Two visions and schools of political analysis are emerging in the current COVID-19 pandemic era. The first is ambitious, seeking to lay the foundations for a new form of international relations, based on collective and multilateral action to face health, environmental, economic, security and political challenges. It further seeks a new prosperous, participatory world with concepts that exalt scientific research and its results, in which countries exchange experiences, knowledge, tools and tasks that improve everyone’s ability to tackle pandemics, economic risks and fluctuations.
A vision that is based on belief in science and technology, and academics as a source of national wealth for their countries of origin and the rest of the world.
It believes in the importance of white armies, complementing traditional armies in preserving the concept of a new development for national security that includes the health of societies and the environment, as well as attention to the concepts of political and economic security as determinants of national security.
A world devoid of wars and conflicts — dedicated to good public health, environment, economic development, working together towards peace and stability, integration and construction. It promotes the establishment of needed institutions and committees that will act like platforms to achieve each objective. A sincere and advanced vision committed to service all humanity and one that realises the value of the information age and the future of artificial intelligence. It develops concepts such as working remotely, lightening the burdens on traffic, the environment and the costs of daily life and its problems.
A vision that promotes a new participatory system free of exploitation based on belief in the human being and his or her happiness, welfare, security and health. It promises to exert all efforts to end conflicts, wars and occupation, surpassing an ancient system based on exploitation oppression and injustice.
The second vision is that which prevailed pre-pandemic, with all its protagonists who benefited from vexed atmospheres of political and economic exploitation and conflict. A system run by a few profiteers and based on prolonged wars or debt. Many will fight to protect and go back to the fundamentals of the old regime, to regain their power and interests as before.
We must work from now to launch, promote and protect the values of the first vision.
I suggest that the best mode of action to achieve that is launching a Universal Declaration of Principles, an international agreement, that includes all these principles.
There is no better place and timing than the next meeting of the UN General Assembly in September, where the international community and leaders of the countries of the world meet.
From now until September, I call upon diplomats to work together to draft the declaration and mobilise support from other world leaders. The initiative should come from the heads of states. It is important, for example, for Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi to speak with French President Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and they will communicate together with US President Trump and Russian President Putin and China’s Xi Jinping to launch the drafting of the document.
After consulting at the summit level, each president can be tasked with putting forward the initiative and forming a supportive environment in public opinion, exchanging diplomats to help spur the new global declaration.
From now until September, there will be discussion and contention around the rules and foundations of our new world. Condensing its hopes and aspirations in the form of enforceable principles that take legitimacy from the consensus of the leaders of the countries of the world and its institutions could be a momentous step forward. Some may be satisfied with a change in language. But goodwill would fade within days if not matched with mechanisms and dynamics and as a reference point for a new world that we all deserve.
The proposed initiative should begin with a high-level philosophical introduction, thereafter including all the aforementioned principles and hopes in a declaration to be endorsed by world leaders in the General Assembly in September.
To conclude, documenting our aspirations for a new future is important in spite of any expected resistance, as the principles of any great revolutions or changes require registration for possible present or future use. The French Revolution’s principles alone did not bestow enlightenment upon the world, except after decades of setbacks and returns to old and regressive regimes. When after crises these principles were matched by practical mechanisms, then they radiated and dazzled.
*The writer is former assistant foreign minister.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 7 May, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly