Using Covid-19 as a trigger and the serial failures of the United Nations (UN) to reform, adapt or listen to voices outside the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) as context, this paper argues that the blunders of this institution’s past combined with the present aggressive behaviour of China that has created security threats in the region have come together to force the world to intellectually rethink and physically recreate a new world order. As the world re-examines the shortcomings of the UN in its 75th year and regroups around ideas such as the rule of law, this paper proposes the idea that the new world order will have to be driven by democracies alone. It offers Group of Democracies, or GOD, as an alternative system of global governance of security and creates a path towards that new equilibrium.
This paper progresses in five sections, as follows. Section 1 introduces the paper and talks about how the legitimacy of the UN and its agencies has been on the wane for several decades and how the underlying aspirations of some member-states for change or reform have been ignored. In its 75th anniversary, Covid-19 provides a never-seen-before opportunity and urgency for change. Section 2 argues why, despite their fault lines, only democracies should be part of this new world order. Section 3 showcases some challenges to this realignment of security and one that will test democracies as they question their relationships with authoritarian regimes. It further explores one of several routes through the transition and leans on transfer of sovereign funding from UN to GOD. Section 4 provides evidence that the idea of a new world order, this time through democracies, is part of an evolutionary process. Here, it briefly lists out past three attempts. Section 5 concludes the paper.
Section 1: Introduction
Seventy-five years after the United Nations (UN) was created, this institution has fallen critically short on its duty to uphold global governance. Its credibility at an all-time low, new alignments are surfacing to work around these shortcomings. On 31 May 2020, the United States (US) President Donald J. Trump postponed the 10-12 June 2020 Group of 7 (G7) summit and sought to add four countries to this grouping – Australia, India, Russia, and South Korea. A day before, Trump announced that he would be “terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization” and redirecting those funds to other worldwide public health needs. Two days earlier, on 29 May 2020, the United Kingdom (UK) government reportedly approached the US to create a “D10”, a club of democratic partners, based on the G7 plus Australia, South Korea and India, as a new grouping around 5G in telecommunications that keeps China’s Huawei outside these borders. It has since then put a symbolic ban on Huawei.
As it celebrates its 75 anniversary on 24 October 2020, it may be a good time for democracies to end their dalliance with the UN and create a more responsible, more accountable and more transparent model for world security and unity through an alternative, the Group of Democracies (GOD). The theme for the UN’s anniversary year is “The future we want, the United Nations we need: reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism.” Ironically, this is an organisation whose commitment to multilateralism means little more than looking after the interests of P5 (the five permanent members of the UNSC) and the bureaucracies flourishing within them. In fact, the UN has degenerated into an antithesis of multilateralism. The disproportionate influence by China on the World Health Organisation (WHO) and their joint attempts to hide from the world the source of the Coronavirus can be seen as a tipping point and a trigger for change. In its 75th anniversary, therefore, it is time for the world to rethink the idea of global security.
The UN’s successes at maintaining peace through execution of Chapters VI and VII of the UN Charter in the early part of its life notwithstanding, it has been decaying for decades since then. There are three areas of drift – control, capture and corruption – that the organisation has been unable and unwilling to fix. The financial dominance of the US and its ability to bypass the UN when it is seen to be obstructing its interests is one threat. The capture of UN institutions such as the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) by leading human rights abusers China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia is another. The world’s inability to hold human rights violators such as China accountable and in fact elect them to positions that oversee such violations is impacting the credibility and authority of not only the UNHRC but the UN itself. And bureaucratic corruption in several areas, the most high-profile being the oil-for-food scandal a third (Nile Gardiner, 2007).
Stepping back, we see how incumbents embedded into the UN’s rigid structure have refused to recognise the changes in global economics and power, reforms that refuse to even get on the starting line, and its corrupt, unaccountable and opaque bureaucracy (Stefan Halper, 1996) has been captured by China, as has emerged during the Covid-19 pandemic. The security equilibrium the UN established soon after World War II has become out of synch with a world that has grown significantly more complex since then. The blatant misuse of the ‘veto’ snatched by five countries and currently being abused by China has created and widened sovereign inequalities in a world that needs and is aspiring for a new expression of 21st century unity. New groupings have come and taken charge in areas of not merely security but also in economies (through G20), regional trade (ASEAN, NAFTA), and emerging powers (BRICS). The 134 member states of the G77 have been reduced to mere optics, good enough for development conversations but not for any discussion on UN Security Council reforms.
