That history might not repeat itself is one of the promises 2006 holds.
Global challenges will continue to be met only by scattered answers for some time, I am afraid. What appears as the first problem in the explosive cocktail of international relations is a crisis of governance: states will continue to deal with issues that are no longer confined to their national borders and yet, in the absence of an effective system of global governance, they will remain at a loss to deliver concrete solutions; while problems will continue to become more global in scope, the political institutions to deal with them will remain largely the same.
The erosion of global governance takes place in tandem with the rise of problems we will face with an increased sense of frustration in 2006, from terrorism and drug trafficking to poverty, migration and threats to our global environment.
One of the greatest challenges to the EU member-states, the US and international organisations is to intervene in order to bridge the deep gap in economic, social and human development as well as demographic growth between the southern and northern shores of the Mediterranean. In this connection, one should bear in mind that the creation of a collective security system to counter terrorism and drug trafficking and to strengthen non-proliferation cannot be dissociated from respect for fundamental human rights, sustainable development and the rule of law.
In the eyes of many Muslim countries in the middle east, a political solution to the Palestinian problem would mark a return to the international rule of law. If the Palestinian authorities succeed in containing violent elements such as Hamas, and should the Israeli elections tip things in favour of the moderate and peace-minded elements of the Israeli polity, the prospects of a long-term peace between the two sides could look more promising.
The failure to find a solution to the tension between the two sides, or a renewed slide toward violence, would narrow the abilities of Arab regimes to address underlying domestic problems, while emboldening their Islamist movements. In this game, the success of the democratisation process in Iraq will certainly provide a solid example for the security and stability of the Persian Gulf region.
Iran, for its part, will continue its diplomatic and military efforts to become a regional power by over-committing to an ideological approach. The continuation of such an approach, representing clear discontinuity with past diplomacy, will only harm Iran's interests and bolster the position of global forces pushing for Iran's isolation and marginalisation.
Last but not least, one must not forget that the signing of new agreements with the European Union, the appearance of local, non-governmental human rights groups and other signs of civil society, and the partial co-option of Islamist movements in some of the Arab countries could generate new hopes for the middle east in 2006, and demonstrate that the demand for democratisation will continue to grow.
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