Saving Global Order

GENEVA – As 2015 begins, the values enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are under threat. Around the world, personal liberty, human rights, and democracy are at risk – even in countries that have embraced democratic ideals. The international community is deeply divided, blocking progress on a host of global challenges, ranging from the crises in Syria, Iraq, and Ukraine to climate change and international trade.

Three factors – all likely to persist this year – are driving these unsettling trends.

First, globalization may have delivered many benefits, but it has also eroded the capacity of societies to determine their own destinies. Many modern challenges – including tax avoidance, organized crime, cyber insecurity, terrorism, climate change, international migration, and financial flows, both licit and illicit – have one thing in common: the traditional instruments of a sovereign state have become inadequate to manage them.

Second, failed military solutions in Afghanistan and Iraq have played a large role in undermining the international community’s unity, and eroding confidence in intervention in general, even as established powers cut budgets and emerging powers shy away from taking on new responsibilities. In 2014, leaders in my native Africa and elsewhere challenged the objectivity and effectiveness of the International Criminal Court, the creation of which was a major milestone in the struggle to end impunity for national leaders.