For several decades now, the UN has been languishing in a state of “legitimacy drift” and suffering from a “chronic legitimacy deficit” (Matthew D. Stephen, 2018). Even before the pandemic was born and spread, sovereigns have been attempting to “rethink multilateralism” as French President Emmanuel Macron recently said. When Covid-19 ends, it would leave in its aftermath the “worst economic fallout since the Great Depression” (Kristalina Georgieva, 2020). As the world battles the incoming recession together, solutions will be incomplete if they do not rethink and rebuild an alternative to the UN, lead it towards a more open, less manipulable architecture.
The new architecture, this paper argues, will have to led by a Group of Democracies (GOD), the core of which will comprise the US, India, Japan, Germany, the UK and France; this has been further elaborated in Section 2. Covid-19 has made it clear that when authoritarian regimes scale up, as in the case of China, they cart their authoritarian structures and approaches, infect international institutions, and change the DNA of those institutions. They become a threat to global security, safety and well-being. “Before Corona, China was known as a surveillance state,” writes Julian Reichelt. “Now, China is known as a surveillance state that infected the world with a deadly disease.” It has brought a biological hazard to the doorsteps of every human on this planet, and to every voter in every democracy around the world. A decade later, when scholars study the advent of a new world order, they will mark Covid-19 as the tipping point (Higgott and Langenhove, 2020) and the most ambitious unity of nations its expression.
Section 2: Democracies only
The new unity will necessarily be a grouping of democracies – argued in greater detail below. Leaders of four democracies need to seize this Covid-19 moment and usher in this transformation. First, US President Donald Trump, who carries the might of a $21.4 trillion economy that’s powered by the world’s strongest military. Second, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose $5.2 trillion economy is yearning to grow and make its strategic presence felt. Third, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for whom a global realignment would cleanse the country’s dark past, recognise its post-World War II economic and political transformation, and offer an opportunity for the world’s fourth-largest, $3.9 trillion economy to look at the future afresh. And fourth, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leader of the world’s second-most populous nation that will become the world’s third-largest economy within this decade and one that seeks to be, on the global platform, the seer of the world.
From within democracies, those that aspire to, are able to and are willing to support global public goods will drive it. Ability means economic strength. Willingness means putting the money. The executive arms of GOD will be on lines similar to the UN. But the use of veto, a word that has been the cause of sovereign inequalities, will be severely restricted. Veto has become a living contradiction when any one of the P5 is a party to a dispute (Jan Wouters and Tom Ruys, 2020). This has happened across geographies, issues and time – Soviet Union on the Berlin question (25 October 1948); Soviet Union on the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia (22 August 1968); the US on the status of the Panama Canal (21 March 1973); France on the dispute between France and Comoros about the island of Mayotte (6 February 1976); Soviet Union on the shooting down by Soviet forces of a South Korean commercial airliner (12 September 1983); the US on condemning US air attacks against Libya (21 April 1986); the US on censuring US military activities in Panama (22 December 1989); and the US on condemning the violation by US forces of the inviolability of the residence of the Nicaraguan Ambassador in Panama City (17 January 1990).
Among P5, France has come out to challenge the veto. In September 2013, it proposed a voluntary restriction on the veto by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. But a voluntary restriction is not a binding currency of rule of law. Among other voices, India, an aspiring and emerging power has been on the forefront of seeking change. In July 2018, India raised the issue again in the reform of UNSC, and questioned the “veto to have a veto over the process of Council reform itself,” India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin had said. Between 1946 and 2018, the veto has been used in 10% of the 2,271 resolutions – 317 vetoes have been cast and as a result 230 draft resolutions or parts thereof have been vetoed in total, he said. “The shifting array of world forces will make the present array of exclusive privileges more and more anachronistic and less and less respected,” writes Paul Kennedy. “The P5 might preserve their oligopoly for the next ten years, perhaps even twenty; but what would be the point? If the substructure of global power is altering, the superstructure cannot remain unaffected.” GOD should ensure that the use of the veto within it will go through a more rigorous process and will be hugely restricted in its use.
