TIME TO MOVE BEYOND WESTMINSTER
As Gordon Brown bowed out of British politics this past week, there was much talk of lost opportunities — both for his own potential and that of the Labour Party. Yet Gordon — much like another controversial, but clearly missed star of the left, David Miliband — has not “gone” anywhere: both have simply shifted over to a global stage.
Neither have taken on a highly paid, old-superpower envoy role similar to their former boss Tony Blair. Instead both have chosen to operate from within an altogether much bigger space — the new superpower if you like — of global civil society. Gordon, now UN Special Envoy for Global Education and David Miliband, President of the International Rescue Committee are now geared towards addressing needs across the world rather than in Britain, because they understand that what happens globally does not just effect, but shapes what happens locally.
Both are great advocates of the power of the internet to liberate what is often called human capital — the will, capability and emotional power of human beings to grow, develop and make a difference in their environment. Catch Brown in his Ted speech — five years ago! — on why connectivity is the missing link to unleashing people power. Or David Miliband speaking to tech guru AJ Keen, on how the use of technology, whether it’s mobile phones building business in Africa or Facebook generating social networks across Asia, is a tool for the good. Even as we see small groups like ISIS holding the world to ransom through their use of the internet, says David, “there is a tide towards openness which is stronger than any attempts to block or control it”.
But how can the ordinary voter take part in such a global vision? Yes, we can be members of international organizations — from Action Aid to Amnesty or Avaaz — each playing their part effectively in this growing sector, even if they are only tackling one issue at at time. But what about the frustration of voting nationally for a government that sounds and acts as if it is in competition with the rest of the world — in a global race as David Cameron describes it — rather than urgently needing to be in collaboration with others to solve the massive challenges of today? How can those of us who feel like global citizens already — which is not everyone, granted — begin to act like global citizens?
Two years ago I wrote a piece here about Simon Anholt’s call for new ideas on global governance and described his journey to establishing the Nation Brands Index, which revealed the measures on which we, as tourists and investors of all kinds, judge other countries to be attractive. What he revealed was that by a margin of 6.8 percent more people were impressed by a country’s morality — their actions in the interests of the global commons — than by their aesthetics (how beautiful), relevance (what is their direct impact on us), sophistication (how developed) or strength (how big is their army). In other words, in growing numbers often expressed on the internet, people are keen on good countries.
Is this an indication of enlightened self-interest — your doing good means I get a better context for my prosperity — or a genuinely new global culture which prizes diversity and is prepared to distribute leadership and influence across the planet for a new balance of power? Does it matter either way if both interests point at the development of greater collaboration and a safer world?
Simon is happy to harness all signs of global life for his radical new initiative the Good Country Party — which provides a meeting space for anyone and everyone who is ready to call on their own government to become a gooder (sic) country. Gooder in this context does not mean the opposite of bad — it’s not a world church — but a willingness to accept a dual mandate of responsibility for the insides of a country (its land, people, society, economy) and the outsides (the lands, peoples, societies and economies of the world in which it operates).
I should register my interest here as I am an advisor on the project — although my bias will not lead to any commercial gains: the Good Country Party is not looking for your funds or even your signatures. Instead it is hoping to enjoin global citizens to help model, inspire and enhance good global behavior for the “good, gooder and goodest” countries, annually measured by Anholt’s Good Country Index.
Taking a step beyond Gordon Brown’s call for the richer countries of the world to reach out to the poorer ones, helping them to get on their feet, the Good Country Party is for people who can see the virtue of addressing any problem by harnessing the full diversity of the globe. In his second Ted video here, Simon employs Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, “Pied Beauty,” to enshrine dappledness, and Bob Marley’s “Stir it Up,” to illustrate how many cultures working together generate far more creativity than one constantly referring to itself. The first task for Good Country party members is to build their own mini-world with as many of the 196 countries of the world represented as possible — as a personal resource for problem solving. For once there is no contrast between thinking globally and acting globally, even for individuals.
But what struck me most is the notion that, according to the Good Country Index, about 10 percent of our global population are ready for a more globe — or planet — centered politics, because they understand the more complex global dynamics that led, for example, to the economic crash of 2008. They get that we can’t bleed the world’s resources for the benefit of rich countries because the resulting poverty of the rest will bring everyone down with them. They get that stigmatizing one group of countries only puts the rest in danger because they will fight us for power, attention and spoils. They get that genuinely global phenomena — whether humanitarian campaigns like those led by the IRC or entertaining ones like multiple countries’ own version of Korea’s Gangnam Style video — are the ultimate feel good.
And even while 10 percent would add up to roughly 700 million people, most of them feel isolated because no national political parties to date, acknowledge the truth to take up the dual mandate. Which is why Simon has created a home, albeit a virtual one, for the global citizens of the world to meet, play and think together about how to call on their own countries, for the sake of everyone, to be a Good Country.
This piece first appeared in The Huffington Post on December 8th, 2014