The year 2020 left behind difficult memories and numerous questions about the future. It was the year of the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory, and the establishment of the Yalta-Potsdam system of international relations, the UN and UNESCO – a milestone year highlighting the mounting danger of global confrontation. It was a year of discoveries and losses, of desperation and hope in battling the coronavirus, an economic crisis and conflicts. It was a time when humankind shed false ideas and turned to human life as the supreme value, only to discover that neither states nor international organizations could protect it effectually.
The world is growing more complex, faster than humans’ ability to grasp it, giving rise to the human gap problem, described for the first time in 1979 in the report to the Club of Rome “No Limits to Learning. Bridging the Human Gap.”1 Today, it is becoming much harder, if not impossible, to grasp the meaning and possible repercussions of the accelerating complexity of world processes, living conditions and gadgets, means, methods and products.
Issues of ethics – especially bioethics, the ethics of science and artificial intelligence – have come to the fore along with their real existential risks, which are especially manifest against the backdrop of an artificially inflated veneer of tolerance.
In January 2020, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in an address to the UN GA that he sees “four horsemen in our midst – four looming threats” that endanger the future of humankind: geopolitical tension, climate change, global mistrust and abused new technologies that are pushing the world closer to the point of no return. “The first horseman comes in the form of the highest global geostrategic tensions. Terrorist attacks take a merciless toll. The nuclear menace is growing. Devastating conflicts continue to cause widespread misery. More people have been forced from their homes by war and persecution than at any time since the Second World War.” He said that tensions over trade and technology remain unresolved and are turning into fierce trade, economic and technological skirmishes for markets and resources.
“Second, we face an existential climate crisis.” One million species are in near-term danger of extinction. “The third horseman is deep and growing global mistrust. Disquiet and discontent are churning societies from north to south. Each situation is unique, but everywhere frustration is filling the streets. More and more people are convinced globalization is not working for them.” “Confidence in political establishments is going down.” “The fourth threat is the dark side of the digital world. Technological advances are moving faster than our ability to respond to – or even comprehend – them.”2
As technologies develop and improve, they change the quality of human life; they bring huge boons but also enormous harm. Civilizational processes are reprogrammed on digital platforms in the interests of a few to the detriment of the interests of the majority. Human minds are being manipulated and gradually reprogrammed under the pressure of targeted information that relies on a wide range of fakes and falsified history. Human beings are alienated, dehumanized and dissocialized. The moral and ethical principles on which human society was built and existed are being destroyed and replaced with alternatives incompatible with human nature and its intended purpose in life. Previously unknown digital crimes and opportunities are appearing and being used to incite disagreements and hatred, perpetuate “new slavery,” oppress and exploit people, and facilitate massive and perpetual invasions in private lives.
Later, the UN secretary-general added a “fifth horseman of the Apocalypse”: “Since January, the COVID-19 pandemic has galloped across the globe – joining the four other horsemen and adding to the fury of each.” “We face simultaneously an epochal health crisis, the biggest economic calamity and job losses since the Great Depression.” Countries are stressed, the already fragile foundation of our world is shaking, and the struggling world is “seeking real leadership and action.”3
Now, in addition to global security issues, the international community is shifting its attention to the security of each person. Blindsided by the coronavirus pandemic, states proved unable to meet to the challenge. The COVID-19 virus that spread like wildfire across the world demonstrated that biological threats are no less deadly than nuclear armaments. The ring of global risks of the contemporary world – geopolitical, economic, social, technological and ecological – is tightening around humans. The World Economic Forum’s forecast that the year 2020 would see even more protests of civil society against growing social inequality, that the geopolitical situation would become even more unstable and the number of cyberattacks would increase4 was fully confirmed.
