Shifting focus in the discourse on international cooperation

A few days after the conclusion of the 4th EU-Africa summit, SID President Amb. Juma Mwapachu shares his thoughts about international cooperation and the way it has changed today in a world where cooperation is no longer based on a rich-poor country paradigm. Read below the excerpt of the speech delivered on April 10th 2014, during the SID Netherlands Chapter seminar  on Development, Economy and Labour: Shifting focus in the doscourse on international cooperation.

Juma Mwapachu | 20 Years after the genocide in Rwanda which the world joined Rwanda in commemoration three days ago, the world is still haunted by the spectre of a human tragedy beyond human imagination. That tragedy remains a traumatic and agonising attestation of the worst failure of international cooperation.

In 2001, US Ambassador Samantha Power wrote a Pulitzer winning article in the US magazine, The Atlantic entitled, 'A Problem From Hell-America and the Age of Genocide' in which she argued that 'any failure to fully appreciate the genocide stemmed from political, moral and imaginative weaknesses, not informational ones.'

One also notes that on 26th February this year, the UN Secretary General whilst launching 'Kwibuka 20', the series of events to mark the 20 years since genocide in Rwanda, described the collective failure to prevent atrocities in Syria over the past three years as a 'shameful indictment of the international Community.'

In this context, as we meet here with our minds focused on the discourse about international cooperation, we cannot be oblivious about these tragic backdrops and the consequent need to interrogate the state of international cooperation, with its slant on development, within the broader context of the new dynamics centred on what the late Harvard Professor John Kenneth Galbraith described as the conflict between ideology and new economic realities.

We should and must ask, to what extent is international cooperation free of 'political, moral and imaginative weaknesses' today? Is it not realistic to argue, as Ian Bremmer does in his book, 'Every Nation for Itself' that the global economy, which crucially drives international cooperation, is in fact going through serious challenges that increasingly foster more inward economic approaches that are largely reflective of 'every nation for itself'?

In fact, Bremmer proceeds to lament that 'the need for international cooperation has never been greater' and he cites diverse reasons for it, with terrorism, civil wars, climate change, diseases, food security and the stability of the global economy itself standing out.

Even then, Bremmer reflects lack of optimism when he notes that the G20, the UN institutions, notably the Security Council, the IMF and the World Bank (he forgot to include the EU for some reason) are 'unlikely to provide real leadership' in addressing, in fundamental ways, such transnational problems because, in his view, the leaders of such institutions face their own major domestic challenges resulting in eroded ability to keep the peace, expand opportunities, reverse the impact of climate change and feed growing populations around the world.

Of course the situation about international cooperation may not be as alarming as projected by Mr Bremmer. And whilst Rwanda genocide and the on-going Syrian atrocities are important reminders of the need to intensify international cooperation, there are positive developments that also deserve celebration.

In fact, the idea of international cooperation itself is being re-defined beyond its traditional North or rich world-driven dominance following the strong participation of countries like Kenya and Tanzania in fighting terrorism and civil war insurgencies in Somalia, Darfur and Eastern DRC. We have to view international cooperation differently in a world where cooperation is no longer based on a rich-poor country paradigm.

The EU and especially French military involvement in Mali and the Central African Republic also powerfully attest to a strong rally in international cooperation over matters of peace and stability. And it is out of such peace and stability that poor countries can begin to undertake much needed inclusive social and economic transformations that lift populations out of poverty, create jobs and prosperity.

In this vein, it is important to recognize the fruitful Fourth EU-Africa Summit discussions and decisions arrived at in Brussels on 3rd April. They reinforce a more recent consistent refrain born out of the Lisbon Summit in 2007 about cooperation that is built on meaningful solidarity and mutual benefits.

In an important sense the recognition that it is the people that must remain at the heart of the EU-Africa Partnership has strong linkages with the spirit and ethos of this Seminar. The EU-Africa Partnership further recognizes climate change, water, energy and cyber-security as 'non-traditional challenges' to peace and security as well as being potential destabilizers of social and economic development.

It calls for the pursuit of policies that would 'create jobs and stimulate environmentally sound, inclusive, sustainable and long-term growth'.
In a highly pronounced way, the EU-Africa Summit Declaration recognizes that 'preserving existing and creating new jobs including in the manufacturing sector is a high priority for both continents. Faster industrialization and modernization of the enterprise sector is essential for many African countries.'

In this regard, the EU-Africa Partnership has pledged US 38 billion over the period 2014-2020 and has declared to undertake the following:

  • Promote science, technology and innovation especially in agriculture and agri-business;
  • Preserve and develop biodiversity and eco-systems;
  • Promote Small and Medium Enterprises;
  • Revamp economic integration as a vehicle for opening up trade, build stronger markets as well as support physical and soft infrastructure- transport, affordable energy with emphasis on renewable energy, water, ICT;
  • Unlock and support business entrepreneurship especially among the youth and women through investments in science, technology and innovation and fostering access to risk and venture capital;
  • Equip citizens with knowledge, skills and services needed to exploit opportunities in the economy;
  • Promote policies that create right conditions for inclusive job creation especially for young people and women for which provision of quality education and vocational training is imperative.
  • Support peace keeping operations to assure peace and stability

As Parag Khanna has noted in his book, 'How to Run the World', international cooperation has to crucially shift from official aid programmes to what he describes as the 'promotion of human will'; in other words, to determining, in practical terms, how such cooperation has contributed to factories being built, jobs created and doctors trained and, overall, in what quantities and with what impacts.


Full speech (PDF) | SID Netherlands seminar


Juma V. Mwapachu is President of SID and former Secretary General of the East African Community (EAC). Prior to his appointment to the EAC, Amb. Mwapachu was Tanzania's ambassador to France and has previously held positions in both the public and private sectors. In 2005, The University of Dar es Salaam conferred on Amb. Mwapachu a Doctor of Literature degree (Honoris Causa) and in December 2011, he was awarded Kenya's third highest presidential honour - The Moran of Gold Heart (MGH) - for his outstanding tenure as Secretary General of the East African Community.

Amb. Mwapachu has been a  founding member of the SID Tanzania Chapter in 1984, its first Secretary General, and a member of the SID International Governing Council.  Amb. Mwapachu holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of East Africa, Dar-es-Salaam (1969) and a Postgraduate Diploma in International Law, International Institutions and Diplomacy from the Indian Academy of International Law and Diplomacy, New Delhi, India. He is author of several books.


Photo: European External Action Service/Flickr