According to the tradition, today the Ministry of Foreign Affair is holding the 28th Diplomatic Conference, themed “Proactive and active diplomacy in international integration”. This is an opportunity for the Diplomatic Service to review and assess the implementation of external strategy of international integration as mapped out in the first half of the 11th Party Congress’s term, so as to take comprehensive and effective measures to successfully realize the Congress’ external strategy in the coming years.
The Conference is honored to warmly welcome Comrade Nguyen Phu Trong, Secretary-General of the Central Committee of the Party to attend and chair the Conference. The presence of Comrade Secretary-General is a major inspiration to all the working staffs of the Diplomatic Service, which shows the profound interest and the Leadership of the Party to the external field. We also warmly welcome other high-ranking leaders of the Party, the State, the National Assembly and the Government, distinguished guests representing central ministries, branches, departments and provinces, as well as more than seven hundred Heads of the Vietnamese Diplomatic Missions overseas, diplomatic officials, officials representing local foreign affairs’ offices, members of the press, mass media and a number of economic groups to the Conference. We are also glad to welcome former Ministers and leaders of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as senior members of the Vietnamese Diplomatic Service, who have closely followed the foreign affairs, generating great inspirations to the next generations of our Diplomatic Service.
The 28th Diplomatic Conference is held at a time where many important changes are taking place both domestically and internationally.
Domestically, our country has entered a pivotal period regarding the execution of the Ten-year Socio-Economic Development Strategy of 2011-2020, the realization of the goal of industrialization and modernization by 2020 and the promotion of economic restructure being accompanied by the renovation of our growth model.
Against the backdrop of slow world economy recovery, ongoing financial and public debt crises all over the world, fierce competition among great powers in the region that have made a negative impacts on our country’s socio-economic situations, our country has attained important socio-economic achievements, stabilized the macro-economy, maintained reasonable growth, curbed inflation and ensured social security. However, our economy is still faced with many difficulties and challenges.
Globally, peace and cooperation for development continue to be a major trend, yet prominent problems still persist in an ever more complicated direction. Armed conflicts; disputes over resources, national territory, seas and islands; ethnic and religion-fueled conflicts; interventions, coups, secessions and terrorism; all are on the rise. A multipolar world is now emerging prominently. Major powers are engaged in cooperation, competition with one another, with the Asia-Pacific being the dominant region.
In addition, unconventional security challenges, especially natural disasters and internet security have increased in intensity. Multilateral politico-security challenges are directly affecting on the security and development of our country.
Achievements attained by the Diplomatic Service since the 27th Diplomatic Conference
In the last two years since the 27th Diplomatic Conference, we have actively and comprehensively carried out the 11th Party Congress’ external strategy and attained important achievements.
Political Diplomacy has been actively conducted, bringing our relations with important partners to substance, making them effective and stable and for the first time we have established relation frameworks with all important partners. In 2013 we have established five Strategic Partnerships and two Comprehensive Partnerships, bringing the total number of the former to 13 and the latter to 11, including those with the five permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations; with important partners worldwide like Japan, India, Germany, the Republic of Korea; with the core members of the ASEAN like Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand; while our relations with traditional friends in Africa and Latin America have been strengthened and expanded.
In the international integration, we persistenly hold high the “national interest is the highest” principle, engaging in both cooperation and struggle. The Diplomatic Service has contributed to maintaining a peaceful, stable environment, playing an important part in building a favorable international environment for national development.
Economic Diplomacy has effectively supported the execution of the Ten-Year Socio-Economic Development Strategy of 2011-2020 and the Five-Year Plan of 2011-2015; proactively forecasting major development trends as well as learning experiences from other countries so as to recommend to the Government sound steps in managing and stabilizing the macroeconomy and restructuring the economy. We have also promoted the politico-diplomatic lobbying to facilitate the negotiations on important Free Trade Agreements, the recognition of Viet Nam as a market economy and the attraction of ODA and FDI. Over the last two years we have managed to persuade 14 more countries to recognize Viet Nam as a market economy, bringing the total number of the recognizers to 43, including eight countries in G-20. At present, we are negotiating six Free Trade Agreements with important partners in bilateral and multilateral frameworks, including such largest economies in the world as the United States, China, Japan and the EU. Apart from cooperation, we have also timely struggled against protectionism and discrimination in trade relations, partly protecting our main export products in the law suits regarding anti dumping duties and countervailing duties.
