The Global Community Catches a Virus

Thoughts on recovery and outcome


Kennedy Graham

The current global health pandemic is shaking the foundations of the international community of states, possibly to its core.  Those foundations still reflect mid-20th c. political-legal thought, institutional structures, and procedural behaviour.

Over the past quarter-century or so, we have recognised the emergence of global problems, and the need for global solutions to them – primarily climate change, but also the other planetary boundaries of which two have also been breached.  Yet this has not resulted in effective global action for the required solutions.

Will this pandemic be different? 

None of us can predict the future, despite a few occasional efforts.  But we do need, and the Centre requires us, to explore the implications of major global events, and their effect on our thought, institutions and behaviour.  

Four questions are most relevant to the above:

  1. Context: What is the context for this crisis – is it a unique experience for humanity or not?
  2. Psychology: How, and to what extent, might the psychological state of humanity be changing?
  3. Competence: How is the ‘system’ (nation states plus international organizations) handling the crisis?
  4. Impact: What are the implications for humanity – if it is unique, is it uniquely significant?

Let me explore each of these.


COVID-19: Calls for Change

“A much stronger global mechanism”

Colin James

On 26 March, as COVID-19 was pushing countries into defensive lockdown, former Swedish Prime Minister, Carl Bildt, called for a ‘much stronger global mechanism’ than the World Health Organisation to deal with future pandemics.

Writing for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Bildt noted that WHO had declared health emergencies six times in the past decade. He added that the global threats from SARS in 2003, MERS in 2012 and Ebola in 2014-15 were "just three examples of outbreaks that required a sustained multilateral response".

Yet COVID-19 is being responded to nation-by-nation.

What to do?


‘In the Beginning was the Word’

Why Covid-19 Renders Words even more Powerful

Azza Karam

I recently took office as Secretary General of the largest global interfaith organization: Religions for Peace.

Its six inter-religious councils (IRCs) are composed of the most senior leaders representing their religious institutions in 90 countries. 

This was one week before we had to ask all employees to work from home, in compliance with New York State law.

As an individual who feels functional with direct and open communication, where I can get a sense of the people I am talking with, having to take leadership over an office of people I can no longer be with, feels a little like trying to run with legs tied together. It can be done, but it is tough.

This is now the new normal, not only in the US, but everywhere in the world. For the first time in recorded human history, coming together – even within and among nuclear families – is a dangerous option, literally done at the risk of health and lives.

What does the ‘new normal’ mean, for humanity?


The Global Economy – with virus

Assessing the impact

Rod Oram

The upheaval that Covid-19 is causing in people’s lives around the world is wreaking even greater havoc in the global economy.

The impact will be far larger than the damage caused by the Global Financial Crisis. The remedies will have to be much faster and even more unorthodox, ambitious and far-reaching.

Quite simply, the virus is causing a dramatic slowdown in the perpetual money machine which is the global economy. Incomes enable people to consume, which stimulates production, which generates income for more consumption – a money-go-round generating some $150 trillion a year in global GDP.

The GFC was only a breakdown in the financial system, the lubricant of the economic machine.   This pandemic, though, is causing the economic machine itself to falter.


Global Climate Change

Unlearned lessons?

Adrian Macey

The pattern ahead of the annual UN climate conference in November 2019 (COP-25, Madrid) was spectacularly familiar:

  • over 25,000 participants;
  • worrying reports from climate scientists;
  • more public anxiety about climate change;
  • mobilisation of civil society, with youth to the fore;
  • exhortations from the UN Secretary-General;
  • an urgent need to ‘close the gap’ between states’ pledges and what is needed collectively;
  • an inspirational slogan: ‘time for action’.

Yet for the longest COP in history, going nearly two days over time, the Madrid outcome was very far from meeting these expectations.

So, what are the unlearned lessons we need to draw, from the UN climate negotiation process, to date?


The University in the Global Age: Pt IV

Our voyage into the future

Chris Gallavin

(Part IV of four parts)

In this final part, I wrap-up my thoughts on the fundamentals of university reform consistent with, and responsive to, the emergence of the global community.

Having argued to date that there is no magic sauce, no equation, no single road-map to university reform for the global age, I nonetheless maintain that reform does not, cannot, occur in the absence of design.

Ultimately, my vision of the global university in the 21st century is one that sees institutions leveraging the strengths of our current paradigm for the co-construction of our common future.

As such, while a strong employability focus acts to address one meta-narrative, there exists a plethora of other imperatives that cut to the core of nurturing future-focused citizens.  

And all this in the era of COVID-19.


‘Internationally hot, domestically not’

New Zealand and the global rights of nature movement

Christopher Finlayson

Legal personality is an established part of the law in New Zealand and similar countries. It is widely accepted, for example, that a company or incorporated society can be considered a legal person.

Over the last half-century, however, the argument has been advanced that the right of legal personality should also be extended to the environment, and to individual natural features.

Over the past decade I was engaged, somewhat intimately, in this issue as Minister of Waitangi Treaty Negotiations, and as Attorney-General.  In 2014, a Treaty settlement between the Crown and Whanganui River iwi agreed to acknowledge legal personhood for the river, and implement this in domestic law.

So, how visionary is this?  And how practical in the real world of politics?  Where does New Zealand stand, within the global context of the rights of nature movement?

We were, I think, among the pioneers around the world in taking the 2014 to ’17 initiative.  Here are my thoughts on the matter.


Painting Australia’s Bushfires:

Eco-Grief & Artivism

Tanya Ogilvie-White

Eco-grief and Artivism. Both are new terms to me, but they’re beginning to define my life in Australia.

