It is becoming more obvious every year that the challenges we face are now no longer local but regional and increasingly global. In an ever more complex and interlinked world, the solutions to our problems – whether environmental, economic or human – are seldom contained by national borders.
Climate change cannot be slowed down or reversed by any nation acting in isolation. The poison of extremism is spread all too easily to countries thousands of miles away. The shock waves from mistakes in one continent, as we saw a decade ago, can send growth in all economies into reverse. Migration caused by conflict or natural disaster can increase pressures and tensions far from the neighbouring countries but to other continents.
Given the evidence is so clear and the challenges so great, the answer must be increased cooperation to find and deliver common solutions. But as we enter the last quarter of 2018, this shared sense of purpose seems further away than for decades.
Instead of increased collaboration, we see more conflict and division. As we have said before, old suspicions are resurfacing, new tensions emerging and fresh barriers being erected. The result is that the understanding, cooperation and rules-based international order, which has been the foundation of increased prosperity and security, appears under threat from all sides.
Last week, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev bravely intervened to try to change this disturbing momentum. He all but shocked global leaders at the Asia-Europe Summit in Brussels by likening the current tensions and fractures in the international community to those which led to the Cuban missile crisis over half a century ago. His comparison to a time when the world has rarely, if ever, been closer to another catastrophic global conflict showed how serious he believed the position was becoming.
He was right to sound the alarm bells. We need to concentrate on what unites us rather than always emphasising our differences. We have to find the courage to stop putting short-term, national interests before the long-term common good.
As might be expected from a country which from its earliest days has seen the United Nations as the pre-eminent international forum for settling disputes and finding solutions, he called for a special session to help find a way out of the current divisions and dangers. The involvement of the entire world community is needed if we are to find a way to ease tensions and build understanding and trust.
His offer to host such a special event, if necessary, in Astana, also made sense. Few countries have such good relations with all the major international players as Kazakhstan. Our country counts, for example, China, the European Union, Russia and the United States as both strong political and valued economic partners. We also have robust links and friendships throughout the Middle East – one of the regions where conflict is most intense.
Over the last decade, too, Kazakhstan has provided a platform for international talks and helped bring sides together in the most bitter of disputes. And it is only by dialogue and building trust that we can find a way out of the current dangers. If such a special meeting is to take place, Astana has plenty of attractions and experience.
But what was most important about President Nazarbayev’s strongly-worded intervention is that it was a wake-up call to the international community and a warning that it must urgently change course. It is intensely worrying to see how our world has fractured over the last few years.
Unless a way is found to build trust, increase understanding and promote cooperation, the future for all countries and all people will be more unstable, more dangerous and poorer. Only by working together can we create the long-term peaceful and prosperous future for everyone, no matter what our nationality or background. Without such cooperation, we will all be losers.