A fractured world: reassert universal values

The recently-concluded 48th World Economic Forum held, on 23-26 January, in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, under the theme “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World”, was a reminder of lack of global cooperation.

The recently-concluded 48th World Economic Forum held, on 23-26 January, in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, under the theme “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World”, was a reminder of lack of global cooperation.

The purpose of the forum, as always, is to make a case for renewed commitment to international collaboration as a way of solving critical global challenges. The world today is in an age of unprecedented uncertainty and instability.


Increased geopolitical competition is the root cause of protectionism, isolationism and frequent wars and, as a consequence, we face a real fractured world. Undoubtedly, global society is growing exponentially divided rather than being united, cooperative and collaborative. No common vision to make globalisation more equitable, inclusive and sustainable.


Global pursuits to change the status quo (a fractured world) must begin with defence and upholding universal values of peace, freedom, social progress, equal rights and human dignity, enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Surprisingly, these universal values are less valid today compared to when the legal texts enshrined these values over half a century ago. Then, many different nations and cultures welcomed them and could be seen as a golden rule for global society. Moreover, these values have pretty much lost the importance and meaning in the contemporary world.

Our world remains fractured unless, and only if, countries stand up to defend these universal values which are under constant threat like the world has never seen before.

For many world leaders, US leadership is important not just for stability and order, but for the defence of shared, cherished values. When the US doesn’t intervene and take a leading role, many politicians around the world start asking why the US is indifferent or reluctant to act.

In my view, all countries around the world need to equally come back to observance of the universal values entrenched in their constitutions. The moment these values aren’t given the attention they deserve, the renewed commitment to international collaboration will remain as elusive as ever. The epicentre of critical global challenges emanates from indifference to do enough for the realisation of these core values which represent the value of humanity and society at large.

In reality, a common understanding of the universal values is still minimal in some countries and in the minds of many people. Those great legal documents, which contain these values, expressed an optimistic vision but not a description of existing realities. 

The values of our founders are still not fully realised. Alas, far from it. But they are much more broadly accepted today than they were a few decades ago. The Universal Declaration, in particular, has been accepted in legal systems across the world, and has become a point of reference for people who long for human rights in every country.

The pursuit of globalisation must not only focus on global collaboration in terms of economic or business perspective but also from a human-rights perspective. Universal values are more acutely needed,in this age of globalisation than ever before.

Globalisation, as a concept, is an abstract if it lacks basic building blocks. And these basic building blocks are universal values. Every society needs to be bound together by common values, so that its members know what to expect of each other, and have some shared principles by which to manage their differences without resorting to violence.

Today, as globalisation brings us all closer together, and our lives are affected almost instantly by things that people say and do on the far side of the world, we also feel the need to live as a global community. And we can do so only if we have global values to bind us together.

Undoubtedly, to many people, including myself, globalisation would provide great opportunities, but also many new stresses and dislocations. Though there is a backlash against it, precisely because we have not managed it in accordance with the universal values we purport to believe in.

Universally, it is believed that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services”. Arguably, developing countries have a moral duty to take care of its citizens to meet the necessaries of life. Similarly, developed countries, in a sense of upholding universal values, ought to take a moral responsibility to improve the lives of those who desperately need help.

Globalisation can be a mockery if universal values aren’t upheld. It is not surprising that, in the backlash, those values have come under attack, at the very moment when we most need them.

Lately, we have seen disastrous consequences such as ethnic cleansing, genocide, terrorism, frequent wars, hatred and discrimination happening in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, but without tough international mechanisms to halt and avert such incidents. On the contrary, the victim countries struggled in their meagre capacities to change their unpleasant history. So, if globalisation doesn’t pursue these mechanisms which have the worst effect to human conscience, then it will remain a mere abstract.

The writer is a law expert.

The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not necessarily represent those
of The New Times.

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