Financial crisis is greatest threat to international security

By Reuters Staff
November 12, 2008

Paul Rogers is Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University and Global Security Consultant to Oxford Research Group. Any views expressed are his own.

Paul Rogers

Unless global responses are made to the current economic crisis, the biggest threat to international security will be the impoverishment of hundreds of millions of people, leading to radical and violent social movements that will be met with force, resulting in still greater conflict.

Oxford Research Group’s 2008 International Security Report, The Tipping Point?, published on 13 November, points to some improvements in security in Iraq in the past year as well as the potential for major changes in US policy in South West Asia with an incoming Obama administration.  It also finds that the recent deterioration in East West relations after the Russian intervention in Georgia in August can be reversed, but its main conclusion is that it is the global financial crisis that is now the most dangerous threat to international security.

With the G20 meeting due in Washington on 15 November, all the indications are that the response to the crisis of the most powerful states will be to focus narrowly on immediate issues, with calls for improvements in international financial cooperation involving:

•    An effective early warning system.

•    A more effective framework for transnational responses.

•    An independent “college of supervisors” to provide systematic monitoring of the world’s major companies and financial institutions.

These may well be useful responses to the immediate crisis but they have little or no relevance to the wider global predicament.  Instead, the opportunity should be taken to introduce fundamental economic reforms which reverse the wealth-poverty divisions that have got so much worse in the past three decades.

Most of the benefits of these decades of economic growth have been concentrated in the hands of a trans-global elite community of about 1.2 billion people, mainly in the countries of the Atlantic community and the West Pacific, but with elite communities in the tens of millions in countries such as China, India and Brazil.   At the same time, improvements in education, literacy and communications in recent decades have increased the awareness of many marginalised people of this unjust distribution of wealth.

On present trends many hundreds of millions of people among the poorest communities across the world will suffer most.  This is likely to lead to the rise of radical and violent social movements, which will be controlled by force, further increasing the violence.   The intensifying Naxalite rebellion in India and the substantial problems of social unrest in China are early indicators.  Responding to the crisis in a manner which places emphasis on improving emancipation and reversing the widening of the global socio-economic divide is therefore the most important task for the next twelve months.

Trade reform aimed at improving the economies of third world states, coupled with debt cancellation and substantial aid for sustainable development are all required as a matter of urgency if we are to avoid a much more divided global system in which the majority of the world’s population is marginalised, and increasingly resentful and bitter.

We can either respond as a global community or as a narrow group of rich and powerful countries.  The choice we make in the next few months will do much decide whether the world becomes more or less peaceful over the next ten years.

24 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

As abstract of former comments, the capitalist system has plunged. The solution for this, indeed a new socioeconomic system, is away of our hands, and any worldwide leader will can do anything. The human historic process evolutes according its proper laws. At this time, only marxist theory can explain the capitalism collapse. However, ¿where go the world? On near future, the classes fighting will increases, and the politics systems will collapse too. Only after, a new worldwide economy could be stablished.

Posted by Luis Rodolfo Cabrera Juárez | Report as abusive

mr andersons comment is right on target. but this idea should also be applied within the united states. we would all benefit if the standard of living was raised for the lowest among us. the actions of desparate people would be muted if we removed their desparation.

Posted by raymond tasillo | Report as abusive

Well put Jonathon Cole. History is replete with examples of societies subjected to abject poverty that eventually rose up in violence. I.E.,Roman mistreatment of Goths, Franc looting of Constantinople on the way to the holy land to loot it as well, fascist and democratic Europe colonizing Africa and the Middle East, ad nauseum… Much of the violence that still exists in the world today, finds it’s roots in endured oppression from decades and centuries past.

Given Mans propensity for war, the great unfortunate lesson of history is “Might is Right”. I find, debating the merits of different monetary, political and religious policies and philosophy, quite often descends into propaganda serving only to divide people and and kindle anger. The need for cooperation amongst all Nations and Peoples has never been more urgent. Humanities troubles are only just beginning and can only be solved with a sustained effort of common sense pragmatism by all People.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

I couldn’t agree more Michael Anderson. Who posed the question ” Is it not better to give than receive?”. I would certainly like to know how the CEOs, CFOs and CAOs of corporate America feel about this concept?

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive