How did the revolution happen? Historical circumstances after the fall of the Berlin wall facilitated the power grab of the agents of the revolution. Historically, the UN played a major but not exclusive role in catalyzing global cultural change in the first half of the 1990s. Let us note that today, the partners of the global ethic are so numerous, so diversified and so powerful that their agenda would probably further penetrate the fabric of society, would the UN disappear.
At the end of the cold war, people were ready for change. They aspired to peace, democracy, freedom, religious liberty, reconciliation between peoples, a genuine new consensus, real development, North-South solidarity, bottom-up participation, a holistic view of reality, a conscious integration of human and environmental concerns in policy-making, decentralization, subsidiarity, equity, a person-centred globalization process, an authentic dialogue between cultures and mutual respect. Sustainable development, women’s empowerment, good governance, peace education, dialogue among civilizations and most of the other new paradigms adopted in the 1990s seemed to respond to what humanity was waiting for. But humanity’s aspirations were hijacked. Global ethics, solidarity, altruism and humanitarianism now, more often than not, serve as a cover for an agenda of human and societal deconstruction.
The end of the East-West divide coincided with the fast acceleration of economic globalization. The financial and economic power of multinationals grew exponentially, while the power of nation-states seemed to be diminishing. The UN sought to strengthen its institutions and to position itself at the strategic center of global governance. Proclaiming it had received an ethical mandate, claiming for itself a monopoly over ethics in the era of globalization, the UN presented itself as the only institution capable of making globalization human, ethical and sustainable. It offered to counterbalance the global economic power of the market with its “universal moral authority”. Furthermore, the UN argued that “global problems” required not only global solutions, but global values - a global ethic that only the UN would be able to forge and to enforce.
No sooner was the cold war over that the UN organized an unprecedented series of intergovernmental conferences. The purpose of the conference process was to build a new integrated world vision, a new world order, a new global consensus, on the norms, values and priorities for the international community in the new era: education (Jomtien, 1990); children (New-York, 1990); the environment (Rio, 1992); human rights (Vienna, 1993); population (Cairo, 1994); social development (Copenhagen, 1995); women (Beijing, 1995); housing (Istanbul, 1996); and food security (Rome, 1996). The conferences were conceived as a continuum, and the global consensus as a package integrating all the new paradigms within a new cultural and ethical synthesis.
It took only six years for the new consensus to be built and globally endorsed. The implementation phase started in 1996. Since then, the agents of the revolution have seen to it that no debate reopened or questioned the alleged consensus.
The Internet revolution of the mid-1990s, the mushrooming of partnerships and of informal transnational governance networks (grouping multibillion foundations, like-minded politicians, NGOs, representatives of the world of finance, enterprises, academics…), globalization under all its forms and the decentralization and regionalization strategy of the UN effectively brought the global agenda to the regional, national and local levels.
By its mandate, the UN is an intergovernmental organization. The “global consensus” was supposed to reflect the will of governments, themselves supposed to represent the will of the people. De facto, however, the global norms were constructed by “experts” chosen in function of their ideological slant and like-mindedness.
How was it possible for ideologues to grab global normative power? In 1989, everyone reasoned as if the “end of ideology” had automatically put the world in a state of consensus. According to the new mindset, issues had allegedly become only pragmatic in nature: the “neutrality” of the new issues placed at the center of international cooperation seemed self-evident: environmental degradation, gender inequity, population growth, human rights abuses, rising poverty, lack of access to education and health care and so on. Moreover, the UN argued that these problems were “global” by nature. According to this logic, governments primarily needed, not a democratic debate, but technical expertise and the grass-roots experience of the NGOs. The error of the majority was to adhere to the neutrality myth without paying attention to the fundamental anthropological stakes of these questions.
In reality, the May 68 generation, the powerful population control lobby and its multi-billion dollars industry, eco-feminist and other secular Western NGOs, postmodern academics had occupied key positions at the United Nations and its specialized agencies since the 1960s. While Western governments were busy containing the Soviet threat during the cold war, a minority of like-minded ideologues working within international bureaucracies and operating in networks was acquiring indisputable expertise in the various socio-economic areas addressed at the conferences. After 1989, they emerged as the experts the international community needed to address the new issues at the center of international cooperation. Without encountering opposition, these ideologues exercised global normative leadership under the guise of their expertise. The hidden agenda of a minority of ideological technocrats was to achieve global cultural change according to their social engineering purposes.
The paramount political fact of the cultural revolution is the effective control acquired by self-organized civil society groups (mainly NGOs) over the UN machinery, and by the UN Secretariat over member state governments. The influence of powerful NGOs on the direction of “global” policy-making after the fall of the Berlin wall grew dramatically. “Non-state actors” were the powerhouse of cultural change. NGOs have been the primary partner of the UN Secretariat and UN specialized bodies all the way from agenda-setting, to consensus-building, implementation and “monitoring progress”.
The UN-NGO interaction rapidly evolved into a principle - the partnership principle. The principle stipulates that governmental and non-governmental actors are treated as equal partners. The condition to join a partnership is to adhere to the pre-established vision and strategy of the partnership’s drivers: partners must be like-minded. Non-aligned forces are excluded outright. Partnerships are exclusive. In practice, the global ethic and its various components have been the only common vision of all existing partnerships.
It belongs to the logic of the partnership principle to claim ever more political power for the “partners”, to the detriment of legitimate power holders. It is therefore not unreasonable to wonder whether the partnership principle does contribute in a major way to the deconstruction of democracy. Yet the principle so powerfully imposed itself that it produced a global culture of partnerships.
The partnership principle in turn created new political standards: inter alia, good governance, participatory democracy, multistakeholder consensus and transnational governance networks. These standards do not start from the principle of democratic representation (itself tied to universal values), but from the partnership principle which de facto depends from the global ethic. The danger of these standards is to redistribute the legitimate moral authority of elected governments to unelected special interests groups which are not only without legitimacy but often radical. Participatory democracy and good governance are not integrated in representative democracy. Treated as its complements, they run in parallel, uncontrolled by traditional processes.
The global consensus is, as the UN jargon puts it, multistakeholder. This means that all “global citizens” are to get involved, own the agenda, advocate it, teach it, implement it, enforce it: not only governments, but NGOs, “civil society actors”, women’s groups, business and industry, scientific and technological communities, families, children and youth, academia, umbrella organizations, trade unions, experts, local authorities, farmers, indigenous people, the media, imams and pastors... The global ethic posits itself above national sovereignty, above the authority of parents and educators, even above the teachings of world religions. It bypasses every legitimate hierarchy. It establishes a direct link between itself and the individual citizen - the proper of a dictatorship.