The core of GOD will comprise six nations (US, India, Japan, Germany, the UK and France); seven if Russia gets rid of “democracy deficits” (Stephen Blank, 2005) or “stealth authoritarianism” (Gordon M. Hahn, 2004). Australia is a natural partner in this grouping, suddenly more visible today because it has put its weight behind the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), alongside US and India. The core will also include rotating members, who will have an equal voice on the table – a rotating voice of Europe; the rotating voice of South America (as and when the latter is ready to take on the responsibility); a rotating voice of Africa; a rotating voice of East Asia.
It will be the responsibility of this core – embedded into the constitution of GOD – to ensure, with accountability matrixes, that the voices of most, if not all, member-states are represented in every decision. Equally, the voices will have to articulate the aspirations of most member-states. Akin to but not a mirror of the UNSC, this group of nations will drive major decisions regarding security in all its forms. That is, not merely physical but around economics, energy, pandemics, artificial intelligence, robotics, communications, and all future disruptions the 21st century is likely to bring in. Barring the few areas where the veto will be applicable, most decisions will be democratic, arrived at through a process of negotiations, persuasions, consensus. Under GOD, the very structure of the veto would have to be rethought, perhaps even eliminated.
This is something that could have been done as the ‘UN reforms’ process but wasn’t. Covid-19 now allows GOD to bring these changes. Why democracies? Because, even when power gets concentrated in the geography of a one or two sovereigns, as it was with the US and the Soviet Union through the Cold War years and the US and China now, democracy ensures that despite all hegemonic aspirations, actions and expressions, there are institutionalised spaces for justice. These spaces exist only in democracies. An independent judiciary for starters. But equally, the freedoms – of speech, of criticism, of protest, of dissent, of holding the Executive accountable, of Constitutional protections to institutions – that democracies offer citizens through civil society and media. These checks and balances prevent despotic ambitions from getting institutionalised. Of course, institutions get misused, captured by ideologies, power and money too. That’s where free markets and freedoms create alternate spaces comes in. Social media, for instance, is replacing traditional media that is fast ceding the credibility space. Such structures of checks and balance didn’t exist in Soviet Union and aren’t present in China today.
The entire alphabet soup of alternative affiliations is the expression of members outside the UN Security Council seeking a voice that can be heard. They are small steps towards reshaping the world order. These include but are not restricted to the political G7 (Group of 7), the economic G20 (Group of 20), the emerging economics BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), the military NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), the fuzzy but rising ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), the geopolitical SAARC (South Asian Region for Regional Cooperation) and several more. All these exist but lack force and legitimacy outside regional agreements and limited mandates. They have come to fill the void left by the UN. Several actors are participating in both, the UN and the other groupings – US, India, France, UK and China are part of G20; US, UK and France are members of G7 as well as NATO; China and India are part of BRICS.
As envisaged, GOD will not be a change of extant structure or processes; it won’t mean working on ‘UN reforms’; it doesn’t aspire to fill empty spaces. It is a consolidation of all these and more. It is a synthesis that looks ahead at driving a new, more equitable and more accountable 21st century multilateralism. The failures on the fronts of UN reforms, for instance, stem not just from varying national interests viewing the UN as a tool to enforce their aspirations; the powerful bureaucracies staffing these global institutions are equally liable – who, after all, would like to give up on huge tax-free salaries, benefits, retirement pensions? All these with minimal accountability. The conduct of WHO and its leadership, for instance, has brought this complex malaise in the open (J. Michael Waller, 2020). Along with the UN, these institutions too need to be repurposed for a more equitable and accountable world.
To see the problems with authoritarian regimes sitting on the high table that controls global security, look no further than the personal ambitions of China’s Xi Jinping gone awry. As a multi-designated entity, he is China’s ‘Chairman of Everything’ (Javier C. Hernandez, 2017). Xi is, among several other things, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC); President of China; Chairman of the Central Military Commission; Head of Central Leading Group for Taiwan Affairs, and Chairman of Central National Security Commission. He has been bestowed with titles such as “paramount leader” by the CPC. He has taken steps to ‘rule’ (not ‘govern’ as in democracies) without term limits. His sole equivalent is perhaps the multi-designated entity Kim Jong-un, who is the Supreme Leader of North Korea; Chairman of the Korean Workers’ Party; Chairman of the State Affairs Commission; Supreme Commander of Korean People’s Army; Chairman, KWP Central Military Committee; and then some more. Such an idea, such concentration of power and designations, leave alone action, can never happen in any democracy.
