We have begun by identifying the specific causes for this crisis: there are three categories of causes.
First, structural causes. The methods used today to ensure economic growth and technological development, instead of leading to a balanced development tend to aggravate certain forms of inequality—even if others have been reduced—and to magnify opportunities for major confrontations.
Second, ideological causes. Shortages are not the most important issue facing the human species today; many more difficulties are caused by unequal access to means of production and distribution. The problem is not lack of resources, but how resources are managed: unequal access to power leads to a global concentration of the economy. Poverty is not caused by shortages but by an intrinsically unfair economic system.
Awareness of one’s extreme poverty is all the deeper when traditional forms of social cohesion have been weakened and the more affluent consumer classes are given greater visibility. In the deregulated market, the greatest danger lies in the fact that the system is based exclusively on encouraging the unlimited growth of consumption as a way of ensuring social balance. In a system such as this, there is no room for instituting an equitable distribution of wealth or protecting non-renewable resources.
The competition for control of increasingly scarce natural resources, including water, is becoming fiercer and fiercer, yet today’s international systems have no way of setting up a legitimate authority that will impose fair distribution or transnational management. In addition, there are no global mechanisms to oversee scientific and technical developments, something that is left up to national agencies.
Finally, political causes. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Nelson Mandela’s triumph in 1994, the arrest of Pinochet in London in 1998, and other similar events led us to believe, for a fleeting moment, that the system of world governance under the United Nations would guarantee a multilateral approach to conflict resolution and an effective system of international justice. Unfortunately, the war in the Balkans, the Rwandan genocides in 1994, and persisting tensions in the Middle East seem to indicate that new and tougher conflicts lie ahead.
The September 11, 2001 attacks, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and endless random bombings also reveal the cost in human lives, not only for the protagonists themselves, but for the whole world. Pro-war leaders of certain great powers—particularly the most powerful of all, the United States—have used, and continue to use, war as the means to solve conflicts. It is therefore very likely that Islamic fundamentalist networks will continue to launch new attacks in the United States, Europe, Africa, and Asia.
War is therefore a real danger, but there are many other dangers that threaten peace and solidarity. Populism, fundamentalism, and nationalism are on the rise and have become a growing and solid reality in major democracies, not only in Western and Eastern Europe, but also in Asia and America. Some African countries are seeking to overcome their difficulties, but vast regions remain bogged down in a permanent crisis, hobbled by authoritarian and corrupt regimes, and large swathes of people are trying to eke out an existence in situations of extreme hardship.
In this context, we should draw attention to the artificial nature of many of the states that emerged after independence from their colonial rulers: they found themselves endowed with institutions that disregarded local traditions and with power structures seen as illegitimate by their people. States rich in resources have developed mass manipulation at an industrial scale, allowing a small minority to benefit from the financial rewards of national wealth but also turning democracy itself into a source of conflict, not to say a scam.