REPORT FROM FRANCE: 'THE WORLD IS A MESS'
by Larry Bridwell
American Reporter Correspondent
New York, N.Y.
LA BAULE, FRANCE -- "The world is a mess" was a phrase heard frequently at the Forum 21 conference held here recently. And the term likened the transAtlantic impact from the American-led war in Iraq to a "fragmentation bomb."
An eclectic mixture of Europeans – mostly French - and Americans from academia, government and business came to this third annual Forum 21 (http://www.forum-21.com/) at a time of unusual crisis in the Atlantic alliance. The meeting on the coast of Brittany was organized by Paul Weinstein and Abby Hirsch Weinstein, expatriate Americans in Paris.
Participants – especially the French - were extremely concerned that European-American government relationships have been badly damaged. They ascribed diplomatic blame to both American and French governments.
in a keynote by Jean-Francois Rischard, vice-president for Europe of the World Bank, the relationship between Europe and the United States is identified as particularly important in addressing the kinds of global challenges the banker described.
Rischard, who has just written a book, High Noon: Twenty Global Problems, Twenty Years to Solve Them, that draws on his 23 years of World Bank experience, declared that with the world's population mounting from 3 billion in 1960 to 8 billion in 2025, the world will reach its environmental limits; beyong those, it must meet critical challenges with global, multilateral mechanisms that embrace the advanced economies, the developing world, the business community and non-governmental organizations.
Emphasizing that he was speaking for himself, not the Bank, he highlighted the need to solve environmental crises such as global warming, diminishing biodiversity, fisheries depletion, deforestation, water deficits, marine safety, infectious diseases, and natural disaster prevention. The World Bank executive offered a novel approach to the fisheries problem: placing a Global Positioning System monitor on all fishing boats to make sure they do not enter no-fishing zones at sea.
Rischard stressed the need to deal with geopolitical necessities such as world peacekeeping and to establish a global financial architecture regulating international trade, investments, taxation, biotechnology, intellectual property, and labor.
And Rischard underscored the need for a "massive step-up in the fight against poverty," with education for every child on the planet and the closing of the digital divide between rich and poor.
His presentation, an intellectual highlight of the event, set the tone for the conference theme, "Challenge and Choice in the 21st Century: Improving the Human Condition."
The others suggested – to no one's surprise – that the goal wouldn't be easy. Prof. George Lodge of Harvard Business School noted how sociologically difficult it is to achieve meaningful change in poor regions. Proposing solutions from both bottom and top, he emphasized the importance of community empowerment, and his passion in support of community organizing that evoked the spirit of legendary Chicago community activist, Saul Alinsky. On the multilateral government level, Rischard said he hoped for the success of the European Union Convention which is currently meeting under the chairmanship of former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing. The EU goal is to achieve a stronger, more integrated European Union that can be an equal partner of the United States in world affairs.
As world powers, the EU-U.S. relationship intersects with the role of international institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF, which are currently conducting sensitive negotiations with Turkey, a strategically important country with 70 million Muslims. The controversial statement by Giscard d'Estaing that Turkey does not have a European culture, and thus should not be admitted to the EU, conflicts with the active campaign by the United States for Turkey's full participation in the transAtlantic community. The U.S. wants Turkey to belong to the EU as well as NATO.
From its beginnings after World War II, the vision of the European Union has been to achieve and maintain "peace," a prominent French official told Forum participants. Thus, future world peace requires that Turkey - after fulfilling the normal EU criteria of a strong democracy and successful market economy - must be welcomed into the European Union.
If Turkey is embraced by both Europe and the United States as a strategic ally, it will contribute to meeting international challenges, especially in the Middle East. But an alienated Turkey could make the world an even messier place, the conference was warned.