Interview with Professor Jenik Radon on the Evolution of World Politics

Rahman Dag

Professor Jenik Radon is a Lawyer, Negotiator, Change Agent, Professor and Scholar of International Politics. For more details, please see;

Rahman Dag: This interview is titled as Evolution of World Politics because there is a protracted discussion about the current world system which is believed in crisis. Most suggest that pax-Americana and its features are in decline and what is going to replace it and how is it going to be replaced are fundamental questions dying for answers. In this regard, we would like to ask you how do you see the current world politics? Is it still systematically operational or is it decomposing piece by piece?

Professor Jenik Radon: Your question makes me smile. The reason is that there is an underlying assumption, namely that the present, or what exists today, will continue, at least in the way we know it, as well as the added assumption that there is a system.  My mother, who grew up in a small town in Germany, gave me some good advice and shared invaluable wisdom: there is only one constant in life and that is change, which is, by definition, not a constant. What does this mean: it means we will regularly encounter things which we have not previously encountered, the unfamiliar. We will have to be prepared for the unknowns, the Black Swans in today’s parlance. Moreover, we will have to be ever mindful of the law of unintended consequences, the actual impacts of our actions as well as inactions. It also means that we have to continuously adjust to ever changing circumstances, to the unexpected, and also to emergencies (As an aside, we too often react to emergencies by simply doing what we have been accustomed to doing, following our habits, and not understanding the urgency of a situation). In traditional terms, life is not static, and it is ever changing. 

As change is inevitable, we have to manage (using a term popular in business school, as well as business of course, but not so common outside of business) the changing or unexpected situations, whether in our own lives or in domestic or international politics. The US President Eisenhower, who echoed the military wisdom of the renowned German field marshal, Moltke the Elder, had it right when he said “plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”  Planning is a mindset. It is thinking. It is a process. So that effectively means we need to be in a constant preparation mode, as our geopolitical system, if there even is a system, is dynamic. There is constant movement.

Concerning the so-called pax-Americana, it is a misapplied concept. It is one-word headline branding. It was a one-word answer for our never-ending search for simplicity. This search reminds me of the comedy “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” by Douglas Adams where the number 42 was the answer for everything. Pax-Americana was used to describe the post WWII situation, and the subsequent cold-war period, when the US was the leading economic, geo-political and military power.  Moreover, the US captured the hopes of people around the world as it was viewed as the living embodiment of what the Statute of Liberty represents, freedom. The term pax-Americana was also emotional as it was an inspiration for the free world, and symbolized a stabilizing force, against what was perceived to be a clear enemy, namely the Soviet Union and what it embodied, totalitarianism. A particular challenge was that the Soviet Union wrapped, cloaked and masked itself in beautiful social or humanistic language, which had its allure and attractions, false and fatal I have to add, for struggling people around the world.  

The Soviet Union, and its communist rhetoric, was the living example of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. This is obviously a children’s fable and an admonition we were warned against by our parents. It was already known in ancient times, but the meaning of which we too often fail to apply in our adult lives, let alone in our political lives — as an aside, I like wolves, and appreciate their strong group bonds, so unhappy to use that saying that disparages wolves, but in popular culture it underscores my point.  But with the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the world changed and there was no clear or undisputed enemy or threat.  So, the so-called cold war term of pax-Americana also had to evolve and change with the times.  It had to be adjusted to the new circumstances. Among other things, pax-Americana had to address the hopes of people from around the world and incorporate a necessary focus on development (especially of the emerging countries), economics, governance etc.. The lands and people of Latin America, Asia and Africa were all demanding progress and longed for economic prosperity — they longed for the lifestyle and prosperity that the US and the West had and symbolized. All states were now “free” to concentrate on the needs of the day, the demands of everyday living.  In fact, and perhaps ironically, national governments were expected to and had to focus on bread-and-butter issues and act like mayors of cities and deliver the goods, jobs, transportation, infrastructure, health care and more. On a global level, this meant more trade and investment, and resulted in an explosion of investment treaties, not always well thought out, let alone well drafted. It was hoped that they would further commerce and promote investment. It also resulted in expanded influence for such international institutions as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the creation of new institutions such as the EBRD, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development — and the list of changes go on. With change in the air, the so-called pax-Americana also had to evolve. 

In summary, I do not see a decomposed or decayed system. Besides, during the reign of the so-called pax Americana, there were still significant problems as there was an increase in drug trafficking; corruption became world-wide; and Al-Qaida and terrorism spread across the continents.  So, pax or universal peace there was not.  For me there was simply an evolution of a so-called system which had to take into account changing circumstances and new challenges, and further, and especially, the obvious fact that as countries develop, in particular economically, they also want to have an input, a say, a voice. They want some sort of control.  Moreover, the people of the US were also demanding a peace dividend after the end of the cold war. The new voices, whether from Africa, Asia, or Latin America, have, and had, to be incorporated into the existing international structures, which will in turn themselves have to evolve, adjust, and change.  As my mother said, change is the constant; and it applies to geo-political life also. 

And let me add that the search for a so-called world system is better left for discussions in the classroom. The use of the term system to apply to world affairs is a misconceived and overly simplified concept and approach as, I have already mentioned, there is no system as such.  It is time we learned from science, from physics and chaos theory. The former Chancellor of Germany, Angela Markel, knew it well — she was a respected physicist as well as a chemist — and she knew how to apply chaos theory to domestic and international politics.  In fact, again using a business term, she knew how to manage. And she knows how to subtly deliver powerful political and emotional messages as she has done by choosing Nina Hagen’s “Du hast den Farbfilm vergessen,” (You forgot the color film), as one of her three songs at her official parting Chancellor ceremony.  There is a lesson for all of us— stop the search and longing for simple answers and learn how to manage or, at least, work with complexity. So, the term pax Americana can be said to have masked a complex geo-political world, which handicapped us in fully addressing core problems.

Rahman Dag: Your academic career and experience in practicing law remind me that you appear when a crisis occurs and seek to contribute to the best solution, especially in the separation of post-Soviet states, in which you have been an active participant in the processes.  We have always been curious about the transition and bases of developments in an emerging nation, and thus we would like to know about your thoughts on the crucial point for an emerging nation to consolidate their place in world politics?

Professor Jenik Radon: You are actually asking a number of questions.  A successful or effective transition depends on a host of factors, but the key is commonality, an attachment to the place, the country. We all have a psychological need to be grounded; we need and want to establish roots.  I am reminded of this when I speak to my Chinese friends who always tell me the name of the ancestral or family village from which they hail, even, ironically, if they have not lived there, or even visited. These are natural emotional needs and wants. We are after all social beings.

