International governance: government, ngos and the citizenry

Their synergistic role in a global village

It will be a gross understatement to state that we live in the most uncertain and most dangerous of times!

If Almighty God established an interplanetary commission to investigate how we earthlings are managing this planet, the members would be shocked at our irresponsibility – our rating for 'planet-hood' would probably be between poor and dismal!

First, they would find an 'economics' driven largely by 'casino capitalism', 'mad' or speculative money, pornography, gambling, puerile entertainment and various kinds of criminal activities. The greatest growth indicator they find will be the “Gross Criminal Product” – GCP! And they will find mushrooming new cradles of modern civilisation – the tax havens, the fiscal laundrettes and not to mention creative accounting.

Secondly, they will find a 'society' marked by violence and inequity where we have billions for space exploration and armaments but not the dollars and cents for basic health, education and shelter for billions of poor.

Thirdly, they will find an 'environment' so destroyed that the air, water and soil is often taking paths of no return and leading communities of living things into self-destruction sometimes called 'ecocide'.

But it is not the economics, equity or ecological failures that will strike them as the foundation of our seemingly reckless and maddening approach to global human security and sustainable human development. The “mother of all failures”, they will discover, is a governance failure and the “cancer of all cancers” they will discover is a systemic web of bribery and corruption – local, national and global.

The Interplanetary Commission will find, among the littered landscape, a culture of greed, fed by parasitical power and mediocrity.

What can we do?

More than anything else, we need to understand and implement good governance. It is fairly universally agreed that there are at least 10 characteristics of good governance, namely:

1.participation (of all sections of government, business and civil society)
2.rule of law
5.concensus orientation
7.effectiveness and efficiency
9.strategic vision
10.respect and tolerance

Unfortunately, time will not allow one to elaborate on the local, national and global significance of each of these 10 characteristics. However, the “writing on the wall” is clear.

Unfortunately, if we look at the global scene, we have the most dismal scenario – the world leading superpower (we can call it a 'hyperpower' now) itself opts out of the most important environment treaty, the Kyoto agreements on climate. It also opts out of the International Court of Criminal Justice and now it has become the host of a series of mega financial scandals from Enron to Worldcom and more in between, before and after you can be sure.

When you have a situation that even a global United Nations inquiry can be prevented by a nation that is occupying territory in the Middle East in violation of all international norms, you can be excused of having a crisis of confidence in global fairness and justice!

It appears sadly, that we have a “world without borders” for those who have power and a “world without justice” for those who do not.

Yes, but what can we do?

Malaysia has a unique opportunity to provide global leadership for a fair and just world. Our multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious character and our position at the crossroads of global movements of trade and politics and our success and confidence in managing a complex, dynamic and admired nation has positioned us with a new challenge and a new responsibility.

Malaysia next year will be host to two globally significantly events:

  • The Conference on Non Aligned Movement (NAM)
  • The Organisation of Islamic Countries Conference (OIC)

Malaysia by its leadership of these two important events can take up the challenges of global good governance as never before, and perhaps the energies and reputation of our retiring Prime Minister can be usefully harnessed for that role. He would do it well and, I believe, will even enjoy the “global statesman” role and join the ranks of people like Nelson Mandela and Jimmy Carter, former presidents of South Africa and USA.

But there is another resource in Malaysia. Malaysia has increasingly become host to some the most articulate and effective global civil society organisations. I don't like the word NGOs (Non Government Organisations) to describe them because harassed and unhappy politicians are too quick to translate that into Anti Government Organisations. Also, the word NGO describes them by what they are not – it is like calling governments NPOs – Non People Organisations.

We have many global civil society organisations ranging from the Third World Network, Pesticide Action Network, International Baby Food Action Network, Transparency International, Just World Movement, and a host of others play global leadership roles in economics, environment, health and justice issues. We need a new alliance of common interest to be developed between Malaysia and these global CSOs. With that, we can reach out to a magnificent proliferation of citizens groups all over the world that share the goals of Malaysia for just, fair, equitable and sustainable world.

Just as Davos has brought together business and political leaders a new place, Port Alegre in Brazil is bringing two citizens groups together as never before. The internet revolution has empowered the global citizens movement to be a countervailing power as never before:

With Malaysia's leadership, NAM and OIC and Malaysian articulations for a new global financial architecture, a dialogue between civil society and government on discussing and developing a global platform for action will be a constructive and useful step.

In this way, we can harness the creative energy, outreach and synergy of one of Malaysia's under-estimated assets.

These uncertain and dangerous times need such a new government-civil society partnership.

Thank you.

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