Kishore Mahbubani was appointed Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy on 16 August 2004 after having served 33 years in the Singapore Foreign Service (with postings in Cambodia, Malaysia, Washington DC and twice as Ambassador to the UN, during which he also served as President of the Security Council). He was the Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Ministry from 1993-1998.
He is the author of Can Asians Think? published in Singapore, Canada, US, Mexico, India and People’s Republic of China and of Beyond The Age of Innocence: Rebuilding Trust between America and the World. His new book entitled The New Asian Hemisphere: the Irresistible Shift of Gobal Power to the East was published in New York in February 2008. He was also listed as one of the top 100 public intellectuals in the world by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines in September 2005.
Question: How can the U.N. adapt to a new reality?
Kishore Mahbubani:For a start, I think if you, as you know, domestically, the way we preserve order in our societies is that we make every citizen a stakeholder in the society. You give every citizen a voice. You give every citizen a vote, and that is how you get stability at home. Why don't we create some kind of global democracy and give the 6.5 billion people who live in an increasingly small and intergrated world a voice, in the management of global affairs? And so what United States should is switch its attention form UN Security Council to the UN General Assembly and listen to the voices in the General Assembly, because if you can persuade the voices in a General Assembly to a certain course of action, then, believe me, you carry the world with you. Whereas you, if you just only persuade the UN Security Council, then you don’t persuade the world. You trying to impose the will of a few states on the rest of the world, and that cannot work in the long run. The most specific recommendation I have is for Americans to stop seeing multilateralism as a threat to America. Multilateralism was an American gift to the world, because, as you know, the 1945 UN charter, the principles, the rules, international law, all these were America's gift to the world, and the world appreciates the virtues of this gift of the multilateralism. Now, the time has come for America to rediscover the virtues of the gift that it shared with the rest of the world. And, believe me, if America embraces multilateralism, embraces a rules-based order globally, it will make Americans and Europeans feel much more secure. Believe me you live out to live in a rules-based order and so why should the United States of all countries and go for the multilateralism to unilateralism in the way it has done since the end of the Cold War? And that was the one of the biggest strategic mistakes that the west made at the end of the Cold War.
Recorded on: 2/28/08