A nation has to be a home for all who reside there. Some people have their historic roots in a country; others have come as immigrants, admittedly not all voluntarily or by choice; others came as students and wound-up staying.  No matter why a newcomer came, building a nation requires crafting, the creating, of a common identity, which all can accept and subscribe to. It means bringing life to that Latin phrase, which has become a symbol of the US, “e pluribus unum” (from many one). 

Take Nepal for example, which is clearly not a former Soviet state. Nepal is home to people who speak over 70 different languages, which enriches the country with multiple perspectives and ways of looking at things, but still a working lingua franca is clearly needed. Moreover, at the same time, all Nepali need to have the right to be represented in a court of law in their native language or the language of their choice, otherwise their voice, their defense, will not be clearly heard and injustice may well result. It is an added cost for a state to accommodate multiple languages, but a necessary expense in a such a richly diverse country as Nepal, which needs to bring meaning to the concept of “e pluribus unum.”  I am pleased that Nepal incorporated such a provision in the interim or peace constitution of 2006, which restored peace to a civil war-torn country and of which I am a key author.

In the post-Soviet states, it was, and is still necessary, to accommodate those people whose families hailed from elsewhere in the Soviet Union, but whose descendants are now living in the newly independent states. But these descendants can be expected to become knowledgeable about the history of the countries where they are living so that they can become part of the society and not be apart from it. So, forging and building a national identity with a common understanding and a shared outlook is key. 

Take Estonia for example, a country with which I have been personally engaged for well over 30 years. Estonia today is a global digital powerhouse (albeit small), an economy in which all can participate, share, grow and prosper. It has become a land of opportunity where people, including newcomers, can make their dreams a reality. It creatively created an e-residency program for non-residents from wherever in the world. It is now also home to many young people, digital nomads, thereby hoping to attract some of the best and brightest. Today there are entrepreneurs in Estonia who are of Russian ethnic origin, as well as recent arrivals from Belarus and Ukraine from the east and from England in the west. An Estonian ambassador to the US was of Russian heritage; and the youth from all ethnic groups are learning Estonian, the lingua franca. And once a common identity is developed, or at least (peacefully) developing, then a country can easily, or readily, find its place, and voice, in the world. Without some common understanding, purpose and identity, any domestic disagreements will prevent an emerging state — in fact any state — from consolidating its place in the international community. The reason is simple. Without a common basis and feeling, namely we are all in it together, we are all part of the same whole, a country will continue to be preoccupied with domestic politics, and even turmoil, which will have to be resolved. That takes time and energy, and certainly prevents moving on, progress. 

And what does it take to build a common foundation, and have people have shared or common aspirations?  I will answer my own question.  It requires a democracy, for only in a democracy can all voices be heard. A vibrant civil society, which is a natural expression of social engagement, makes it possible for people to air their views. which, although not universally appreciated, serves to promote societal and national stability. Civil society also serves as a safety valve as I wrote in my article titled “Civil Society: the Pulsating Heart of a Country, its Safety Valve,”

A democracy has to be embedded in law, including a country’s basic law, its constitution. A democracy is built on a fundamental, namely freedom of expression, freedom of press. It has to support media freedom so that people can express their views and let their voices be heard.  Estonia, for example, became free through its peaceful singing revolution and has embedded media freedom in its laws. Moreover, Estonia is now an inspiring model for the world and it has been honored by being the chair of the 2021/22 Global Media Freedom Coalition conference to take place in February 2022. The Coalition now has 50 state members from across the globe, all of whom support media freedom through their laws and appreciate the fact that freedom of expression is literally the foundation of democracy.   

But laws and regulations can obviously not function in a vacuum or just on paper.  A rule of law “system” requires the building of supporting institutions, including an independent judiciary, which is indispensable, and a civil service, which needs to be trained and not subject to personnel change or dismissal whenever a new administration assumes power. Institutions are the administrative and functioning backbone of a state. Institutions, in order to be accepted by the people of a country, need to be built so that all people, the citizens and residents of a country, are treated fairly, equitably and without discrimination.  And in building institutions, practical details cannot be overlooked — a judiciary and civil service need to be paid competitively, otherwise they will, for example, seek more remunerative employment in the private sector, and they need to feel valued, an elusive concept but nevertheless important. The challenge of creating viable institutions is that it takes time, extended and continuous effort, and is not glamorous, not exciting; and institutions, or negatively too often dismissed as bureaucracies, do not create headlines, except in the negative, when people complain, as people always seem to expect the impossible, perfection in administrations. Unfortunately, the criticalness of building effective institutions is regularly overlooked or ignored — as I have said, there is no glamour or personal reward for such efforts which may explain the lack of concerted political focus on this challenge. I may add that Estonia rose to this challenge and its success in this regard is a story that needs to be told.  Institutions are like the foundation of a house, without which a house literally cannot stand.  But, as any contractor knows, the glory goes to the architects and those who make the finishing touches, namely the exterior which can be easily seen, but what is really important are the pipes, the wires and insulation behind the walls. The moral of that story is that creating and building proper institutions should not be overlooked, should be nurtured and rewarded.

We do have a fair number of examples of countries, in addition to Estonia which I have already mentioned, that have focused on building reliable functioning institutions, and have done this well. To name just a few of them, success stories from across the globe, some of which I have personally been engaged with: the Baltic countries of Latvia and Lithuania in Europe; Botswana and Namibia in Africa; Costa Rica in Latin America; and Singapore in Asia. In Singapore it is said that the best and the brightest join the civil service. And in Finland the best and the brightest are said to aspire to become teachers, people who teach our most cherished “assets’, our children. Although these countries are small, and therefore readily, too readily from my point of view, dismissed in political science analysis, they do offer valuable lessons, learning lessons. In particular, they underscore a theme, where there is a will (here political will), there is a way. 

As an aside, Nepal is an under-studied lesson in conflict resolution and shows the power of leadership and political will, specifically that of the late Prime Minister GP Koirala. He did not let his sickness get in the way of bringing Nepal out of a civil war and restoring peace. I touch on that in my article of remembrance honoring him. It was published in the 2012 annual report of the Foundation for Democracy, Peace and Development (aka GPK Foundation) of Nepal.

In short, the rule of law, including the establishment of the necessary supporting institutions, is the indispensable means to building a nation, and a prosperous, peaceful, and stable country. The rule of law is way to give meaning and effectiveness to “e pluribus unum,” which applies to most of the countries of the world as nearly all countries are blessed with a richness, a richness of diversity, whether different ethnicities, races, religions or languages, in their populations — it only varies in degree.

Rahman Dag: In one of your articles, published in a book, “Escaping the Resource Curse,” which was edited by the Noble Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and the economist Jefferey Sachs, concerning natural resource rich nations, you state that “a critical decision for a government is to select the type of contractual system it will use, in particular a concession or license agreement, a production-sharing agreement (PSA), a joint venture or a service agreement”. In which conditions do you think these alternatives overweight the other options in terms of both the companies and the governments?

