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Toward a New 'New World Order'

SINCE the victory in the Gulf war, President Bush has often referred to the coalition effort as part of an emerging "new world order." Yet Mr. Bush's vision is based on narrow, traditional assumptions that see world order in terms of military security, balance-of-power mechanisms, and multilateral police forces. Virtually all countries, in fact, see their "security needs" mostly in military terms, and all measure national "progress" by the growth of gross national products (GNP). The two measurements are not unrelated; GNP was introduced during World War II to focus on military production.

A lasting peace, let alone a new world order, will require rethinking our definitions of security, progress, and development - stretching them beyond the growth of GNP.

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New definitions of a new world order must include security from environmental pollution, poverty, hunger, and disease; secure work based on a well-run economy; a sound infrastructure of amenities such as roads, railways, and public buildings; and security from crime and illegal drugs.

Now is the time for debate on the ways of shifting the world's priorities and redirecting the current $1 trillion a year spent on weapons toward investments in the areas of health, education, and environmental restoration.

The means for such a shift are at hand, since it is widely recognized that global arms trafficking threatens the security of all countries. Bush has ordered a tightening of United States arms sales restrictions, and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney of Canada noted "the irony" that most of the weapons used in the Gulf were supplied by the five nations of the United Nations Security Council.

Recognition of such hypocrisy may provide the impetus to implement a UN Commission proposal: to levy a UN-collected tax on global arms sales and shipments and earmark the proceeds for UNICEF and the world's children.

The same GNP accounting methods that over-value arms production set no value on other critical concerns - such as the well-being of our children and of the environment on which their futures will depend. Even in a country deemed rich by GNP standards, one-fifth of all American children live in poverty; 37 million Americans have no health insurance.

Specific planks of a comprehensive new world order are being shaped by the debate between northern and southern hemisphere countries over definitions of wealth and progress. The concept of "sustainable development" is emerging. It includes a longer-term view - development to meet the needs of present generations without foreclosing on the ability of succeeding generations to meet their own needs.

Such a new world order was articulated last September by 71 heads of state - including President Bush, Prime Minister Mulroney, Britain's then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and other Gulf coalition leaders at the World Summit for Children. Any new order that does not focus on our children's futures is not worthy of the name.

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Summit participants drafted an "action plan" to address the "quiet catastrophe" of 40,000 child deaths each day from malnutrition and disease, pledging to reduce this rate by one-third by the year 2000. The goals in the plan were deemed feasible and affordable at a price tag of $2.5 billion annually (the cost of US cigarette advertising each year).

Other elements of a more comprehensive new world order that merit further debate include:

Strengthening the UN and supporting a permanent peacekeeping force, with treaty and border-surveillance by satellite.

A global population credit bank to make credits available to any country achieving replacement fertility rates and stabilizing its population.

A global environmental fund to make available to countries adopting environmental-protection standards credits for sustainable forms of development and "green" technologies.

Global energy-efficiency credit and a development bank to facilitate loans, investments, joint ventures, and public infrastructure funds to promote efficient energy systems in industry, housing, agriculture, and transportation.

Extending UN treaties and protocols on protection of human rights to include rights of workers and consumers and rights of political participation.

However, as Middle East combatants rush to replenish their arsenals and upgrade their weapons, it is clear that the real winners in the Gulf could be the world's arms merchants.

Alternative visions of a new world order are needed more than ever, and they must include efforts to correct GNP and its narrow view of progress. Required are new indicators that remove biases toward military production, subtract social and environmental costs, and focus attention on domestic needs and infrastructure investments, such as the UN's Human Development Index (HDI) and my own Country Futures Indicators (CFI).

As these new score cards begin to show a clearer accounting of costs and benefits of investments, nations may move closer to sustainable development. At last our children may regain their birthright and the Earth may receive its due.

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