It is a great honour to be able to address this distinguished audience in the first months of the new millennium.

As we enter the new millennium, there are three main realities which I think will determine international stability:

The millennium is not just a nice round number:  it in fact coincides with one of the most profound developments in human history, the process that we have come to call globalisation – or world integration.

During the past decades the foundations of a new supranational global community have emerged, which will affect virtually every aspect of international political, social, cultural and economic relationships.   I believe that Globalisation will, on the whole,  greatly enhance international stability:

Obviously globalisation also has downsides against which especially the leading powers will have to guard.  Time does not allow me to expand on this.  Suffice it to say that there are already signs of revival of assertive nationalism and of growing suspicion that it may lead to a new form of cultural and economic imperialism.

The second factor that I believe will influence global stability in the coming decades is the growing gap between the rich and poor nations.   Unless we take active steps to address this problem it will become an increasingly dangerous agent for destabilisation.

One of the central implications of the emerging globalised international community is that none of us – and particularly not the leading powers – can any longer ignore problems and grievances in distant countries.  Non-performing economies cannot be relegated to a basket-case category outside of the mainstream of global commerce;  and bloody crises and conflicts in distant societies cannot be dismissed with thirty-second segments on the evening news.

In the new millennium it will be less and less possible to ignore the stark reality that a large part of the human population still lives in unacceptable poverty, misery and repression.

Some will argue that there has been progress,  that the portion of the world’s population living in absolute poverty has declined from two thirds to one third in the past forty years.  However, fact is that the total number of people living below the poverty line has stayed about the same – because the world’s population has doubled since 1960.  Even more serious is the fact that the disparity per capita 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.

Our continent, Africa, is the main victim of the growing global disparity between rich and poor.  Most of the poorest fifth of the world’s nations are in Africa.  In the race for social progress and prosperity, many African countries are falling further and further behind not only the first world countries, but  many other developing economies as well.

At the conference in Cairo earlier this month between African and European countries, it was agreed that in our globalised world, Africa could not be marginalised.   Many good intentions were expressed – particularly with regard to Africa’s crippling burden of debt.  But the problems of the continent will require much more than the expression of good intentions and the application of band-aids.

The conclusion reached by the conference was correct: it will not be possible to marginalise an entire continent.  Europe and the world cannot accept a new de facto  apartheid between a rich white north and an impoverished and unstable black south in Africa.  In our globalised world, the problems of one region will inevitably become the problems of other regions and ultimately of the whole world:

It is accordingly essential for the international community to develop the policies, the resources and the will to ensure that a sizeable proportion of the human population does not fall further behind in the global race for prosperity, peace and democracy.

How then should we deal with these problems?  In the time allowed I can only highlight a few guidelines.

The solution to many of these problems firstly lies in rapid and sustained economic growth.  Secondly it lies in the promotion of democracy and stable civil societies.  And thirdly it lies in recognising the symbiosis between these challenges.  Economic prosperity creates the environment in which democracy and free institutions can grow – and they, in turn, help to promote the stability which is essential for economic growth.

There is an undeniable link between peace, development, growth and democracy.  Only three of the countries in the world with per capita incomes of less than US $ 1,000 are full democracies, while nearly all of the twenty richest countries – those with per capita incomes above US $ 13 000 – are democracies (the exceptions being a number of oil-rich states).

This should not come as a surprise:  it is difficult for democracy to take root in countries with low levels of education; inadequate social services and poor communications.  On the other hand, it is almost impossible to develop a successful consumer economy without a well-educated population; free institutions; the liberty of action and choice that free markets require; and effective mass communications.

There is also a link between levels of development and peace.   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 civil wars.  On the other hand, none of the twenty richest countries have experienced serious internal  conflict – with the exception of Northern Ireland.

Again, there is reason for this.   The poorest countries have not yet developed the constitutional mechanisms to manage and resolve conflicts.   Those involved in such conflicts have little ability to choose or control their destinies, but are simply swept along by the tide of war.   Citizens of rich first world societies are, by contrast, well-informed about current issues; they are protected by the law and, through their political representation, are able to choose whether they wish to become involved in conflict or not.   Only in the most extreme cases will they accept the necessity for war.  Moreover, every aspect of modern conflict is covered on a minute to minute by the media.  Under these circumstances it is difficult to romanticise war.   It is perhaps for such reasons that there is no case where one true democracy has ever gone to war against another.   Democracy is thus a strong force for peace and stability.

How then can we achieve this symbiosis between economic development, stability, democracy and a vibrant civil society?  Once again I only have time for a few guidelines.

In the sphere of the economy, the developed countries can help to promote economic growth in Africa and other least developed societies by helping to remove some of the obstacles which at present hobble their economies.

Steps should also be taken to increase Africa’s diminishing share in global trade – which is less than 2% of the total.  African exports need more favourable access to first world markets and consideration should be given to counter the increasingly negative terms of trade which most African countries experience.   Africa also requires higher levels of foreign and domestic investment to achieve the 5% per annum growth levels which are necessary to break out of the grip of poverty.

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, some  steps are now being taken by the IMF  and first world countries to address this problem.  However, all of these steps still deal with only a fraction of the continent’s total outstanding debt.