According to Jonathan Granoff, president of the Global Security Institute, “The current paradigm through which the most influential nations pursue security is incapable of addressing several dynamic threats to the survival of modern civilization.”5 “The first duty of the state – to protect and serve its citizens – today cannot be adequately met by this approach. It cannot address threats of environmental degradation nor the personal health and well-being of people. In fact, it is an approach that is exacerbating adversity rather than encouraging the cooperation necessary for sustainable living and development. A more practical approach could rest on two foundations: Hard science in understanding and living in harmony with the natural world and thus honoring and protecting its regenerative processes; and policies and practices in accord with the values inherent in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which protects the inherent dignity of being human.”6
To be realizable, decisions must rely on a clear awareness of the very real existential global threats to humankind caused by climate change, pandemics, weapons of mass destruction, as well as the everyday pressures of hunger, poverty, unemployment, crime, social deficit and inequality, political oppression and injustice. The economic and intellectual efforts that a state pours into ensuring its security, protecting its territory against aggression and promoting its national interests through force do not and cannot resolve the multitude of problems related to human security, the diversity of which problems breeds the causes and conditions of the current dangerous global instability. A comprehensive approach is needed to refocus energy, resources and success criteria on individuals and their natural and social environment.
It is not enough to ensure human security in the context of the global problem of violence: We must ensure social, moral and spiritual security. It must become an indispensable component of the global agenda formulated by Resolution A/RES/70/1 of the UN GA of September 25, 2015 “Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”7 All 17 sustainable development goals are closely related to human security. The issue is in fact an integral part of 169 tasks that are to ensure those goals but, on the whole, the issue of human security is not a real security policy of states. The fact that President of the Russian Federation recently created the post of presidential special representative for ties with international organizations in “achieving goals of sustainable development” speaks volumes about Russia’s increased attention to this range of issues.8
The emerging concept of human security requires us to understand that the well-known Latin adage “if you want peace, prepare for war” has become too dangerous. In the history of human civilization, preparations for war all too often led to war. The Preamble to the UNESCO Constitution states that “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.” 9
The obsessive aspiration for global domination (which the U.S. inherited from the once almighty British Empire that, as many other states before it, proved unable to realize its ambitious plans) and the desire to “lead the world” and “sit at the head of the table,” as Joe Biden openly put it in his presidential plan, do nothing to promote human security. Cooperation based on the mutual consideration of interests, on the rule of law, on reaching agreements and settling crises by diplomatic means and methods has been sidelined and replaced with the principle of dealing “from a position of strength.” That was what German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer had in mind when speaking on November 25, 2020, in the Bundestag, about dialogue with Russia.10 She seems to have forgotten that the year 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of the defeat of Hitler’s Germany and that she represents the state that in the last century unleashed, from “a position of strength,” two world wars and suffered two crushing defeats.
Comprehensive human security may seem like a distant ideal. But if promoted and supported, an ideal may bring positive changes that facilitate its achievement. Joint efforts by states to ensure human security can consolidate cooperation among states and even strengthen security within countries, removing external threats and freeing up economic, organizational and intellectual resources to meet human needs. The desire to ensure human security promotes a global culture of peace, an awareness that human lives are valuable and that the world should move to a higher stage of human development. Great Russian scholar Vladimir Vernadsky wrote about it as a future noospheric civilization based on the power of reason.
It is existentially important to neutralize as promptly as possible (today and not in the distant future) the most dangerous existential risks that threaten humans almost constantly. A lower level of external and internal threats and the rejection of expensive technologies and means and methods used in the non-productive sphere will reduce spending and increase the volume and accessibility of public goods that will in turn ensure people’s social security and make it possible to address and constructively solve at least some of the world’s problems.
A comprehensive and all-inclusive approach to human security paves the way toward a sustainable and flourishing future. It makes it possible to use the values, skills, dreams, best practices and experience of different peoples, nations and cultures. The problems created by pandemics, climate change, weapons of mass destruction and threats caused by new technologies and artificial intellect are expanding quickly. They can be analyzed and assessed by verifiable empirical methods that rely on scientific tools and require global cooperation. A radical shift in the comprehension of their theoretical and practical content is needed to produce the necessary systemic and holistic changes in politics. It is hardly possible to separate the regenerative processes of the natural world from the economic system; it is hardly justified to focus on state security rather than on human security; it is obviously counterproductive to separate the approaches to human security and sustainable development.
