Blair’s talk, the second in this year’s Distinguished Speakers Series, touched on some of the same themes—the importance of globalization and the need to give emerging countries a voice in international organizations—that former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan presented in his September lecture that kicked off the series.
Many of today’s most pressing problems—and their solutions—are global in nature, Blair said. Fighting climate change requires cooperation between the world’s wealthiest and poorest nations. The meltdown of the U.S. economy and the ensuing financial crisis that reached west to Asia and east to Europe demonstrated how closely economies across oceans are linked. Rich countries that want assistance in fighting terrorism must be ready to extend aid to coalition partners who face different threats.
In this age, Blair said, peace and progress will be rooted in people’s willingness to listen to and respect alternative opinions. An end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with an independent and viable state for Palestinians, will only come on the basis of justice for all parties involved, said Blair, who plays a key role in mediating the peace process as envoy for the Middle East Quartet, comprising the European Union, Russia, the United States and United Nations.
“You cannot in those circumstances have an old-fashioned attitude that says, ‘I pursue my interests as a nation irrespective of yours,’” he said. “The only global alliance that works is an alliance held together by common and shared values and purpose. It’s the same within a country. It’s the same within a community of nations.”