Multilateral Diplomacy has effectively implemented the international integration policy, switching from the simple participation to pro-active participation, making suggestions and contributions with responsibility to common regional and global security and development issues, thus promoting the country’s standing in the region and the world.
In the region, as a responsible member to we have contributed to promoting the building of the ASEAN Community, consolidating regional solidarity and strengthening the central role of ASEAN in regional matters, promoting the execution of the Declaration of Conduct and the joint consultation between ASEAN and China on the Code of Conduct of the Parties in the East Sea.
At the international level, our decision to take part in the United Nations Peacekeeping activities, our being elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council with the highest number of votes and as the president of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and for the first time our being elected to the Intergovernmental Committee on the 1972 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritages, have all promoted the image and the standing of our country in the world. In the long-term, we have step-by-step been building a general plan for the hosting of the APEC Summit in 2017 and a candidacy for the election into the United Nations Security Council in the 2020-2021 term.
Cultural Diplomacy has played an important part in popularizing and strengthening the national image and the standing of Viet Nam in the world, lobbying the UNESCO for the recognition of many Vietnamese material and non-material cultural heritages as world cultural heritages.
Territorial and Border work has been carried out effectively, contributing to protecting national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the country as well as to defending our sovereignty and sovereign rights in the East Sea.
Overseas Vietnamese work has been carried out to support and protect legitimate rights of overseas Vietnamese in difficulty and encourage them to maintain and promote national customs and identities and contribute to building the homeland. Resolution No 36 of the Party Politburo has been implemented with concrete methods and policies to facilitate overseas Vietnamese to return to the homeland to do business, visit relatives, so as to contribute to the construction of the homeland.
Citizen protection work has received much more attention as our country has implemented open door policy and continued to integrate in-depth into the world. We have timely protected our citizens in international hot spots and natural disaster regions. We have also actively combined cooperation and struggle to protect our citizens, fishermen and laborers’ legitimate rights overseas.
Foreign information work has seen many innovations, partly creating social consensus on complicated matters, sending accurate messages to help the international community understand and support the Party and the Government’s strategy and policy while strongly opposing the violations of our maritime sovereign rights and slanderous allegations regarding democracy, human rights and religious matters.
These achievements would be impossible without the extremely important contribution of the work of Diplomatic Service building. Following the 27th Diplomatic Conference, the Ministry of Foreign Affair has focused on the building and training work in compliance with Comrade Secretary-General’s request in the 27th Diplomatic Conference that our army of working staffs must have “sufficient strength of will, capability and morality standards on a par with their new mission, loyalty to the national interest”.
The Ministry of Foreign Affair has implemented many programs and methods for training and retraining working staffs to provide our country with officials who are genuinely professional with high competence and firm political strength, meeting external tasks in the international integration period in an increasingly competent manner.
These achievements in external relations and international integration are attributed first of all to the sound foreign policy of the Party, the close instruction and direct participation of the Party Politburo and high-ranking leaders of the Party, the State, the National Assembly and the Government, the close and timely cooperation among the agencies working on Forreign Affairs, among State diplomacy, and Party, and Parliamentary diplomacy and people-to-people diplomacy, among the foreign service-security-defense sectors, among foreign service and external activites of ministries, branches and departments at the central levels and local governments at the provincial level all over the country, forming an united front to bring into play the combined national strength.
These achievements have been very important, yet the road ahead is full of difficulties and challenges, which demand the Diplomatic Service to continue making greater efforts on a par with the new standing of the country.
In the coming years, the international and regional picture will be changing more dramatically, creating for us both great opportunities and challenges. However, we have a very basic strength in our patriotism, a stable socio-political background, and the fact that after nearly 30 years of Doi Moi our national strength and standing have been much improved. The recent years’ external achievements have created new advantages; it can be said that never before in the history of the modern Viet Nam have we had such favorable conditions in our relationship with other countries in the world as nowadays.
