We know, many of us, that good practices in solving conflicts exists… But despite these good practices, we are riding the waves of culture. Whatever we think, we analyze and we do is based on our culture, on the way on which people solve problems.
We know also:
- what makes us different is based on attitude towards people, time and environment;
- the one best way of doing things does not exits;
- how proven formula can lead to wrong results.
So how this reality is reflected in our today’s World? Why don’t we understand these very basic ideas and the current conflicts are far from being solved? Behind the answer to these questions, we have several facts. I’ll introduce you to seven of them. The list is not exhaustive.
1. First of all, despite thousands of years of evolution, humankind has not reached a status of awareness of its own identity and species. We are not able to define precisely who we are. However, the accelerated globalization in the digital and virtual era has boosted the inter-dependency of the nations of the Earth to a level without precedent. The world counts more than 3 billion TV watchers and nearly 2 billion Face book users.
Almost 200,000 innovation licenses are approved yearly and over 1% of the GDP is directed to research. More than half of the planet can read and write, and almost 1 billion individuals are totally illiterate.
Almost half of the people worldwide live in democratic systems. Modern people seem to ignore a simple fact: almost half of humankind is still socially organized in tribal systems with little concern for what we call individual rights.
There are more than 1,000 billionaires in the world. Between 5 and 20% of the World Economy (depending on statistic sources) is governed by criminal organizations. 55% of the international trade is routed through tax paradise …
These are some random indicators showing the complexity of our World. Putting together such data and information is a difficult job and their accuracy remains questionable. This is explained first of all by the lack of an authority in charge of international statistics. As statistics are to a certain extent a reflection of identity, their lack of a global scale highlights the absence of an institutional framework and of the identity of the human species on Earth.
2. Many of today’s conflicts are more based on inegalitarian reason rather on the rivalry. So we assist in a real battle for having a status and recognition on an international level. We are not at the same table, we are not in the same league…
And in this context, what do we do? We humiliate the other. The humiliation machine became a tool for differentiation and achieve these criteria. It is not only a question West against East, North against South, and Islam against Christian or local against immigrants… Everybody is humiliating everybody.
Humiliation is also a historical practice in International Affairs: weakening the State, putting it under supervision, and far from the decision places, stigmatizing the leaders… Just a few practices that we continue to find in our days without any constraints.
During the Arab Spring, many specialists spoke about a new “Sykes-Picot” Agreement. But who is influencing what? The situation is far from being clear. While the United States and Europe didn’t put the Middle East conflict resolution on their top priorities, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey increased their role and influence in the region. The recent events and declarations make me suppose that this situation is still volatile and a western come-back in the Middle East is not impossible.
3. The local remains the power of the weak, whilst the global is the weakness of the strong. The recent technological advances however allow an almost unlimited digital control of intelligence. Any phone call may be intercepted… A simple push of a computer button may launch missiles and destroy a target from more than 10,000 km.
The certainty of the supremacy of some countries creates a degree of self-confidence and indifference in terms of the methods used to ensure such supremacy. Local traditions are ignored or contested and many murders are taking place under the umbrella of immunity.
On the other hand, we have another big question in front of us: Will Western countries succeed in integrating Muslim communities of millions of individuals who were accepted only because they represented cheap labor force able to cover less attractive economic areas for the local population? For how long we will see terrorist attacks such as those that happened in New York (September 2001), Paris (January and November 2015), Nisse (July 2016),…? How will Western countries fight enemies who were born, raised, educated on their own territory? The answers to these questions are not simple and, apart from extremist messages, we have not seen yet any proper solution that could come with accurate actions.
4. The differences in time perception generates cultural contradiction. In many countries we are doing everything on a short term basis. As Tocqueville was saying, “democracies are fighting external problems only for internal reasons”. A democratic government should answer the electors’ expectations for short term results. Everything needs to be sorted out quickly.
This puts the same countries in a completely uncorrelated position compared to other nations. Forgetting the past and ignoring the medium and long-term consequences means validating a “live” emotional policy oriented towards the short term, while other countries seem to have all the time in front of them. The recent conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and the not so recent crises in Libya or Afghanistan are all proofs of this phenomenon.
5. Many states are losing a centuries-old monopole: the monopoly of legitimate violence. Nowadays weapons are sold and used freely by individuals or groups that are not controlled by the state; they end up contaminating societies and generating conflicts. Many states would surely prefer to fight recognized nations, as in 1956, 1967 or 1973, and not the Islamic State or Al-Qaeda, as now.
Eliminating dictators as Saddam Hussein or Gaddafi has not improved the situation of the respective countries. The conflicts have thrown manageable nations into a state of chaos that no authority knows how to end.
6. The NGO’s and humanitarian missions emerged as a saving solution during a long period of time. All military interventions in the last 25 years were grounded on humanitarian reasons. This is the manner in which functioned the humanitarian missions in the former Yugoslavia, Libya, or the Middle East. I am wondering if the Western support in integrating Yugoslavia into the European Union would have kept that region from going through ten years of bloody conflicts. Excepting former Yugoslavia, such interventions left also behind ANYTHING ELSE BUT functional institutions and political stability.