Human security must be understood as a multifaceted and multitiered right of all people applied to all aspects of human activity. It must be perceived as an integrated system that includes personal health, air, water, food, living conditions, rights and duties, interaction with the world, and protection against possible aggression and illegal actions. Human security must become an inalienable principle and the highest social priority without boundaries and exclusions for national, political, religious or other reasons. The borders and national sovereignty of states that form the geopolitical landscape of the planet cannot efficiently protect those states from trans-border threats – a fact confirmed by the coronavirus pandemic. Today, the stability, sovereignty and legitimacy of states are confirmed not only by human-made borders and laws, but also by the way a state ensures the security of its citizens.
The global problem of inequality, which is acquiring bigger, even catastrophic proportions, and is fraught with social upheavals at points of extreme tension makes it even harder to ensure human security. Today, 26 individuals own half the Earth’s wealth,11 while over 70% of the global population lives on inadequate incomes or has no income whatsoever.12 Social instability is reaching dangerous levels due to a gross disparity in incomes and opportunities, and the widening gap between the rich and the poor. Social inequality stirs up conflicts and threatens human security and will continue to do so until the problem has been mitigated and subsequently resolved through a comprehensive approach as part of the Global Agenda for Sustainable Development. But such a resolution appears to be a very remote prospect.
The global threats of the physical extermination of humankind and civilization as a whole are still real, and they are growing even more dangerous amid the irresponsible speculations of certain politicians and military leaders about a “limited nuclear war.” The threat of a worldwide catastrophe that likely would spell the end of the history of humankind can be mitigated and later eliminated through concerted efforts of states at the global level. So far, however, the “collective West” is not demonstrating willingness to cooperate on this existentially important issue.
Today, the multipolar world is emerging in a more complicated and more dangerous environment than a year ago. The coronavirus pandemic is accompanied by the madness of trade wars and economic sanctions unleashed by the U.S. and its allies that threaten the world’s sustainable development. According to a highly representative public opinion poll carried out in late 2020 in 10 countries13 by Novus, an international opinion polling service, on behalf of the Global Challenges Foundation,14 the world fears global catastrophes far greater than before.
The authors of the published report comment: “When we talk about global catastrophic risks, we mean events or threats that might cause humanity serious damage worldwide, whether immediately or in the future, with the potential to affect 10% or more of the global population.”15 The majority of the 10,154 respondents in all 10 countries believe that the world is less safe today than it was two years ago. The largest proportion of those who think so live in South Africa (73%), Australia (69%), Russia (68%) and Brazil (67%). When asked to describe the state of the world in one word, practically all participants, with rare exceptions, used the words “unsafe, frightening or chaotic.” The word “pandemic” was the most frequently cited word in seven countries, including in Russia.
The majority in the surveyed countries perceive climate change, environmental degradation, political violence, weapons of mass destruction, pandemics, artificial intelligence, population increases and extreme poverty as potential global catastrophic risks. The survey reveals increased general concern about the problem of human security and worry that states are often unable to cope with it.
Meanwhile, claims that in a rapidly changing world, globalization will soon not leave any room for national states (which will be replaced by “socially responsible” transnational corporations) are being persistently promoted and imposed on mass consciousness. That idea, in particular, featured prominently in the highly acclaimed book COVID-19: The Great Reset, written in the summer of 2020 by World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab and Monthly Barometer partner Thierry Malleret.16 Assessing the results of the pandemic, the authors write: “The pandemic…made a return to the pre-pandemic status quo impossible.” They believe that the world is entering a “new reality” that differs radically from the old. Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, likewise, are convinced that the virus has proved quite useful, facilitating a fast reset and creating a “new normal.”