Issues to be discussed in depth in the 28th Diplomatic Conference
In order to continue to accomplish successfully the policies of the 11th Congress, the 28th Diplomatic Conference themed “Proactive and active diplomacy in international intgration” will concentrate on the following points:
First, concerning the regional and global situation, forecasting accurately development trends in the short term and within the next five to ten years; improving further research and consultative quality, more assessing and forecasting policy adjustments of neighboring countries and major powers and their impacts on our security and development environment.
Second, concerning political diplomacy, on the basis of partnership framework networks, we need to identify priorities and key methods to bring our relationships with key partners into depth, substance and efficiency.
Third, concerning international integration and multilateral diplomacy, we need to find sound methods and ways to better bring into play our current standing among nations as well as mechanisms and forums to serve the country’s security and development goals; we are not just participating actively but also contributing to the building of mechanisms and frameworks in regional and international organizations in which we have stakes, with the goal of further improving the country’s standing both regionally and internationally.
While we have seven more years to realize the goals of industrialization and modernization and two years to build the ASEAN Community by 2015, economic diplomacy needs to become deeply involved in aspects vital to the country’s development demands, supporting effectively the implementation of the goals of the Socio-Economic Development Strategy until 2020.
Fourth, we need to continue researching and suggesting methods to promote comprehensive, uniform deployment of external activities on the fields of culture, information-propaganda, overseas Vietnamese works, citizen protection works; strengthening close cooperation among foreign-defense-security services to successfully realize the main goal of maintaining peace, stability and development.
Equally important is the building of the Diplomatic Service. The Conference needs to devote due time to review the deployment of professional staff-building activities; there must be breakthrough solutions to improve the training of staff, so as after graduation, officials have been not only endowed with professional, multi-faceted skills but also possessing the ability to cooperate and work in an inter-professional environment in the backdrop of our deep international integration into the world, meeting increasingly high requirements of the building and defending of the motherland and improving our national standing.
It is not easy to come to actual, comprehensive assessment and pivotal solutions to the aforementioned problems within the span of one week. Yet with a deep awareness about the Diplomatic Service’s task in this most important period for the nation, with our high responsibility and dedication, the 28th Diplomatic Conference will successfully complete the agenda, according to the spirit of “Proactive and active diplomacy in international integration”.
I hereby declare the commencement of the 28th Diplomatic Conference. May I wish Comrade Secretary-General, leaders of the Party and the State and all delegates good health and many achievements in the upcoming period.
Posting granted exclusively for the Modern Diplomacy
(*)Speech delivered by HE Mr. Pham Binh Minh, the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs at the 28th Diplomatic Conference (from the 16th to 20th December 2013). The title is named by the Journal of International Studies.
Russia’s Cultural Diplomacy in Multipolar World. Africa’s Role, Challenges and Benefits
After a careful research to find the meaning and implications of the term “multipolar world” often used these days, the freedictionary and englopedia offer insights as a system of world order in which the majority of global leading powers coordinate and commonly agree on economic, political and cultural influence and acceptable directions.
Both dictionaries further explain that countries have multipolar approaches to foreign policy. Participating countries necessarily conceive multiple centers of power or influence in the world, have a multipolar approach to foreign policy. Multipolar world could mean the various differences in thoughts, views and ideas regarding anything in particular which different people desire to do across the world.
It appears from several reports that China and Russia intend to lead the new world order. Speeches from both sides are extremely critical on “based rules and regulations” given by the United States and Europe. The United States global dictatorship might end, so that the unipolar would then become a multi-polar world, in which democracy could actually thrive.
In practical terms and in order to lead multipolar system requires outward, broad and integrative approach. While China, to a large extent, has portrayed this practical approach which is readily seen around the world, Russia’s method is full of slogans, highly limited. With the emerging new global order, China appears more open and integrative than Russia. Despite the fact that it madly advocates for creating and ultimate establishment of this multipolar world, Russia exits significantly from the global stage, thus isolating itself and further contributing towards its own “cancel culture” instead of the opposite.