Professor Jenik Radon: I start with a premise, namely that the natural resources, which are a permanent national asset as long as they are in the ground, belong to the people of a country, the present generation as well as the future generations, which is represented by the state, the government. Accordingly, the only factor in the decision-making process should be how does the government optimize the returns from the development of its natural resources for the state and its people; but of course, a state also has the obligation to do so in a sustainable way, in particular, it needs to protect and safeguard the environment and the impacted communities.

I personally prefer, and strongly prefer, a license agreement as that approach assumes a functioning regulatory system with statutes and legal regulations in place. It is straight forward — a company applies for a license, which stipulated conditions and standards it has to meet and satisfy, to explore and develop a natural resource in a certain prescribed area. It will be permitted to continue that development as long as it complies with the statutes, the regulations and, of course, pays its taxes and royalties. Failure to comply should, as in contracts generally, result in a default or violation of the license with the consequences that severe violations should even result in the loss or cancellation of the license. Unfortunately, countries too often do not enforce a license, or for that matter a PSA, joint venture, or service agreement. The authorities normally just impose fines, relatively minor fines, which then just become a cost of doing business for the company. Another way of looking at this phenomenon is that the fines become expensive parking tickets. That sends the wrong signal to the country, its people and to the business community.

From my point of view, a natural resource company is really in the service business. It is using its resources, financial, technological, and human, to convert a natural resource, which, as noted, is the property of the state/country, although the US is an exception to this as the owner of a property owns the resource underneath it, into a liquid resource, cash, which the company has to share with the state. So effectively, the state and a company are partners and should be viewed as such.  I have to point out and admit companies do not see it that way.  And too often countries, and their governments, do not understand that they are in the driver’s seat as the natural resource is physically in their country — it cannot just be moved. They have what all real estate developers know: the most important aspect of real estate development is location, location, and location.  And if you have the resource, you have the location.

So, the main condition for national resource development is securing the necessary mindset that a government needs, namely it is our national resource and we will grant you, the company, the right to develop it in accordance with our national laws, which should demand and stipulate the application of the world’s highest and best environmental standards. If no one demands high standards, there will be no incentive for companies to invest into the necessary research to meet such standards. Otherwise, the country will have severe health and other costs in the future, which will have to be paid by future generations and will not be compensated or paid by the companies, which will have disappeared and gone out of existence. It must be remembered the national resource of a country belongs not just to the present generation but also to all future generations.

Rahman Dag: In your article “The New Mantra,” you state that the awareness of the fight against corruption has increased both at the national and international level. The spread of media along with globalization reveals the devastating impact of corruption on societies and individuals. In particular, the undermining of the social and economic rights of individuals exposed to corruption and the fact that they are discriminated against strengthens the possibility that corruption is a “human rights violation”. If taking corruption as an extension of human right violations, do you think that the fights against corruption could become as much influential as fights against human right violations?

Professor Jenik Radon: Human rights are conceptually all encompassing. Human rights include civil and political rights as well as economic rights.  One can look at human rights as the common denominator that binds us as people. We all have common aspirations, hopes and dreams, as well as concerns. As a specific right develops or, rather, matures, it is too readily forgotten that it is a human right. For example, labor rights are in essence human rights, but are not necessarily viewed in that universal vein and are regularly considered as a specific subject or issue. Environmental rights, among others, have for too long been considered separately from human rights as if environmental rights are a distinct class, which they are not.  In reality, environmental rights are a foundational aspect of human rights. One cannot exercise one’s “right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of [one]self and of [one’s] family” as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights without a clean environment. Accordingly, we need to explain and highlight the interconnections of the various rights. The reason should be clear. Life is more complex and challenging than trying to compartmentalize issues and tackle or consider them as silos, one issue at a time. If climate change, to digress for a second, has taught has anything, it is that life is complex. And life is part of an interconnected system. Who 50 years ago would have ever thought that the Amazon is not just a tropical forest but also needed to help regulate the world’s carbon cycle — the deforestation of the Amazon impacts climate change.

Likewise, corruption, or more accurately anticorruption, or freedom from corruption, is not per se considered a human right.  But corruption leads to human rights violations as corrupt persons, as well as governments, invariably want to cover their tracks, which, in turn, too often results in physical violence and restriction on the politician rights of the people by the authorities.  Corruption ignites a domino effect, a negative one. Moreover, corruption diverts a state’s resources, especially financial resources, from being applied to solve or address pressing national or social problems, including providing funds for such basic needs as health and education. 

There are countless examples from around the world of shoddy hospitals which were built in violation of regulatory standards as some official was paid off to look the other way. So, the fight against corruption should be seen for what it is, a harm against all of us.  It is not just an isolated or single incident involving a briber and a public official.  It has a broader impact. If a building inspector was paid off to approve a construction, then the subsequent collapse of a building, or the growth of sickening mold in apartment rooms, hurts the people directly impacted, as well as those indirectly affected, namely society, as it is society, the citizens of a country, that will pick up most of the resultant costs.  

It needs to be recalled that as recently as the 1970s a number of economists unfortunately, and incorrectly, thought that corruption was simply an offset to counter government inefficiencies and therefore a development tool. Corruption was deemed to be expedient. Only when society recognizes that the consequences of corruption affect us all will there be a real fight against corruption. Still, we must keep history in mind.  In ancient China, literally hundreds of years ago, the civil service — yes ancient China already had a trained civil service — complained about corruption. So, we cannot ignore the fact in creating an anticorruption strategy that corruption has been with us for eons and is still with us.

Recently, the fight against corruption gained sustained traction when the effects of corruption became associated with national security concerns (As a side note, unfortunately, we ignored that fact in fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan). With such recognition, public officials begin to take notice.  In addition, there is another significant challenge that needs to be overcome.

Corruption is still a term in search of a definition understandable to all, the general public. When under some laws, hosting a public official at dinner which costs more than $50 is classified as corruption, but a dinner for $49 is not, then one naturally asks what the principle is. When you have arbitrary or administrative standards, and not principled ones, confusion in the minds of people naturally ensues. And coming back to Afghanistan, the average citizen said what is the difference between the government and the Taliban, they are both corrupt. The lesson of that comment should sink in.

