The thin skin of breathable atmosphere that we live in and depend on every day, is a totally fragile feature of our world, so thin it could hardly be measured by a telescope on Mars. Our forests, the very lungs of the world, are vanishing every day and being replaced by open farm land that helps feed our overcrowded planet but on an unsustainable manner. Even worse being covered by concrete and bitumen.
Where are the visionaries of the past? The giants that put the world back together after two World Wars? The men who put Japan onto its feet after it had been smashed into the ground by military and nuclear force. The men who reached across the Atlantic and helped Europe rebuild itself. The men and women who fought for justice across the world, dismantling global slavery and creating the multilateral agencies that work today to try and create a more equal world.
I live in a country that was born out of struggle for justice, equality and freedom and walked onto the global stage in April 1980. I was there, among the tens of thousands watching as the flag of the greatest coloniser in global history came down and was replaced by our new flag, the symbol of all our hopes and ambitions. Many of the new leaders were friends and colleagues and they quickly took their places at the centres of power. The world was at their feet, we ran the first conference attended by our friends across the world, anxious to help us get back on our feet after 90 years of domination by the small white Community, mainly of European extraction, 50 years of Nationalist struggle and 15 years of war and global sanctions.
It is now 40 years since that day. During this time China has climbed out of the hole it was in in 1975 when her people were poorer than Africa. South Korea has done even better, lifting her people to high income in a very short space of time. Viet Nam has recovered from the calamity of 40 years of war and conflict. Cambodia is recovering from Pol Pot. The Asian Tiger economies are the industrial heartland of the world today with global trade having grown at a real rate of 15 per cent per annum now for over 60 years – delivering prosperity to the most remote places in the world.
Now we have this pandemic and all its associated problems – the global shut down, the collapse of markets and demand for all the things on which we depended for a living. Hundreds of millions are out of work, the GDP of the biggest economies of the world are shrinking at rates that seemed impossible just a few months ago. Businesses are re-evaluating their business models across the world. Nothing is being taken for granted. The skies have cleared and we can see the stars again. The world breathes once more. It is time to reset.
The key is leadership. It is leadership that determines success in all spheres of life – school, universities, business, national life and international relations. It is the most important part of everything we do.
I watched the Director General of the International Labour Organisation being interviewed on television the other day. What an outstanding exposition of our global challenges. He was interviewed for half an hour and what came across was compassion and understanding and a perspective on the issues we face that I have not heard from any other person of significance.
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