CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
SPEECH BY FORMER PRESIDENT F W DE KLERK TO
THE PRAGUE SOCIETY FOR INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION ,
PRAGUE, 29 MAY 2001
CHALLENGES FACING THE WORLD IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM
Perhaps the most important factor that we have had to contend with during the ten historic years since the collapse of global communism, has been the reality of the enormous processes of change that are engulfing the world.
As we enter the new millennium, we can make the following three observations about change:
- it is accelerating;
- it is fundamental; and
- it is unpredictable.
During the past century – and particularly since World War II – there has been an exponential acceleration in the pace of change. Our society probably has changed more during the past ten years than it did in the first ten thousand years of our development as a species.
The change that we are experiencing is also fundamental. It affects virtually every aspect of our lives.
- It is changing the relationships between men and women, husbands and wives and parents and children.
- It has profound implications for the traditional family. 30% of mothers in Europe are now unmarried.
- It is affecting our value systems and traditional conceptions of morality.
- It will continue to transform the way we work; the way we spend our free time and the way we communicate and obtain information.
Change is also unpredictable. Some of the main developments that have created the world in which we now live, were entirely unforeseen only fifteen years ago:
- think of the internet; in 1985 no-one predicted the development of the worldwide web or envisaged the coming of the dot.coms – yet, despite their current problems, they have become a central and indispensable part of the global economy.
- Nobody dreamt that by this year a disease called AIDS would have killed 22 million people; that another 30 million people would be infected; and that Africa would be facing the prospect of having to care for 40 million AIDS orphans by the year 2010;
- To return to the subject of this conference, in 1985 few people – if any – predicted that within a few years
- the whole edifice of international communism would have collapsed;
- the Iron Curtain would have come crashing down;
- Germany would be reunited;
- Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and all the other countries of Eastern Europe would be free; and that
- the Soviet Union itself would have disintegrated into its constituent parts.
Anyone who had made such predictions in 1985 would have been referred to a psychiatric clinic for observation.
So, when we look at the future, we must view it within the context of a maelstrom of accelerating, fundamental and unpredictable change. We must understand that the world in ten years will probably be dominated by factors that we at present cannot even predict. So, forecasts must be made with humility and trepidation.
Having said this, let me hazard a few guesses about the factors that may influence the world and international relations during the next ten years:
- The first is globalisation. Regardless of the protests in Seattle and here in Prague, globalisation is here to stay. Whether we like it or not, modern communications and transportation systems are inexorably creating a single global market in which all of us are going to have to compete. Globalisation will have enormous – and as yet – unforeseen implications for the freer movement of goods, capital, ideas and people around the world. It will present the international community with historic challenges to ensure that this process takes place in a manner that is fair, ordered and beneficial for all participants.
- Secondly, and linked to globalisation, is the continuing gap between rich and poor throughout the world. Although the first world has attained undreamed of prosperity and liberty, billions of people still live in poverty, conflict and tyranny. The reality is that 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. One of the central implications of globalisation is that we can any longer ignore crises and grievances in distant countries. Non-performing economies cannot be consigned to a basket-case category outside of the mainstream of the world economy.
- Thirdly, and also linked to globalisation, will be the need to devise ways and means to enable different cultural, ethnic and religious communities to co-exist peacefully within the same societies. As we enter the third millennium, only two of the world’s 27 significant conflicts are now between countries. 25 are between factions and communities within countries. This trend will continue as globalisation brings more and more communities into closer proximity with one another. The challenge for the international community will be to articulate, entrench and promote respect for, the rights of communities and to devise ground rules for harmonious co-existence. Coupled to this, and in reaction to the cultural uniformity that globalisation will tend to impose, I believe that there will also be a resurgence of national and regional cultures as individuals strive to retain their identities in an increasingly amorphous world.
- Fourthly, the following ten years will witness the emergence of new global powers: China – and possibly India – representing 35% of the human race will inevitably begin to play geopolitical roles commensurate with their economic growth. The European Union will progressively develop its own international identity as the world’s most powerful economic bloc. All this means that by the end of the decade we shall probably have moved away from the present unhealthy situation where there is only one super-power.
- Fifthly, the world in ten years will probably be influenced by the emergence of technologies that are at present undreamed of – or that are now only in their infancy:
- The unraveling of the human genetic code has implications for society and individuals that are mind-boggling.
- Likewise, the internet and the worldwide web are still only in their infancy. We can expect consumer and communication wonders that will dramatically change much of our present economic landscape.
- Environmental pressures may well lead to the development of new technologies involving alternatives to carbon-based fuels – with enormous implications for the global economy and for geopolitical relationships.
- Sixthly, one of the darkest realities with which we will have to cope in the next few years will be the havoc that will be wrought by AIDS. Much will depend on our success in finding a cheap and effective vaccine. However, even with such a vaccine tens of millions of people will die from the disease during the coming decade. If AIDS takes root in heavily populated areas of southern Asia, West Africa and South America – then we might be confronted with a catastrophe that will make any other developments in the coming decade seem insignificant.
- Finally, the world in ten years might be dramatically influenced by developments in our natural environment:
- In 1998 the hole in the ozone layer above the Antarctic reached its largest size ever;
- The 10 warmest years in the last century all occurred after 1985. Of these, 1998 was the warmest year on record.
- The snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere and floating ice in the Arctic Ocean have decreased.
- Globally, sea level has risen 4-10 inches over the past century.
- Worldwide precipitation over land has increased by about one percent.
We dare not ignore these warning signals. One of the main challenges that the international community will have to meet during this period will be to take urgent and comprehensive action to minimise – and if possible – to reverse the damage that we are doing to our environment. We must implement and strengthen the agreement on global warming that was reached in Kyoto in 1997. We must not allow short-term, sectional and national interests to stand in the way of actions that must be taken for the long-term benefit and security of all mankind.
To sum up, I believe that the main challenges that will confront us during the coming decade will be
- To manage globalisation so that it will be fair and equitable to all;
- To close the gap between the richest and poorest fifths of the world’s population;
- To address the root causes of conflict between religious, ethnic and cultural communities;
- To make use of – and accommodate – the next wave of technological development;
- To manage and accommodate the rivalries that will inevitably develop between existing and emerging super powers as we move back into a multi-polar geopolitical system.
- To find a cheap and effective vaccine for AIDS and to deal with the effects of the pandemic; and
- To take clear and decisive action to minimise – and if possible to reverse – the damage that we are doing to our environment.
These then, are the issues that I believe will dominate the global agenda during the next ten years. But in a world in which change is accelerating so rapidly; in which it is so fundamental and so unpredictable, they are only guesses.
Perhaps the Prague Society for International Co-operation should consider holding another meeting in ten years time of today’s foreign ministers to review what will inevitably be another extraordinary decade!