“The history of freedom is that of the struggle to limit the power of government.”Woodrow Wilson
Today it seems that globalization has come to an end. It is increasingly common to see nationalist fronts flourishing in different parts of the world, questioning and blaming all sorts of evils on the model of economic, political and social openness that has characterized the world for the past 30 years.
Today we see the emergence of a new model that I would call “Nostalgic Populism”, which proposes the idea that there was a past that was not only much better, but was perfect, and that it was cruelly and irresponsibly destroyed by a terrible Machiavellian plan called Globalization. That model calls for new forms of tribalism: America First. The Poor First. Brexit. Catalonia. Some of these movements are anchored in premises so weak or ridiculous that they could turn out to be comical, were it not for the fact that the most vulnerable sectors of the population often end up fully believing them.
This current environment has a worrying characteristic: One of the most important tools we have to face the great problems of the 21st century is beginning to weaken. I am referring to multilateralism. If the current coronavirus pandemic is teaching us anything, it is that no country in the world – including the United States of America – is ready to face these serious crises in isolation. It is precisely the globalization of the last decades that grants problems a much broader scope, a much quicker dissemination, which makes it almost impossible to face them in isolation. However, it is concerning that just when the world needs greater cooperation and coordination between states, the multilateral institutions responsible for facilitating such cooperation are under attack.
Multilateralism is by far one of the best American inventions. It was President Woodrow Wilson who, after World War I, and as a way of trying to prevent yet another large-scale military conflict, suggested the creation of the League of Nations. It was an imperfect first experiment that had some successes and many failures, and that unfortunately could not prevent the development of the Second World War. But there is no doubt that it managed to lay the foundations for what would later become the United Nations and that, with its ups and downs, has given relative peace to the world in the last eighty years.
In a fully interconnected digital world, national interest should no longer be above the global interest. We need multilateralism to dominate the natural human tendency towards war, competition and destruction. This pandemic has brought us to totally new and unpredictable scenarios, but there is a light that must guide us at all times: We need more cooperation and less nationalism. We need more empathy and more generosity. Let us not let die the multilateralism that took almost a hundred years to build. Let us not listen to the mermaids’ song that invite us to build walls and shut ourselves into our caves. Those mermaids should have neither followers nor likes in the 21st century.
Managing Partner of Nuricumbo + Partners. His work as a consultant has focused around CFO services and challenges, in companies of all sizes, both in Mexico and abroad. He began his career at PWC. Later, he held the position of internal audit manager for Young & Rubicam and The Interpublic Group, two international advertising groups, working for five years in New York City and performing audit projects in many countries.