'People in the underbelly of the world's economy and people that will come out of the shadows of the future have one thing in common: they do not yet have a voice. But they have a claim.'
Jan Pronk, Professor Emeritus at the Erasmus University, was speaking at LSE Enterprise for a Kapuscinski Lecture on how to respond to global threats in the decade ahead. This series of lectures are run by the UNDP and the EU. They cover development in European Union countries and are named after Ryszard Kapuscinski, a Polish reporter and writer known as 'the Voice of the Poor'.
Professor Pronk spoke of how the integrated system global institutions set up in the wake of World War Two were a 'breakthrough in civilisation', able to serve the world's common objectives and create consensus-based international law. However recent progress has been accompanied by setbacks intrinsic to present-day world development: poverty and economic stagnation for a third of the world's population, a scarcity of resources and the environmental issues which lead to further inequalities and natural disasters. The mounting potential for conflict is exacerbated by weakening nation-states, the growth of international crime and the proliferation of nuclear and other weapons.
Professor Pronk believes that the main concern is not the dangers themselves, but that we have dismantled our capacity to deal with them. Global security has become subordinate to national concerns, and international institutions are sidelined in favour of unrepresentative groupings and coalitions of interest groups. 'The new world order that our grandparents had carefully built after 1945 has become paralysed.'
The challenge is to reform institutions, strengthen values and more importantly their interpretation, and to restore humans' social fabric. Opportunities to meet these challenges must be grasped in our own interests – and those of the Other.