By Bertrand Bertie
There is a human tendency to consider that everything is the same as before. It is a classic reflex to go from the known to the unknown, and to think that what we are facing is similar to what we have known before. Yet several fundamental breaks have been consistently overlooked, hence the flaw in foreign policies.
The first rupture is decolonisation. It has not been sufficiently taken into account even though it has profoundly modified the international system. The arrival of new states and therefore new and specific histories, societies and economies has upset an international order which, until a few decades ago, was only regional and which has suddenly become global.
The second great rupture that has not really been taken into account is that of globalisation. This entirely new order is leading us for the first time in history to a single world where everyone is ‘on the same boat’. With the possible exception of the Palestinians and a few other pariah peoples, all the peoples of the world now belong to the same international system of which they are official members.
This changes everything: a Central African whose country has a GDP per capita of about $600 per year and a Luxembourger whose GDP per capita is $110,000 per year are now side by side. These enormous differences mean that social issues have become major issues in international relations, even surpassing the importance of traditional military issues. Similarly, globalisation has created something we do not know how to analyse: a growing interdependence between economies, societies, cultures and means of communication. The old concept of sovereignty must thus be questioned.
For more than 60 years, Africa has been a perfect example of the failure of power. This is the great lesson, which has been somewhat overlooked, and from which we must learn all the consequences. First of all, power was defeated by decolonisation. The weakest, i.e. the colonised peoples, defeated the strongest, i.e. the colonial powers, which were well versed in the art of war but were defeated in Algeria, Madagascar, Kenya and Cameroon. Similarly, all the post-colonial wars that have subsequently occurred in Africa, and there are unfortunately many of them, are not the result of classic power rivalry, but of new factors.
For example, at the root of the Sahelian or Congolese conflict is not power rivalry but the failure of societies and social and political institutions that have plunged these countries into a logic where impotence is the law much more than power. This shows how urgent it is not to fight the enemy, which has been the history of Europe for centuries, but to establish a real governance that removes the risk of belligerent disorder. This is something that decolonisation has not succeeded in establishing.
We need to do is to recognise the way forward. We are told that Africa’s misfortunes are due to strategic manipulation or terrorist actions. But these are epiphenomena, linked to “entrepreneurs of violence” who take advantage of a situation and factors of disorder that are infinitely more profound!
We must know how to discover, beyond this, the roots of the African crisis, that is to say, this lack of political governance but above all of social governance. It’s not a theoretical vision but rather an extremely practical one. Global governance cannot be seen but it already exists everywhere.
To pay tribute to the great African, Kofi Annan, he understood this perfectly well when he launched the MDGs. We must pay tribute to the UN agencies that put in place this global governance which, for example, made it possible to eradicate smallpox in Africa in the years following decolonisation.
Beyond this, we must build open, inclusive and pragmatic alliances, instead of perpetuating closed blocs in their outdated arrogance. We should forge generous and daring alliances that consist in cooperating in all directions, and and to build, in the face of major challenges, alliances of circumstance.
This is the new foreign policy.