Richard N. Haass: The Case for Sovereign Obligation

Richard Haass, the President of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, has published an essay titled World Order 2.0 – The Case for Sovereign Obligation (Foreign Affairs, January/February 2017).

He calls for a new vision of state sovereignty:

“The globe’s traditional operating system—call it World Order 1.0—has been built around the protection and prerogatives of states. It is increasingly inadequate in today’s globalized world. Little now stays local; just about anyone and anything, from tourists, terrorists, and refugees to e-mails, diseases, dollars, and greenhouse gases, can reach almost anywhere. The result is that what goes on inside a country can no longer be considered the concern of that country alone. Today’s circumstances call for an updated operating system—call it World Order 2.0—that includes not only the rights of sovereign states but also those states’ obligations to others.”

He suggests that,

“Getting the concept embraced as a pillar of international order will take years or even decades of consultations and negotiations, and even then, its embrace and impact will be uneven. But instead of being reasons for abandoning the project, those are reasons for starting on it seriously and soon, because the era of globalization will continue to evolve, and existing arrangements will be increasingly inadequate in dealing with contemporary challenges.”

Haass emphasizes the role of deliberation in forward progress, noting that “the power of discussion and persuasion in driving change over the long term is often underappreciated.”