Whether people like it or not, the United States will conveniently operate within the emerging multipolar system. It has the instruments to operate within the framework of multilateralism and integrative multicultural environment. The United States is and remains as an “indispensable” power. Russia and a few of its allies in this evolutionary process, without adopting cautious steps and strategic approach, will definitely remain “dispensable” in the end.
In order to deepen our understanding of the emerging multipolar world, it is useful to make comparisons. The United States new strategy acknowledges that Africa will shape the future – not just the future of the African people, but of the world. And as such deals with the civil society, women and the youth which it refers to as the megaphone of governance. These have influence on policies and processes engaging policy-makers.
It further works in various directions closely with the African Union, and one more new direction is the African diaspora. The United States has the largest African diaspora which has social inroads and business inter-linkages and a huge significant impact of developments inside Africa. These compared, Russia has grossly ignored African diaspora and even those African professional specialists it has indeed trained from Soviet times and currently. In the emerging new multipolar world, to overlook these would be a sad mistake from policy perspectives.
Russians seriously brush aside the relevance and the role of culture, for that matter soft power in foreign policy while advocating for this emerging new order. Examining, in broad terms, all aspects of culture that basically includes continuing the struggle for self-determination, for creating the grounded opportunity to live in peace and preserving one’s valuable traditions. Language, of course, plays its unifying role.
Some contradictions and different interpretations might exist. On the other hand, there are divergent views and different perceptions relating to the current geopolitical changes, but frankly speaking the study of foreign languages, including English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, and the emerging interest in the Chinese and Russian languages, has been a long part of people’s lives, especially those who hope to move across borders and dream to have smooth interactions with other nationals from different countries around the world.
For the past three decades since the collapse of the Soviet era, Russian language studies has been low, for example among the African population primarily due to lack of overwhelming interest and adequate motivation, and lack of consistent interactive cultural activities by Russian authorities, experts at the Africa Studies Institute frequently say, and warmheartedly admit that things have slow with Russia’s return to Africa.
Most Africans prefer to study foreign languages to ensure smooth participation in interstate activities such as trade and in order to maintain relationship with people abroad. Foreign countries, for example Britain, the United States, European countries and now China are their traditional favorites. There are always interactive programmes and cultural activities throughout the year operated by foreign missions and NGOs.
Interpreted from different perspectives, Russia has not been a major economic giant in Africa compared to Western and European countries and China. Due to this historical truth, Africans have little interest in studying Russian language and its culture. The Russian language itself does not sound attractive in terms of its economic opportunity and therefore Africans prefer to study languages that readily offer opportunities. China is making huge contributions in the continent and this has made Africans see the need to understand the language in order to have better interaction with them.
The obvious worse-case scenario is that the Russian government has not created necessary conditions and reasons to study the language simply because it has little influence in the continent. Besides that, the trade and commercial links between Russia and Africa are quite negligible so there is no desperate demand for the Russian language for businessmen. Admittedly, Russia is not a welcoming holiday destination for African elites and the middle-class which twice the total population of Russia, and constitutes 40% of 1.3 billion population of Africa. Travel and tourism is an increasingly huge business, the unique geographical landscapes and changing attractiveness of Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi – these are unknown to the African elite and the growing middle-class.
With the current evolving political and cultural processes, the West and Europe will still have a strong classical grip on Africa, influencing everything first from culture and tourism, and moving onward to politics and economics. Perhaps, Russia has to play correct strategic openness and welcome African travellers, tourists and visitors. Closing doors, in these critical times, might negatively distract Africa’s support for Russia.
The worrying tendency is that Rossotrudnichestvo, an agency under Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, pays little attention to educational and cultural questions in Africa, compared to its assertive counterparts – USAID, Alliance Française de France, The Goethe Institute, British Council, Instituto Cervantes that operate throughout the world.
Another Russian organization – Russkiy Mir Foundation, which is directly responsible for promoting Russian language and culture abroad, does extremely little in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, cultural officers work in all the 38 Russian embassies in Africa.
Russia appears quite removed from Africa’s development issues, it is only mentioned in limited areas like weapons and military equipment supplies to French-speaking West Africa. Nowadays, China is being viewed as a strong strategic partner in Africa given its (China’s) strong footprints in diverse economic sectors. China has more than 20 Confucius Centers, and a party school in Africa. Western and European, and China support civil society, youth programmes and women’s issues, – these are completely not on the Russia’s radar.
