Fourth Global Baku Forum
Fourth Global Baku Forum
“Towards a Multipolar World”
The last year has seen an intensification of the numerous security and humanitarian challenges facing the international community, and – perhaps more than ever – regional crises have provoked global repercussions. 2015 was affected by unique dynamics that showed the interconnectedness of our world, and our helplessness in the face of complex crises, causing millions to suffer. From Syria to Ukraine, global leaders have attested to the growing complexity of international security. At the same time, this complexity has brought radicalisation and violence, and an unprecedented migration flow that has divided even stable continents such as the European Union. The world lives in increasing inequality; much power is no longer in the control of democratic states, but lies elsewhere. Clearly, 2015 reveals the shift to a multipolar world which we have yet to understand.
In Ukraine, where no resolution to its conflict appears to be in sight in the short term, the prospect of a de facto Iron Curtain running through the east of the country seems a real possibility. Entering its second year of war, Ukraine highlights the growing gap between Eastern and Western powers. Similarly, in Syria, competing foreign interventions have compounded a conflict which was already fiendishly complex, further deepening the gulf between Russia and the West in the process.
Following the signature of its nuclear deal last year, Iran – one of the Syrian government’s closest allies, and a significant regional power – may yet play a key role in the resolution of Syria’s war. What will Iran’s return to the world stage mean for the political and economic balance of the region? Will it be a sufficient impulse for a region underpinned by sectarian loyalties? Leaders should address the role that inter and intra-religious dialogue could play in the region’s geopolitics and, furthermore, in the work towards a resolution of the crisis.
Much like the conflict itself, any resolution to the Syrian war will have global dimensions, but the international responsibility to Syria does not end with peace talks. Europe continues to struggle with the arrival of great numbers of migrants from the war-torn region, and humanitarian empathy is losing ground to reactionary xenophobia. At the same time, a common international response is stumbling amid popular scepticism. What does this reluctance – and, at times, hostility – towards migrants mean in the long-term for our values, and what are the prospects for integration in an era of mass migration?
In the wake of numerous terrorist attacks (Paris, Bamako or Beirut are just three examples), migration and security policies are increasingly intertwined with profound questions of religion and culture, and – especially in Western countries – existing underlying tensions are returning to the fore. Extreme right-wing movements are on the rise, while it is becoming increasingly clear that “home-grown” religious fundamentalism is a significant problem. As communities divide along traditional lines of identity in times of uncertainty, can interfaith dialogue help build bridges between them? And, given the increasingly-clear link between socio-economic exclusion and extremism of all kinds, what does it take to create more equal, inclusive societies that can serve as a foundation for a more peaceful, more equitable world?
If economic inclusion is an answer to social division, then the empowerment of women must be a top priority. Encouraging progress can be seen across the world in this area, but there remains a long way to go. As the global balance of power shifts, the international narratives of human rights and gender equality may be at risk of diverging, with states less willing to be bound by “Western” conventions. Can new, innovative power structures be the means to create a more performant global rights regime, or do they pose a risk to the established values of global governance? More broadly, who holds normative power in such uncertain times?
While the challenges abound, the last year has also seen several significant breakthroughs which underscore the continued importance of diplomacy and dialogue, from the Paris climate deal to the international agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme. As post-1989 orthodoxies give way to a multipolar world in which nuclear superpowers share the security agenda with religious extremists and armed rebels, it is clear that the world is as distant as ever from the “end of history”. But what concrete lessons can the international community draw from current challenges and breakthroughs? In the face of increasing division among peoples and governments, can meaningful cooperation fulfil its promise of peace?
These are complex questions for challenging times, and competing agendas naturally lead to very different answers. Yet a multipolar world need not be a divided one – it can be an opportunity for positive change, so long as we can achieve greater inclusion, genuine tolerance and a fairer balance of power between rich and poor, women and men, and between faiths.
On 10–11 March 2016, leading figures in global politics will come together in Baku to discuss the current trends in international relations and human security. The meeting will provide a forum for current and former Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ministers and leading experts in the field to assess the current state of the world, the most pressing threats to international security, and potential routes to the resolution of the issues discussed above. The conference in Baku will initiate a global discussion and identify the necessary steps to boost trust and joint work among global powers, so that the path to a multipolar world may be one of peace and cooperation.
The aim of the Baku Forum is “to promote leadership for global problem-solving for a more peaceful, multipolar world.”
To identify the features of, and prospects for, an increasingly multipolar world;
- To make a careful assessment of the state of key divisive issues hampering global security;
- To identify options and steps for global leaders to overcome these divisions and work towards peace;
- To give a voice to up-and-coming youth leaders, so that they may be involved in, and support, a global process of cooperation and peace-building;
- To promote a final, joint statement which brings together the options for avoiding conflicts in the emerging multipolar world of the XXI Century.
Over 70 former and current world leaders will gather in Baku to discuss priority issues such as the future of East-West relations, radicalisation and extremism, region-specific challenges and opportunities, energy security and inter-faith dialogue, among others. Day one will focus on specific major geopolitical crises through facilitated discussions, whereas day two will feature smaller, more targeted, parallel “pep-talks,” in addition to concluding summaries and a call for action. The meeting will build on the findings of the Baku Forum in 2015, which reviewed the main challenges to the current world order and explored options to overcome them.
In preparation for Baku, the Nizami Ganjavi International Center, in cooperation with the Italian Society for International Organisation’s Initiative for Global Dialogue in a Multipolar World, hosted two days of discussions on the use of interfaith dialogue to address radicalisation and extremism. The meeting, held in Rome in January, reviewed the problems of a world that is increasingly interconnected, and explored the options for peaceful coexistence among religions. The meeting in Baku will take the lessons from Rome forward to chart the path ahead on using interfaith dialogue as a constructive means to resolving conflict.
 See Fukuyama, Francis (1992) The End of History and the Last Man. Free Press: New York, and Kagan, Robert (2008) “The End of the End of History” in New Republic, 23 April 2008.