Strengthening international solidarity is a crucial task for promoting universal peace, writes Ioan Voicu.
Solidarity has been a mobilizing concept since entering the general political vocabulary in the mid-19th Century. It conveys persuasive images and expectations of united action in pursuit of social justice.
But is solidarity today a really meaningful aspiration in our globalizing age?
The Global Risks Report 2017 issued by the World Economic Forum (WEF), which concluded its proceedings in Davos, Switzerland, on January 20 this year, formulated a recent answer to this question by proclaiming increased international solidarity as a priority for action. Moreover, the WEF specifically identified fostering greater solidarity and long-term thinking as the first key challenge that will require greater global attention and action.
By coincidence, on the same date, January 20, in his inaugural address US President Donald J. Trump asserted in very clear terms: “We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.”
The significant reasons for which solidarity must be given cardinal importance had been summarized at the beginning of the current century in a crystal-clear way in the Bangkok Declaration entitled Global Dialogue and Dynamic Engagement, adopted by consensus on February 19, 2000 at the end of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
In accordance with this programmatic document, solidarity and a strong sense of moral responsibility must be the guiding light of national and international policy. They are not only ethical imperatives, but also prerequisites for a prosperous, peaceful and secure world based on true partnership.
A fundamental value
Solidarity is identified in the 2000 Millennium Declaration as one of the fundamental values of international relations in the 21st century, wherein those who either suffer or benefit least deserve help from those who benefit most.
Strengthening international solidarity is not only an indispensable condition for combating poverty, but also a crucial task for promoting universal peace.
In conformity with a draft declaration on the matter, still under consideration in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, international solidarity is the union of interests, purposes and actions between and among peoples, individuals, states and their international organizations, to preserve the order and the very survival of international society and to achieve common goals that require international cooperation and collective action.
The adoption in 2015 by the UN Summit of the historic 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development reflected a universal resolve to seek shared progress and prosperity based on a spirit of global solidarity.
On January 24, 2017, at the United Nations high-level dialogue on Building Sustainable Peace for All: Synergies between the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Sustaining Peace, it was reminded that achieving sustainable peace required a democratic, transparent order and a new type of international relations based on solidarity.
In an ideal model, if it is based on equality, inclusion and social justice, solidarity generates mutual duties among all members of society and across the global community of nations. And that, in turn, should point the way towards global partnerships and multilateral cooperation among all development actors, including governments, inter-governmental and non-governmental institutions, civil society, the private sector and academic communities.
Working in solidarity, many states are today on track in their urgent task to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty, but some deep and formidable economic and social disparities still remain among and within a great number of countries. As reminded at the United Nations high-level dialogue mentioned above, recent figures show that the eight richest
people in the world have the same wealth as the 3.6 billion poorest.
Towards radical decisions
In accordance with the UN doctrine, there are five imperative objectives for the 21st Century for which solidarity is essential: achieving sustainable development; preventing and mitigating conflicts, human rights abuses and the impacts of natural disasters; building a safer and more secure world; supporting countries in transition; and engaging the talents of women and young people.
In a world facing the above imperatives, solidarity must offer solid foundations for global solutions. Thus, solidarity has a vital role in the collective efforts to positively resolve a multitude of difficult problems highly visible in our interconnected world.
If the spirit of solidarity is omnipresent and active, people are able to fully participate in the formulation and implementation of plans, policies and programs to deal with the most complex issues and to shape a prosperous common future for all.
Yet, in a realistic approach, it is necessary to recognize that despite some indisputable progress, gigantic efforts are still needed for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda containing 17 sustainable development goals. A clear answer is expected to the fundamental question whether universal responsibility and global solidarity can, indeed, become a new development paradigm for the years to come.
There are dignified ways to portray and identify harsh realities at various levels. It is obvious that in many circumstances solidarity is all but a fiction in a world of global vulnerabilities, discontinuities and perplexities. Therefore, more attention must be paid to the UN strong appeals addressed to all citizens of the world to advance solidarity as a global family and leave a legacy of peace, prosperity and sustainable progress for generations to come. All countries must be part of the process of finding the best workable solutions during the present era of profound transformations.
A most responsible test is posed by the UN 2030 Agenda. It highlights the inseparable linkage between climate change and development priorities. Fighting the negative consequences of climate change is an integral part of the very foundations of sustainable development. It demands the world community of nations to stand in true solidarity and speak with one voice.
The 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which is already in force, should be treated as a promising starting point in writing a new history for our planet.
There is no doubt that 2017 will be a turbulent and tumultuous year demanding challenging choices and difficult decisions.
In this regard, it is appropriate to remind the topical remarks of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on taking the oath of office in the UN General Assembly on December 12, 2016. He said: “Fear is driving the decisions of many people around the world. We must understand their anxieties and meet their needs, without losing sight of our universal values. It is time to reconstruct relations between people and leaders — national and international; time for leaders to listen and show that they care,
about their own people and about the global stability and solidarity on which we all depend.”
Learning from history
We can learn from history that genuine peace should never be considered as a simple absence of war, or as a facade that conceals latent conflicts and disputes. Lasting peace has to be based on authentic solidarity, which has an inexhaustible potential in all societies. Real success in promoting, defending and consolidating peace demands the universal recognition of solidarity as a fundamental value for all.
If it is adequately promoted and implemented, this value generates local, national, regional and global duties, the fulfillment of which is an imperative prerequisite of a peaceful and fruitful co-existence and active co-operation at all levels.
It should not be forgotten that solidarity is the key instrument to avoid a crisis. Peace and solidarity indicate the core messages to be conveyed today and tomorrow at the planetary level. They are not abstract concepts, but vital ideals to be achieved through collective efforts of all peoples.
In 2005 the UN General Assembly, representing today 193 countries, proclaimed the 20th of December as International Human Solidarity Day (IHSD). Unfortunately, IHSD was not taken seriously even at the UN, in spite of the fact that it offers an appropriate occasion to focus on the tremendous importance of solidarity for the achievement of the international agreements on sustainable development in all its complexity.
We may anticipate that starting in 2017, as recommended by the UN, December 20 will be considered as a day to celebrate unity in diversity; a day to remind governments to respect their commitments to international agreements; a day to raise public awareness of the undisputable practical value of solidarity and to encourage responsible debates on the best ways and means to promote and consolidate solidarity at the local, national, regional and universal levels.
Solidarity has no artificial borders and can be a most useful bridge to universal recognition of the unavoidable and increasing interdependence of nations and peoples during the current process of globalization when many aspects of this process are subjected to serious but often justified criticism.
Solidarity must also be recognized as a unique and powerful engine of collective efforts to give globalization a genuine human face. If it truly proves to be a guiding light, it must be made a vibrant and dynamic component of an enlightened global policy.
Dr Ioan Voicu is a visiting professor at Assumption University in Bangkok, Thailand.