We humans are strange creatures. We often tend to put off making important decisions and taking vital action until we hit a crisis point. We do this in both our individual and collective lives. The problem is that in today’s world some of the decisions we have steadfastly refused to make can spell the difference between life and death. We are learning this the hard way with the coronavirus pandemic and its twin, the growing global economic crisis.
And yet, there are still constructive choices we can make. Rather than stumbling blocks, we can choose to treat these crises as stepping-stones helping us build an effective system of global governance fit to respond to our collective needs in the 21st century and beyond. We have known for a long time that climate change poses a dire threat to life on earth in many different ways. We have also known that the continuing proliferation of nuclear weapons increases the threat of a nuclear war, which, whether deliberate or accidental, will have horrific consequences. Yet, we have been content to stick our heads in the sand and abdicate responsibility for making collective, global decisions that will ensure that these nightmares are mitigated or never come to pass.
We have made the same mistake with respect to the looming threat of pandemics. For years, we have talked about the possibility of such an event, and yet we have failed to take the necessary steps to ensure that we were prepared to tackle such a crisis swiftly and effectively. While some voices have for many years been calling for the creation of a limited form of global government, most of our leaders have been unwilling to countenance such an idea.
Yet, finally, in the face of the enormous physical, economic, and mental suffering we have begun enduring in the wake of the coronavirus, we are starting to hear voices among the world’s leaders calling for the creation of some kind of system of global governance that is capable of responding to the needs of the 21st century. Such voices should be encouraged and applauded.
What an incredible call to action! This is precisely the kind of leadership we need — one that is willing to acknowledge and dispense with systems that are not working and no longer ensure the well-being of those they were created to serve. And one that recognizes the need for collective consultation in order to conceive of new global structures: capable of managing collective problems that impact humanity as a whole.
Also recently, the views of Gordon Brown, the former prime minister of Britain were clearly laid out in an article published by The Guardian. He cut straight to the chase, urging world leaders “to create a temporary form of global government to tackle the twin medical and economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
He highlighted the obvious yet often unacknowledged fact that “this is not something that can be dealt with in one country,” rather it is something that requires “a coordinated global response,” starting with “some sort of working executive.” This kind of call confirms world historian Arnold Toynbee’s predictions in the last century that — despite our strenuous resistance to any notion of a world government — once we faced an existential threat, we would rapidly, though reluctantly, abandon our resistance in favour of a world government, albeit limited in scope to what is absolutely necessary to effect the global management of global challenges.
We, the people of the world, have a choice to mitigate our global suffering and to ensure that our hardships have not been in vain. It is up to us, one and all, to demand of our leaders that they seize this opportunity to demonstrate the statesmanship, vision, and courage required to build those global decision-making and enforcement institutions we so desperately need to meet the urgent needs of an inextricably interconnected world.