As U.S. secretary of state, the notorious Hillary Clinton spoke about resetting relations with Russia. She even took a symbolic reset button to Moscow with the word perezagruzka (reset), misspelt as peregruzka (overburdened), on it. It is currently on display in the Russian Diplomatic Service History Center, on Smolenskaya Square in Moscow. The error proved meaningful, pointing to the propensity of the overseas partner to distort intentions and replace them in practice with something completely different and far removed from the original. That propensity was also characteristic of the first and last President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, and his unforgettable “perestroika” that collapsed his own state.
The concept of a future that leave states, governments and peoples in the past and offers an alternative “new reality” under the aegis of “socially responsible” transnational corporations leaves unanswered the question of who will perform the functions of the state with regard to ensuring law and order, human rights and human security, and how. In any case, the specific actions of transnational corporations and their focus on their own interests and profits above all else cast doubt on their ability to be “socially responsible” enough to shoulder the social functions of the state.
The world community is deeply concerned by these and similar theoretical reflections about the changes going on in the world, as well as by the practical manifestations of such changes. The 2020 U.S. presidential election campaign took place amid unprecedented encroachments on human rights and human security that sparked large-scale riots and humiliated human dignity. Their catalyst was the slogan “Black Lives Matter,” which frequently turned into violence against white people and overblown, provocative and destabilizing demands to protect the rights of the minorities. The principles of equality, freedom and democracy, the values nominally defining American society, were turned upside down by the apotheosis of destruction that flooded the country and, in many respects, threatened human security.
The same processes that are destroying civilizational pillars can be seen in the EU. The aggressive minority and its puppeteers are imposing ideas of transhumanism, false tolerance and transformations, ranging from changes in world and society to human physiology, on the increasingly resistant majority. The resulting conflicts and violence frequently devalue human life and human security.
Progressivism as an ideology that promotes the notion that the Western path of development is the only correct path is being revised and increasingly rejected by other cultures and civilizations. The political exploitation and verbal fetishizing of the Western world’s freedoms, which are actually rather notional, are clashing more frequently and more dangerously than before with the moral and religious foundations of other communities inside and outside the Western countries in relations with national diasporas. This was clearly demonstrated by what happed in France in the fall of 2020, when a Muslim beheaded a schoolteacher who showed cartoons that insulted Muslims and their religious feelings as an example of “freedom of speech.” Both victims – the murdered teacher and the Muslim who killed him – were treated as heroes, even though both had violated canonical principles proclaiming the sanctity of life and faith.
Today, security has become a global and comprehensive problem encompassing the whole world, humanity and every individual. It presupposes that states and peoples strengthen cooperation through UN-coordinated global governance and leadership that ensures the progress of humankind and eliminates existential threats. This problem must be assessed from a scholarly humanitarian standpoint as an existential challenge caused by new threats stemming from, among other things, rapid technological progress. The digital era has opened the door wide to new knowledge and opportunities, but also to new risks to humans and human security.
Today, scientists and leading research centers like The World Academy of Art and Science and The Club of Rome are striving to address the human security problem. Igor Kefeli, a scholar from St. Petersburg, for example, has proposed a new concept, “asphatronics,” as an emerging comprehensive global security strategy.17 Under the aegis of the United Nations Office at Geneva, The World Academy of Art and Science launched an international project called Global Leadership in the 21st Century.18 The discussions and events put on by the project during the anniversary year and the online session that ended the year at the Geneva UN platform on December 15‑16, 2020, confirmed the topic’s relevance and global interest in seeking ways to promote it.
The Academy, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2020, was initiated by great scientists Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell and Robert Oppenheimer as a movement against the use of scientific achievements to the detriment of humankind and, later, against destructive trends in culture and art. The Academy regularly participates in the Globalistics scientific conferences organized by the Lomonosov Moscow State University on the initiative of the Faculty of Global Studies, as well as other joint scientific and educational international events.