The response to the problem of third world debt should not, however, be to reject the efforts of the IMF and the World Bank to encourage developing societies to implement sound economic and fiscal policies.   Current and planned demonstrations against these institutions are akin to blaming the doctor for the patient’s disease.

Instead, the international community should concentrate on the root causes of Africa’s problems.  The most serious of these is  the chronic instability in so many countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The unacceptable reality is that twenty of the 45 countries in sub-Saharan Africa are presently – or have recently – been involved in wars.  Some of these conflicts have been characterised by unspeakable and meaningless brutality – such as the deliberate mutilation of more than 5 000 people in Sierra Leone.  After decades of fighting, others – such as the conflicts in Angola, Sudan and Somalia – continue to defy all attempts to find solutions.

I believe that if we are to find solutions, we will have to go to the root of the problem of conflict in our time.   This brings me to the third factor that I believe will influence international stability in the coming decades – which is the emergence of ethnic, cultural and religious divisions as the main cause of national and international conflict.

150 Years ago Karl Marx warned that a spectre was haunting Europe – the spectre of Communism.   In fact he was a bit ahead of his times:  the spectre that haunted Europe at that time and which was to cause devastating conflicts for the next ninety years was not Communism – but rampant nationalism and imperialism.   It was only after the second world war that the spectre of Communism  began to  dominate global politics.  It did so for the next 45 years.    During this period, hardly a conflict or confrontation occurred which was not in some or other way affected by or related to the global rivalry between the communist super powers and the free market democracies.

Since the sudden and unexpected collapse of global communism ten years ago the spectre of ethnic, cultural and religious conflict came to the fore as the main cause of instability.  In the world of today most conflicts no longer occur between nations, but within nations between communities.  These intranational conflicts are, in turn, a major cause of international conflict and tension – as with the cases of the present or recent conflicts in Kashmir, Kosovo, Cyprus and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The simple truth is that the main cause of conflict in Africa – and elsewhere in the world – lies in the inability of different ethnic and cultural communities to coexist peacefully within the same societies.

History has, rightly or wrongly, thrown peoples, nations and ethnic communities together who do not want to be together.  Borders have been drawn arbitrarily.  And the result  is widespread inter-communal conflict – not only in Africa but throughout the world – from Rwanda and Burundi, to Cyprus and Sri Lanka;  from Bosnia and Kosovo to Kashmir and Nigeria.

Apart from the need for economic development,  the great challenge of the new millennium is therefore to defuse the conflict potential inherent in multi-cultural and multi-ethnic societies.

In a shrinking world, the international community will have to pay far greater attention to this question than has thus far been the case.  It is a sensitive question because some 90% of all states include some or other significant cultural or ethnic minority and few would welcome international scrutiny of and interference in such relationships.

These sensitivities do not, however, detract from the urgency of the problem, nor from the need for more intense international debate.

We need to identify the approaches that promote peace and harmony between communities and those that cause tension and conflict.  Most inter-communal violence and prejudice has its roots in perceptions that one community or group is threatening the interests of others.   We accordingly need to ask how the cultural, linguistic and educational rights of communities in multicommunal societies can best be assured.   How should such communities be represented in the processes by which they are governed and what mechanisms should be created to ensure cordial relations between communities?.

We have learned that relationships between communities in complex states – like all human relationships – require constant an ongoing attention and care.  Communities must communicate and become engaged with one another in addressing common problems and in promoting mutual understanding.  Constitutional rules and conventions governing the rights and relationships between communities need to be strengthened and observed.  It was with objectives such as these in mind that I recently established a Foundation.  Our central purpose will be to promote successful and harmonious multicommunal societies.

Intercommunal conflict often arises from the failure of governments to observe the basic precepts that I have listed – as is indicated by the current disturbing developments in Zimbabwe.

It is time that South Africa and the world recognised Robert Mugabe’s actions for what they are –  crude and provocative racism.  What he is doing has little to do with genuine land reform –  the necessity of which I do not dispute.  He is simply whipping up support for his re-election by inflaming emotions against an ethnic minority – nearly all of whom are Zimbabweans by birth.  Similar tactics have been applied by other leaders in other times with disastrous consequences.     His actions are not only ruining the prospects for peace and prosperity in his own country but can have a seriously destabilising influence throughout the region.

It is accordingly imperative for the international community and for Zimbabwe’s closest neighbours to  condemn Mugabe’s approach unequivocally.  They must call for an end to racial threats and provocation.  They must insist on the re-establishment of the rule of law and the holding of genuinely free and fair elections.  And they must urgently develop strategies to influence the situation.

Failure to do so will send the wrong signals to communities throughout the region – and particularly in South Africa.   It will be interpreted as acquiescence in and even approval of what Mugabe is doing and allowing.  In the end it will undermine international confidence in the stability not only of Zimbabwe, but of our whole region.

As we approach the end of the millennium

The past century has witnessed unprecedented human progress.  The great challenge that lies ahead of us will be to ensure that when the next century closes, all of mankind will share in the prosperity, peace and freedom that only some of us presently enjoy.