Russia allegedly allows its own ‘cancel culture’ and significantly not by the United States and its European allies. In practical terms, creating a multipolar system deals largely with cultural and social orientation, it deals with public perceptions through openness and friendliness. At this new historical reawakening stage, Russia has review itself and try to focus on building relations, both with substance, trustful and refined approach, and strategically engage with civil society, youth organizations and non-state institutions in Africa.
By and large, Russia has to intensify its people-to-people connections soft power and cultural diplomacy with Africa. There is a huge cultural gap of new thinking, working with young professionals and associations to promote people-to-people diplomacy through business links, cultural exchanges and competitions. As Russia charts loudly for multipolar system, this has to reflect in its current foreign policy and approach especially towards the developing world, in Latin America, Asia and Africa.
Late October, during the final plenary session of the 19th meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club, the focus was on matters related to the changing geopolitics and civilisation diversity, the new world order and its future developments. Under the theme – “A Post-Hegemonic World: Justice and Security for Everyone” – the four day-long interactive meeting brought academic experts and researchers, politicians, diplomats and economists from Russia and 40 foreign countries.
President Vladimir Putin discussed, at considerable length, so many controversial questions. According to him, classic liberal ideology itself today has changed beyond recognition. Predicted the end of United States global dominance, but fell short in proposing an appropriate Russia’s template – the principles and mechanisms – for realizing the lofty idea and approach to establishing multipolar world.
Putin did not say anything about Russia becoming a power, but awarded that position to China. Giants like China, India and Indonesia with large population are showing economic growth; in Africa large countries – some of them with a population of 200 million – are emerging and making progress, as well as countries in Latin America.
According to him, Russia still have friends around the world. He mentioned that in Central America and Africa, the Russian flags are flying everywhere. “There are flags in European countries and in the United States too, we have many supporters there. By the way, a large proportion of the US population adhere to traditional values, and they are with us, we know this,” he added in his assertive conversation at the Valdai gathering.
Putin, along the line argued that the support for multipolar order largely exists in the global south. Russia is not the enemy and has never had any evil intentions as regards the European countries and the United States. He appreciated Africa’s struggle for independence and against colonialism. These absolutely unique relations were forged during the years when the Soviet Union and Russia supported African countries in their fight for freedom.
In this context and in relation to Africa, Natalia Zaiser, Founder of the African Business Initiative Union, apparently talked about the new historical stage, need to establish new or different institutions of international partnership.
Her series of questions to Putin: “Mr President, what is your vision of a new international partnership institution? Which basis of parities is Russia ready to offer at the international level? Which mechanisms, tools and personalities are needed to acquire new allies, partners and friends, not at a declarative level but at the level of unquestionable responsibility in terms of agreements? Do you think we should also change or build up other approaches within the future international partnership?”
Putin’s answer was: “We must and we can focus on cooperation, primarily, with countries which have sovereignty in taking fundamental decisions. This is my first point. My second point is that we need to reach a consensus on each of these decisions. Third, we need to secure a balance of interests. As part of which institutions can we do this? Of course, these are primarily universal international organizations, and number one is with the United Nations.”
Higher Education and Diplomacy: Essential Skills for Becoming a Diplomat
Do you want to become a diplomat? Are you interested in learning more about diplomacy? If yes, you should know that diplomatic skills play a key role in today’s global society. Therefore, mastering these skills is crucial for students who aspire to pursue a career in international affairs or diplomacy.
A career in diplomacy requires specific knowledge and expertise beyond academic study. To achieve their goals. Young diplomats must master various aspects of communication and negotiation. With conflict management, crisis response, cultural awareness, and language proficiency.
“Diplomatic skills” encompass a wide range of abilities. From interpersonal relations to public speaking and effective leadership. These skills are essential in negotiating agreements between countries, improving trade relations, and resolving conflicts. Here are the crucial skills for becoming a diplomatic.
Although there are no set educational prerequisites to enter the field of diplomacy. A degree in a relevant subject can help hone the abilities needed to succeed in the industry. Writing assignments are often very important for university students.
