SPEECH BY FORMER PRESIDENT F W DE KLERK TO
2 February 2002
THE WORLD AFTER 11 SEPTEMBER 2001
It has become a truism that the world will never again be the same after the terrorist attacks of 11 September last year. For many of us around the world who sat dumbfounded in front of our TV sets, the events of that day were among the most traumatic that we had ever personally witnessed. Why were we so deeply affected and what are the implications for the future?
These are the questions that I – a sympathetic outsider from a distant country in Africa – would like to address tonight.
At the end of the day, the loss of life – while terrible – was small by comparison with the numbers of people who have died and are dying in bitter, untelevised conflicts around the world. The destruction of property was devastating – but still reflected only the tiniest proportion of the vast wealth and resources of this country.
And yet the events of 11 September have reverberated around the world. They have deeply affected the economy of the United States and, indeed, of the entire international community. They have been a major factor in the decision-making of companies whether or not they should invest in new projects and factories; they affected the decision of hundreds of millions of people around the world regarding where and whether they should go abroad on business visits or for their annual vacations. They have had a devastating effect of the air travel industry. Millions of people have decided not to fly – or to fly as little as possible – because of the terrible scenes they saw on their TV sets. There is nothing rational about this. Flying remains the by far the safest way to travel and the best and quickest way of getting from point A to point B. So why have the events of 11 September had such a devastating effect on us?
I should like to suggest the following reasons:
- Firstly, they have underlined the unpredictability of the world in which we live.
- Secondly, they have provided graphic illustration that we now live in a globalised world
- Thirdly, they have focussed sharp attention on the international role played by the United States in the post Cold War era.
Whether we like or not, we are living in a world in which change is not only fundamental and accelerating: it is also increasingly unpredictable. Some of the main developments that have fundamentally transformed the world since 1989, were entirely unforeseen only fifteen years ago: think of
- the internet and the world-wide web;
- the collapse of the Soviet Union and international communism, and
No-one foresaw the events of 11 September, yet, as we have observed, they have created a new reality and a new framework within which we are all going to have to operate.
People in the West and especially in the United States have grown used to living in a fairly predictable and secure environment. The last significant attack on American territory was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941. The last armed conflict on American soil was the Civil War. Then, on 9 September 2001, and without warning, the United States was under attack. We watched in horror as symbols of the United States economic and military power were destroyed or seriously damaged. Suddenly, everyone felt vulnerable.
Secondly, the events of 9 September illustrated the degree to which we now live in a globalised world. Who would have imagined that the grievances of Moslem fanatics based in caves in one of the most remote and backward countries in the world, could possibly have an impact on the high-tech nerve centre of global capitalism in down-town New York?
The attacks on the United States were a global event. People all round the world watched them unfold from hour to hour on television sets from Sydney to Stockholm; from Toronto to Tokyo; from Mexico City to Cape Town. Virtually every person on the planet with access to a TV set as drawn personally into the crisis through the omnipresence of the media.
One of the central implications of globalisation is that we cannot ignore crises and grievances in other parts of the world. We can no longer dismiss ongoing conflicts in distant third-world countries with 30 second segments on the evening news. In a shrinking world, the problems of one region will inevitably become the problems of other regions and ultimately of the whole world:
- Diseases like AIDS – which first appeared in Africa – do not observe international boundaries;
- As we saw a few years ago, economic crises in emerging markets can have serious negative consequences for the whole of the global economy; and
- Conflicts and instability in distant societies can reverberate throughout the whole international community.
The events of 11 September have also high-lighted the United States’ global role. Indeed, if it were not for its pre-eminent position in the international community, it is unlikely that America would ever have been a target. However, because it is the sole surviving super power, someone somewhere in the world is likely to blame the United States for any problem that might arise in the international community.
This places an awesome responsibility on United States foreign policy:
- firstly to try to ensure that its international actions have the support of the widest possible spectrum of the international community
- secondly, to take the kind of concerted action against international terrorism that we have seen during the passed five months
- and thirdly, together with the international community, to address the underlying causes of conflict throughout the world.
The growing gap between rich and poor in the world; The gap between the poorest and richest fifths of the world’s nations has widened from 30 to 1 in 1960 to 78 to 1 in 1994.
We cannot consign non-performing economies to a basket-case category outside of the mainstream of the world economy. The reason is that many of the conflicts that contribute to global instability have their roots in poverty and under-development. Eleven of the thirty poorest countries – including Rwanda, Burundi, Afghanistan, Sudan, Liberia, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – have in recent years been wracked by devastating wars.
The United States and its first world allies can help to address this situation by promoting economic growth in the least developed societies by helping to remove some of the obstacles which at present hobble their economies.
- In particular, further attention should be given to the alleviation of the debt burden of the world’s 41 highly indebted poor countries – 34 of which are in Africa. Fortunately, significant steps are now being taken by the IMF to address this problem.
- Steps should also be taken to increase the third world’s share in global trade. For example, Africa, with almost one sixth the world’s population accounts for only one fiftieth of global trade.
- Third World exports need more favourable access to first world markets. Consideration should be given to countering the increasingly negative terms of trade which many less developed countries experience.
- These countries also require higher levels of foreign and domestic investment. They have to achieve at least 5% per annum growth levels if they are to break out of the grip of poverty.
The second great threat to global peace that the United States and its allies in the international community will have to address is the inability of different cultural, ethnic and religious communities to co-exist peacefully within the same countries. The reality is that wars seldom take place between countries these days. In the year 2000 only two of the 25 significant conflicts throughout the world were between countries; the other 25 were within countries, primarily between religious, ethnic and cultural communities.
All this confronts the international community with the need to devise principles, approaches and mechanisms to deal with the relationships between groups in multi-communal states. It is possible for such communities to co-exist provided that minority rights are properly observed and if all those involved abide by certain clear rules of behaviour.
In our own complex, multicultural society in South Africa we are learning that we can live together harmoniously provided that we accept approaches that include:
- Acceptance that cultural communities should be given maximum “breathing space” to promote their identities and to cherish their traditions.
- The cultivation of a culture of toleration, mutual respect and pride in diversity through the education system, through the teaching of national languages and through the media.
- Acceptance of the principle of inclusivity. Simple majoritarianism, where significant minorities can be excluded from important processes of decision making should be avoided. All communities should feel that they are adequately represented in all of the institutions through which they are governed; that their bona fide concerns are receiving adequate and sympathetic consideration by those in power. Special care should be taken that no community feels isolated or alienated from the governmental process.
- Enforcement of constitutional provisions prohibiting any form of discrimination. No community should feel victimised or excluded from any aspect of national life because of its cultural or ethnic identity.
- The creation of inclusive, overarching national loyalties that can unite groups, irrespective of their differences. Common national values and common national goals should form the framework for such a new national identity. In this process, common symbols and pride in national achievements should be propagated.
Finally, the United States as the pre-eminent global power, will need to take cognisance of the threat posed by religious and fanaticism and political ideology.
Fanatics, like Osama Bin Laden, have introduced a dimension of irrationality into global affairs. These are not people who bargain, who put demands, who wish to see mutually positive outcomes. On the contrary, they are motivated by blind hatred and by a cold-blooded determination to destroy and to kill, without remorse and without compassion. As they themselves boast: they embrace death.
They represent a stark rejection of everything that the modern state has come to represent: economic growth; consumerism; rationality; human rights and free institutions. They could not have chosen more symbolic targets than the twin towers of the World Trade Centre, the twin pillars of triumphal capitalism at the gateway to the United States’ greatest city. The fact that they have now been reduced to rubble is still difficult for many of us to accept.