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Reconciliation Must Drive Development

Political leaders in Russia, Brazil, the United States, and elsewhere are advancing unabashedly nationalist, nostalgia-tinged agendas in order to oppose any attempts to promote joint global governance. In doing so, they are promoting a subtle theory of withdrawal – including at the very center of development policy.

PARIS – In a profoundly volatile world riddled with fractures, the temptation to embrace a seemingly reassuring path of withdrawal or isolation may be strong. In fact, avoidance of potential hazards seems only natural. For lack of a better alternative, we may be instinctively inclined to look inward in order to circumvent or at least mitigate the risks of a world that feels like end times, in which children are telling us the truth.

Many of us have already decided to follow that route. And yet the fires which recently ravaged the Amazon rainforest are a stark – and tragic – reminder that this line of reasoning, albeit understandable, is misleading. In fact, we should be moving in the opposite direction. We live in a world in common, which means that we are all vulnerable to threats – be they environmental, social, or political – that know no borders. Because direct or collateral effects can be felt everywhere, we should be nurturing a desire for reconciliation, not isolation.

These opposing views on the many challenges of an interdependent world – climate change, loss of biodiversity, deadly pandemics, social fragmentation, insecurity, trafficking of all kinds, and uncontrolled migration – underpin divergent strategies. On one hand, proponents of openness and stronger coordinated action seek collaboration with other countries in a spirt of international solidarity. On the other hand, advocates of distinct national trajectories endorse agendas designed to spread a subtle theory of withdrawal, including at the very center of the fundamentally generous field of development policy.

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