So, frankly, I do not see that the fight against corruption achieving the resonance of the fight for human rights, which offers emotive photos of abuses, whether the shooting of demonstrators exercising their right to have their voice heard or the bodily scars of torture.  But, it also must be kept in mind that it took years for the fight for human rights to catch on — the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, a remarkable document championed by, among others, the American Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of the US President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, was only adopted less than 75 years ago by the then member states of the United Nations. The International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights were only entered into in 1966, twenty years later, and took another 10 years to come into force in 1976. Moreover, there is still ongoing strife, or disagreement, within the international community on political rights versus economic rights, with the United States, for example, still withholding ratification of the covenant on economic, social and cultural rights.  However, the Universal Declaration still continues to inspire and motivate, and this brings us to the good news.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a document which continues to bring hope to the world, that the world of tomorrow will be better than today, and it is a universal declaration by which all states and people can be judged and held to account.

It should also be noted that there is ever growing and increasing public awareness of corruption and the impact of its ravages thanks to the now almost endless media exposures as the Panama Papers and Pandora Papers. They have unearthed and exposed the interconnection between human rights violations and corruption. I am proud to say that I created and co-taught the first class on the Panama Papers, and what it means, with a leading journalist. With ever increasing transparency, the more there will be public awareness of the devastating consequences of corruption.  And with increasing digitalization, which cannot be stopped, there will be increasing exposure of ill-gotten gains by public officials around the world. The fight against corruption will continue with ever more resilience — it will create its own domino effect — as the sun increasingly shines in.  So let the briber and the bribee beware; let them know that the sun will shine in!

Rahman Dag: “Are the state structures of yesterday, created in a less complex, less globalized world, the legitimate structures of tomorrow?” That is the last sentence of your article, titled as “Sovereignty: A Political Emotion Not a Concept” published in 2004 in the Stanford Journal of International Law, which is intriguing minds of those working on state sovereignty. Considering that there are ongoing discussions on protecting state sovereignty and national interests such as Brexit, East Mediterranean, Ukrainian Crisis, South China Sea and so on, how do you evaluate a trend for re-securitization of state sovereignty in world politics?

Professor Jenik Radon: In the world of yesterday, a less globalized world, although there was trade between countries and across regions and continents, countries, and societies, countries were more self-contained.  Most foods, for example, could not be transported over long distances since for centuries refrigeration was non-existent. People’s views were shaped, although not exclusively, by geography, in particular the areas where they lived — the historic ignorance of the wider world is exemplified by the popular statement that Columbus “discovered” America.  But, obviously, engagement between kingdoms (republics, for the most part, are, from a historical perspective, a new phenomenon) did occur, and often violently so. Territorial expansion was a goal of many states, countries, principalities; and wars inevitably were a result.  However, our world of today is more interconnected and intertwined than ever. The supply chain challenges and interruptions, which have now hit the world-wide headlines as a consequence of Covid-19, are a prime example of the increased inter-connections, interdependencies, and even, from some perspectives, over-dependencies.  But the reality is that no country can be self-contained, self-sufficient, as no country can produce everything it needs, let alone wants.

The Covid-19 pandemic, not to mention climate change, underscores the need for international cooperation and agreement on addressing planet-wide challenges. Moreover, as trade between countries increases, and as more countries seek to compete in a host of areas, including AI and other technologies, agreements to manage these multiple, and at times conflicting, relationships in our increasingly complex world will become ever more pronounced and critical. But the question is how?

As Brexit has demonstrated, there is also a human yearning and desire for control over one’s life.  And Brussels, and its EU civil service, was viewed by the Brexiters as distant out-of-touch bureaucrats, notwithstanding that we need regional, if not global, standards and rules and people to implement them. The gas development challenges of the East Mediterranean are modern, but at the same time traditional, requiring written production and operation contracts and governing treaties among the various states, the gas producing states, the transit states and the buyer states.  And the Ukrainian Crisis underscores that the states are the players who have the authority and powers that can and are needed to calm, as well as resolve, what has become a continuous crisis — in fact states are also the instigators of the crisis. Coming full circle in the analysis, people view the states where they reside as the way to have an impact, to express their views and to give and secure control and provide security. The Hobbes thesis or theory of the social contract is still alive and well. 

People can and do relate to the authorities in the states where they reside as they feel they can have a connection to them. People are more challenged, socially as well as emotionally, in relating to more distant authorities, especially administrative authorities not chosen by them, or only indirectly through multiple layers of decision-makers, including ironically their own elected officials.  But yet this is the world of today, as well as of tomorrow, the world we have to adjust to, and organize, and, yes, manage, given the pressures of a globalizing and complex world.  This, also, of course, will require trust in our elected, as well as our appointed, officials, and, as already noted, more written agreements and treaties to manage the process.

The result is that the rule of law, international law with international courts, will also be more necessary than ever. And, as exemplified by the South China Sea challenges, it will require the creation of mechanisms and structures for the enforcement of decisions and judgement of such courts.  This will, in turn, require that all states sign on to the procedures and the structures.  How to structure them so that all voices can be heard, can participate, can relate, sign up, and accept them, will be our challenge for some time.  As my mother said, the only constant in life is change, and that is not a constant.  So, we have no choice but to keep at it and keep trying to direct and manage the changes. 

And management, especially at a state level and in an international context, is easier said than done. It must be kept in mind, notwithstanding efforts of business schools to make management an academic discipline, management is not a science, and remains an art form with an overlay of psychology.  This means in practice there is a premium on judgment which is itself not a science.  Moreover, management means, requires and encompasses coordinating, listening, communicating, directing and more.  It requires the personal touch. In fact, there is a premium on communicating and coordinating, which, unfortunately, we are not necessarily good at — takes time, demands trust.  It means remembering the lesson of the telephone game we learned when we were children.  One child whispers something to the next child who passes it on until the last child stands up and stays what he/she heard. The normal result was that the first child says I did not say that.  We still have a lot to learn on how to communicate effectively.

Moreover, international management requires knowledge and understanding of the other, their cultures. It needs a different mindset than a military mindset, which has a clear and directed purpose, namely, to ensure and achieve victory. It requires diplomacy as General Mattis, former Secretary of Defence of the United States, so vividly and starkly put it in a meeting with some members of the US Congress: “If you don’t fund the [US] State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition.”  So, states, and their political leaders, will have no choice but to create, implement, maintain, and adjust an effective global management process to oversee the inevitable changes that will take place in the world. What does a such a process entail? As Mattis indicated, a significant sized staff of professionals, of diplomats, is needed. Estonia, although it has a population of only 1.3 million, has intuitively understood what Mattis proclaimed. Estonia, often described as the Silicon Valley of Europe, has opened an investment agency office in California’s famed Silicon Valley, which office Estonia has bolstered by also opening a consulate in San Francisco.  

I must say my mother gave me good advice: change will always be with us, so let us learn how to manage it.

Rahman Dag: Given your expertise and publications regarding international investment-trade agreements or treaties on natural resources, we would like to attract your attention to liberal interpretation of world politics. What would you say if it is claimed that these international agreements seem mutually beneficial but at the end, they serve for the interest of more powerful party rather than the one possessing natural resources? Is it just a realist myth or has it some truth?

