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Speeches

C. Bildt: Address to World Summit 2020

Address to World Summit 2020, Seoul, Korea, February 3-8, 2020

 

Thank you, and let me join with others in expressing thanks for being here and being able to take part in this useful and interesting discussion.

The issues of war and peace have been with humankind forever. The quest for peace is eternal, but looking at history, war more than peace has been the natural state of affairs.

This particularly applies to the part of the world where I come from, Europe. The history of Europe is a history of conflicts and wars. This was particularly the case during the first part of the previous, 20th century when Europe brought to the world two totalitarian ideologies that brought untold suffering to Europe and humankind as a whole, and the two world wars, which had devastating consequences for millions and millions of people.

But lessons were drawn from this, and the latter part of the last century was a period during which Europe gave priority to coming together and trying to build a structure of peace through integration and cooperation. First, by necessity, in the Western part of Europe, because that was the part that was free and democratic. Then, following the fall of the Soviet Union and the Soviet empire, the rest of Europe was able join together through a framework of integration and cooperation, thereby safeguarding peace, freedom and democracy.

However, there were setbacks, even during the marvelous period when we were able to integrate hundreds of millions of people in 10 countries in Eastern and Central Europe. We spent 10 years dealing with the wars in and the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia, both of which had very negative consequences for that region and Europe as a whole.

Overall, during the previous century I think Europe showed both the horrors of war and the devastating impact war has on the entire world, and also showed lessons of how to build peace through integration and cooperation between nations.

The last decade or so has been one in which problems have been increasing, if we look at the world. I think we have seen new forces of division inside and between societies, which are undermining the prospects for peace.

In Europe, we have seen a revisionist Russia attack Ukraine, resulting in 14,000 people losing their lives. Roughly 4 million people have been forced to flee their homes due to this conflict, which continues to this day.

We have been affected deeply by the failed hope of the Arab Spring, with one war occurring after another, causing waves of refugees that have destabilized our societies, with waves of terrorism and the suffering it has brought.

We have seen, in recent days, and in recent years, rising political tensions, not only with Russia, but also between the United States and its America First policy, and China and its “China first” policy. We have seen it in trade and technology, and we do not know what the future is going to bring. 

We have, as former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pointed out earlier today, a multilateral order that is eroding in a number of different areas and this is causing a multipolar order to emerge. These two are very different. The multilateral order is about rules that are agreed on. The multipolar order is built on might that is expressed by those that have the power. We see this in one area after another.

At the same time, we all are aware of the mounting global challenges, which cannot be solved by one nation alone or even by a small group of nations.

Security is important. There are the nuclear issues that were mentioned by the previous speakers. A conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty will be taking place later this year.

There are the challenges in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or North Korea, and there is a need for denuclearization there. There is the danger the landmark nuclear agreement with Iran is being unraveled because the United States is leaving it.

We have of course the climate issue, which we are seeing the effects of in the Sahel and other places. We have the COP (Conference of Parties) 26 meeting coming up in Glasgow, Scotland in November this year. It is time now for the international community to really live up to the commitments that have been made. I am not going to be melodramatic and say that it is the last chance for humanity. It is not, but it is clear that it is an occasion that is going to be of profound importance.

We have larger numbers of refugees in the world now than we had in recent modern history, and they are not primarily in the developed countries, such as Italy, the Czech Republic, Sweden or Denmark, but are primarily in the developing world. For example, Turkey’s capital Istanbul has more refugees from Syria than all of Europe together. It is a tragedy for the people and it is a burden for these particular countries.

And there are mounting tensions between countries on trade issues, and trade is not just trade.

Trade contributes to economic development and economic development reduces poverty. Economic development enables the possibility of reducing disease and illness and increasing education access to children. The fact that we have mounting tensions over trade and technology endangers the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and these long-term goals are important preconditions for peace.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned from history. I hope some of the conclusions we have drawn in Europe are useful for other parts of the world, and we have a lot to learn from other parts of the world.

But the challenge of these days is the multilateral order is eroding, and at the same time, global challenges are mounting. Overcoming this contradiction is the number one task of global politics in our days.

Transcribed from a recording by UPF staff.

 

 


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