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Mega Regions

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The planet is shrinking

Geopolitics on this diminishing ball in space is not going away. On the contrary, geopolitics is growing to hitherto un-imaginable heights much faster than most people think.

Imagine a possible future world something like this:

· The African Union – the world’s biggest continental free-trade-area AfCFTA – of soon-to-be (2035) 1.8 billion people with Parliament in South Africa.

· The European Union (de-facto incl. EFTA) – small on global scale, but more independent, rich and educated than today

· North America (centered on an at least relatively weakened USA)

· South America (centered on a once-again growing Mercosur)

· China – a strong center in all-growing North and South East Asia

· India – growing

Add to this:

· A hypothetic Mega-Eurasian Region including the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) with Russia. Enlarged with Turkey, Iran and even Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq, this would fit nicely into the above possible future picture of the world.

Such Mega Regions as above will come to integrate economy (incl. currency), culture, infrastructure, traffic, energy, environment and above all political administration with security within themselves as well as between themselves. Shrinking the planet ever more. Who will need the intruding USA of today in a future world of self-administering and self-securing Mega-Regions? These Mega Regions will not need the “balancing” or “stabilization” which the USA peddles. In this world, the USA will need to define a new role and self-perception for herself over the next 25 years.

In this future there may also be less room for the English – they may end up as losers even within their own broken and disunited “United” Kingdom. The problem for the English is their mid-size: The UK is not big enough to be a relatively self-sustaining market unto herself like the USA and increasingly China. Even these Mega Regions will depend on trade with each other – else they will suffer the fate of the USSR and Mao’s China. The UK depends crucially on open trade access to very big markets. A small (soon to be independent) country like Greenland with 56,000 inhabitants might probably much more easily find satisfying economic niches than Brexit-UK will with 67 million people which have self-detached from the EU-market.

In such a possible world of Mega Regions – do Russians want to be losers like the English today increasingly look like? Or does Russia want to continue to be a great world leader – one of the leading leaders – in a mega-club, for instance with Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan? As Russia holds on to influence in as much geographic room as possible of what the Soviet Union influenced, the answer to that question is already given. Russia wants to be a winner in today’s real-politics of nascent Mega Regions – not a loser like the English in their dreamed-up replay of the pre-previous century. Russia’s conundrum now like since 300 years is to match her external club-making with her own internal growth. The French and the Germans have learned the joy of sharing power. With possible resourceful partners like Turkey (educated, one of G20), Iran (well-educated), Pakistan (well-educated), subject to re-established partnership with the EU, Russia may not again need to exhaust herself as she did once or twice before in history – Russia herself can grow in this process.

And what about South America? The majority of Latin American countries are all culturally wary enough of US meddling (Monroe doctrine) and have for a century resisted “dependencia”. Seeing how successfully Africa now unites, South America may be ripe for a similar development – and the Mercosur with its own Parliament (in Montevideo) is already there for South American governance expansion in their own Mega Region.

A New World Map

The result of Mega Regions might be something like this (see illustration 1).

Instead of Huntington’s miscarried idea of civilizations “clashing” we might see the opposite – that civilizations, cultures, religions, and ethnicities grow together across borders. The illustration above is a map of such plausible governance integration.

The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) is depicted on the map, because the EAEU (though formally an economic union) is in reality a regional political governance aiming at further integration. In contrast, the NAFTA as a shallow pure free-trade area is not included on this map of political Mega Regions, because the USA (incl. US “liberals”) consistently cut Mexico and even Canada off from continental governance. There is no “NAFTA Parliament” underway. And the US may in future even lose some of sometimes high-handed control which the USA today has over her two neighbors.