The 2011 military intervention in Libya was focused on “protecting civilians”. Not only the intervention left a population more oppressed than under Gaddafi’s dictatorship, but the oil exploration targets were not achieved. The weapons brought by the Western army gave power to the extremist Islam forces and created disorder into the region. It took two years to see that a pro-West dictatorship was replaced by a generalized anti-West chaos.
In fact what is relevant about these humanitarian and military interventions over recent years is that many leaders launched asymmetric conflicts in the short term being totally unable to predict the consequences on the medium and long term.
7. The conflicts became media shows. The military interventions are often sustained without any real concern for the functioning of local societies and cultures. Cameras show images of “missions that bring civilization” and save lives. They do not mention a thing about what happens after the military missions are over when the situation becomes disastrous and much more complicated than it used to be before these interventions.
The governing system based on splitting the powers into the State, so dear to Montesquieu, has been replaced for a while by a “collective thinking” expressing its will via mass-media or the NGO’s. In this context, the government actions take less into consideration the medium and long term interests of the country since there’s this “shared” population opinion that needs quick satisfaction.
We have come to witness a transformation of the information in a Media merchandise, a phenomenon that has its origin in the role played by the media during the first Gulf War at the beginning of the nineties.
The big issue related to this way of coverage is that it is difficult to summarize a complex phenomenon in a 2 minutes shooting. How could anyone explain the evolution of complex conflicts, such as the present conflict in Syria, for example?
The need to be short and clear has led to the parties being divided into “good” and “bad”: “the good” are on the streets and “the bad” are governing. But dividing the world into good and bad is not consistent with reality.
The war is just for those who consider it necessary. So instead of declaring that we are against the war and those who initiate it, a solution could be to identify the reason for the conflict and what makes it necessary.
The extremist Islam becomes the main enemy of the world despite the fact that the majority of the countries are not willing to easily admit this fact. But to avoid the extremist Islam we have to imagine how to avoid the extremist attitudes and actions in the Muslim and non-Muslim countries, including the Western and European ones.
In this respect, for my conclusion, I propose a way to find solutions. I propose to organize here, in Bucharest, every two years, the Middle East North Africa Security Summit, a genuine platform gathering the leaders of the most important states concerned by these issues (the Middle East North Africa countries, the western and European countries, Russia, other countries interested or concerned by this important topic)…and have Romania as an organizer and master of ceremonies of this event.
We Romanians, we have several assets in this respect to put on the table… We have good knowledge and good relations with the Muslim countries (Iran, Turkey, the Arab countries, many other Muslim countries…). We have very good relations with the United States, the European Union leaders France and Germany. We have very good relations with Israel, the United Kingdom. Our relations with Russia will be improved soon, I am sure. We have a very good diplomacy tradition in dealing with this kind of topic and also efficient security services.
So we have enough ingredients to develop such a project and contribute to building a world more open and more secure. This could be a big challenge for the Romanian diplomacy, for us and also, a big opportunity for all the leaders of this world who are concerned by the conflicts of the last decades and who didn’t find, we have to recognize it, a proper way to reduce the security risks in our days.
Note: This paper was presented during the International Conference “Evolutions in Fighting Terrorism and the New Challenges of the Middle East”, held in Bucharest on the 5th of July 2017.
Florin LUCA – Secretary-General of the Titulescu European Foundation
Graduated from Saint-Cyr Military Academy, Public Finance Sector (France), Master in Business Law at Sorbonne University, and graduated from Leadership and Performance Program at London Business School, Florin has over 20 years of international management experience in Commercial & Investment Banking, Change Leadership, and Human Resources. He assumed several Top Management responsibilities:
- in Société Générale Group
- o in Bucharest – General Secretary and Human Resources Director of BRD Société Générale;
- o in Paris – Deputy Human Resources Director International Retail Banking (37 countries and 65,000 employees) and Large Corporates Director dealing with around 30 international groups;
- in KazMunayGas International – as Group Human Resources Director of the Oil &Gas Company belonging to the State of Kazakhstan and having activities in 12 countries and 11 USD bln turnover.
In parallel, Florin was a lead advisor at CEO level for financial institutions working on projects related to the Strategy, Investment Banking / M&A, Business Development / Human Resources, and also Board Member of Tarom Airways.
He is since the beginning of 2014 CEO of FinAnge – a platform for banks and medium and large enterprises, specialized in Financial Engineering / Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategy /Turnaround Management and Human Resources. Florin is also supporting public institutions and private companies to conclude international strategic or commercial agreements.
Florin is Board Member of the Romanian Post (Posta Romana), the largest Romanian employer (25,000 employees).
As Secretary-General of the Titulescu European Foundation, Florin nourishes the contemporary foreign affairs research, studies, and strategies and develops partnerships dedicated to strengthening the diplomatic worldwide relations of Romania.