So, when the world celebrates the Chinese miracle, it must not ignore the unquestioned authoritarianism that is embedded into that success. It is now clear that the Chinese miracle is based on a deeply unequal and unbalanced development model, combined with not adhering to rules of engagement with the rest of the world, from basic human rights to offering cover to Pakistan’s hostile actions against India. The experiment of allowing China into the WTO (World Trade Organization) without levelling the playing field with the rest of the world has resulted in China becoming the manufacturing base of the world, snatching jobs from every nation, with big capital in the US and Europe playing second fiddle and profiting from it but not the people. Beijing continues to assert that it should be granted market economy status at the WTO despite its refusal to implement important benchmarks for further economic reform (Abigail Grace, 2020).
Further, China has effectively weaponised WTO. The WTO was not built for a world where we would see a weaponization of economic gains – the use of the benefits accruing from trade liberalization to acquire a strategic advantage in security matters. If trade liberalization could potentially be used by possible systemic rivals to gain a security edge over us, then we need to be having a bigger and serious conversation about a new set of rules (Amrita Narlikar, 2020). These may include letting go of China. “Decoupling, or economic disengagement, would generate some economic costs, no doubt. But these economic costs could be balanced by security gains.” This idea expands on the ongoing global debate around allowing Huawei to offer 5G infrastructure for telecommunication services, and one that India too is engaged with (Gautam Chikermane, 2019). China has used the liberal rule-based order to its advantage without following the rules. “China has become an astute student of the WTO’s rules, pushing them to their limits, usually without embracing the core underlying tenets and principles upon which the WTO is based,” (Stephen J. Ezell and Robert D Atkinson, 2015).
It is beyond doubt that China cannot and will not be a member-state of GOD. A country that is initiating tensions around its periphery can’t be tasked with the responsibility for global security. Today, China is aggressively using its powers to try and grab territory from its neighbours. In the past few months alone, it has put almost all nations in its neighbourhood on military alert. China’s tension with Japan on uninhabited islands, known as Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyus in China, could become Asia’s next military flashpoint. China’s military exercise in the South China sea would result in the “severest response,” Foreign Secretary of Philippines Teodoro Locsin Jr said. From a standoff around oil blocks to sinking a fishing boat, China’s relationship with Vietnam remains on the edge. In Hong Kong, China is imposing a new national security law that gives the mainland virtually “unchecked power” power, breaching past agreements of autonomy and leading to new tensions. Ending the notion of peace, China has been flying military planes near Taiwan “almost daily”, which Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu sees as a threat to use force to take over the island. The aggression of China has gone so far that it is creating new disputes with nations haven’t had any – in Indonesia over the control of Natuna Islands, and in Bhutan over Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary.
In the case of India, China’s aggression has acquired a greater momentum, at a moment when they are least needed, as the world fights the Made in China Coronavirus. Border tensions at Galwan, Hot Springs and Naku La in Ladakh have not been on the list of the 16 places along the Line of Actual Control. While the Indian Army said that 20 soldiers were killed in a barbaric battle, China has not given its casualties, which number between 45 and 50 – democratic processes ensure India’s numbers are made public, while authoritarian clampdown in China prevent official releases. Surely, this is not a country India would want to trade with. Accordingly, India has banned 59 Chinese apps, will not allow Chinese firms to participate in India’s highway projects and in the MSME sector, and in all probability will ban Chinese 5G equipment providers such as Huawei and ZTE from entering India. India banning Chinese firms, particularly apps, will not make a difference to China. But these actions need to be seen as a moral benchmark for the rest of the world to decouple with China – the proposed ban on Chinese app TikTok by the US, for instance, can be seen in this light. As democracies work together to reduce the threat from China in particular and potential authoritarian regimes in general, the case for GOD strengthens.
