Globalization is Changing the Nature of National Sovereignty

On October 25, 2007, the day after the birthday of the United Nations (October 24, 1945), His Excellency Dr. Srgjan Kerim, the President of the 62nd Session of the UN General Assembly, a prominent diplomat on the world stage, addressed the Harvard Business School community on globalization and national sovereignty. According to H.E. Kerim, “the United Nations was created to end wars between nations by replacing bombs and bullets with cooperation and compromise. It represented the burning hope of a generation for a better world.”

One might begin the historic account of the 21st century with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. In September 2000, the United Nations Millennium Summit brought together leaders to establish a concrete global agenda to reach eight measurable goals: (1) Halve extreme poverty and hunger (2) Achieve universal primary education (3) Empower women and promote equality between women and men (4) Reduce under-five mortality by two-thirds (5) Reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters (6) Reverse the spread of diseases, especially HIV/AIDS and malaria (7) Ensure environmental sustainability (8) Create a global partnership for development, with targets for aid, trade and debt relief. According to H.E. Kerim, these goals can only be achieved by 2015 if changes are made in the 62nd Session to speed up the preparations and the implementations. This can only be carried out by practical focus on individual goals and precise actions.

Inequality in the World
Although the world’s leaders claim to care about the chasm between the rich and poor when placed on the sport, in reality, their actions demonstrate that that they prefer to ensure that their own region’s lifestyles are preserved or enhanced. While globalization has induced a period of sustained global growth, inequality has also grown exponentially. The average life expectancy in the rich world – North America and Western Europe – is fifty years. In the rich world, people worry about chronic diseases caused by over-consumption. Yet, only a short flight away, the average life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa is forty-five years. In Swaziland, it is thirty. People worry about eating too little and spend their days searching for clean water. Underdeveloped countries have not yet benefited from globalization.

At the opening of the 62nd Session of the General Assembly, His Excellency Dr. Srgjan Kerim called on the one hundred and ninety-two member states to focus on five priority global issues: The Millennium Development Goals, climate change, financing for development, countering terrorism, and the UN reform agenda. Combating climate change, for example, requires a global response. According to H.E. Kerim, “the cruel irony of climate change is that the countries least responsible for it will be worst affected – economic growth and poverty reduction will be undermined.” Private sectors can play a large role in this energy issue by developing new technologies and solutions.

On Change
According to H.E. Kerim, the world today is drastically different from the world of the post-war years because the speed of interactions and the degree of interconnectedness and interdependence have increased not only in quantity, but also in density. The rapid growth of emerging economies, such as India and China, combined with the increased integration of global markets and increased technological advancements lifts humanity out of poverty.

H.E. Kerim’s visit was warmly introduced by Professor Herman B. (“Dutch”) Leonard, the Eliot I. Snider and Family Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School and the George F. Baker, Jr. Professor of Public Sector Management at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Leonard expressed gratitude for H.E. Kerim’s presence at the Harvard Business School. According to Leonard, his presence and willingness to take time out of his busy schedule to speak to the Harvard community symbolized the importance he attached in insuring that the Harvard community-the global leaders of tomorrow-will hold a global view and perspective.

H.E. Kerim and His UN Role
Professor Dutch Leonard added that the “UN is widely known as one of the most bureaucratic governmental institutions on the planet. It is not, in the first instance, designed to be an efficient and effective governance structure or service-delivery organization. With one hundred and ninety-two member states, each with an interest in having some of its nationals working within the various agencies and divisions of the UN system, the organization too often seems to be designed to serve needs of bureaucratic politics rather than to be focused on mission performance and excellence. To his great credit, H.E. Kerim seems genuinely to be doing what he reasonably can to reform the vast UN system.and to get the organization and its workforce focused on mission performance. We all have a big stake in his success in this, as there is a great deal of important work for the UN to do in the world today.”

The Global Businessman and Leader
H.E. Kerim credited the Harvard Business School for existing at the forefront of research that encouraged companies to pursue “effective environmental safeguards, greater eco-efficiency, better organizational health and safety and improved cultural protections” in order to achieve higher profits and stronger political support. For example, Professor Leonard has used an international trade framework of treating the poor community as a group making consuming, importing, and exporting goods and services. According to Leonard, conducting income-earning opportunities with poor people result in greater benefits on all dimensions.

Albert Einstein once claimed that the “United Nations is an extremely important and useful institution provided the peoples and governments of the world realize that it is merely a transitional system toward the final goal, which is the establishment of a supranational authority vested with sufficient legislative and executive powers to keep the peace.” During a personal interview, H.E. Kerim emphasized the vital importance of remembering that effective global governance should place responsibility on the non-state actors – the private sector and civil society. He identified his views with those of Anne-Marie Slaughter, author of A New World Order, who claimed that states exist in the world as crucial actors. According to Slaughter, this new world order in a global world is one where the state does not disappear.

According to H.E. Kerim, the businessman of the future will be global, and will understand the dialogue between the private sector and non-state actors with the international system, which includes the UN system. Today, there are huge opportunities for the businessman to use capital to promote global public good, profit, job creation and sustainable development. As individuals, we must envision the greater picture and accept greater responsibility for each action and its global implication. Harvard Business School students will the future policy-makers of the world, and hold a critical impact on the wellbeing of humanity.

As a true citizen of the world, His Excellency Dr. Srgjan Kerim opened the Harvard Business School’s 2007 International Week, aimed to celebrate the immense cultural diversity exhibited at the Harvard Business School community.

November 19, 2007