Professor Jenik Radon: International investment agreements as they concern natural resources, as well as other investments, are frankly a one-way street, focusing almost exclusively on what negative actions states can take, ignoring, on the whole, what impacts companies can and do have. They permit companies, or investors, to sue states for a host of possible violations, including, for example, changes in law, surprisingly such as the adoption of new environmental laws which are more stringent than the existing laws of a county.  Moreover, these agreements do not provide a way for states to sue companies for failure to comply with investment commitments, and, if truth be told, companies do not really make binding investment commitments, at best they make vague promises. Furthermore, we have literally several thousand investment-trade agreements which too often, and not surprisingly, conflict with each there. They accordingly promote creative international corporate structuring so that companies can take advantage of the most favourable treaties. These agreements have become an enriching paradise for litigating lawyers and their clients, especially in their use of ISDS, the Investor-State Dispute Settlement system, which will, among other things, have the effect of handicapping or limiting climate change legislation in many countries.  These treaties have become a lawyer’s full employment — and I am a lawyer and do object to that non-public interest result.

One needs to keep in mind that these investment-trade agreements were drafted with good or idealistic intentions, namely to attract needed investment to, and to give foreign investors a sense of legal security in, countries without established legal systems, including well-functioning and independent judiciaries. 

But unfortunately, as noted, these treaties have come to be misused, thanks, as I noted, to creative lawyering, as I describe in my article “BITs, Investment Dispute Resolution, Public Policy: A Volatile Mix,” in my anthology “Walk Tall! A Beautiful Tomorrow for Emerging Nations,” which was published in conjunction with the 2018 APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) conference in Papua New Guinea. So, I would say these agreements on the whole serve the companies, but, as now interpreted, not the interests of the developing, and in many cases not even the developed, countries, notwithstanding that they are expedient and often, in the short term, produce economic benefits in the form of increased investment for a country.

It needs to be noted that it is not easy to restructure or renegotiate these agreements as, under and in accordance with their terms, they require an extended notice period, such as ten years, before a withdrawal by a country from such an agreement is effective. Even then, existing investors will normally still continue to enjoy the benefits of the “cancelled” agreement as their rights cannot be denied or simply voided.  Still, we need to start the process of correcting the impact of these agreements, which were not well thought about or thought out. Some countries, such as India, have come to appreciate the challenges presented by such agreements and have started the process of withdrawing from some of these treaties.

Concerning future treaties, hopefully we can start crafting more equitable, balanced, and thoughtful ones. It is time that we address or consider potential impact of the provisions of an agreement when drafting them. 

Rahman Dag: As you are well aware of, it is mostly accepted that uni-polar world system or American hegemony comes to an end and thus, there is fierce discussion in defining which or what kind of world system we are in now. I wonder about your comments on this issue. Would you mind sharing them with us?

Professor Jenik Radon: The uni-polar world was never an accurate description of America’s place in the world after 1991.  Uni-polar was a term that was a catchy, and an overly simplified and non-nuanced, way to describe the geo-political period after the break-up of the Soviet Union. However, catchy terms too often hide or obscure complexity.

By describing the geo-political world as uni-polar, it was forgotten that Russia was still a military giant with its extensive arsenal of nuclear weapons. And China also then possessed enough nuclear weapons that could literally destroy the world. The incorrect and underlying assumption of a fair number of persons was that economics, or commercial matters, is all that counts or matters. 

While the US had the world’s largest economy, the European Union, although not as unified as the US for the obvious reason it was not a state and still a political work in progress, was also an economic powerhouse. And Japan, although it economically stagnated in the 90s, was still a global economic player with advanced engineering technologies. There were the countries of the Middle East which regularly exercised their energy power through their control of oil and its pricing. There were also niche players, such as Singapore, which developed, among other things, an expertise in global port management. So, there was no uni-polar world economically or militarily, although culturally the US monopolized popular entertainment of all sorts.

What was more “accurate” to say was that there was American hegemony, which, however, ironically depended on agreeing on the meaning of that confusing term — and there was no universal agreement on that (Again, as an aside, and as already noted, there is a tendency to try to simplify and explain the world, and complex situations, in just a few words).  To the extent that the word hegemony means leadership that is a correct description of the global picture after 1991 as the US was then a leader in world affairs, and could be said to be “the” leader.

However, the term hegemony came to imply dominance; and there was an assumption, by many analysts, that the US was the dominant or even domineering player. As already noted, the US was not the only military power in the world, certainly not the only nuclear power; and it shared economic influence with others. Furthermore, the use of the description hegemony creates a false picture as the US could not dictate, and did not, nor try to, dictate, the rules of the game so to speak, although it did make its voice heard.

The International Monetary Fund (the IMF), the World Bank, the United Nations and a host of other international institutions were already in place by 1991. Moreover, the United States was a party to endless bilateral and multi-lateral trade and investment agreements which proscribed trading and investment standards and rules. These agreements were the result of negotiation, often protracted negotiation, and not dictation. And concerning prospective or possible changes in existing structures, the US still, for example, had to work with other countries to replace the GATT and have all sign onto a new structure, the World Trade Organization (WTO).  The WTO was not born overnight and was a result of years long discussions and negotiation with a host of countries before the birth of the WTO in 1995. In short, the US could only lead by persuasion and negotiation, notwithstanding that the US was looked on as the first among equals among the almost 200 states of the world. 

That acceptance certainly gave the US stature and a greater or leading voice, but not a commanding voice. However, that recognized stature has suffered during the first two decades of the 21st Century. This resulted not only because the US has at times taken to act more or less unilaterally — President Bush referred to the countries which supported the US in the second Iraq war as a “coalition of the willing” —, but also because the US has suffered from internal policy disagreements, some quite severe, and admittedly thereby antagonizing many of its traditional allies.  They even felt it necessary to call for an unequivocal affirmation of America’s NATO commitments.  This has had the natural consequence that the US created confusion and consternation as it was not speaking with a consistent and reliable voice, irrespective of changing administrations, which had been its hallmark. Another consequence was that it eroded a willingness to more or less, or basically, accept American ideas and policies. 

Nevertheless, the US remains the economic, military, cultural and political powerhouse.  The US is still a world leader, but now with the added challenge that it needs to assure, reassure, countries that it is a predictable leader. Without predictability, there can be no reliance and, consequently, no effective leadership, although, as already noted, I do not feel that the US was, after 1991, hegemonic as that term was popularly used. Moreover, there is now a major economic competitor to the US, as well as the EU and Japan, namely China, which has, among other things, become the manufacturing center of the world.

