What South Africa does the world need?

Today, it is commonplace to say there is a crisis in world governance. Governments and international institutions seem limited in their power to contain the deterioration of citizen’s lives. Cultural diversity offers a fundamental starting point for global communication, and in order to revisit notions of world governance in fresh ways, political and religious communities and nonprofit organizations need to work together to build a new system of legitimate and responsible world governance. The Forum for a new World Governance encourages the development of new ideas in the form of Proposal Papers. Idasa partners with the Forum, which recently organised a meeting in Pretoria, where Paul Graham had prepared some ideas about “What South Africa does the world need”? This began a conversation – which continues here – about the opportunities that exist to change the world – and how South Africa can and should contribute towards changing the world.

In the international arena, South Africa has a certain romance about it – a global solidarity movement that achieved the aim of toppling an illegitimate undemocratic government, through mostly peaceful means. And the world celebrated its success. In this world, South Africa’s choice and continuing struggle to affirm and implement that choice – the establishment of a unitary non-racial democratic state – remains a beacon of hope.

South Africa has some experience with which to speak to a world struggling to build a more just and participatory society. Firstly, it is a country that has undergone a successful transition in relative peace to a constitutional democracy. Secondly, South Africa can show a robust tradition of democracy as public work and participative decision making – plainly put, we love to spend time in discussion – working not only to improve local conditions but also joined up in a larger struggle knowing that local conditions won’t improve unless the bigger picture changes.

South Africa resists a public discourse of factionalism and exclusion – which is a worthy contribution to make in a world where all too often people are at the mercy of the state and unable to participate in meaningful public activity.

In the light of this, what South Africa does the world need?

South Africa needs to succeed in its social project – for the sake of its own people, for the region, and for the world. This success would be achieved in the face of many obstacles and would light the way for other countries facing similar obstacles.

An example of where South Africa could contribute substantively is the challenge of governing climate change. The country is an emerging economy based on cheap energy extracted largely from coal is currently a major polluter. South Africa will have to make painful choices about environmental development. Because of its vibrant democracy it already has a cadre of environmentalists who have understood the greater good. And the history of social capital allows environmentalists to argue for the hard choices. South Africans are used to making choices for the greater good. And “in a world in which states and people must live together or sink together, having those who have made the choice to live together and found it works is really needed.’

Above is quoted from original paper, and more about the global movement can be seen here.

Read the full paper online here.

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