Similarly, ASEAN is only lightly drafted as part of the light area around a future Chinese influence, because the ASEAN has decided not to pursue closer political regional governance like the European Union (EU), the African Union (AU), the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), and the MERCOSUR do. When looking at East Asia on the map (illustration 1), please bear in mind that we here look a little into the future at a time, when the US 7th Pacific Fleet has been pushed out by the fast growing Chinese PLAN Fleet in all waters around China (incl. Taiwan). As China grows (and US 7th Fleet influence wanes), the ASEAN might in future choose a closer political integration, inspired by the EU and African model, but there is no sign of that happening yet.

The EAEU (5 members as of today) will for year 2020 achieve a GDP of USD 1,700 billion – only 11% of the EU and China respectively (both of which now have GDPs of USD 15,000 billion). More tellingly, the EAEU is today only two-thirds of India (with a GDP of USD 2,600 billion). The hypothesized enlarged EAEU (15 members, the two blue areas on map) would considerably catapult the EAEU up on the global economic ladder with a combined GDP of near USD 3,600 billion (2020 data, for Syria latest available statistics from before the war). On the top-of-world economic list, an enlarged EAEU would aspire to be 140% of India – nearly half-bigger than India. Politically, the enlarged EAEU’s human and natural resources with geo-strategic control could become much more pivotal than the economic data suggest. (GDP figures from IMF WEO 2020/10)

Mega Region to Mega Region Governance

It is just like in corporate business – apart from a few niche states, states are pressed to merge or form cooperative cartels to achieve critical mass in the world competition. These upcoming country Mega cooperations will as a general tendency increasingly be of multiple partners coming together for common governance (like for example the African Union) and less of the “hub-and-spoke” type. Please bear in mind that the world is fractal, meaning that types of social structures are repeated at different levels – commune, substate, state, Mega Region and even Mega-mega Region. Thus, even Mega Regions may come together in structures of multiple partners of common governance. For instance, you might in this future see the establishment of a joint Mega-mega governance of neighboring Mega Regions EU-AU-EAEU-China-India. Mega Region to Mega Region relations must be managed carefully by all for mutual success. No Mega Region will be enough in itself. Integrating Mega Regions with each other must thus be a careful undertaking.

For instance, Turkey is a member of the EU Customs Union With the political changes in Belarus which are underway, Belarus might soon be offered a Free-Trade or EU Customs Union with the EU, similar to the EU trade-advantages which the Ukraine and Turkey already enjoy. These countries Turkey, the Ukraine and Belarus are clever – they will not be so foolish as the UK to throw away their EU trade privileges. There is here a conundrum to solve, because as East-West bridges, we need Belarus, Turkey and the Ukraine to be able to enjoy the best of East and West: EU privileges in combination with the future Mega Region advantages of EAEU affiliation.

To prosper, the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the African Union (AU) need an extended free trade area with the EU. We simply need an EU + AU + EAEU Mega Free-Trade Area. The EU has a self-interest in both cases, the African Union as well as Russia and a future Mega EAEU all the way to Pakistan, in granting such trade privileges.

The African Union covers a staggering 30 million km2 (the Soviet Union was 23 million km2) with already 1.4 billion people, and the enlarged EAEU would be 26 million km2 with 700 million people. The EU is here comparatively small – only 4 million km2 and 445 million people. The EU cannot itself handle the administration of any more geographic space. With the issues of Brexit-chaos, the West Balkans, the Ukraine and Belarus, the EU is already critically overextended.

Next Step

The EU has enormous strategic interests in a politically stronger and economically prosperous united Africa to handle Africa’s own problems before these problems (including refugees and terrorists) spill devastatingly over into the EU.

The EU also has got enormous strategic interests in letting Russia and Turkey carry the helm of a hypothetical new Mega EAEU political Project for peace, prosperity and political improvement of common governance in the conflict-troubled Eurasian space. Furthermore, an enlarged EAEU Mega Region, as I hypothesize here, will connect the EU not only with the strategic pivots of China and India, but also with the global pivot of the Middle East and in this way with Africa. To achieve this, Kashmir must and will find a peaceful solution.