Since 2000, the phenomenal economic rise of China has required a geo-political rethink, in particular, but not only, on how to integrate state capitalism, which is the Chinese model, into a world system based on private capitalist initiative, which predominates in the US and most of the countries of the world.  Still China is not the only rising economic power.  India, which also follows the private capitalistic economic model is also increasing its economic footprint, albeit much more slowly than China; but India does have invigorating spirit powered by its youthful population and the start-up mentality of its private entrepreneurs, especially in technology and in pharma production. And, whenever a country rises, judging from history, it invariably wants its voice to be heard, which is, of course, to be expected. 

We need only look back to relatively recent history, the end of the 19th century, and the economic rise of Germany after its unification in 1871 under Chancellor von Bismarck.  Germany wanted its seat at the table, but Europe, including Germany, did not manage that aspiration, or demand, well with WWI being the sad, unfortunate, and disastrous result. This is something we certainly do not want repeated.

So, if history is any guide and if lessons can be learned from the rise of Germany, the economic impact of China (and prospectively India) necessitates a re-examination, and probable adjustment and modification, of existing rules and institutions, including economic institutions.  Moreover, new institutions will also invariably be created as China has already done with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) when China felt that its voice was not being heard or taken into account in the existing institutions. In short, the foreseeable future will see a period of tension and adjustment, which is only to be expected in a Venn Diagram world, which I feel is a good way of describing our present and foreseeable situation. 

Viewing the world from a Venn Diagram perspective also offers many opportunities. It will promote more inter-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary thinking, approaches. and thereby breakdown silo approaches and silo thinking.  It will hopefully have us stop trying to find “the” system to explain phenomena, complex relationships.

I do feel that, in a Venn Diagram world, the US will still remain the preeminent leader, economically, culturally, militarily and politically, as well as technologically. I predict that the US will remain a foremost leader for the not really understood and appreciated reason that US has one unparalleled strength, which gives it unparalleled energy, influence and reach.  The US is a magnet, a cultural draw, and attracts countless people from around the world, including many of the best and brightest.  It is still the land of dreams, hopes and opportunities, admittedly the challenge is to make it a land of opportunity for all Americans as well as newcomers.

Not only do people want to study at American universities, including at Columbia where I teach, they also want to work in the US and for global US companies. And people, originally from many different countries, now head many of these companies, including the recently appointed head of Twitter, Parag Agrawal. He joins an “army” of Indian corporate leaders in the US, including Atya Nadella of Microsoft Corp., Shantanu Narayen of Adobe Inc., Arvind Krishna of International Business Machines Corp. and Sundar Pichai of Alphabet Inc.. The US gives them personal opportunities not matched elsewhere.  In the Covid crisis, it was “discovered” that many of the leaders of the pharmaceutical sector were from around the world:  Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer is from Greece; Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna is from France and Moncef Slaoui, a retired executive and former advisor to US Operation Warp Speed, created to develop anti-Covid 19 vaccines, was from Morocco. Katalin Kariko, who made the crucial breakthrough on mRNA, the technology which has literally saved the world from Covid 19, is a US citizen, hails from Hungary and now works in Germany. 

According to the New American Economy Research Fund, a stunning 44% of the Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants to the US or their children, including Elon Musk of Tesla fame who hails from South Africa and the late Steve Jobs, one of the founders of Apple, the most valued company, had paternal roots in Syria.  It is not only that people from around the world bring their innovative ideas to the US, work in established companies and create start-up companies in the US, but they also continue to maintain contact with their home countries — they are in effect diplomats. These ties benefit, economically, culturally, and politically, both the US, as well as the home countries of the immigrants.  They are ties that bind.  The US is literally the networking platform of the world.  The US is a connector.

And immigrants bring global prestige to the US and acclaim to its universities.  In the sciences, statistics again tell the story.  Immigrants, who do their research in US universities, to the US have been awarded almost 40% of the Nobel Prizes in chemistry, medicine and physics during the first two decades of the 21st Century according to Foundation for American Policy.

In summary, I think that the world of tomorrow will be the same as it has been in the recent past, in this century, namely a world more akin to a Venn Diagram with (ever increasing) overlapping interests, ties and relationships, among people, institutions, companies and countries.  The geo-political world of states will actually be similar to how the corporate world operates and lessons can be learned from that. This actually means that our interests do not have to overlap completely as we can work together on multiple agreed objectives, and still have differences. The soft power of the US, namely its ability to attract the best and brightest to work in its companies and to attend classes at its universities, is and will remain unmatched. The US will remain a leader and a magnet.

Rahman Dag:  Your comment that the geo-political world of tomorrow will be similar to how the corporate world operates is intriguing.  Can you expand on that concept?

Professor Jenik Radon: In my life as a corporate attorney, in particular negotiating joint ventures, I learned some guiding principles which can be applied universally.  The term joint venture has over time gone through a number of name changes as a joint venture is not a defined term as such. It can best be described as a partnership or in modern terms, strategic alliance. A joint venture brings two or more parties, companies, together for a specific and specified commercial purpose. The challenge is having each party articulate, define, what it brings to the table, what it will contribute, and very important, what it will not. This challenge is compounded by the generally overblown expectations of the other party, which invariably assumes that, for example, that the prospective joint venture partner brings all its know-how into the joint venture, as well as new know-how developments, and will also not compete with the joint venture.  In short, the key to a successful joint venture is articulation, definition, identification, clarity of purpose, and, as I noted, also identifying what is not to be contributed and what is not to be brought into the joint venture. So, while two companies are working together in the joint venture with a specific commercial goal, they continue to be free to compete with each other in other spheres. And surprisingly, they may also file law suits against each other, but yet continue to work together in the joint venture and other projects. The corporate world is an active Venn Diagram, with multiple relationships with varying goals and purposes, many overlapping and, at times, conflicting.  An old article of mine, “Negotiating and Financing Joint Venture Abroad,” which was published in Canada, touches on the essence of creating joint ventures. There are multiple lessons to be learned from the corporate world of joint ventures.

So, the geo-political world will come to resemble what executives and managers are accustomed to: a world of competition, cooperation, negotiation, haggling, even lawsuits, which are obviously settled in the courts, often all of the foregoing at the same time. The moral of the story is that one can agree on some things and disagree on others, but still work together on agreed specific goals. Nevertheless, as conflicts are almost inevitable, one needs a way to settle differences, which in the corporate world, as noted, is settled in the courts. In the geo-political world, there is only one answer to that predicament: we need the rule of law and a way to enforce the rule of law. We need effective international tribunals.

There is no question that we still have a (long) way to go to attain broader or universal adherence to existing international dispute mechanisms and their decisions, including the International Court of Justice, Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.  International tribunals offer a legal way to settle disputes and disagreements among countries and the only way to ensure peaceful resolutions of such disagreements. But adherence to the decisions of these courts is still not preordained.