Most colleges require that students complete at least three academic papers per semester. And since these papers usually take several weeks to complete. You must learn to give yourself plenty of time to craft a high-quality piece. It would be best if you always doubled check the assignment requirements before starting to write your paper. Make sure you’ve covered every aspect of the assignment, use a Fixgerald plagiarism checker to ensure your papers are unique and meet the necessary requirements, and check your topic selection to referencing style. If you need help figuring out where to start, consider asking your professor for guidance.
Since diplomats might go in several different directions professionally. Knowledge in a wide range of disciplines is useful. All candidates, however, need to have a solid grasp of international relations and diplomacy. So many people choose to major in similar fields.
For example, a master’s in global studies and international relations prepares students to understand the complex interplay of politics, law, economics, and security worldwide.
You can choose from four concentrations. Thid includes global health and development, conflict resolution, diplomacy, and international economics and consulting.
U.S. diplomats have varied levels of education, from high school diplomas to doctorates.
In a great number of nations, including the USA and UK, among others. To enter the diplomatic service, one must first score well on a general aptitude test. Candidates for FSO positions should therefore brush up on their foundational skills such as algebra, reading comprehension, and reasoning in advance of taking these exams. The purpose of such tests is to gauge the applicant’s general knowledge.
It is helpful but not required to have a background in history, politics, law, or human rights. Most embassies and consulates will tell you that learning about government and international politics is essential if you want to work in diplomacy as a career.
For the simple reason that the United States mandates pre-departure language training for all successful applicants. Being able to speak the language well is not a prerequisite for a diplomatic position. However, your application will stand out more if you have international experience and can speak two or more languages. It is more valuable than knowing Chinese, Arabic, Farsi, or Urdu to be able to speak and write your native language.
After a person has done well enough on the test to get in. Most embassies and consulates will perform exhaustive interviews and screenings to establish if a candidate is qualified for a foreign service position.
The field of foreign service is a challenging one. The ability to keep in touch with loved ones is a challenge for FSOs. This is because officers frequently have to uproot their families in order to serve, and the job itself can be strenuous. However, this in no way diminishes the value of a career as an FSO. There are always a lot of prospective FSOs and experienced officers at an embassy or consulate, all of whom want to get posted somewhere exciting.
Rookies will generally be sent to the most dangerous places first. Since seniority is the most important factor in finding a new job. If you want to be a good FSO, you need to be able to adjust to change. They need to be self-aware enough to see when they need assistance, and determined enough to put in the work required to succeed.
Are you interested in studying to become a diplomat? There are plenty of opportunities, and you don’t even need to go abroad to get them. The reality is diplomacy is both a science and an art. And because it involves negotiation skills, communication ability, and conflict resolution. It requires specific skills. To become a good diplomat, you need to develop these essential skills.
With the pandemic still hanging over our heads and a looming global recession, there’s a simple question before us: Will the world move forward–or fall back?
If we want freedom to spread, open societies to grow, trade to increase, and economic growth to advance, we must all see these as interconnected. They transcend day-to-day politics and grow instead from older, deeper sources, particularly religion. Not the kind imposed from above, but the kind that grows through and across societies and cultures. For those who understand the value of that kind of faith, what has happened in Bali, Indonesia must be engaged.
There is a remarkable convergence of religious wisdom and perspective in Indonesia this week; all the world needs to pay attention, especially the parts that might have looked down on the so-called Global South. Recent weeks have seen contentious elections and surprising volatility even in the most stable countries. In Sweden, a nationalist party has surged to the forefront. In the United Kingdom, three Prime Ministers in a matter of months.
Beyond and behind these surprising headlines is a gathering global turbulence.
The institutions that inspired free trade, open borders and remarkable economic growth are deteriorating. We have several choices before us.
We can do nothing, but that would hardly provide us much hope for the future. We would only face greater headwinds and worse outcomes. We can replace those institutions, but there are few if any convincing or compelling ideas about what those substitutes would be. Or we can work to critically examine our institutions, see where their foundations are weakening, and seek out thoughtful ways to replenish and renew them.
