This is the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century when I hope and expect there will be a major shift in the way we run human affairs. Society needs new ideas and a new direction.
The Noughties (as the BBC called the last decade) has set the scene for change through demonstrating that continuation of the policies of the 20th century will not solve the world’s problems. As the new millennium dawned, it was hoped that there would be substantive progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. It was hoped that world leaders would embrace sustainability and reduce pressure on the environment. It was hoped that the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference 2009 would be the crowning achievement of the decade and solve climate change for us and future generations. It was not to be. Human society has found that, despite good intentions, the straightjacket of 20th century policies is preventing progress.
If there is one word that can describe the policy framework that brought economic success to the closing decades of the 20th century, it would be ‘globalization’. Our commitment to the concept of open markets, free flows of capital and deregulation has been dented by the financial crisis, but confidence is returning. The fact that the global economy has been rescued from immediate collapse gives breathing space to start work on medium-term solutions. We must use the opportunity well, not to reinforce the policies of the 20th century but to craft a framework fit for the 21st century.
I hope to see the concept of sustainability mature into a robust policy framework that is understood by all and implemented widely. The second decade will set the direction of the 21st century but only when we accept the need to leave the concepts of the 20th century behind.