Stating that we have long hard work ahead of us is not necessarily a satisfying response; but, as I am an optimist, if we let the Universal Declaration of Human Rights be our guide and its realization our goal, there will be progress, step-by-step. The bad news is it takes effort and time as I noted; and if you hear the cries of the youth, too much time to resolve too many unresolved issues.  

But I will take the liberty of predicting that the youth of the world, which is naturally idealistic, as young people always are, and is now energized by the lack of serious action in combating climate change, will create the movement that brings the changes necessary to create a better world.

Rahman Dag: Globalized world produces global issues that none of the state can handle alone, such as climate change, global terrorism, Covid-19, and migration. In association with the previous question, do you think that great powers or all states are going to succeed to work together to deal with these issues together? Or their national interests would prevent them to do so?

Professor Jenik Radon: I certainly agree that we now have issues that no state alone can solve or resolve.  Some issues are world-wide issues which effect and impact all of us, namely climate change and Covid-19 of the issues you mentioned. Migration and so-called global terrorism do not per se have global reach, although they do have regional impact.

Migration, which you note, is a complex issue as the causes are different and varied.  Migration is a consequence of conflict, poverty, insecurity, discrimination, climate change, opportunity and a host of other reasons, including just the dream of a person for a better life.  So, the separate migrations must be analyzed and examined as to the root cause. That being said migration, as noted, is, not infrequently, predominately a regional issue. Migrants from Central America head to Mexico and, from there, to the United States. Migrants from Syria and Iraq head to the neighboring states of Jordan, Syria and Turkey first — in fact there are still millions in Jordan and Turkey, which are bearing the brunt of this migration fleeing from war — and then many seek to enter the EU. But it still remains a regional issue which needs to be solved regionally (or locally) even if the broader international community provides support in the form of funds, supplies or experts and the acceptance of a limited number of migrants. 

Global terrorism also is a concept which needs to be differentiated as to the causes, as some terrorist actions are directed against a particular government or state and others have a wider impact, such as ISIS; and, accordingly, the solutions will differ.

Notwithstanding whether an issue has global or regional impact, the lesson from COP26, and all the preceding 25 climate change conferences, is clear: it is hard to get, if even possible, one binding multi-national agreement, let alone even a letter of intent, certainly not in a reasonable period time. The world community is not organized in a way that can respond expeditiously, effectively and efficiently, not even in an emergency, which is certainly upsetting.

Civil society, which is the voice of people in various guises, will have to keep the pressure on to secure broader or universal support, which as COP26 shows is exceedingly hard to attain. Furthermore, I feel that individual states will have to do what they can alone or with a few like-minded partners. For example, a state can pass a law requiring companies under its jurisdiction to meet and comply with certain environmental or other standards, although the challenges presented by international trade and investment agreements will have to be addressed. Or a state can impose conditions and standards in a new trade and investments agreement, although here also existing agreements or treaties will pose legal obstacles as, in many cases, they freeze existing legal regimes — as noted these agreements or treaties are too often, using a popular expression, the tail that wags the dog.

As I have said in my article on the prospective EU-Mercosur trade agreement, I like President Macron’s conditioned approach to a possible trade and investment agreement between the EU and Brazil and the other Mercosur countries: no agreement unless the burning of the Amazon stops.  And the EU-Canada trade agreement requires imports from the other to meet environmental standards of the EU or Canada, as the case may be, and has recognized the precautionary principle as practiced in the EU as a valid market or trade principle. See my articles on trade and investment in William & Mary’s “Comparative Jurist,”  So realistically, I think progress will not be made universally, within a reasonable time frame, with all countries signing on to new agreements, but instead progress can be achieved, more readily, unilaterally, bilaterally and regionally, which is not to say that we should not seek, and continue to seek, global agreements. In any event, we have a lot of work to do.

Rahman Dag: Covid-19 has been seen as a global threat for human race, but unpreparedness of states enforced them to act unilaterally and so several states broke basic rules in the international trade to obtain medical equipment. And now, almost the same issue is happening in terms of Covid-19 vaccine via prioritizing their nation instead of prioritizing human being. In this regard, World Health Organization warned about the rich state’s stocking the vaccine.

It is quite hard to cover all possible results of the Covid-19, but we still want to ask to you about what is the most significant impact of Covid-19 on the current world politics?

Professor Jenik Radon: The most significant impact of Covid-19, although still not universally recognized or accepted, is that no one is safe unless are all safe. This means we are all in it together. The gravity of the present situation does not seem to be fully understood, let alone appreciated.  But the actions of the various countries to-date in defending against Covid 19 does underscore a natural impulse to first try to protect those to whom one has a direct responsibility, the citizens and residents of a country; this impulse is analogous to the instructions given to passengers on airplanes, who are told that, in the case of the sudden loss of oxygen, to first put on their own mask before helping or assisting anyone else. Moreover, it must be noted that Covid 19 vaccines cannot be produced readily, certainly not in a short time frame, in the quantity or scale needed to counter a world-wide pandemic, which is literally an unprecedented challenge. 

Vaccine manufacturing is highly demanding and specialized and little understood, as nearly all manufacturing knowledge, expertise and experience rests with pharmaceutical companies, and not with scientists, doctors or academics, and certainly not with the general public. Manufacturing facilities must be sterile and must be tailored, fitted, to the particular vaccine; and they must meet a host of stringent regulatory standards and requirements. And existing facilities take time to be refitted or modified to meet these requirements, and not all can be modified; and new facilities take years to construct — and are expensive. Moreover, highly skilled experts and trained staff, at all levels, are needed. I oversaw a research project at Columbia University that described and analysed the extensive vaccine manufacturing challenges, the report for which was published in the fall of 2020, titled “Scalable production of Covid-19 vaccines, Still A Transparency Blackhole.”  The title sums up the production difficulty.

Unfortunately, simply cancelling the patent rights of companies would not have resolved the manufacturing challenges, which, as noted, were not understood, not to mention, as noted, the cost and time needed to build the necessary facilities and also to secure the necessary inputs, parts, supplies, and, also as noted, training the necessary personnel, which itself takes considerable effort.  So, I think that the argument concerning stocking by rich countries was an oversimplified assessment. A more appropriate question is whether the world would be better off, and safer and healthier, if all people had at least one shot. It is clear that none of us are safe until we are all safe, as unvaccinated people are more likely to spread Covid, and, more likely, to develop variants, which can and will then spread to both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. And a follow-up question is how do we produce, and distribute, enough vaccines, which meet regulatory standards, to inoculate all of the people of the world? And yes, who pays for this will unfortunately be the follow-up charged challenge as dose sharing pledges have only partially been honored by G20 countries. 