That said, any grouping without China would be perceived as a failure from the word go. China is the world’s second-largest economy, the most populous nation, an upcoming global technological force, a military and diplomatic giant, a nuclear state. This is a bullet that democracies will need to bite. Beyond China, other excluded non-democracies (and some stealth democracies) would be several West Asian nations (including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Oman, Yemen), and Central Asian land-locked countries (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan). It would exclude most African nations – Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Sudan, Angola, Congo. Oil rich Venezuela will be missing, as will strategically important geographies Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel will be a member but most of its neighbourhood will not.
The idea of GOD is not new. In a different form a League of Democracies was floated 12 years ago by the US Senator John McCain, then a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination (John McCain, 2007). But clearly he was tentative: “This League of Democracies would not supplant the UN or other international organizations but complement them by harnessing the political and moral advantages offered by united democratic action.” As a compromise, such a league would not work. If the legitimacy of the UN remains intact, a League of Democracies would be no different from a G20 or a NATO. The push has to be harder, the imagination bolder, accountability to citizens of the democratic world higher. GOD needs to replace the UN, not work around it.
This idea has been explored by various scholars. Mostly of US origin, their analyses have been US-centric, US-led, and keeping US interests in mind. For instance, the idea that the Concert of Democracies gives Washington a way to regain the trust of countries that matter most to the American people, that is, fellow democracies (Richard Perle, 2007). Some have worked on the structure, with a directly elected chief executive and “League Parliament (lower house)” with voting weight largely proportional to population in each nation (John J. Davenport, 2018). Further, the commitment of democracies to the rule of law is a stronger institutional foundation than the limited argument of sharing common interests. Finally, the success of democracies would rest on two other premises – their capacity to shape global politics and economics on the one side, and their track record of bridging differences and generating effective cooperation (James M. Lindsay, 2009).
The idea of a Concert of Democracies did not come without the accompanying scepticism. For instance, not all democracies share sufficient common interests to work effectively together on a wide range of global issues (Thomas Carothers, 2008). Or, that it is seen to be a compromise between pragmatism and messianism (Daniele Archibugi, 2008). Another point that was brought forth was that the Concert of Democracies cannot be a tool to “cure the US’ loss of leadership and popularity in recent years”, a cause for lack of interest in Europe (Emiliano Alessandri, 2008). Democracy cannot be pushed down autocratically. But this was before the world saw China for what it is – an aggressive nation seeking to grab physical territory and influence and control the digital lives of citizens by intrusion into technological pipelines of data. A new thinking on the creation of a new world order is the need of the hour for democracies.
Section 3: Challenges and way forward
The complexity of ushering in this alignment of GOD rises when we look at it through the window of ‘interests.’ Most democracies are irreversibly and intricately intertwined with authoritarian regimes. Some democracies share borders with non-democracies (or pretend-democracies) – Ukraine with Belarus in Eastern Europe; Finland with Russia in Northern Europe; Namibia with Angola in Southern Africa; Morocco with Algeria in Northern Africa; Kenya with Somalia in Eastern Africa; Thailand with Myanmar in East Asia; and India with China and Pakistan in South Asia. Interests have economic textures. China is the largest or second-largest trading partner of most democracies. The US has interests in the entire Gulf Region for energy. Then, there are human considerations. European member nations will be affected by Turkey, Syria and other countries that channel migrants towards Italy, Germany and France. India has interests in Afghanistan for peace, in Kazakhstan for uranium sourcing, in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran for oil and gas, in Pakistan to prevent cross-border terrorism, and in China for trade howsoever unbalanced it be for now.
Overcoming geopolitical interests too would present challenges. Japan with China, for instance. After decades of accepting US supremacy in Asia as the foundation of its foreign and security policies, finding the right distance between the United States and China is the most important strategic choice facing Japan today (Narushige Michishita and Richard J. Samuels, 2012). Renegotiating that towards democracies and, therefore, the US through GOD will not be easy. Likewise, ideologically speaking, China and Russia are joined at the hip when it comes to “establishing the legitimacy of authoritarianism”, and the “desire to safeguard the security of the strong state” (Paul J. Bolt and Sharyl N. Cross). Add their joint interests in the “dissatisfaction with elements of the liberal world order”, and the inclusion of Russia in GOD becomes difficult.
