WORLD CITIZENSHIP: FORERUNNERS OF A GREAT POLITICAL ERA
By René Wadlow
As the German sociologist Max Weber wrote just after the First World War, “We shall not succeed in banishing that which besets us — the sorrow of being born too late for a great political era — unless we understand how to become the forerunner of an even greater one”.
Our generation, which came after the events leading to the Second World War, followed by the creation of the United Nations (UN), and then by the ending of Western European colonialism in Asia and Africa, has only been able to make alive the institutions of the earlier generation, but never to the extent that the earlier generation hoped.
This is particularly true within the UN. The generation of the founders in 1945 hoped to modify in depth inter-State relations and the balance-of-power mechanisms which had led to the Second World War.
Yet the balance-of-power was the framework for the 1945-1990 Cold War. While the balance-of-power has now been modified with the disintegration of the USSR, the balance-of-power as a method of international policy-setting has not changed. The United Nations has not been able to modify in depth the balance-of-power framework.
The crisis we face today is not about the administration of the UN but about how to deal with the emerging world society in which there is still poverty and violence with often a lack of willingness to help those in need.
Citizens of the World stress the need for certain common values among all the States and peoples of the world, such as the values set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Such values must be based on a sense of common responsibility for both present and future generations.
Through dialogue among world citizens, the foundations for the values of the emerging world society are being set. Dialogue has to do with trust. To have true dialogue, people have to trust each other enough to reveal the deeply held beliefs that lie behind their surface opinions. Then, they can question each other’s assumptions and begin to establish a context for shared thinking and action.
The forerunners of a true world society are at work, setting the foundations of the new era. This leadership will come ever more into the public light.
Prof. René Wadlow is President and Chief Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.