The latest concept in international relations visions for modern and progressive domestic
policy grounded in both national interests and shared destinies
The time had come for fresh thinking that could transcend the barriers of politics and economics, and cross the frontiers of religion and culture. The world was yearning for an idea to hold on to and an idea to identify with, in an attempt to face the new waves and forms of excesses that had permeated most sectors of human existence: the manifestations are apparent in global issues ranging from climate change, global human trafficking, illicit flow of funds, over-leverage in international banking, and massive credit bailouts to international terrorism.
It is in the light of the above backdrop that the idea of a Global Movement of the Moderates (GMM) was born. It is the newest and latest concept in the sphere of international relations. The idea of GMM was originally articulated by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak at the 65th General Assembly of the United Nations in September 2010. The goal was to rally the moderates from all over the world to stand up for what they believe, lest the ‹noisy minority› at the periphery were to crowd out the voices of moderation.
THE REAL BATTLE
The Global Movement of Moderates focuses on five thematic areas, especially how moderates can make their presence felt in areas such as sustainable development, education, conflict resolution, rule of law and democracy, economy and finance. The ethos of the movement is embedded in the following conclusion: The real divide is not between East and West, between the developing or developed world, but the real battle is between the moderates and the extremists.
SUCCESS OF AN ENTERPRISE DEPENDS ON VALUES INVOLVED
The key message in moderation is that no enterprise to be successful can be value – free or value – neutral. It advocates the imputing of a value – based framework to all aspects of nation building and international relations, from governance to sustainable development, from economic sustainability to upholding the rule of law, from peace building to harmonious living.
MODERATION IS NOT MEDIOCRITY
A clarification is in immediate order. Being moderate is not about being weak, about appeasement or about institutional mediocrity. And it certainly is not about half – hearted approaches to action. On the contrary, moderation is a vehicle and strategy for empowerment for us to go forward and to leave a mark for good – attending to the needs, frustrations and anxieties of others and despite differences and disagreements to strive towards finding progressive solutions together based on our shared humanity and prosperity.
The approach of moderation is to ensure that the voiceless are given a voice and a platform irrespective of their point of view or the side they are on. Moderation does not mean that political sides or stands cannot be taken, what it means is that the national interest will be put in front and first, irrespective of the side you are on. It ensures that the voices of dissent are not silenced or subdued merely on account of a particular view, but rather empowered if justifiably expressed in the national interest. Working towards the common interest, the national interest, and the global interest is what is accorded priority status by the GMM.
A PLATFORM FOR DISSENTIS NECESSARY
Perhaps the solution then lies not with knowledge alone, not in awareness solely, but in bringing forth openness in discourse where knowledge and awareness are brought to the fore to policy makers and market constituents, by public sector leaders, civil society voices, educators and professionals. The dissenting voices among us must be heard, and reflected upon even if we may not agree altogether. There must always be a platform to disagree and dispute. A democratic and socially acceptable avenue for dissent will not only stand testimony to society’s accommodation and tolerance, but more importantly, will not leave room for frustration and anxiety in society to take undesirable forms of expression.
A STRUCTURED APPROACH TO EMPOWER MODERATES
If moderation has long had a home within the world’s religions, then the reverse is also true. Extremism has never been welcome inside any of them either. Despite the presence of the voice of moderation in the world today, such a voice is currently enfeebled. What is needed then is to create a structured approach to moderation that moves beyond theory and one-off initiatives to real policies that can be elevated to implementation.
THE UNSTOPPABLE MOMENTUM
What is interesting to note is that this initiative since its inception in 2010 has now passed from Malaysia to ASEAN. A Concept Paper on GMM was passed to the hands of Dr Surin Pitsuwan, the ASEAN Secretary General. Subsequently, ASEAN endorsed the concept. Due to its track record of maintaining peace and prosperity – often at great odds – ASEAN has been entrusted with the responsibility of “operationalizing” GMM at the local, national and international levels.
Moreover, since the announcement of the movement, the idea has been presented at the Asia Europe Meeting, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), the Asia Pacific Europe Meeting and finally ASEAN.
Ultimately, what empowers GMM is increasing the number of like – minded governments and non – governmental actors that can see the value of uniting around a common interest, and moving away from orthodoxy.
The challenge facing ASEAN and beyond is how to operationalize the concept. The strategy of operationalization is distilled into a 5-4-3 matrix. The five refers to more intense discussion on sectors like peaceful co-existence, good governance and rule of law, economy and international finance, education and conflict resolution.
The subsequent denomination harks to the importance of working with four partners. These are ASEAN dialogue partners that have already acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC), the global partners like Switzerland and Qatar that have not signed TAC, institutional partners like government and non-government linked companies, and friends of GMM that have attended GMM events and approved of its philosophy and movement.
Invariably, the three in the matrix mentioned above have in mind Track 1, 2 and 3 diplomacy. Track 1 involves more government-to-government discourse on moderation across national, regional and international lines. Track 2 includes dialogues between semi-governmental and independent think tanks in the region or globally. And Track 3 is the preserve of the non-governmental organizations.If more and more entities and actors can talk about moderation, even for or against, as exemplified by the debate motion in the Prime Minister’s Cup Debate competition recently at Universiti Malaya, the strength and vigour of moderation would obtain greater clarity and audience.
WHERE MODERNITY BEGINS
One can of course be a cynic by claiming that 5-4-3 will not take the concept of GMM beyond a mere talk shop. Talking actively and conscientiously, as German philosopher Jürgen Habermas likes to point out, is the beginning of modernity, too. Moderation talks have to be constant, unyielding and comprehensive, without which the world runs the distinct risk of becoming a victim of systemic excesses.
A STABILIZATION STRATEGY FOR SRI LANKA
We are at a significant moment in our country’s history. The way we choose to deal with the challenges ahead of us will have a crucial bearing on the future of our shared civilizations. The void or space that has been left with the cessation of war must be used to host the notion of moderation which could become the ethos that will eventually take root in the country. Such will not only contribute to achieving real and genuine peace and reconciliation, but also provide a powerful stabilization strategy for the country to prevent the resurgence or relapse into conflict.
THE NATION, FIRST AND ALWAYS
Moderation needs to be our anchor and core, regardless of the side of the aisle we may stand on, because the greater good of the nation must always be at the front and centre. The greater good of our society collectively has to be without doubt the indisputable priority.
We must all rise, but what’s most important is that we rise together. The political leaders of the country, the business community, the professionals, the clergy, the academics, the civil society and the youth must proclaim that moderation will be the chosen path in every activity undertaken. For it is moderation in ideology, and moderation in method, that will safeguard our national, regional and international security.It is moderation that will keep civilizations, countries and communities from falling off the proverbial cliff.
Will Sri Lanka join the Global Movement of Moderates?