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Numan Kurtulmus

In search of a new world order: Part II

Turkey's first drilling vessel, Fatih, begins its deep drilling in offshore Antalya in October [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 November, 2018

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Comment: For Turkey and the region, the modern era will be defined by proxy conflicts and economic and political polarisation, writes Numan Kurtulmus.

Looking carefully at all of the region's problems, we can see the ugly side to the trade wars and physical wars.

Why do we see in the world so many refugees?  Why is the population of Africa emigrating? Why is the population of Asia forced to leave their villages and cities, forced to migrate and seek asylum in Western countries and developed countries? 

With regards to these problems, the global problems and in the region, we need to see the fundamental causes.

The first of these is injustice in the global measure of income distribution: we are now living in a world in which 0.7 percent (even less than one percent), a tiny circle of 0.7 percent, is controlling 44 percent of the world's wealth.

At the same time, 70 percent of the world's population only possesses three percent of its wealth. This global injustice and discrimination is unprecedented in human history. This unjust distribution of wealth is unbearable, unfortunately.

In the coming decades, the biggest fundamental problem will remain the tensions between the rich north and the poor south. On this course, the rich countries in the northern part of the world, namely the EU member-states, Russia, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and some other rich countries, will keep getting richer. Going south, it gets poorer. At the same time, while the population of the north is declining, the population of the poor south keeps increasing.

In search of a new world order
Read the first part of Numan Kurtulmus' piece here

This type of world is unlivable. The unjust distribution of income pushes the poor population of Africa, Asia, and Latin America to reject this wrong in the world, because they are not living in peace and health, and no peace can result from this.

Maybe we have all seen the Aegean and the Mediterranean be transformed into a graveyard for refugees, the Africans disappearing aboard their unsafe boats. The powerlessness in the face of the Iraqi who lost his wife and five children on a refugee boat summarises the unforgettable agony of existence in this era.

The frightening injustice in the distribution of income, even if there is no other reason, is like a lit bomb fuse underneath the world.

When it explodes, it will be a greater source of tension tearing the world apart. One of the most important causes of conflict in society is also the lack of democracy.

The closest example of this is next door in Syria which unfortunately was torn apart, not into one or two pieces, but into dozens of pieces, with cities and towns and the people themselves breaking up.

It is true that the main cause of the civil war in Syria is the proxy war. But before the war, the Syrian regime had already gone way overboard in repression.

Syria was living under an authoritarian, dictatorial regime, and people under it were unable to breathe and express themselves

In Syria, there are no political parties, no political pluralism, and no political representation. Syria was living under an authoritarian, dictatorial regime, and people under it were unable to breathe and express themselves. They were not empowered to participate in any political and economic decision-making.

If we look at Yemen and Libya, we can see the same stages, since one of the problems caused in the world is a lack of democracy and internal conflict.

In Turkey, protecting our unity within our diversity is by accepting the cultural wealth in our identity and by seeing that Turkey's life stems from our unity.

For that reason, we have aspired to develop our democracy further. The countries in which democracy has taken root are not fertile soil for proxy wars, since these wars are nourished in an environment in which rights are lacking.

The other issue is foreign occupation and interference. Afghanistan can be cited as an example, where Russia initially occupied it, and the Americans thereafter.

The Taliban regime or al-Qaeda would not have emerged if the initial occupation hadn't happened. The root of terrorism in Afghanistan therefore, is foreign occupation and interference.

The same applies to the Middle East: if this type of interference had not happened, the appropriate platforms for terrorist organisations and coalition wars would not have existed.

Had it not been for the American invasion of Iraq, would the people of Kirkuk have felt any animosity towards one another? Likewise, especially in this geographic region, the Nineties and being susceptible to occupation played a part in igniting ethnic and religious discord between people, which then turned into enmity.

It was saddening was to see the Arabs, Turks and Kurds who had been living in Kirkuk for hundreds of years, reaching a state of enmity. And that wasn't enough: they even succeeded in dividing Turkmenistan into a Sunni and Shia Turkmenistan.

If we want to develop some ideas so that people can live in peace, we need to mull over and discuss in depth the following three fundamental issues:

  1. How is it possible to realise equilibrium in rebalancing intervention in the world?
  2. How is it possible to cope with the lack of democracy?
  3. How is it possible to implement change without internal conflict?

With our token of being sons of this region, how is it possible to shut the doors in the face of foreign interference and occupation?