So, I think that the most significant impact of Covid 19 will be psychological. There will be a steady, but (too) slow, realization, including by world leaders, that we have to pull together and work together, especially in time of emergencies, for the simple reason we are all in the same boat, and borders on a map are obviously not respected by diseases.  But this type of realization will, in the future, I believe, be led by our interconnected, digitally savvy, youth. And they are dynamic in their approach and, of course, idealistic.

Let me highlight a few examples of dynamic youth, many of whom are women. It is amazing how many 30-year-olds are being elected to office in the United States. The new foreign minister of Germany is a woman, and she is just 41. The President elect of Chile is only 35, who has an ambitious program to fight climate change and accordingly is ready to block a proposed copper mining project and who has promised adherence to the rule of law to correct the legacy of Pinochet.  The Finnish Prime Minister, also a woman, was only 34 when she was first elected in 2019 and has proven to be a steady hand in fighting Covid 19. And it should be recalled that after Estonia restored its independence in 1991, the Prime Minister, who led the reform and laid the institutional groundwork for making Estonia what it is today, a digital powerhouse, notwithstanding its small population, was only 32. And there is Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the Belarusian fighter for human rights and liberty. I am sure that the youth in other countries will also grab the mantel and follow these news leaders. Moreover, and, of course, everyone has heard of Greta Thunberg, who, although still only a teenager, has spoken truth to power, and has become a worldwide symbol for change, especially after expressing a feeling of widespread frustration and loss of faith in the existing leadership by demanding action now when she proclaimed at COP26: no more blah, blah blah. Greta espouses universal human values in the fight against climate change. In that vein, the youthful Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, who was 37 when she was elected in 2017, has earned world-wide respect and acclaim for her administration’s successful fight against Covid 19.

The youth have internalized, knowingly or unknowingly, ancient Confucian wisdom, a virtuous person cherishes justice.  This wisdom was embraced by Vaclav Havel in his powerful work, the “Power of the Powerless,” which is a book destined to become a classic inspiring generation to come. Havel was a statesman, President of Czechoslovakia and then the Czech Republic, and first came to prominence with his outspokenness on the air during the 1968 Prague Spring; but it is his writings which will stand the force of time.  Further, modern youth march in support of the moral statements of Pope Francis, no matter what their faith. And they have made Nelson Mandela, an icon of democracy and a living symbol of “e pluribus unum,” as well as the South African Bishop, Desmond Tutu, a human rights activist, their lodestar.

I do believe that the young will create the world we need: a healthier world, a cleaner world, a less polluted world, an environmentally conscious world.  The youth realize what we all should have known and taken to heart: we are in it together. They will continue to demand action, change, as they see climate change, as well as the pandemic of Covid 19, as existential threats.  And action there will have to be.  The question remains, will it be fast enough.  The youth, as they bring about change, will be living and addressing my mother’s words: the only constant in life is change. 

Rahman Dag: We want to stop asking more questions here but if you think that I missed the most important issue, tell us about it and your comments on it as closing remarks.

Professor Jenik Radon: It is not that you have missed an important issue as such. But I would like to expand on my previous comment and emphasize a phenomenon that is not appreciated.  The youth of today, and of tomorrow, are a much more cosmopolitan group. They have travelled more than ever — which proves I am still young as I have been to over 100 countries —, and, as young people, they have time on their hands and can take time to get to know people. They are digitalized and speak to people around the world via Zoom, Twitter and other social media.  They are believers of transparency and media freedom. They support each other with ideas and experience, which is what media freedom is all about. They are highly interconnected and build relationships and friendships which transcend traditional national borders. And best yet, they are idealistic, as young people always are, and they are doers. They are disturbed by corruption, poverty, inequality and injustice as well as a host of other social ailments.  They are galvanized to action by what they see as an existential threat to themselves, their future, specifically climate change.  They have no choice but to look to the future as they have long lives ahead of them.  They give life to that old expression that truth comes out of the mouths of babes, young people.  As the 2021 Glasgow COP26 Climate Change conference showed, youth want action and are tired of just talk and inaction, and of false or unfilled commitments, whether by governments or companies.  They have asked a valid question: how many more conferences do we need before change takes place.

The youth of today have zoom-a-thons with a million or more participants from around the world. They have internalized Disneyland’s, the symbol of American soft power, theme song: there will be a great big, beautiful tomorrow. They have the energy and the motivation, but, of course, they still need the experience and the learning, the education. It should also be underscored that education is not only important for the knowledge that it gives a person, but also just as important, if not more important, education gives a person a feeling of self-worth, pride, and a sense of dignity.

It also needs to be kept in mind that Africa alone will increase in population by a billion people in the next 30 years. And these yet to be born children will, of course, all be young.  They need a future; they need to be given opportunity.  So let us make education for all our goal, through both digital and in person programs, lectures and classes. Let us create, among other things, a world-wide Erasmus type program for, literally, millions of young people, not just at the university level but at the high school level.  People who meet as students learn how to appreciate others and engage with them. They make friends of people of diverse backgrounds. There is no better investment than promoting and furthering (young) people-to-people engagement. They are natural ambassadors and will remain so throughout their lives. The problems of today will have to be solved tomorrow by the youth of today.  So, we need to make sure that they have what is needed: the awareness, the knowledge, the tools.  Education for an everchanging Venn Diagram world is a must.  It will be a world which will be replete with challenging Black Swans.

“Education for all” should, needs to, become our mantra. 

The ancient wisdom of Confucius still holds true today: “Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.”  Centuries later, at the turn of the 19th century, the German, Wilhelm von Humboldt, formalized that wisdom and promoted universal education, admittedly for his own country, Germany, or more precisely Prussia, as Germany was at that time still a land of multiple kingdoms and principalities. Humboldt’s theory of education also still holds true today: “People obviously cannot be good craftworkers, merchants, soldiers or businessmen unless, regardless of their occupation, they are good, upstanding and – according to their condition – well-informed human beings and citizens. If this basis is laid through schooling, vocational skills are easily acquired later on, and a person is always free to move from one occupation to another.”  Similar views were expressed, admittedly more starkly, by the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk: “In order to stave off covetousness, greed, and spite, citizens world over must be educated.” The renowned American education philosopher, John Dewey, also echoed these universal thoughts: “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.  Education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.” And I will add my own: the educated youth will be the best ambassadors, diplomats, for themselves, their societies and their countries. The World Bank started an “Education for All” initiative in 1990, a year before the fall of the Soviet Union. It is time to make that initiative a reality. 

An educated populace is the world system we need. And a world of student diplomats sounds good to me.  So, I repeat, “Education for all” should, at long last, become our mantra!!! 

Rahman Dag: Professor Radon, thanks for sharing your thoughts with us and we look forward to continuing our conversation.

Best Regards,

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