By Parag Khanna, October 2012
Very few individuals can claim to have been the closest diplomatic embodiment of “president of the world” as Srgjan Kerim. This is of course not to say: president of just one of its most powerful countries. Rather, according to the institutions and rules that legally govern international relations today, Kerim’s role as president of the United Nations General Assembly carries with it the responsibility to shape the evolution of our collective diplomatic system.
This poignant memoire and manifesto deals succinctly with perhaps the deepest questions of our age. Kerim wrestles with how globalization, a relatively recently neologism yet an ancient phenomenon, is trumping sovereignty and changing our global political culture in the process. There is no doubt that globalization requires global governance, but what shape that takes can be answered in conservative or progressive ways.
With his emphasis on evolution over revolution, Kerim takes the latter course. Despite the official, inter-governmental nature of his position, two virtues shine through his approach: he emphasizes the increasingly multi-stakeholder nature of problem solving, with regular references to civil society actors and innovators. And he is not afraid of the devolution of authority implied in the subsidiarity principle: spreading resources to those closest to the problem and most able to deliver solutions. Legitimacy and authority are highly contested concepts, but Kerim makes the case that they rest on taking action, not just convening.
With this in mind, Kerim looks closely at major challenges from climate change to infectious disease to the poverty of the “bottom billion” not just as diplomatic issues but also technological ones. Technology and ICT play a crucial role in his approach not just to national economic development and capacity building, but more fundamentally to individual empowerment and participation in world affairs. He hints that public diplomacy can be re-defined away from just governments using media to advance one narrative towards “total diplomacy” of dialogue among peoples.
It can safely be said that Srgjan Kerim is a global citizen at a time when the term is finally taking root and meaning. This important book is a vital contribution to a new global discourse.