In this world, and especially in our region, at a stage of rebuilding, we must create a special bond with the people of the region, following the Turkish experience and drawing inspiration from it.

If we do not do this, history will continue, and developments will cease; we will be left looking at them like one who waits for the water to flow to him. The result of that sadly, will be that our younger generations and future ones, will be governed by a lack of justice in the world, and society will pay a big price for that.

The global political structure, and at its forefront the United States, which was commissioned after the second world war to solve problems, is now unable to carry the world today.

It is not necessary that these topics we have been evaluating warrant a placard of pessimism to be placed in front of us. Quite the opposite: the periods that witness big challenges are the very ones that present opportunities and great possibilities too. We also have immense opportunities in front of us, from various angles.

However, specifically, on the subject of reforming the economic and political framework in the world, I wish to bring attention to three fundamental points.

The first is a real need of a new pioneer for world economy. At present, those who possess wealth work to constrain specific sectors in the country, as well political parties through the central banks, to connect to extremely strong loans.

America, which was the winner of the second world war, converted the central reserves from the war securing it to its local currency. At present, 65 percent of the world's business is conducted using the dollar.

What does capital reserve mean? In previous eras, money was backed by gold. Nowadays, it is pieces of paper, unbacked by gold. The following example might go some way in explaining: if someone stands behind a machine printing notes, watermarking them with '100USD', what would be the value of such money? Maybe only 35 cents.

However, by accepting these conditions, the world entered this format of wealth, putting itself into even further difficulty. But to save everyone from this predicament, I say that we are in discussions about this, and opportunities and possibilities exist.

We will work to establish a new economic system in the world. Our country's President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has mentioned two components to affect this.

The first relates to world reliance on the dollar. In order to free ourselves from overreliance on the dollar, it would become necessary for everyone to conduct trade in their local currencies.

Russia, China, India, Turkey, Iran and all other countries would have to conduct trade locally in their own currencies, and among themselves too. For example, we would pay our debts to Russia in rubles, they would pay us in Turkish lira. In this way, reliance upon the dollar would lessen worldwide, and the dollar would no longer remain a capital reserve.

In order to free ourselves from overreliance on the dollar, it would become necessary for everyone to conduct trade in their local currencies

Likewise, through the new economic structure, the organisations that emerged after the second world war can be reviewed, like the International Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization and others.

Sometimes the question arises: do the Americans implement the laws the WTO imposes on so many other countries? One night the American president will say, "I will raise customs duties by such and such!" Where is the WTO when he says that? Where are the liberal laws governing world taxes gone then? We have come to a stage where these issues need to be addressed.

The second component President Erdogan mentioned was a single currency backed by gold. This means reverting to a financial system that is backed by gold, and a review of the issue of capital reserves. Effectively, it means re-evaluating the Bretton Woods monetary system.

Obviously, these issues, neither today nor in the future, will be easy to accomplish, but maybe our future generations will realise the world as we dream of it.

There are however, people who wish to compel Turkey to be reliant on the IMF, not because the IMF aims to better the country's conditions, but because it is an international organisation that was founded to help countries out of difficulties for political gain.

The IMF is not a bank that merely hands out wealth and loans; it is well known to be an organisation that has political characteristics, not purely economic ones. After all, the lobbies that dominate the world set up this organisation so that they remain dominant.

The IMF is not a bank that merely hands out wealth and loans; it is well known to be an organisation that has political characteristics, not purely economic ones. After all, the lobbies that dominate the world set up this organisation so that they remain dominant

There will come a day when we shall see that the IMF and the International Bank have lost their previous functions, and we will have to create a new economic system. And we know that the future Turkish generation will present solutions in the new world that has lost its magic.

In addition to changing the economic workings, we also have another opportunity in front of us in new technologies.

Previously, developing countries – like Turkey – were aided through sharing new technologies they possessed. These countries would send outdated technology to the markets in the countries that were in the development stage, under the guise of 'moving or sharing technology'.

Sadly, the technological history of Turkey has not been written in its full detail. It is necessary that universities take up this subject: both the stages of shifting to manufacturing in Turkey, as well as the stage of deception.

In 1940, Nuri Demirağ made an aeroplane in Turkey, but the oppressive, deceiving parties prevented it from being sold outside the country, eventually closing down Demirağ's factory.

Similarly, the company Tusaş, a turkish aviation manufacturer, entered into talks as a governmental company with an Italian company, so that they could corroborate in manufacturing planes. However, a message coming from a dark hole took the deal off the table.

