There is universal agreement that the characteristic of the modern world is interdependence. But we haven't yet had time to think through its consequences or understood that the international rule book has been ripped up.
Interdependence -- the fact of a crisis somewhere becoming a crisis everywhere -- makes a mockery of traditional views of national interest. Nations, even as large and powerful as the United States, are now affected profoundly and at breakneck speed by events beyond their borders.
Why is immigration the top domestic policy issue in much of Europe and in the U.S.? Because globalization is making mass migration a reality -- and only global development will make it a manageable reality.
Why has energy policy, too, rocketed up national agendas? Because of the need for countries such as China and India to fuel their rapid development, and the threat of climate change. The solution lies in an internationally agreed framework through which the developing nations can grow, the wealthy countries maintain their standard of living and the environment be protected from disaster.
So you can't have a coherent view of national interest today without a coherent view of the international community. These challenges affect us all and can only be effectively tackled together. And we can't wait around to see how these global challenges may develop as we could in the past. They require a pre-emptive, and not simply a reactive, response, on the basis of precaution not just certainty, and often outside our own territory.
But common action will not be agreed unless it is founded on common values -- of liberty, democracy, tolerance, justice. These are the values universally accepted across all nations, faiths and races, though not by all people within them. These are values that can inspire and unify. We need an international community that both embodies and acts in pursuit of these global values.
The scale of the agenda in front of us is enormous. And increasingly, there is a hopeless mismatch between the global challenges we face and the global institutions to confront them. After the Second World War, people realized there needed to be a new international institutional architecture. In this new era, in the early 21st century, we need to renew it.
In a speech in the United States yesterday, I made some tentative suggestions for change.
First, the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has done an extraordinary job in often near-impossible circumstances and deserves backing for his reform program. But a Security Council that has France as a permanent member but not Germany; Britain but not Japan; China but not India; to say nothing of the absence of any representation from Latin America or Africa; cannot be legitimate in the modern world. If necessary, let us agree on some form of interim change that can be a bridge to a future settlement.
Second, the World Bank and IMF. There is a case, as has been argued before, for merger but, in any event, there is certainly a powerful case for reform, including a radically improved relationship with developing nations and more representation for the emerging economies.
Third, there is a strong argument for establishing a multilateral system for "safe enrichment" for nuclear energy. The International Atomic Energy Agency would oversee an international bank of uranium to ensure a reliable fuel supply for countries utilizing nuclear power without the need for everyone to own their own fuel cycle.
Fourth, the G8 now regularly meets as the G8 +5. That should be the norm.
Finally, we need the UN Environment Program to match the importance the issue now has on the international agenda.
I do not underestimate the hazardous task of achieving these changes. But I also know the main obstacle. It is that in creating more effective multilateral institutions, individual nations have to yield up some of their independence.
Powerful nations want more effective multilateral institutions -- but only when they think those institutions will do their will. What they fear is effective multilateral institutions that do their own will.
But if there is a common basis for working together -- agreed aims and purposes -- then no matter how powerful, countries gain from being able to subcontract problems that on their own they cannot solve. Their national self-interest becomes delivered through effective communal action.
Today, after all the turmoil and disagreement of the past few years, there is a real opportunity to bring us together, to tackle global terrorism, to ensure a healthy global financial system, provide secure and clean energy and to heal long-running disputes including, crucially, progress toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We all have an interest in stability and a fear of chaos. That's the impact of interdependence.
I believe, too, we all have a strong common interest in supporting democracy in Iraq. I don't want here to justify the original decision or reopen past arguments. I do want to advocate a new concord to displace the old contention.
It is three years since Saddam Hussein left office, three years of strife and bloodshed. But despite all the terror, a democratic political process has grown. Last week, I visited the new government in Baghdad, chosen freely by the Iraqi people, Sunni, Shiites, Kurds and non-aligned. I heard from these leaders not the jarring messages of warring factions but one simple, clear and united discourse. They want Iraq to be democratic, its people to be free. They want to tolerate difference and celebrate diversity and the rule of law, not violence, to determine their fate.
The war split the world. The struggle of Iraqis for democracy should unite it.
This should be a moment of reconciliation not only in Iraq, but in the international community. For their struggle is a wider struggle. The purpose of terrorism in Iraq is to defeat not just Iraqi democracy, but democratic values everywhere.
In my nine years as Prime Minister I have not become more cynical about idealism. I have simply become more persuaded that the distinction between a foreign policy driven by values and one driven by interests, is obviously wrong. Globalization begets interdependence. Interdependence begets the necessity of a common value system to make it work. In other words, the idealism becomes the realpolitik.
Our values are our guide. To make it so, however, we have to be prepared to think sooner and act quicker in defence of those values -- progressive pre-emption, if you will.
None of that will eliminate the setbacks, fallings short, inconsistencies and hypocrisies that come with practical decision-making in a harsh world. But it does mean that the best of the human spirit which, throughout the ages, has pushed the progress of humanity is also the best hope for the world's future.
Tony Blair is Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.