Miliband: Navigating the New World

At the beginning of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine called on his fellow colonists to forge a new society where power was dispersed among the citizens. "Let the crown … be demolished," he urged, "and scattered among the people whose right it is."

Today Paine's world is finally coming into view. The growth of India and China and the shift of power from states to citizens have huge potential for good. But the United States remains the world's defining power; its decisions create the framework for everyone else. It must therefore take the lead in redefining the global game—addressing the threats that divide us, from nuclear proliferation to religious extremism, but also preserving the goods we share, from climate stability to the international finance system. Doing so will require observing several new rules of the road.

RULE 1: National sovereignty comes with responsibilities. At the U.N. World Summit in 2005, the international community declared that it has a "responsibility to protect" citizens of all states from genocide. This marked a vital new stage in the debate about human rights and national power. States, it was affirmed, must protect their own populations, and if they fail, the international community has now accepted a duty to step in. That said, more needs to be done. Take Darfur, where 2 million people have been displaced and 4 million are on food aid. The United Nations has agreed to set up a new peacekeeping force with the African Union. But the troops have yet to arrive. Without a stronger international consensus on when and how to intervene, multilateral action will continue to lag.

RULE 2: No one has the right to set off a nuclear-arms race. The nonproliferation regime is under intense pressure. And terrorists would like nothing more than to get their hands on nuclear materials. World leaders must therefore forge a stronger international consensus to combat the spread of such deadly weapons. Would-be proliferators must be offered a way back into the international fold if they mend their ways —and should face sanctions and intense pressure if they don't.

RULE 3: We must tackle the causes of poverty as well as its symptoms. One in six people in the world now lives on less than $1 a day. Despite the global economic boom, inequality is growing. This is not only morally offensive but dangerous. It fuels the resentment on which extremists thrive. Leaders, including the United States, must strive to meet the Millennium Development Goals and conclude a new global trade deal.

RULE 4: Carbon is not a free good. Technologies are emerging that will enable the transition to a low-carbon economy. But unless we put a price on carbon emissions by expanding carbon trading, such technologies won't become affordable. A new global deal is needed to succeed the first stage of the Kyoto Protocol. All countries must take on responsibilities to cut emissions, but those commitments should be equitably distributed.

RULE 5: Legitimacy and effectiveness depend on institutions that work. Global bodies like the United Nations and the World Bank were created in the wake of the second world war. They must now be adapted to reflect the changing distribution of power and the new threats to security and prosperity, from climate change and inequality to global terrorism. Reform is essential to preserve these bodies' legitimacy and to increase their effectiveness.

Britain's role in this new world lies in forging shared rules and institutions—not as an empire, but as a global hub, cementing old alliances and building new ones among states, businesses, nongovernmental organizations and citizens. And Britain can do this as a close ally of the United States and as a member of the EU and the U.N. Security Council. As for the United States, it once (after World War II) led the creation of a new international system out of moral duty and national interest. We need the same leadership today, to help ensure a fair and effective rules-based international system that promotes prosperity and security across the globe.