Western democracies face a range of security threats direct military challenges from Russia’s hybrid warfare, terrorist threats from Al Qaeda and Islamic State and cyber threats from both state and non-state actors, aimed at stealing industrial secrets or undermining our democratic institutions.
At CTD Advisors, we regularly offer counsel to clients on what we feel is the most strategic threat we face as a Western democracy; the erosion of the rules-based international order. Like most European countries, the UK is a small, democratic, open trading nation.
As such, we rely on our prosperity and security on being able to operate and trade internationally, which requires an effective rules-based order. This order is now under severe threat.
It is worth recalling that when the victors of the second world war set up new organisations such as the UN, NATO, and the Bretton Woods institutions; and then established regulatory regimes and standards on everything from aviation and shipping to the environment and communications, they did so in their own image.
It was, therefore, a liberal vision, based on western values of open trade, the rule of law and human rights. This liberal order became known as the ‘Washington Consensus’, and over the last 75 years, has greatly benefitted the UK, US and, I would argue, the world as a whole.
Throughout the 40 years of the Cold War, the Soviet Union stayed somewhat aloof, unwilling to participate, but unable seriously to challenge this order preferring to operate bilaterally when necessary, for instance in nuclear arms limitations with the United States.
Then in 1989, the end of the Cold War and the defeat of communism ushered in a golden era for this liberal international order. The UN Security Council had a new lease of life, mandating many UN peacekeeping operations, particularly in Africa; the International Criminal Court was established, as was the Human Rights Council.
Women’s and LGBT rights were advanced; the Arms Trade Treaty was agreed and conventions on chemical weapons and cluster munitions; concepts such as Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and humanitarian intervention were proposed; more recently, we have seen the Paris agreement on Climate Change and the UN deal on eliminating poverty through 17 sustainable development goals.