Nation & World

Sovereignty vs. global responsibility

3 min read

Speaker talks about the necessity of globalization

As part of Harvard Business School’s International Week, an annual event to highlight the cultural diversity at the School, Srgjan Kerim, president of the 62nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, delivered the keynote address at the Spangler Auditorium on Oct. 25.

The General Assembly comprises all 192 members of the United Nations. In addition to policymaking, the body oversees the U.N.’s budget and appoints nonpermanent members to the Security Council.

Kerim, a native of Macedonia and an economist, diplomat, scholar, and businessman, gave a lecture titled “Globalization and the Sovereignty of Nations: Does Globalization Mean That National Sovereignty Is on the Decline?”

Herman B. Leonard, Eliot I. Snider and Family Professor of Business Administration at the Business School and the George F. Baker Jr. Professor of Public Sector Management at the Kennedy School of Government, introduced Kerim, saying that globalization was a vital topic of discussion.

“We are part of a global community in flux,” Leonard said, “it is changing as we speak, as we learn, and the people who are here tonight are going to play important roles in the leadership of companies and governments throughout the globe.”

Providing a simple answer to the complex question of whether globalization harms sovereignty was not possible, said Kerim. The topic must be put in a broad historical context, and in particular, one must look back at the trend in the United Nations following the Cold War to move away from allowing nations to use absolute sovereignty to govern at will.

“Sovereign rights are now understood to go hand in hand with sovereign duties and global responsibilities,” he said. “You can’t have one without the other.”

In addition, Kerim said a globalized world requires some measure of global governance, one that puts greater responsibility on states and international institutions as well as “nonstate actors” such as the private sector and civil society.

Kerim argued for the creation of a “new culture of international relations” led by the United Nations that would be based on greater trust, economic cooperation, and fairer economic consensus. Although such a move would tend to “disaggregate, redistribute, and devolve sovereignty,” he said, the process would in turn lead the way for human rights and security, economic growth, and sustainable development.

“Globalization may be perceived by some to erode national sovereignty,” Kerim said. “In reality it has empowered the individual to exercise his or her sovereign free will, creating new global networks beyond politics.”