Global Alternatives 2024
Values 2040 in World Politics: From Global Disorder to Mosaic Unity

Time is the best healer when it comes to the wounds of history. Generations change and new eras arrive; the pain and suffering of victims of old conflicts is not forgotten, far from it, but it becomes less acute and is not transferred to children who didn’t bear witness to it. Oleg Barabanov, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club, wonders if it will be possible to overcome the era of global disorder by 2040. This article was prepared especially for the Valdai Club Youth Conference.

For the international conference “The Valdai Club: The World in 2040”, held as part of the World Youth Festival in Sochi, a group of young experts prepared a special report under the auspices of the Club, titled “Charting the 2040: Younger Generation Insight on the World in the Making”.

In our opinion, the report turned out to be very interesting and instructive. Indeed, who, if not the youth, can talk about the future in 16 years? After all, for them, these years will be the time when they reach maturity in establishing themselves as professionals. If they do not become disillusioned with foreign policy expertise and practice as a worthy occupation for their life, then they will have to deal with the problems that previous generations have left for them. 

In this regard, the general optimism of the report’s authors is very indicative. Characterising the current state of the world as an era of global disorder, they conclude that sooner or later, and perhaps even by 2040, it will transform into an era of real and (as is sometimes felt from the subtext and thoughts of the authors) conflict-free multipolarity.

In any way, global disorder will be replaced by mosaic unity.

The report contains many interesting logical steps that reveal the pattern of the path to this unity.

This normative approach, which is even a teleological goal-setting exercise in the views of the team of authors is attractive and does not leave one indifferent. Soviet generations here might recall the phrase “a new world is possible.” In fact, the value basis of Marxist foreign policy and ideology, was largely aimed at precisely this kind of work to consciously transform the world. Those of us who witnessed the nineties may recall here one of the slogans of the anti-globalists: “Be realistic, demand the impossible!” It also played an important and positive role in the social mobilisation of the younger generations of that era. Let us repeat once again, who else, if not the youth, should put forward such ambitious programs for the harmonious reorganisation of the world and begin practical work on their implementation.

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Charting the 2040: Younger Generation Insight on the World in the Making
The multipolar landscape of 2040 will resemble a sandbox, offering people the state as just one among various available choices, albeit one that remains the most common.

It is clear that due to the burden of experience, the older generations, who have become quite cynical (and sometimes hypocritical), could grin and once again speculate about the utopianism of the proposed model. We might remember that once upon a time, a very long time ago by the standards of the politically speedy 21st century, there were figures who put forward normative-teleological concepts of the “end of history.” So where is this “end of history” now? Let’s not argue whether the protagonist of the “end of history” has completely secured his personal status and, I think, financial well-being. From this perspective, whether his teleological goal-oriented forecast came true is not so important to him. But this is hardly the lesson on how to achieve success that we should teach the youth of today. Therefore, let’s not be cynics. We will try to seriously listen to new generations.
The authors of our report are not simply putting forward yet another normative and politically useful model. They, it seems to me, are aware of the enormous difficulties that will stand in the way of realising this mosaic unity of a new multipolarity. They directly raise the issue that this will require a radical restructuring of values – both at the national level and of the planetary human community as a whole.

When reading the whole report, it was the section on values that struck me as the most innovative and fresh. All other sections, in my subjective opinion, rely to a much greater extent on the work of previous expert generations. However, there is nothing wrong with this either. The section on values departs from traditional descriptions of the subject. There, you won’t find the familiar narratives about democracy, on the one hand, and sovereignty and civilizational uniqueness, on the other. Instead of these mantras, the report authors propose four qualitatively new values that should reconcile the warring parties in the era of global disorder.

These are the values of forgiveness, resilience, patience and acceptance. Let’s not talk about utopianism here. On the contrary, we note that without the conscious development of these qualities, any path to reconciliation and a mosaic of global unity is truly impossible. It is clear that the best healer when it comes to the wounds of history is time. Generations change and new eras arrive; the pain and suffering of victims of old conflicts is not forgotten, far from it, but it becomes less acute and is not transferred to children who didn’t bear witness to it. An example of this is the historical reconciliation between Russia and Germany after World War II, which was pursued in earnest in the 2000s.

However, the 16 years separating us from the deadline of 2040 proposed by the authors is by no means a period when only time itself will erase the scars of old hostilities. To a large extent, the same generations will remain, although, of course, young people will be added to them.
Therefore, without consciously developing in oneself and in all others the values of forgiveness, resilience, patience and acceptance, it will not be possible to overcome the era of global disorder.

But how can that be achieved? Even without taking into account the fact that we do not know what the world political landscape will be like in 2040: whether it contributes to the formation of these values, or, conversely, hinders them. The authors, by the way, wisely refrain offering a sketch of this future landscape, limiting themselves to the projection of current conflicts and the creation of a normatively rich table, positing “the world will become different if ...” But even if we imagine that all these “ifs” come true, then how can we educate people and make the newly required values stable and self-sustaining? 

The report authors cite the example of South Africa after the fall of apartheid as a case which illustrates that at least an initial policy course towards instilling these values may be possible. Indeed, the “Rainbow Nation” strategy, pioneered by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and later supported by Nelson Mandela, has been pivotal in charting a path towards interracial and interethnic reconciliation in South Africa, despite all the practical difficulties.

This example of South Africa is very significant. However, I think issues of ethnicity and race within one state, and issues of total hostility between different states, are still not exactly the same thing. Within one state, if the leader of the country possesses political wisdom, like Nelson Mandela, and, no less important, good will prevails among the overwhelming number of citizens, instilling these values, while extremely difficult, is possible. The hostility between states, however, goes beyond ethnicity. After all, the newly emerging spectres of collective guilt are not about ethnicity, but about citizenship.

On the one hand, history shows that conflicts between states seem to be easier to resolve than ethnic strife. Sooner or later, all wars end. Whether the resulting world will be stable or not is another question. But how can we then overcome total hostility, and, no less important, total distrust of the citizens of another state, in order to really form these new values and overcome discord? Neither the authors of the report nor, for that matter, anyone else has an answer to this question. However, the merit of the authors is that, while not directly, but only in the semantic implications of their report, they came to the formulation of this incredibly difficult task. In any case, the youth will have to solve it.

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Valdai Club Youth Conference: Platform for a New Generation of Experts
Andrey Sushentsov
Youth communities play an extremely important role in the process of forming a sober understanding of the world. At the Valdai Club conference in Sochi, young experts will gain useful experience engaging in personal communication with international experts, young ambitious people who see their task as influencing the development of the world.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.