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“Winning in the New Century Means…

Fall 2010 The Definition

“Winning in the New Century Means…

Pierre Pettigrew

…pour l’individu, plus que jamais, émerger comme citoyen global, à l’aise bien au-delà de la société qui nous a vu naȋtre. Désireux de vivre dans la diversité et la richesse de l’humanité et de contribuer au développement de la conscience que nous formons une communauté humaine solidaire a tout égard: politique, stratégique, social, culturel, environnemental.

Et pour l’État, gagner au 21e siècle veut dire réaffirmer haut et fort que l’individu est citoyen avec ses droits et ses responsabilités, s’assurant que le marché ne réduise pas le citoyen qui n’est plus qu’un acteur économique et un consommateur. L’État devra aussi sortir de sa zone de confort et tisser des liens avec d’autres groupes de pays et de sociétés bien au-delà des alliances stratégiques et économiques traditionnelles.»

» Pierre Pettigrew a été ministre canadien entre 1996 et 2006, notamment des Affaires étrangères et du Commerce international. Il est aujourd’hui conseiller de direction aux affaires internationales chez Deloitte.

Mark Freeman

…thinking and acting globally. International affairs are being radically reshaped not even one decade into the 21st century. The evidence of a new multipolar world is everywhere: the shift of power dynamics from the G8 to the G20; the continuing emergence and growing influence of China and India; and the gradual decline of the P5’s power to shape events in the international arena. At the same time, new alliances and new powers are themselves subject to trends and events largely outside of state control, including the Internet, the global economy and global warming. In this context, the winners in international affairs in this century will, in all probability, be those that lead in the creation not only of alliances and rules for states, but also of alliances and rules for business, media and civil society. National outcomes and national laws now matter less than ever before. Those fixated on the national interest, too narrowly defined, likely risk enjoying only the most ephemeral and illusory victories over the course of this century.

Thinking ahead, the complexity of contemporary international affairs is daunting – and, as such, lends itself to the setting of micro-level objectives and the pursuit of short-term impacts. How can one possibly plan for a future that is so difficult to see or understand? And yet, reality compels us to recognize that states and businesses can no longer afford to think or act in the present alone. They have to confront the complexity of international affairs, and make sure that they also strategize far into the future – investing as needed in their own intellectual capital, as well as in progressive alliances with others. For a time, it seemed as if the idea of strategic planning had fallen out of fashion, as events so often appeared to render plans irrelevant. However, in this century, such plans will be essential to winning, where winning will be most needed – namely, in the areas once considered ‘soft’: education, the environment, technological innovation, women’s advancement, and the establishment of a truly global rule of law. The future importance of being ahead of the curve on these issues can hardly be overstated.”

» Mark Freeman is Chief of External Relations, International Crisis Group. He is the author of several texts, including Necessary Evils: Amnesties and the Search for Justice (Cambridge University Press, 2009).

Robert C. Bordone


The era in which deploying sheer military might or flexing one’s vast economic muscle might be sufficient to win (or, more modestly, end or manage) a conflict has passed. Stunning technological advances in the last decade (think: social networking sites, smart phones, and the relentless 24/7 news cycle), combined with the break-neck pace of economic, cultural and ideological globalization during the same period, make using military force or economic sanctions to succeed on the world stage a costly strategy.

Because nation-states with powerful armies and mighty economies rely so heavily on global markets and global security for their continued success, deploying armies or sanctions to win a point necessarily imposes pain on the very entities that would use these methods. At the same time, simply staying out of the way of others through practiced isolation is an equally maladaptive way to thrive on a world stage that is so interconnected and interdependent. These old tools, then, cannot be the main ingredients for victory in international affairs in our time.

And yet, despite the reduced efficacy of economic and military force for resolving conflict, if there is one thing of which we can be certain, it is that conflict over resources, land, money, ideas, values, faiths, and much more will persist throughout the 21st century.

Those who are likely to thrive in this new international arena where militaries and money are of limited value are those who will be most able to harness the power of persuasion to advance their ends.

By persuasion, I mean neither forcing nor cajoling. Instead, persuasion is the ability to convince another to pursue (or refrain from pursuing) a particular course of action because it meets both one’s own and the other side’s interests. The component skills of successful persuasion include: perspective-taking, listening, empathy, framing, creativity, collaboration and, most of all, patience.

Perspective-taking is the capacity to put oneself in the shoes of another party and to view a situation from that party’s point of view. In moments of crisis, when individuals are often most prone to be emotionally agitated, threatened and defensive, perspective-taking becomes one of the most challenging, evolved and critically important of leadership skills.

Being truly persuasive in the 21st century will necessarily mean cultivating the ability to acknowledge competing stories, conflicting realities and partisan perceptions as valid even when they do not comport with one’s own version of reality. Related to perspective-taking, then, are skills of listening and deep empathy. Mastering the capacity to appreciate ‘the other,’ and to see the world from his or her perspective improves one’s ability to frame choices and decisions for others that are genuinely attractive to them – ones that are worthy of their consideration, rather than their refutation.

