Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Chris Anderson: Thank you so much, Prime Minister,

  • that was both fascinating and quite inspiring.

  • So, you're calling for a global ethic.

  • Would you describe that as global citizenship?

  • Is that an idea that you believe in, and how would you define that?

  • Gordon Brown: It is about global citizenship

  • and recognizing our responsibilities to others.

  • There is so much to do over the next few years

  • that is obvious to so many of us

  • to build a better world.

  • And there is so much shared sense of what we need to do,

  • that it is vital that we all come together.

  • But we don't necessarily have the means to do so.

  • So there are challenges to be met.

  • I believe the concept of global citizenship

  • will simply grow out of people talking to each other across continents.

  • But of course the task is to create the institutions

  • that make that global society work.

  • But I don't think we should underestimate

  • the extent to which massive changes in technology

  • make possible the linking up of people across the world.

  • CA: But people get excited about this idea of global citizenship,

  • but then they get confused a bit again

  • when they start thinking about patriotism,

  • and how to combine these two.

  • I mean, you're elected as Prime Minister

  • with a brief to bat for Britain.

  • How do you reconcile the two things?

  • GB: Well, of course national identity remains important.

  • But it's not at the expense of people accepting their global responsibilities.

  • And I think one of the problems of recession

  • is that people become more protectionist,

  • they look in on themselves,

  • they try to protect their own nation,

  • perhaps at the expense of other nations.

  • When you actually look at the motor of the world economy,

  • it cannot move forward

  • unless there is trade between the different countries.

  • And any nation that would become protectionist over the next few years

  • would deprive itself of the chance of getting the benefits

  • of growth in the world economy.

  • So, you've got to have a healthy sense of patriotism;

  • that's absolutely important.

  • But you've got to realize that this world has changed fundamentally,

  • and the problems we have cannot be solved by one nation and one nation alone.

  • CA: Well, indeed.

  • But what do you do when the two come into conflict

  • and you're forced to make a decision

  • that either is in Britain's interest, or the interest of Britons,

  • or citizens elsewhere in the world?

  • GB: Well I think we can persuade people

  • that what is necessary for Britain's long-term interests,

  • what is necessary for America's long-term interests,

  • is proper engagement with the rest of the world,

  • and taking the action that is necessary.

  • There is a great story, again, told about Richard Nixon.

  • 1958, Ghana becomes independent,

  • so it is just over 50 years ago.

  • Richard Nixon goes to represent the United States government

  • at the celebrations for independence in Ghana.

  • And it's one of his first outings as Vice President to an African country.

  • He doesn't quite know what to do,

  • so he starts going around the crowd

  • and starts talking to people

  • and he says to people in this rather unique way,

  • "How does it feel to be free?"

  • And he's going around, "How does it feel to be free?"

  • "How does it feel to be free?"

  • And then someone says,

  • "How should I know? I come from Alabama."

  • (Laughter)

  • And that was the 1950s.

  • Now, what is remarkable

  • is that civil rights in America were achieved in the 1960s.

  • But what is equally remarkable

  • is socioeconomic rights in Africa have not moved forward very fast

  • even since the age of colonialism.

  • And yet, America and Africa have got a common interest.

  • And we have got to realize that if we don't link up

  • with those people who are sensible voices and democratic voices in Africa,

  • to work together for common causes,

  • then the danger of Al Qaeda and related groups

  • making progress in Africa is very big.

  • So, I would say that what seems sometimes

  • to be altruism, in relation to Africa, or in relation to developing countries,

  • is more than that.

  • It is enlightened self-interest for us to work with other countries.

  • And I would say that national interest

  • and, if you like, what is the global interest

  • to tackle poverty and climate change

  • do, in the long run, come together.

  • And whatever the short-run price for taking action on climate change

  • or on security, or taking action to provide opportunities

  • for people for education,

  • these are prices that are worth paying

  • so that you build a stronger global society

  • where people feel able to feel comfortable with each other

  • and are able to communicate with each other in such a way

  • that you can actually build stronger links between different countries.

  • CA: I still just want to draw out on this issue.

  • So, you're on vacation at a nice beach,

  • and word comes through that there's been a massive earthquake

  • and that there is a tsunami advancing on the beach.

  • One end of the beach, there is a house containing a family of five Nigerians.

  • And at the other end of the beach there is a single Brit.

  • You have time to --

  • (Laughter)

  • you have time to alert one house.

  • What do you do?

  • (Laughter)

  • GB: Modern communications.

  • (Applause)

  • Alert both.

  • (Applause)

  • I do agree that my responsibility

  • is first of all to make sure that people in our country are safe.

  • And I wouldn't like anything that is said today to suggest

  • that I am diminishing the importance of the responsibility

  • that each leader has for their own country.

  • But I'm trying to suggest that there is a huge opportunity

  • open to us that was never open to us before.

  • But the power to communicate across borders

  • allows us to organize the world in a different way.

  • And I think, look at the tsunami, it's a classic example.

  • Where was the early warning systems?

  • Where was the world acting together

  • to deal with the problems that they knew arose

  • from the potential for earthquakes,

  • as well as the potential for climate change?