In Bali, the R20 is launching to pursue that path of replenishment and renewal. Launching through and alongside the Group of 20 or G20, that body’s Religion Forum (“R20” for short) will mobilize faith leaders to ensure that religion functions as a genuine and dynamic source of peace, progress and prosperity in the 21st century. Among the R20’s goals is “infusing geopolitical and economic power structures with moral and spiritual values.”
One of the world’s senior Islamic scholars, Dr. Abdul Karim Al-Issa, Secretary-General of the Muslim World League, announced on day one of the R20: “Major global challenges today are not merely political or economic … They are moral. And navigating the world out of these crises requires moral leadership. This year, the world’s religious leaders are for the first time part of the G20. It is time we acknowledge that religion must be part of the solution for global crises.”
This is exactly what the G20 needs; even many of its most stable countries are stumbling. Like the United States, some lack shared unifying practices–a monarchy is one example–and so their polarization becomes ever more severe. Could thoughtful, compassionate, and genuine religious traditions, developed over generations to become meaningful pillars of diverse societies, be the answer?
As a member of the nobility of the Royal Sultanate of Sulu, a 600-year-old historical thalassocracy, I have dedicated many years working with traditional Islamic monarchies in Southeast Asia and have a unique viewpoint on why the R20 matters. Considering I was born in the Roman Catholic faith, this might be a rare perspective of course, since many in the West–the historic core of the developed world–know comparatively little about Islam or Southeast Asia.
Let alone Islam in Southeast Asia.
Which is why launching the R20 in Indonesia is massively meaningful. Not only is Indonesia the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, but it is also of course a G20 economy, a secular democracy, and home to the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), a unique organization that represents some 100 million moderate Muslims–a huge portion of Indonesia’s population. Its General Chairman, Mr. Yahya Staquf, is a compelling Muslim thinker and scholar, who has challenged critical misinterpretations of Islam.
In my purview, the NU is a major reason why Indonesia has remained a secular democracy.
To begin this conference in such a dynamic society is incredibly heartening; not only does the Forum gain from the experience of one of the world’s largest Muslim bodies, but that body (the NU) is also closely partnering with the previously mentioned Muslim World League, the world’s largest Islamic non-governmental organization, to build the R20. A wise pairing: NU promotes a pluralistic approach to Islam, with roots in Southeast Asia going back many centuries. That makes the Muslim World League a natural partner and amplifier.
Behind its Secretary-General, Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, the Muslim World League has become a remarkable force for moderation, inter-faith and intra-faith dialogue, and global religious consciousness. The NU and the MWL reach huge numbers of Muslims, the world’s fastest-growing faith community, much of which lives outside the G20. If the principles of an open world order are to survive and expand, they will need to find ways to engage audiences beyond their borders.
To convince them that their values and many of the original sources of the G20’s dynamism are not at odds. That is something NU, the Muslim World League, and the R20 can well do.
To say nothing of their wider reach. In that spirit, in fact, the Muslim World League announced at the R20 “a new humanitarian fund for the victims of war everywhere.” Not only is the fund not directed only to Muslims, but it also reaches beyond Muslim-majority countries more broadly. Dr. Al-Issa emphasized that Ukraine would be a primary area of the fund’s focus. That is sure to encourage other faith leaders in attendance that the R20 is not just an exercise in lofty rhetoric, but active, on-the-ground engagement.
His Holiness Pope Francis has already addressed the R20; he is joined in his participation by other leaders of the Catholic Church, the world’s largest single faith denomination, as well as senior representatives of the Protestant World Evangelical Alliance, representing 600 million believers in over 140 countries. That is not to mention clergy from Buddhist, Sikh, Jewish, as well as other Christian and Muslim traditions. In that spirit, the next G20 (and R20) will take place in India, followed by Brazil; the world’s largest Hindu and Catholic countries, respectively.
India is a place where more conversations about religion, the state and freedom need to happen urgently. About 84% of the world’s population say religion is important, if not very important to them—the future of the world’s freedom and flourishing requires a thoughtful engagement with the thoughtfully religious. Without religious freedom, there cannot be economic freedom. Without economic freedom, we are unlikely to see meaningful, sustainable, long-term human flourishing. And in that aspect, Dr. Al-Issa is right, religion must be part of that process.
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