As far as Germany goes, its relationship with the rest of Europe may get it think twice before taking a lead role in GOD. Nazism delegitimated German nationalism even for Germans (Stephen D. Krasner 2017). “Many Germans wanted to redefine their national identity within a larger European community.” That being the case, it might hesitate when seen in the momentum of the past. But a new nationalism is rising everywhere, from the US to Europe to Asia. Germans will need to rethink their stance – the Germany of Hitler is not the Germany of Merkel. On its part, Japan is ready to take the responsibility for global security. Both these nations that were the losers of WW2, have shown themselves to be responsible actors on the global stage.
The challenges listed, if most democracies agree and sign up for GOD, one of the ways forward would be to starve the UN of sovereign funding. In a period of transition, if all democracies end funding all UN and UN-based international organisations and invest the money in the creation of the new world order, with technologically-driven new institutions, they will have a foot in both alignments. This is a modification of what China has been doing all along – the world’s most potent authoritarian state heads over a quarter of all specialised agencies in the UN (Samir Saran, 2020). Effectively, China has been abusing the international liberal order that expresses itself through UN institutions while not playing by its rules. By holding back funding, GOD can oversee the closure of UN while creating GOD. The recent withdrawal of the US from WHO means a cut of $450 million a year. Over time, such actions across other large democracies can shift the weight of legitimacy from failure to hope. Now, China’s disastrous handling of Covid19 has tipped the scales and offered the world the opportunity to introduce change.
Due to China’s problematic subscription to WTO rules, the US has been threatening to withdraw from this trade body, the implications of which will be huge. Again, any other country withdrawing will make no difference. Even the US withdrawing alone may not work; in fact, the move could be detrimental to US foreign and economic interests (Chad P. Bown and Douglas A. Irwin, 2018). But with the US leading and other democracies following, it could bring the required change. Likewise, the US has made a beginning by withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council. Given the unrelenting assault on India by this organisation, “a friend to Islamists and tyrants everywhere” (Michael Weiss and Ibn Warraq, 2020), India ought to have done this earlier. But on its own India’s exit wouldn’t add up to much. Better to be in with all than out alone. With the US out, if India joins the exit, it will have a deeper impact. The withdrawal of US from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), this time because the agency was seen to be “one of the U.N.’s most anti-Israel bodies”, is another precedent and step in the same direction. But instead of exiting the organisations, nations should simply stop funding them. That way, they hold on to the membership but not pay for it.
Of course, Trump is not an easy friend. Neither dependability nor predictability is his signature of engagement. So, India should wait for a few other countries, say Japan and Germany, to exit and leave with them as a group that considers its actions based on national interests. These could be smaller experiments leading towards the final choking of UN. As soon as there is a scale to the exits, and a consequent end to funds flow, these agencies will crumble. The monies could be transferred to building GOD – all the while keeping presence in and control of the UN until it implodes under the weight of its own contradictions. Would this result in the cleaving of the world into two halves? Would it unleash a 21st century Cold War? Would it restrict economic growth? Possibly yes and these are questions scholars need to engage with. But on the other side, is the world ready for another Covid-19 playbook of unaccountability and opacity? No. Sadly, there is no middle ground left anymore. The time for spending exchequer monies of democracies on institutions that have been captured by ideologies or a rogue nation is gone.
Section 4: The fourth evolutionary cycle of unity
GOD is the first attempt at unifying the world – and it won’t be the last. Throughout recent history, we have seen the urge for groups of collectives to come together for security. Earlier, it was through conquest, change of borders, occupation. The idea of a global organisation stemmed from the need for global security. A global unity of interests is not a stock – it is a flow, an evolutionary process that ideally should change with the time or if it doesn’t, end. Democracy the keyword, democratic institutions the unifying idea, the will of the people the invisible but powerful driver, GOD would be the fourth attempt at a continental or global cooperation among sovereigns. The first was Concert of Europe (1815-1914), the second League of Nations (1919-1946), and the third United Nations (1939-). Break it down further into the first (1814-1860) and second (1880-1914) phases of Concert of Europe and GOD may be seen to be the fifth such endeavour.