  • And when the world starts to work together,

  • with better early-warning systems,

  • you can deal with some of these problems in a better way.

  • I just think we're not seeing, at the moment,

  • the huge opportunities open to us by the ability of people to cooperate

  • in a world where either there was isolationism before

  • or there was limited alliances based on convenience

  • which never actually took you to deal with some of the central problems.

  • CA: But I think this is the frustration

  • that perhaps a lot of people have, like people in the audience here,

  • where we love the kind of language that you're talking about.

  • It is inspiring.

  • A lot of us believe that that has to be the world's future.

  • And yet, when the situation changes,

  • you suddenly hear politicians talking as if,

  • you know, for example, the life of one American soldier

  • is worth countless numbers of Iraqi civilians.

  • When the pedal hits the metal,

  • the idealism can get moved away.

  • I'm just wondering whether you can see that changing over time,

  • whether you see in Britain

  • that there are changing attitudes,

  • and that people are actually more supportive

  • of the kind of global ethic that you talk about.

  • GB: I think every religion, every faith,

  • and I'm not just talking here to people of faith or religion --

  • it has this global ethic at the center of its credo.

  • And whether it's Jewish or whether it's Muslim

  • or whether it's Hindu, or whether it's Sikh,

  • the same global ethic is at the heart of each of these religions.

  • So, I think you're dealing with something

  • that people instinctively see as part of their moral sense.

  • So you're building on something that is not pure self-interest.

  • You're building on people's ideas and values --

  • that perhaps they're candles that burn very dimly on certain occasions.

  • But it is a set of values that cannot, in my view, be extinguished.

  • Then the question is,

  • how do you make that change happen?

  • How do you persuade people that it is in their interest

  • to build strong --

  • After the Second World War,

  • we built institutions, the United Nations,

  • the IMF, the World Bank,

  • the World Trade Organization, the Marshall Plan.

  • There was a period in which people talked about an act of creation,

  • because these institutions were so new.

  • But they are now out of date. They don't deal with the problems.

  • You can't deal with the environmental problem

  • through existing institutions.

  • You can't deal with the security problem in the way that you need to.

  • You can't deal with the economic and financial problem.

  • So we have got to rebuild our global institutions,

  • build them in a way that is suitable to the challenges of this time.

  • And I believe that if you look at the biggest challenge we face,

  • it is to persuade people to have the confidence

  • that we can build a truly global society

  • with the institutions that are founded on these rules.

  • So, I come back to my initial point.

  • Sometimes you think things are impossible.

  • Nobody would have said 50 years ago

  • that apartheid would have gone in 1990,

  • or that the Berlin wall would have fallen at the turn of the '80s and '90s,

  • or that polio could be eradicated,

  • or perhaps 60 years ago,

  • nobody would have said a man could gone to the Moon.

  • All these things have happened.

  • By tackling the impossible, you make the impossible possible.

  • CA: And we have had a speaker who said that very thing,

  • and swallowed a sword right after that, which was quite dramatic.

  • (Laughter)

  • GB: Followed my sword and swallow.

  • CA: But, surely a true global ethic is for someone to say,

  • "I believe that the life of every human on the planet

  • is worth the same, equal consideration,

  • regardless of nationality and religion."

  • And you have politicians who have --

  • you're elected.

  • In a way, you can't say that.

  • Even if, as a human being, you believe that,

  • you can't say that.

  • You're elected for Britain's interests.

  • GB: We have a responsibility to protect.

  • I mean look, 1918, the Treaty of Versailles,

  • and all the treaties before that,

  • the Treaty of Westphalia and everything else,

  • were about protecting the sovereign right of countries

  • to do what they want.

  • Since then, the world has moved forward,

  • partly as a result of what happened with the Holocaust,

  • and people's concern about the rights of individuals

  • within territories where they need protection,

  • partly because of what we saw in Rwanda,

  • partly because of what we saw in Bosnia.

  • The idea of the responsibility to protect

  • all individuals who are in situations where they are at humanitarian risk

  • is now being established as a principle which governs the world.

  • So, while I can't automatically say

  • that Britain will rush to the aid of any citizen of any country, in danger,

  • I can say that Britain is in a position

  • where we're working with other countries

  • so that this idea that you have a responsibility

  • to protect people who are victims of either genocide or humanitarian attack,

  • is something that is accepted by the whole world.

  • Now, in the end, that can only be achieved

  • if your international institutions work well enough to be able to do so.

  • And that comes back to what the future role of the United Nations,

  • and what it can do, actually is.

  • But, the responsibility to protect is a new idea that is, in a sense,

  • taken over from the idea of self-determination

  • as the principle governing the international community.

  • CA: Can you picture, in our lifetimes,

  • a politician ever going out on a platform

  • of the kind of full-form global ethic, global citizenship?

  • And basically saying, "I believe that all people across the planet

  • have equal consideration,

  • and if in power we will act in that way.

  • And we believe that the people of this country

  • are also now global citizens and will support that ethic."

  • GB: Is that not what we're doing in the debate about climate change?

  • We're saying that you cannot solve

  • the problem of climate change in one country;

  • you've got to involve all countries.

  • You're saying that you must, and you have a duty to help those countries