The EU can do a lot – but the EU’s meagre 5,000 tricolore soldiers in Africa for an area 10 times Afghanistan, plus a handful of aid-projects, will not save Africa. Exports, trade, industrialization, advanced services and high-speed economic growth is what Africa needs. A strong African Union is needed to raise Africa above her own problems, and to do this, the African Union needs support by free-trade with the EU (and the EAEU of course).

In the exceedingly troubled Central Asian and Middle Eastern geographic space, Russia has proven to move so well forward. The EU itself would just be hapless or even break porcelain if going alone in Central Asia and the Middle East. France has shown able to achieve just about nothing in Lebanon. And EU countries’ military part-taking in porcelain-breaking US ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan (longest US war in history, and little US “peace with honor”) illustrates my point. The recent Armenian-Azerbaijani situation further underscores the point that an overarching political Mega Region EAEU is a needed solution – a solution which only Russia and Turkey are capable to initiate.

This planet is shrinking fast. The EU cannot afford to not-care about its own Mega neighborhoods, including all of Africa, Russia, Central Asia, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and the Middle East.

As the EU does not have the needed strategic capabilities to “fix” its own Mega neighborhoods, the EU must support those who can and should be empowered – meaning the EU neighbor partners themselves: The African Union, Russia, Central Asian countries, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and all others involved.

From our partner RIAC

Master of Science (Econ) from Copenhagen Business School, University degree in Spanish Culture and Languages from University of Copenhagen

Diplomacy

Russia’s Cultural Diplomacy in Multipolar World. Africa’s Role, Challenges and Benefits

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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 “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 in order to lead multipolar system requires outward, broad and integrative approach. While China, to a large extent, has portray this approach which is readily seen around the world, Russia’s method 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 isolation 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. 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.

Russians seriously brush aside the relevance and the role of culture and for that matter soft power in foreign policy while advocating for this emerging new order. Here examining broadly all aspects of culture that basically includes continuing the struggle for self-determination, for creating the grounded opportunity to live in peace and preserving 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 among the African population primarily due to lack of interest and adequate motivation, and lack of consistent interactive cultural activities by Russian authorities, experts frequently say.

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 favorites. There are always interactive programmes and cultural activities 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 to the continent and this has made Africans see the need to understand the language in order to have better interaction with them.

The worse obvious side is that the Russian government has not created necessary conditions and reasons to study the language simply because it has little influence on the continent. Besides that, the trade and commercial links between Russia and Africa are quite negligible so there is no demand for the Russain language for businessmen. Admittedly, Russia is not a welcoming holiday destination for African elites and the middle-class which constitutes 40% of 1.3 billion population. Travel and tourism is a huge business, the unique geographical landscapes and changing attractiveness of Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi – these are unknown to the African elite and middle-class.

With the 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 onward to politics and economics. Perhaps, Russia has to play correct 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 Russotrudnichestvo, 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 – The Russkiy Mir Foundation, which is directly responsible for promoting Russian language and culture abroad, does little in sub-Saharan Africa.

Russia appears quite removed from Africa’s development issues, it is only mentioned in limited areas like weapons and military 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 in Africa. Western and European, and China support civil society, youth programmes and women’s issues, – these are completely not on the Russian radar.

Russia allegedly allows its own cancel culture by the United States and western allies. In practical terms, creating a multipolar system deals largely with cultural and social orientation, it deals with openness and friendliness. At this new historical reawakening stage, Russia has to focus on building relations, both with substance and refined approach, and strategically engage with civil society, youth organizations and non-state institutions.

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 multipolar system, this has to reflect in its current foreign policy and approach especially toward 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 counties – 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, by the way, 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 conversation with 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.”

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Diplomacy

Higher Education and Diplomacy: Essential Skills for Becoming a Diplomat

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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.

Education Requirements

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.

Some Degrees Give You An Upper Hand

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.

Learn More Languages

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.

Be Prepared For The Challenges

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.

Conclusion

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.

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Diplomacy

Religious diplomacy

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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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