Very recently, after a very lengthy period in its history, Turkey was able to manufacture its planes independently. Thousands participated in the technology festival 'Teknofest' in Istanbul, at the new Istanbul airport.

In it, Turkey exhibited 'wingless' planes that it produced itself, among helicopters and other valuable products in the defence sector. The festival was important in displaying the level Turkey has reached in technology. For a country that is in the development stage, having reached such a high level in the technological sector presents huge opportunities for us.

Now let us think about this with a few brands. The operating system Linux was created by a faculty member at Helsinki University, with a group of his students. In a short period, it became a global brand. Other global brands, like Google, Apple and Facebook, have all became global today having started off as university projects. It is well known that universities are centres of technological development worldwide.

Just as the hubs of technology and social media are the universities, they should be the hubs of life too. We should make universities the fundamental bases of new technological development.

In production, finance and administration, we should provide an outlet for the university chain, because those countries that do so are the ones that make the world go rotate.

The two industrial revolutions, the second and the third, we missed out on for whatever reasons. However, we will never miss the fourth, especially being on the stage of competition between developing nations in advanced technologies. We will strive to make Turkey big in this field.

Another opportunity that is before us, and one which is arguably the most important, is refreshing world political mechanisms. The global political structure, with the United States at its forefront, no longer remains capable of carrying the world today. That is why we say, 'The world is bigger than the five.' The meaning of this objection is profound.

It is upsetting that after the second world war, the United States became the dominant country, founding the world upon its dominance, without upholding any truth, mercy, rights, equality or social justice.

It is upsetting that after the second world war, the United States became the dominant country, founding the world upon its dominance, without upholding any truth, mercy, rights, equality or social justice

For whatever reason, countries rely on any one of these five, acknowledging them to have the right to life.

Secondly, this system is wholly unjust. We all watched the creation of Israel, greatly backed by the USA, and remain watching its oppression. Every day, it kills our brethren in Palestine, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank, continually seeking refuge with the US hundreds of times. Even after words at the Security Council, America holds its hand. This is why Israel can perpetrate its oppression with full immunity, while the world can only watch.

In Syria, when the chemical weapons systems were used, the issue was taken to the US, and the powers that the system relies on covered it up, along with its crimes against humanity.

This system cannot continue, because any system that has no justice or peace in its foundations is sure to fail. Because of the 'Ring of Five', just as there are 105 countries around the world that have no access to technological development, there are 195 countries that do not take their share of political administration.

We thank God that in Turkey, we have begun to show our strength. With the American decree, they moved their embassy from Tel Aviv to Occupied Jerusalem, and we also took up a challenge to the US.

Throughout the voting process, everyone saw the stance that Turkey took on this issue, and the same happened at the meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation recently, where we issued decrees that were historical milestones in justice and peace.

After this voting, the global system now cannot continue the way it is, and if they want it to, they will never be able to do so.

We all watched the creation of Israel, greatly backed by the USA, and remain watching its oppression. Every day, it kills our brethren in Palestine, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank, continually seeking refuge with the US hundreds of times

The Turkish stance is an important step in stabilising the global system, according to a structure that is based on the truth and justice.

Likewise, Turkey is a role model – both as a country and a nation - for the world on the issue of Syrian refugees, who have rendered the world helpless and revealed the true face of the modern world. Our country opened its doors to 3.5 million Syrians and hosted them in the true sense of the word.

In fact, it qualified itself to be actual 'Ansaar' (The Helpers [of Madinah]): its people distributed the bread they had among the migrants. Despite Turkey not being one of the richest, but in proportion to its non-net national income, it occupies top spot in aid ranking.

If we want to establish a humanitarian system in the world, and we want to build a new political system, then developing humanity in the world is required from all in cooperation. The responsibility for the refugees is one that should be shared by all major countries.

If Turkey is to build a new global economic system, enter to compete on the global stage for advanced technology, and lay the foundations for a new global political structure, it needs genuine, realistic ideas that it can bet on. And as a country that speaks out for mercy, truth and justice, it should always be ready to float its ideas on these issues, and to develop them.

If it wants to remain on top when it comes to humanitarianism, it needs to be prepared to pay the price for it whenever and wherever needed.

Our universities, politicians, and civil society organisations need to endeavour to recognise their posts and their roles in this bigger picture and strive to complete the picture however and wherever needed.

Numan Kurtulmus is the former prime minister of Turkey, and the former minister of culture and tourism.

Follow him on Twitter: @NumanKurtulmus

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

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