It is undeniable that the world has been going through in these very last decades major changes and profound transformations which today are challenging the post-world war II international order.
The first driver at the basis of these changes has certainly been economic. The reduction of trade restrictions and falling costs of transport and communication has certainly boosted economic integration which has risen rapidly worldwide in these very last decades and which has gradually led to the emerging of new economies (which just back to two decades ago were considered as poor developing countries). The latter are challenging the global leadership of the “West” (US+Western Europe) and demanding more recognition and, especially, more leadership within it. Meanwhile, as the world gets more and more interconnected, also geopolitics has become increasingly important, not just because of these shifting power dynamics (e.g. countries like China and Brazil command more negotiating power than before), but also because issues of security have become intertwined with those of trade, migration, employment and other forms of international relations, which means that traditional superpowers can no longer be confident of their positions and strength on the international stage, given also the emergence of non-state actors capable of significantly influencing the dynamics of geopolitics. On the other hand, after the first decade of “Bush legacy of overt and unilateral interventionism”, this second decade has been accompanied so far by great expectations of a return to genuine multilateralism and of a gradual abandonment of the “war on terror” as a paradigm to address unstable geopolitical situations in the world (as it was the case in Afghanistan and in Iraq in the past decade). 2014, in this sense, should represent symbolically its end as the last NATO combat troops should have withdrawn by the end of the year from Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the underlying dynamics of the war on terror are still very much in play as, on the one hand, withdrawing combat units does not mean that NATO states will cease to pursue war by “remote control” in Afghanistan – thus continuing to exert inderectly their influence and, on the other, that Pakistan, India, Iran and other powerful actors will continue to play their own cards at the Afghan table – thus continuing to have their say in the country’s transition process. Moreover, new issues will continue to raise the stakes of an international secure ‘post-war on terror’ global order, such as: unsolved political transition processes (eg. managing the consequences of a politically and geopolitically unstable post-Arab spring new order), bearing the risk of regional spillovers of such crises; democratic consolidation among rising powers with global impact, as six of the largest emerging economies will hold national elections this year (e.g. Brazil, Colombia, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey) in the midst of a new era of political challenges as slowing growth, sputtering economic models, and rising demands from newly emancipated middle classes create heightened uncertainty (while growing middle classes are expecting more and better services, their government elites should put more effort to implement economic reforms to enhance productivity, but as elections loom their capacity to deliver is diminishing, a situation which is not forecast to improve substantially post-elections); major challenging global issues such as climate change, increasing energy needs, demography, migration, the increasing role of information and communication technology in war making and peacebuilding (e.g. cyberspace as a new battleground among governments), as well as the issue of free access to information/internet freedom and its governance (in terms of the role of governments in the online world, especially after the NSA scandal which has brought back the issue of governments hampering the principle of free access and usage of information technology).
Therefore, as emerging markets are expected to look more inward this year (election year for many of them) and the US foreign policy shows a more risk-averse approach and waning engagement (widening income inequality is persuading many Americans that they do not share the benefits of US engagement abroad, in addition in 2014 US is also going to mid-term election), the risk of diminishing international coordination rises (the EU will also hold EU parliamentary election), which migh generate a more volatile global landscape, with new potential unforeseen crises. But 2014 is also the year in which much of the work has to be done to prepare for the potentially landmark policy processes of 2015, each of which will have significant impact on future global security (e.g. the quinquennial Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the culmination of the Post-2015 Development Agenda process). Therefore, despite domestic occurences, 2014 is meant to be an important year for global security. Hence, a new approach would be desirable, as the “sustainable security paradigm” which has been developed by the Oxford Research Group as “an alternative lens through which to view global security, identifying the underlying drivers of conflict and insecurity rather than its symptoms, such as violence, organised crime or radicalisation (…)”. This is of utmost importance not only to “understand how unmet human needs and feelings of insecurity interrelate and lead to violence”, but especially “to work to prevent conflict by addressing its root causes”.
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