Building a Just World: Essays in Honour of Muchkund Dubey (Book Review)

Book: Building a Just World: Essays in Honour of Muchkund Dubey; Edited by Manoranjan Mohanty, Vinod C Khanna and Biswajit Dhar; Publisher: Orient Black Swan; Pages: 432; Price: Rs.900

The United Nations is to adopt a post-2015 agenda for sustainable development, setting the goals for achieving a just, equitable world by 2030, in a high-level plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly in late September. It is an ambitious agenda at a time when the gap between the rich and the poor is widening globally, but it is not an impossible objective.

A set of insightful essays on ‘Building a Just World’ explores the initiatives and issues that go into building an equitable world order. The essays are written in honour of Muchkund Dubey, a highly respected former foreign secretary, who is credited with writing a major part of the UN report on the First Development Decade.

As former UN secretary general Boutros Boutros-Ghali writes in his foreword, Muchkund Dubey “distinguished himself as one of the most perceptive and articulate spokesmen and negotiators of the developing countries in their struggle for peace and development cooperation on the world stage”.

Building a just world order was one of the global objectives of the 20th century after the defeat of fascism and the end of colonialism in the world. Instead, economic disparities are increasing around the world.

In his essay, Chandra Hardy describes the existing world order as “profoundly unjust” when four billion people live in conditions of extreme deprivation while 800 million live a life of excessive consumption and waste.

Dubey believes that the design for a just world order exists in an embryonic form in the United Nations. The right kind of leadership in about a dozen or more countries could develop a consensus in this regard. Arguing that “this vision is in the realm of possibility”, Dubey suggests that the BRICS countries can form the core of such a group.

One of the co-editors, Manoranjan Mohanty, evaluates the contending perspectives in the existing world order – ‘global rebalancing’ where the G-8 seeks to co-opt the emerging economies of BRICS and ‘global restructuring’ that aims at transforming the unequal political and economic order, including the Bretton Woods institutions. The emergence of China, India and the other emerging economies in global politics adds to the demand for global restructuring. Two institutions set up this year could challenge the American dominance in development funding.

The BRICS group’s New Development Bank and China’s Asian Infrastructural Investment Bank (AIIB) are the two institutions that could be an alternative to the World Bank and IMF for developing economies.

The issues raised in the essays are extremely complex but interconnected and inter-related and relevant to contemporary times. The essays examine issues of nuclear disarmament, climate change negotiations and social development. One of the essential preconditions for progress towards a just world order would be to undo the whittling down of the UN’s powers that happened in the past decade or more. This would entail providing adequate resources for the UN to discharge its functions.

As Muchkund Dubey says, a just, fair and equitable world order that serves the interests of all nations and people within nations “should be deliberately conceived, designed and brought into existence”. The book is a valuable addition to the global dialogue on the way forward on building a just world order.

(10-08-2015. Shubha Singh can be contacted at shubhasingh101@gmail.com)

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