Leadership

Reimagining International Cooperation Without Catastrophe

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During an era ruled by factious kingdoms and empires, the 30 Years War from 1618-1648 killed up to 12 million people across Europe, approximately 20% of the continent’s population at the time. In part to avoid similar carnage in the future, the Peace of Westphalia birthed the modern nation-state, sovereignty, and fixed boundaries for the countries involved in the fighting.

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Three hundred years later, in the aftermath of two world wars resulting in over 90 million deaths, there was a need to create new multilateral structures and norms to prevent future catastrophes. Thus began efforts that eventually became the UN, EU, Bretton Woods, and a host of other institutions, resulting in arguably the most peaceful and prosperous time in human history. For example, the percentage of the global population living in absolute poverty ($2 a day or less, inflation adjusted) decreased from nearly 70% in 1945 to under 10% today.

Today we are at another crossroads. Technological innovation has provided the capacity to connect everyone to nearly all the information we possess in the world and, more importantly, to each other. However, we have also learned that it can divide us by enabling misinformation and disincentivizing the important practice of critical thinking. Despite there being more capital in the system than there are places to allocate it, we continue to invest only into the things that legal and financial systems consider de-risked and measurable by the most antiquated of measurement systems. And at a time when political and economic cooperation is receding, transnational threats are rising, from climate change to global health and artificial intelligence. The fundamental question for the next thirty years is:

Can we reimagine a new way of cooperating without a massive catastrophe to initiate this?

During an era ruled by factious kingdoms and empires, the 30 Years War from 1618-1648 killed up to 12 million people across Europe, approximately 20% of the continent’s population at the time. In part to avoid similar carnage in the future, the Peace of Westphalia birthed the modern nation-state, sovereignty, and fixed boundaries for the countries involved in the fighting.

Three hundred years later, in the aftermath of two world wars resulting in over 90 million deaths, there was a need to create new multilateral structures and norms to prevent future catastrophes. Thus began efforts that eventually became the UN, EU, Bretton Woods, and a host of other institutions, resulting in arguably the most peaceful and prosperous time in human history. For example, the percentage of the global population living in absolute poverty ($2 a day or less, inflation adjusted) decreased from nearly 70% in 1945 to under 10% today.

Published in Diplomatic Courier

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