Center for Strategic Decision Research


Responding to the Current Challenges

Ambassador Jean De Ruyt
Permanent Representative of Belgium to the United Nations


Our topic—the broad concept of security for the twenty-first century—is a very ambitious one. In introducing the panel and as the only representative from the United Nations, I would like to outline how we in New York approach this issue which in the United Nations is debated every day. The post-Cold War environment is one of increasingly open borders and easy communications, with aeroplanes, mobile phones and the Internet reaching the most remote areas of the world. This creates increasing interdependence in trade, investments, and energy resources. A threat to the environment in one part of the world can be a threat for the entire planet; diseases spread instantly, migrations, organized crime, and terrorism are a challenge for every society. In such an environment, a security failure even in a remote place in Africa can affect the most protected societies in Europe or the U.S.  

The problem is that this interdependence is developing at a time when inequalities among our societies are growing instead of diminishing. The opening up of the world has not necessarily brought our civilizations closer to each other. On the contrary, differences tend to generate clashes: cultural differences generate misunderstandings, and inequalities generate frustration and resentment, which can easily translate into aggression or terrorist activities.


This is the situation in which we find ourselves: a very open world where misunderstandings due to cultural differences and inequalities have an increasingly destabilizing effect. 

We must address this complex situation, but we cannot use the traditional tools of foreign and defense policy because these threats are complex, global and can often be addressed only (remotely) far away from our national borders. I have identified four possible instruments which might help us face them: 

1. The first is the development of solidarity at the world level. We must address the issues of poverty, inequality, education, health care, the promotion of democracy and the rule of law, fulfilling the committments of the Millenium Declaration adopted by the leaders of the world in the year 2000. 

2. The second instrument is preventive action. Many crises can be diffused if they are addressed in time with the tools of preventive diplomacy. Actions of this type can be carried out by neighboring countries, by regional organizations, the European Union, the UN or non-governmental organizations. 

3. The third instrument is military intervention. Preventive diplomacy as well as management in a crisis zone often require the use of force. All our militaries are currently adapting their means to be able to participate in preventive actions and peace enforcement operations. 

4. The fourth instrument is the conclusion of universal treaties, those which establish principles and values at the world level, those which organize the protection of our environment and also treaties to face new challenges like the spread of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. 


I believe that multilateralism is the key word when it comes to facing the global threats of the twenty-first century. These threats can only be addressed by collective action with multilateral tools. 




























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