On May 20, 2020, the Faculty of Global Studies hosted a highly representative international scientific online forum, “Global Social Transformations and the Future of Civilization,” during which UNESCO, The World Academy and The Club of Rome discussed, in particular, the issue of ensuring human security – an issue that has acquired special urgency during the coronavirus pandemic. Discussion of that topic continued at a joint international scientific online forum titled “COVID-19 and Human Security,” held on December 22, 2020, on the initiative of the Faculty of Global Studies and the UNESCO Chair for the studies of global problems, Moscow State University, that included the participation of UNESCO, The Academy and Club 22. Academician Aleksandr Chuchalin’s opening report launched discussion of the relationship between the ambiguous nature of the coronavirus infection and the global situation that this virus of an unclear origin has caused.
Moscow State University decided to reassess The Club of Rome’s sensational 1972 report “The Limits to Growth,” to adjust it to modern realities and the radically changed world. A team of scholars led by Academician Viktor Sadovnichiy, rector of Moscow State University, have started working on a report, “New Limits to Growth,” to assess the state of the world and its development prospects. It will pay special attention to the human security problem.
1 No Limits to Learning. Bridging the Human Gap. Report to the Club of Rome. Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1979, p. 159. https://clubofrome.org/publications/no-limits-to-learning-1979/.
2 Guterres A. “Remarks to the General Assembly on the Secretary-General’s priorities for 2020,” accessed April 14, 2020, https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/speechts/2020-01-22/remarks-general-assembly-priorities-for-2020.
3 TVC 22.09.2020: “Gensek OON predupredil o blizkom Apokalipsese iz-za pandemii COVID-19,” accessed September 30, 2020, https://www.tvc.ru/news/show/id/193101/.
4 “The Global Risks Report 2020.” 15th Edition. World Economic Forum. Geneva, 2020, p. 4-5.
5 Granoff J. “Approaching Human Security.” CADMUS. Scientific Journal of the World Academy of Art and Science (WAAS). Vol. 4. No. 3. November 2020.
6 Ibid. p. 2.
7 Rezolyutsia A/RES/70/1 Generalnoy Assamblei OON оt 25 sentyabrya 2015 g. “Povestka dnya v oblasti ustoychivogo razvitia na period do 2030 goda,” accessed December 2, 2020, Microsoft Word – 1516301R.docx (unctad.org) https://unctad.org/system/files/official-document/ares 70d1_ru.pdf.
8 “Prezident Rossii Vladimir Putin naznachil spetspredstavitelya prezidenta po svyazyam s mezhdunarodnymi organizatsiyami dlya dostizheniya tseley ustoychivogo razvitiya,” accessed December 2, 2020, https://ria.ru/20201205/chubays-1587771571.html.
9 “Korotko o UNESCO: missiya i mandate,” accessed December 2, 2020, https://ru.unesco.org/about-us/introducing-unesco.
10 “V Germanii prizvali k dialogu s Rossiey ‘s pozitsii sily,’ ” https://iz.ru/1092306/2020-11-26/v-germanii-prizvali-r-dialogu-s-rossiei-s-pozitcii-sil.
11 https://tass.ru/obschestvo/8999053 (accessed: November 17, 2020).
12 https://lenta.ru/news/2020/07/18/bogatstvo/ (accessed: November 17, 2020).
13 Australia, Britain, Brazil, Germany, India, China, Russia, the U.S., Sweden, SAR.
14 “Global Challenges Foundation. Global Catastrophic Risks and International Collaboration. Opinion poll 2020. Report,” accessed November 18, 2020, C:/user/Desktop/GCF_Global_Challenges.2020-High.pdf.
15 “Global Challenges Foundation. Global Catastrophic Risks…” p. 6.
16 Schwab K., Malleret Th. COVID-19: The Great Reset. Forum Publishers, 2020.
17 Kefeli I.F. “Asfatronika: na puti k teorii globalnoy bezopasnosti: monograph.” St. Petersburg.: IPTs SZIU RANKhiGS, 2020. 228 p.
18 World Academy of Art and Science (WAAS). “Global Leadership in the 21st Century,” accessed June 21, 2020, https:// www.worldacademy.org/conferences/stgl/Strategies for Transformative Global Leadership/.