Nikos Konstandaras at PostGlobal

Nikos Konstandaras

Athens, Greece

Nikos Konstandaras is managing editor and a columnist of Kathimerini, the leading Greek morning daily. He is also the founding editor of Kathimerini’s English Edition, which is published as a supplement to The International Herald Tribune in Greece, Cyprus and Albania. He worked as a correspondent for The Associated Press from 1989 to 1997 before joining the Greek press and has reported from many countries in the region. Close.

Nikos Konstandaras

Athens, Greece

Nikos Konstandaras is managing editor and a columnist of Kathimerini, the leading Greek morning daily. He is also the founding editor of Kathimerini’s English Edition, which is published as a supplement to The International Herald Tribune in Greece, Cyprus and Albania. more »

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Global Is the New Local

The Current Discussion:Is there a growing global agenda -- that is, an agenda of issues being discussed that affects the world rather than individual countries? Or are local concerns still paramount?

High fuel and food prices, climate change, the rise of major new economies, the credit crisis, terrorism and the United States’ shaping of the global security agenda have all shown beyond any doubt that anything that affects the planet becomes a local issue. And though local concerns are paramount in the sense that these are the issues that determine election winners in each country, the problems that affect the world today can only be dealt with at a global level, as the debates on PostGlobal show, coming as they do from all corners of the globe. Local concerns and the global agenda are now inseparable. The question is how individual countries will be able to separate domestic, petty political concerns from their main task, which is to protect their people from the fallout from international problems while doing all possible to make their countries as competitive as possible in an increasingly challenging global environment. This will imply great changes on the domestic political scene, with parties having to reach unprecedented consensus on decisions that cannot be delayed or diluted. These include reforms to education, labor laws, pension systems, and cooperation with neighboring countries and international organizations so as to act swiftly on regional and global issues.

With a rapidly growing world population and the increase of wealth in new regions, resources and commodities are bound to keep getting more expensive, disturbing the balance of wealth across the planet. This is creating new dividing lines that will eradicate the old North-South, West-East divisions of wealth and social development. We now find rich people and an increasingly broad middle class in countries that were once poor, and they may aspire to the living standards of similar classes in the “developed world.” The needs of industry and consumers in the “developing” countries, in turn, stoke the fire of demand that is raising commodity prices across the planet, affecting the incomes and quality of life of many people in the “rich” North and West. The poor and lower middle class in rich countries are bound to get poorer as prices keep rising. The guarantee of a high standard of living can no longer be met as schools, hospitals, pension funds and other major institutions that once distinguished developed nations struggle to survive because governments cannot push forward unpopular reforms, however necessary they may be.

All of these changes and challenges have to be acknowledged and evaluated by the international organizations that are now in existence. The people who run them must realize that the times demand changes and a sharing of authority that may be difficult for those who are now dominant in these institutions - mainly the “Western” countries - but which must be made. In this way, the organizations will gain greater credibility in the eyes of the rest of the world, and so will their decisions. These decisions must then become binding to a far greater extent than we see today. A similar spirit of selflessness must be shown by national political parties, which will have to place their country’s interests above their desire to gain power and stay in power.

The leaders of international organizations and local politicians have to realize that the only way to deal with today’s problems and shape a better future is if they forge the institutions and policies that will do for the 21st century what the arrangements after World War II did for the 20th. We can either do this before the global crisis gets out of hand, or later, when we will have no option.

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PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and washingtonpost.com, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send us your comments, questions and suggestions.