The first attempt brought the five victors of the Napoleonic Wars – Austria, Prussia, France, Russia and Great Britain – together to create the Concert of Europe through the Vienna Congress of 1815. The goal of this ‘concert’ was to prevent wars. But this alignment collapsed as it couldn’t stop World War I. “As for the Concert of Europe, it seems far enough from us now, almost antediluvian in its antiquity — as it belongs indeed to the age before the deluge; but we can remember well enough what an unmusical and discordant concert it was, what a series of fumblings and blunderings and how its diplomacy led us fatally to the inevitable event against which it struggled,” (Sri Aurobindo, 1916).
The second attempt was the League of Nations. After the devastation unleashed by World War I, the idea of cooperation between nations morphed into a global body, the League of Nations, the impetus for which came from the US under President Woodrow Wilson, not Europe where the League would operate. Unable to prevent World War II, this attempt imploded and faded into obscurity. “The League of Nations (1919–46) could be regarded as the first fully fledged multilateral negotiation process. It did some good work in resolving territorial questions after the First World War, but in the security field it did not live up to expectations,” (Paul Meerts, 2016).
The UN was the third attempt. And it is failing, and destined to go the way of Concert of Europe and League of Nations. It is also true that the UN seems like it has become too big to fail. Not true. Like its predecessors, the UN along with its several self-serving arms, is beginning to lose the one key attribute that defines it: Legitimacy. With legitimacy suspect, with organisations captured, with a bureaucracy unwilling to look beyond its own petty interests, it is time for the UN to go and to be replaced by GOD. The first steps are underway, the inception has been done by G20. The underlying changes in economic power too need to be factored in. To believe that Germany will bear the burden of Hitler’s excesses forever by ‘allies’, to imagine that Japan will be at the receiving end of its World War II stance till eternity, to imagine India will continue to be held back by the veto China ruthlessly uses against it till the end of time is being short-sighted. At some point, they will break out.
GOD is really a future waiting to happen, it is on the tipping point. All the preconditions for its introduction are present. First, China has captured and weaponized every institution. Second, China is using the ongoing pandemic to push through its agendas in the South China Sea and India. Third, clearly, this is to distract the world from the problems at home that are political (Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang) as well as economic (slowdown and joblessness), both of which are bringing instability. Fourth, led by the US and adapted by other countries such as Germany and India, each of which has its own democratic expression of the idea, nationalism as a political currency is gaining traction among democracies. And finally, Covid-19 is changing the chessboard of international relations and pushing the world towards a greater accountability. In this changed 21st century world, every institution is facing disruption, every democratically-elected leader is looking at new contestations, and every democratic citizen is confronting new political, economic and ideological challenges. Surely, status quo in the UN can’t persist.
Section 5: Conclusion
Can we create GOD without great powers driving it? In an ideal world, driven by high morality and spiritual pursuits, maybe nations like Bhutan or India may lead the world. Not today. “The great powers have always held a special place in world politics not just by their material capabilities but by the prestige they were accorded by other states, a status institutionalised in the Concert of Europe, the League of Nations, and especially the Security Council of the United Nations,” (David Lake, 2008). In the last quarter century, the shift of economic growth to the East have morphed power asymmetries. As a result, the sand dunes of great power politics have shifted. The only thing left is for democracies to take a deep breath and plunge in to ensure peace, prosperity, equality and dignity in the 21st century democracies – and embrace GOD. While doing so, they will need to ensure and hardcode into the new constitution a greater flexibility and a wider participation for a more equal world.
This paper has argued that the Covid-19 health crisis has widened the fault lines of institutional dissonance in the UN. This offers the world an opportunity to come together, rethink and usher in a new world order. This new order should aim to clear up all the problems that the UN has been overwhelmed with, and should be driven and managed only by democracies through GOD. Using funding transfer as a tool, this paper argues that democracies led by the big six – US, India, Japan, Germany, the UK and France – need to seize this opportunity and push this change together. This will not be the first but the fourth such attempt at global unity. With this, the paper places the issues for a new world order led by democracies and lays the foundations for deeper research into the various arms and aspects that can detail what this new world order will finally look like and accomplish.
 Steve Holland, “Trump postpones G7 summit, seeks to add countries to invitation list”, Reuters, 31 May 2020.
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