Global disorder and the limits of 'dialogue'
Third World Quarterly
691 - 710
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Since 2001 (designated as the UN Year of Dialogue Among Civilisations) several initiatives have been developed as a means of resolving problems whose causes have been ascribed, primarily by Samuel Huntington and Bernard Lewis, to civilisational difference. This article questions responses to the 'clash of civilisations' thesis which seem to accept the postulates on which it is based. It suggests that while dialogue is an indispensable tool of social cohesion, the source of many of the problems that pose a continuing threat to regional and global order is not 'civilisational difference' but the failure of governments to comply with international laws and conventions they have sworn to uphold. The explanation that 'civilisational difference' is the root cause of global disorder allows them to sidestep responsibility for the consequences of their own policies. Manipulation of the United Nations at the level of the Security Council is further evidence that the answer to global problems lies in redressing the failings of an entrenched world system that is based far more on power and state perceptions of self-interest than justice. The clearest evidence of structural weakness in the international system is to be found in the Middle East, where the UN Secretary-General's former special representative to the 'peace process', Alvaro de Soto, has drawn attention to the disjunction between public declarations of good intentions and high-level manipulation of this 'process' by powerful actors from behind the scenes. The article concludes that where dialogue is not the problem, it cannot be the solution.