New Coalitions for A Changing World

New Coalitions for A Changing World

  • 8 November 2010

The UK and the UAE cooperate in a remarkable range of areas. Both peoples come to know more about each other each year and links between the two countries are growing. This is a vital counterpart to the renewed impetus in government-to-government cooperation that began while I was Foreign Secretary and, I am pleased to say, is being continued by the new government.

The question I want to address is how more Western countries and Muslim-majority countries can develop the kind of cooperation and friendship that exists between the UK and the UAE — not just bilaterally but multilaterally.

I would argue that the need for engagement with this issue is urgent. Urgent for reasons of the policy issues involved; urgent, too, for reasons of politics.

The UAE and the UK are close friends of the United States, and we meet today after the electorate in the United States has voted against the policies of President Obama — including health care reform, the stimulus package and others. But that is a matter for the American political system.

From the outset of his tenure, President Obama made the rebuilding of America’s reputation and partnerships with the Islamic world a central theme. He was right then and he is right now. In his Cairo speech he listed seven priorities for cooperation: the need to confront violent extremism in Afghanistan; the relationship between Israel and what the president called the “intolerable situation” of the Palestinians; the Iranian nuclear issue; the promotion of democracy; religious freedom; women’s rights; and economic development.

This illustrates the scale of the challenges, and I aim to take them seriously; otherwise, the alternative is that ignorance drives division, division drives misunderstanding, and misunderstanding drives us further apart. Our fate is bound more closely together than ever before. Financial instability, climate change and terrorism do not discriminate between Muslims and non-Muslims. This is fact number one of this phase of globalization. Fact two is that America remains the world’s superpower. However, while it is pre-eminent, it is not predominant; it cannot bring the world to heel on its own because power is shifting away from the traditional 20th century transatlantic centers of influence. Let us not underestimate American power – be it soft or hard – but new coalitions are needed. Fact three is that these coalitions must be coalitions of states, but they will only come into being if they gain the consent of citizens.

Therefore, we need to understand our task on two levels: solving problems and seizing opportunities at the elite level (coalition-building among states); and building trust at the popular level (building consent among peoples). The more progress achieved at the elite level on political and economic problems, the easier it will be to win over the public. Similarly, the more skeptical the public, the harder it will be for political leaders to share common causes.

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LECTURER

Monday 8 November 2010

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Monday 8 November 2010

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