the early 1990s.  Relations that are established using less of a zero-sum approach and more of a non-zero-sum approach in diplomacy would benefit bilateral as well as multilateral relations, while keeping in mind the outcome of the policies. 

From a mind-set that looks toward the well-being of individuals who rely on governments to govern in their interests, institutions like the United Nations, should look at how to best create well-being in neighborhoods and in countries by working with governments toward healing rifts between countries and various interest groups.  Member States of the United Nations can change to meet the demands of today’s polycentricity.    However, it is still critical that while acknowledging the rising power of regional powers like China and Europe, India and Russia, that a position of permanent inferiority is not assumed in the rise of competing multilateral initiatives.  Certainly, the US will have to make sure that countries who rejected the American multilateralism of the Bush administration and Clinton’s second term do not reject the brand of American multilateralism being implemented.

As far as international organizations, the President of Slovenia recommends a major reform of the United Nation’s Security Council as well as the IMF.  For the IMF, he suggests that the IMF needs to be reformed in terms of different balances of decision-makers, new ones where the process is consensus-building.  For the Security Council, he is less specific and more open to suggestions, however stressing the need for rebalancing in decision-making that does justice to the emerging polycentric world.  As far as how he suggests that the Human Rights Council of the UN could reform, he states that it is important to look at the political nature of states and their limitations when it comes to human rights and that it is important that people be careful about their expectations of states on this matter.  

I agree with the President of Slovenia in his assessment that countries that join the Human Rights Council should not simply join or be members in order to play a blame game and continue to criticize each other forever.  Instead, a dialogue that rises above finger pointing toward building solutions that address the human rights violations would lead to a much more productive dialogue. Although it would have been nice to have seen him mention the importance of a bottom-up approach to diplomacy that stresses the importance of civil society in inspiring cross-cultural relations in today’s polycentric world, these are uncertain times, and while we become more aware of the merits of transactional diplomacy rather than transformational diplomacy, it’s nice to see the President of Slovenia address the need to rebalance and rethink the globalized world.    



For more info:  Lecture by the President of Slovenia

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