When I was a boy, my father used to tell us: "You don't hit someone on the head when you have your fingers between his teeth" to remind us that even in dispute we remain bound to each other. In this innocuous proverb lies a wisdom that the world is yet to fully embrace. My long experience has taught me that, whatever our background, what unites us is far greater than what divides us.
When I founded the Kofi Annan Foundation, I did so with the belief that the pillars for a fairer, more secure world consist of sustainable development, of peace and of human rights, and this conviction has only grown stronger over the years. These pillars are interconnected and interdependent, for there can be no long-term security without development, and there can be no long-term development without security. And no society can long remain prosperous without the rule of law and respect for human rights.
Yet for now, epidemics, hunger, the climate crisis, weak and un-democratic governance, and many more threats all eat away, mercilessly, at the foundations of our societies. At the Kofi Annan Foundation we work on mobilizing the required political will -- across the worlds of diplomacy, civil society and private sector -- to curb those threats. The expertise and know-how to deal with and eradicate most of the world's critical issues is after all often well-established. What holds us back is a lack of vision, of leadership and of the political resolve to fix things. Mobilizing this political will is what we have set our minds to.
I remain optimistic that one day we will see a world where leaders look beyond the next electoral cycle or the next shareholder meeting. Where we collectively realize that we do not live in a zero-sum world where someone's gain automatically comes at another's expense.
I envision a world where these values are supported by an international architecture, a modernized United Nations that reflects the changing balance of global power brought about by the rise of China, Brazil, India, South Africa, and other emerging countries. But above all, of a United Nations that serves not only states but foremost peoples -- and becomes the forum where governments are held accountable for their behavior toward their own citizens. A forum where the shared values of pluralism, tolerance, solidarity, democracy and dialogue triumph over unilateralism, ultra-nationalism, and over the politics of identity.
You may argue that this is a pipe-dream, that around the world, personal liberty, human rights, and democracy are being eroded -- even in countries that have embraced democratic ideals. But remember that never before in human history have so few people (as a proportion of world population) died from armed conflict. It may not make headlines, but the international system, with its rules and institutions, allows states to settle most of their disputes peacefully, most of the time.
Let us renew and strengthen this international system. From epidemics to climate change, we need to set our narrow self-interests aside and realize that we are in this world together, for better or for worse. Hitting each other on the head has not done us much good in the past. It is time to move beyond that, to embrace our common humanity and resume our journey towards a fairer, more peaceful world.
This post is part of a series commemorating The Huffington Post's 10 Year Anniversary through expert opinions looking forward to the next decade in their respective fields. To see all of the posts in the series, read here.