Ismail Serageldin


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 27/04/2015 | Building Trust in the Emerging/New World Order, Baku – Global Forum

Building Trust in the Emerging/New World Order

BAKU – Global Forum

28-29 April 2015

1275 words


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Ismail Serageldin

Opening Remarks delivered at the Baku III Forum

27 April 2015 Evening Dinner



Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen


Baku in the spring, and like migrating birds we respond to the generous invitation of our host, HE President Ilham Alyev, not just to enjoy his gracious hospitality, but also to reflect on the condition of the world. 


The NGIC is honored that HE the President has kindly entrusted the Center with the organization of this forum for the third time, and may it become an annual event that all mark on their calendars, for it is an occasion for eminent people from all over the world to get together, compare notes, exchange ideas and articulate views about what ails the world of today, and how to make it better.  From Shared Societies to Sustainable development to Building trust for a new world order… we of the Nizami Ganjavi International Center are at it again.


The great Poet Nizami, believed in the betterment of the human condition, in an enhanced role for women, in a pluralistic world and in societies enriched by cultural diversity not threatened by it.  He called for openness to the other, and he spoke of how rulers must be wise and govern well, and how impetuous courageous rulers can acquire such wisdom, while the ordinary people learn to find their better selves.    Nizami told all this in parables, vignettes and stories expressed in the most beautiful poetry.  He spoke to his contemporaries and his successors, but across the centuries, he also still speaks to us in this hall today and to all of humanity.


Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen


These are perilous times.  The Old World Order is collapsing before our eyes. A New World Order remains tantalizingly beyond our reach.  Regions are undergoing complex upheavals and slow transformations, and we can expect changes in practically every part of the world…


In the west, the euphoria that prevailed with the fall of the Berlin wall, the unification of Germany and the collapse of the Soviet Union did not last.  War in the Balkans accompanied the eastward expansion of the EU and NATO.  The Honeymoon with Yeltsin’s Russia is over, and the future looks somber and uncertain.  Anxiety prevails. 


In the USA, the triumph of the first gulf war was succeeded by the horrors of  9/11, and successive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The patriot act, Guantanamo and drone killings are posing new kinds of challenges to the fundamental values of America.  Surely the United States is learning or re-learning the limits of military strength and the dangers of the arrogance of power, a phrase that emerged in the Vietnam hearings some fifty years ago…


Here on European soil, once again the specter of war and conflict is rearing its ugly head.  The construction of a more lasting peace, like the construction of a more perfect union, is proving more elusive and more problematic than anyone could have thought.


Central Asia is astir with tensions, frozen conflicts still simmering underneath the temporary absence of violence.  Like an untreated wound underneath a temporary bandage, it is allowed to fester.  Ukraine is proving that the cold war may not be entirely over, or that a new version of international big power competition is coming into its own.


Elsewhere the world is changing.  The go-go years of crazed banking practices brought the world crashing back to reality in 2007/2008 and the Eurozone went into its most challenging crisis.  There are slow but profound tectonic shifts in the configurations of world powers and blocks.  These are marked by the rise of China and the stagnation of the Japanese economy, the stirrings of India and the sputtering starts and stalls of the latent giants of Latin America… While Africa’s population time bomb keeps on ticking… keeps on ticking…


In my region and beyond, the Arab and Muslim worlds are in profound crisis.  Radicalization of youth and the appearance of extremist movements garbed in religious rhetoric performing the most horrific acts of barbarism while governments collapse is a nightmare that goes beyond our wildest imaginations.  Millions of refugees have been driven from their homes by the horrors that are daily occurrences in conflict zones, where fanatics have taken over and given up on any semblance of human decency… or worse they relish their abandonment of the simplest norms of human conduct.  They do not have any pretense of civilized behavior, as they roam in the wreckage of failed states and civil wars.



In the Mediterranean, we remain powerless and frozen as desperate refugees risk – and lose – their lives in a rush to the glittering promise of Europe.  They are not just seeking better economic opportunities, they are also fleeing from the collapsing countries which were once their homes.


Everywhere complex situations defy the abilities of the architecture of the Post war international system to cope with the enormity of the challenges.  The complexity of the situations and the rampant globalization all demand that we rethink the prevailing and failing World Order.   The deeply knotted and interwoven crises cry out for solutions that remain beyond our reach.


Despite the attraction of a simple and direct approach, like Alexander the Great cutting the Gordian Knot, most conflicts cannot be solved by the application of brute force. They require the skillful touch of an enlightened and nimble diplomacy.  Knotted cords are never undone by pulling on the ends, but by the deft and patient teasing apart of the knot itself, guided by an understanding of the particular structure of the knot.  So it is with human societies and conflicts, lasting solutions cannot be easily imposed.  For human affairs are multi-faceted and complicated.  They have many protagonists and many interested parties.


Solutions must emerge from a deep understanding of the underlying structure of the conflicts, and a realistic understanding of the roles being played by the interested parties who are ostensibly not the immediate parties to the conflict.  


Past victimization does not justify the previously persecuted to become persecutors of others.  Ancient claims must also accommodate current realities, and an exquisite balance between idealism and pragmatism is needed to devise solutions that will work – if not for every single person – at least for the overwhelming majority of the people concerned, without impinging on the rights of a minority no matter how small.


That is the landscape before us.  I could say more about each and every one of these thumbnail sketches.  But these briefest of reminders are enough for this audience.  Behind each of my statements are many more implied and left unsaid.  We can agree that almost anywhere we look, there are difficult tasks requiring extraordinary skill and wisdom.  But that is exactly who the Baku Forum has brought together: current and former leaders, eminent specialists, and people of insight and experience.


So let us proceed on that journey of reflection and discovery that the Forum has laid out before us.  But let that journey start tomorrow, and to quote the famous words of Imru’u Al-Qays, an Arab poet many centuries before Nizami, let us “enjoy tonight and tomorrow is another matter”.


Allow me to invite you to a toast to our hosts, as a vote of thanks to the Nizami Ganjavi International Center (NGIC), its Board and its linchpin Minister Azim Ibrahimov, and the wonderful young staff of the NGIC, who, under the leadership of Rovshan Muradov, worked so hard to make this event possible, all under the guidance of the Patron of the NGIC, HE the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev.


Thank you.

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