Effective framing – however powerful – is often insufficient when it comes to some of the most intractable problems in the international arena: to name a few, those related to global climate change, nuclear proliferation and identity-based disputes. The ability to persuade, therefore, also assumes the capacity to demonstrate creativity in crafting solutions that are out-of-the-box and, at times, even unconventional.

To be truly persuasive, such creativity must combine with genuine collaboration. Generating new ideas to old problems matters, but doing so with others, instead of simply on behalf of them, matters more. By working in concert with others – especially others who are different from oneself – winning leaders of the 21st century will be more likely to craft shared stories; ones that incorporate conflicting historical narratives at the same time that they simultaneously lever elements of a mutual vision for the future. Such shared visions almost always locate themselves at the level of common needs related to basic human security and human freedom.

A final and often forgotten attribute of persuasion is enduring patience. Those insistent on easy fixes may achieve short-term gains, but are unlikely to succeed on the international stage in the long haul. Why? Because true persuasion requires the establishment of mutual trust. And so, at bottom, winners in the international arena will be those individuals endowed with the unique capacity – and the deep commitment – to build communities of trust; not only with respect to their own interactions, but also within the institutions, organizations, companies, and NGOs on whose behalf they toil.”

» Robert C. Bordone is Thaddeus R. Beal Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program, Harvard Law School.

Reza Nasri

…revising past conceptions of ‘victory,’ based on at least two important lessons of the 20th century. The first lesson is that prejudicial zero-sum ‘gains’ in international relations inevitably lead to retribution and undesired consequences in the long-term. It may take generations, but victimized nations do ultimately come back to reclaim their rights and dignity – at times by violent means. Coercive diplomacy – sanctions, and the use or threat of force, may be used to generate temporary gains, but they cannot guarantee enduring stability. The record to date demonstrates that even the perception of subjugation, marginalization and isolation often leads to no more than revanchism, retaliation and extremism. The archives of history from the 20th century to the present are replete with examples of this outdated approach to ‘doing business’ in the international arena. Indeed, the most ruinous events of modern history often find their root cause in short-sighted and self-absorbed decision-making driven by a ‘winner-take-all’ approach to diplomacy and foreign relations.

Peace, security and stability ought to grow organically through a process that seeks consent and considers the interests of all state-stakeholders. Anything short of that is bound to generate fall-outs. The question is: will this new century’s leaders appreciate the importance of a shift of paradigm in their approach to ‘others’ in an increasingly interconnected world, or will they continue down the same archaic path? The international community’s approach to Iran’s nuclear programme – one of the most important issues of our times – is a good reference point in attempting to answer this question. Alas, old school ‘winning’ is alive and well.

The second lesson of the last century is that a successful state is one that can correctly identify the emerging realities of its time, and act accordingly. In today’s conjuncture – characterized by interdependence and mutual obligation – this means understanding that it is only by addressing the insecurities and predicaments of others that one can truly ensure one’s own well-being and security. A viable state in the 21st century, therefore, is one that takes a more holistic approach to foreign affairs. More precisely, this would be a state that is disposed to gradually replacing the traditional state-centric approach to national security with the much more sophisticated notion of human security – understanding all the while that sovereignty is a right, but that it equally entails the responsibility to protect populations from mass atrocities. In this context, ‘winning’ in international affairs finds a whole different meaning as adversaries become partners, and government officials are compelled to act in the interest of multiple domestic and foreign constituencies – going far beyond their national borders.

In short, winning in international affairs in the 21st century means optimizing the interests of all through long-term vision and dialogue – no nations left behind.”

» Reza Nasri is an international lawyer; a fellow at the International Unit of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) and co-founder of ‘Roads to Peace’, a foundation that aims to facilitate Iran-US rapprochement through ‘people-to-people’ diplomacy.

Balaji Chandramohan

…in the case of India, deftly navigating the growing geopolitical competition that it faces from China in regions ranging from the Asia-Pacific to Latin America, Africa and Europe. This competition covers the search for markets, technological innovation, mineral resources, military alliance and diplomatic networks and postures.

India has a slight edge over China with the ‘softer’ (arguably, more attractive) values that it can project to the outside world. It has a stable democracy, freedom of the press and general human freedoms that, together, translate into the possibility that many other countries (although certainly not all) in the Asia-Pacific region are less afraid of its emergence than they are that of China. Indian victory in this dyadic, new-century contest with the Middle Kingdom requires it to ruthlessly lever its attractiveness for long-term advantage.”

» Balaji Chandramohan is the Asia-Pacific correspondent of World News Forecast and Editor, Asia, with World Security Network. He is based in New Delhi and Wellington, New Zealand.

 (Illustration: Noah Woods)

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