As a wildlife artist and animal lover, I’ve been so deeply affected by the devastating bushfires that it’s been hard for me to focus on anything else.

Every day, I pour my heart into my art. In my Extinction Series, I’ve been painting the landscapes and wildlife incinerated by the flames: koalas, kangaroos, cockatoos, platypus, wombats, and wallabies; iconic Australian species, some endangered and even facing extinction.

‘The Long Sleep,’ ‘Goodnight, Koala’ and the other artworks shown in this article are part of my Extinction Series. The Northern Koala, shown sleeping here as fire approaches, was already endangered before this year’s catastrophic bushfires and its survival as a species is in doubt.


The University in the Global Age: Pt III

Models of Transformational Change

Chris Gallavin

(Part III of four parts)

Last month, I offered the view that universities in the emerging global age need to conceptualise themselves as centres of collaboration for the collective creation and dissemination of knowledge.

I believe that the future of higher education (HE) is, actually, remarkably bright. I feel, in fact, quite ‘jealous’ of our youth, as we live in what I believe to be, perhaps, the most exciting of time in human history.

Global problems abound of course, but with that come opportunities to do things differently for the advancement and well-being of humanity; indeed, all life with which we share an existence on this planet.

In this third article, I highlight the nature of transformational change in HE – a sector I feel privileged to be globally numbered among, as it transforms in collaboration with other sectors, to change the lives of entire communities and, as a result, our entire world.

Let me highlight some leading examples.


Strengthening Multilateralism through UN Reform

NZCGS collaboration with UNANZ

Kennedy Graham

In his December column, former ambassador Colin Keating outlined the concept of a research project which the Centre is about to undertake on Strengthening Multilateralism through UN Reform.

This project has its genesis in a speech that Colin gave on the occasion of UN Day last October, in which he challenged New Zealand to undertake a project that results in recommendations for a lead role in restoring the credibility and effectiveness of multilateralism.

The Centre proposed to the UN Association of New Zealand (UNANZ) that the two bodies respond to this, and twin on a research project on the subject.  The governing bodies of both organizations endorsed the proposal. 

Colin and I, as co-managers of the project, have been preparing the nature, timing, and product of the project.  Easier said than done, but of intense interest and, hopefully, some significance. 

So, what of the details?


International aggression as a domestic crime

Will NZ ratify the Kampala Amendment?

Roger Clark

Earlier this month, the Director of the Centre lodged a submission to the NZ Parliament on the International Crimes and International Criminal Court Amendment Bill.

The Bill proposes amendments to NZ legislation to incorporate certain international amendments made in 2010 and 2017 to the Rome Statute (Art. 8) dealing with war crimes.

The submission endorsed the Bill, insofar as it dealt with the war-crime amendments.  But it recommended that the Bill should “include the other principal amendment outstanding, namely pertaining to the crime of aggression, which is one of the Statute’s four ‘most serious crimes of concern to the international community’.” 

This blog-post supports this proposal – namely, NZ ratification of the Kampala Amendments dealing with the crime of aggression, and the inclusion of aggression as a domestic crime in the draft legislation currently before Parliament.

Let me explain why.


Understanding Nuclear Disarmament

Report on Australia

Renee Moorjani

Following the drafting of the Civil Society Youth Pledge at the Hui in September, and while contemplating what is to follow, Jayden van Leeuwen (YGSG) and I locked in on two key elements of the pledge.

The first was the Treaty's Article 12 obligation to take the pledge to a state that has not yet ratified the Nuclear Ban Treaty (TPNW 2017). This became a reality when our Australia trip was finalized.

The second- uncovering the inherent ties between the need for nuclear disarmament and mitigating climate change.

This would not only be on our agenda, but we would realize it is a key method to reduce the noise and pique interest in a campaign that some youth feel quite disconnected from in the 21st century.



The University in the Global Age: Pt II

Exploring US Innovation

Chris Gallavin

(Part II of four parts)

In Pt I of my blog-column (6 Dec. ’19), I identified what I see as the main challenges facing tertiary education, globally.  These challenges, I suggest, have led many universities to an existential crisis as it dawns upon them that, for most, the traditional model of operation and financing has nearly run its course.  

So, what to do?

In Part II, I detail my observations of US innovation in higher education which I had the privilege of examining, as part of my experience as a 2018 Eisenhower International Fellow.


Can Nuclear Disarmament Strengthen Global Security?

Building a cycle of trust

Lyndon Burford

Ten years ago, the US President reaffirmed in a major international speech that the United States sought ‘the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons’. Despite the vision, Obama didn’t say why he thought a nuclear-weapon-free world would be peaceful and secure.

So the question arises, from the perspective of nuclear-armed and allied states, can nuclear disarmament as a process and endpoint (‘nuclear-zero’) help to improve the global security environment?


Towards a Theory of Everything: Pt III. Development

Initiatives towards a ‘global theory’

Kennedy Graham

(Part III of three parts)

Part II identified, in developing a ‘global theory’ for the 21st century, the following components:

  • primary features, global values, citizenship, law and governance;
  • foundational concepts of consilience and coherence, along with operational concepts of risk management and jurisdictional subsidiarity;
  • a central principle, the ecological imperative of survival, with normative socio-political principles compatible with, and subordinate to, the survival principle.

A global theory, developed through an international discourse based on ‘cultural cosmopolitanism’, would facilitate a move from the 20th c. transactional system to a 21st c. constitutional system that involved multi-layered jurisdiction. 

  • How, then, to begin such a discourse – in an age of global angst?
  • What is our contemporary, transactional, international system doing about this?
[12 3  >>  

Website designed and hosted by The Island's Computer Guy