Dr. Mihaly Simai gave an alarming, yet optimistic, view of the future during his lecture entitled Co-Existence or Confrontation? Civilizations, Civil Societies and the Future of Global Security and Governance.
“I think that the world will one day finally solve all these problems, but the question is after what kind of a shock?” said Dr. Simai, economics professor at the University of Budapest and honourary president of the world federation of the United Nations (UN) association. “You need certain shocks when stimulatory effects are not sufficiently strong.”
Dr. Simai’s presentation followed the idea that the twenty-first century corresponds to a “historically unprecedented situation for the whole world,” created by the overlapping of several major global transformations.
At the very top of the list is capitalism. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and socialist regimes in Eastern Europe, “the universality of the capitalist market system is the determining force in the global system,” said Dr. Simai.
Dr. Simai believes that the creation of an ethical market is necessary, though he asks how it would be feasible in a time of market competition. “How will civil society influence the market to be more humane?” he asked rhetorically.
The second major transformation, which is still in its early stages, is the creation of successor states “born on ruins of old empire.” They make up 140 of the 191 member states of the UN. With 5,000 ethnic groups in the world that, according to UN charter, could claim self-determination, how many more states will we see in the future? About 600 of those groups would be able to stand alone; about 80 are fighting to establish their own state and between 40 to 60 of them are fighting violently.
“Many of the small states can create lots of trouble in the world,” said Dr. Simai. He added that it is important to discipline these states “which are facing a lot of important internal problems: ethnic issues, poverty, and so on.”
The third change has to do with the economy. “Never before in human history have people been producing and consuming so much,” said Dr. Simai. He noted that the split between real economy and paper economy has increased.
“The autonomous development of paper economy created the greatest danger for instability,” he said.
Globalization itself has also gone through a major transformation, according to Dr. Simai. The “globalized” group of people, whose income is high enough to enjoy the opportunities of globalization, represents only 15 to 20 per cent of the world’s population.
Those who are marginalized and excluded from globalization’s benefits represent the largest group. And those in the “in-between” group can move either way.
The final change that Dr. Simai discussed was that of global demographics. According to UN projections, by 2050 the world population will stabilize at 8 to 9 billion people. However, 95 per cent of people born that year will be in poor countries.
“There is an intellectual consensus amongst the top leaders of the world that the world cannot handle massive poverty,” said Dr. Simai.
Pressure will be felt in rich countries as well, especially in terms of emigration.
“The world is not prepared to handle this transition,” he said. Dr. Simai believes that the UN has the “mandate to do everything needed in the world.”
He thinks that it should be a priority to strengthen the structure of international cooperation in all the areas where the world is ready to do something together.