The talk by Boris Tadić focuses on African issues as they are becoming strategically important for the future of mankind and for the sustainability of global policy. By Boris Tadić



Boris Tadić



Former president of Serbia, Boris Tadić delivered a keynote speech at the Kigali Global Dialogue in Kigali, Rwanda. Below is the full text of his speech, lightly edited.

« Thank you and I am really honoured to be here with you and to deliver my thoughts in this prestigious forum Kigali Dialogue, which is organized by the brilliant Centre for Strategic thinking from India ORF and also Centre for New Economic Diplomacy.  I am here on behalf of Club de Madrid. This is an alliance of former leaders, which means that we are old and experienced people and we are able to understand better everything that is going on so that we can make suggestions towards avoiding obstacles and problems in the future. I was working in the Ministry of Defence and creating new institutions in Serbia post-war for civil control of armed forces and intelligence. I was working as a minister of telecommunication and trying to bring new technological developments in my country and finally I became President of my country. »

Finding solutions to identity issues when countries recover from tragedies

« I am very proud to be here during the 25 of Rwanda after the horrible events that happened in 1994. I specifically underline that because I am coming from former Yugoslavia.  In the history of mankind, our two countries Yugoslavia and Rwanda have been mentioned as the worst scenarios in the international reign. Rwanda had more than a million victims, we had more than 200,000 victims and I am not comparing that. Every single case is really horrible.  But why I am saying this is because I am trying to share with you the experience about how to live with horrible memories, how to find solutions for yourself, how to find solutions for a better life not only for you but for your opponents, how to find solutions for identity issues, and for the many challenges we are faced with. »

The world order that has been existing for many decades after the Second World War has been ignoring some of the crucial elements of human existence.

Does the Western world understand the issue of identity?

« The world order that has been existing for many decades after the Second World War has been ignoring some of the crucial elements of human existence. For example, the issue of identity, which is becoming one of the most sensitive issues now.  When we were involved in the war in former Yugoslavia, no one who came from the Western countries was able even to understand the importance of the issue of identity. »

Not one superpower but maybe five - that’s the reality

« Things are changing so fast. We are living on the crossroads and things are totally unpredictable. Whoever is trying to make a good and solid prediction is probably going to fail. Why I am saying this? At a pre-Brexit and pre-US elections forum that included the former president of the European Commission, former presidents of different countries and decision makers, when I was taking into consideration possibility of Brexit as an outcome of a referendum in Great Britain, all of them said this is not possible. It happened. After Brexit, we have been facing new challenges and that also happened with United States election.  When I said it is possible to see Donald Trump win elections, all of them said no, Hillary Clinton is going to be new president of United States.  This is very interesting.  I met only two people even in United States who have said that Trump is going to win elections before elections happened, which means things are really unpredictable and we don’t know today how many surprises we are going to be faced with in the next few years. 

« But what we have to understand is no longer a situation in which we will have one superpower or two superpowers.  We have China as an inevitable superpower and in next ten years maybe we will have also India as a superpower. I don’t know whether Europe is going to be a superpower.  This is up to European Union leaders.  But if we are going to have five superpowers in next 10 years in the world, it is very important to make architecture that is going to be capable to absorb the tensions we are going to have in this scenario. It is not that difficult to predict a scenario--taking into account economic capacities and intellectual capacity, scientific development, impact in digital arena—in which we can see European Union and India as superpowers in the next five or ten years. »

Now we are asking ourselves whether we have the capacity to produce food, a more secure and better environment to face the challenges of climate change for 10 billion people.

Providing for 10 billion people - the next big challenge

« We are now facing many tensions and challenges. Some of them must be considered seriously. The issue of population has and continues to increase.  In the next few decades we will be faced with 10 billion people living on the earth. When I was born it was two billion people. From two billion to 10 billion, within the span of one normal life. I remember when I was a very young boy, 10 years old, my father was a philosopher and he was speaking with a Herbert Marcuse and Erich Fromm and they mentioned that in the next four decades we will be faced with 7 billion people living on the earth; that they are not going to exist in that time but I am going to exist.

« But in that time we didn’t have the technological capacity to produce food for 7 billion people and they said this young man little Boris, your son, is going to be faced with a real challenge on how to provide food for himself because we don’t have such capacities.  Now we are asking ourselves whether we have the capacity to produce food, a more secure and better environment to face the challenges of climate change for 10 billion people. »

Limited resources, rising pollution

« Resources are limited and we are specifically facing some problems in agriculture because of phosphates that we cannot replace with something different. I am coming from China, a country which was facing a huge problem of pollution. When I participated in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, we couldn’t see the sky. That is exactly what happened in Beijing for many years.  Nowadays we see a real improvement in China and it is very important news for everyone because China is a small factory of the world and we are dependent on Chinese improvement in technological dimension. »

We have an increase of tensions because of economic policies which are providing better conditions for the richest people than for the poorest people. I think this is one of the most sensitive and dangerous challenges we are facing today.

Economic policies that serve the few create dangers for us all

« Inequality, new challenge. Forty two people, the richest people in the world, are having more property than 3.7 billion people. Is it sustainable?  No.  Is it bringing new tensions? For sure.  Do we have any solution for such tensions?  No. We have an increase of tensions because of economic policies which are providing better conditions for the richest people than for the poorest people. I think this is one of the most sensitive and dangerous challenges we are facing today. »

Digital technology

« I am talking frequently with the scientists and the people involved in the digitization and software industry and they are saying that technology is going to take over many businesses and can conquer not only businesses, the economic fields and assets but also some countries in the future. For example, the classic banks are not going to exist in next five years. We will be faced with digital banks. What about money, what about transactions and what kind of impact is that going to have for younger generations. Perhaps young people are able to accommodate and adapt better than the elderly. But what about the older generations in that respect? « 

We cannot dismantle social media.  This is not possible. It exists and is going to be even more powerful in the future.

We cannot dismantle social media

« Social media is extremely powerful right now and it is penetrating everywhere.  They are changing the social atmosphere in all countries.  Everyone may comment on everything and as I said, even not very responsible people. But irresponsible people can do a lot of wrong things in a social dialogue and this is a very dangerous situation. But we cannot dismantle social media.  This is not possible. It exists and is going to be even more powerful in the future. »

Tension on the oceans

« Finally, I have to underline once again that things are changing in the global arena.  United States is not going to be the only superpower.  Russia is trying to find a position which is going to be more proper for such an important nuclear power. China is taking a position that it deserved. We are facing a lot of tension especially in terms of transportation across the oceans.  We see tensions in South China Sea and the Pacific is going to become a bigger problem in the future. »

People are faced with stereotypes and fears, and the global leadership is in deep crisis.

Global leadership is in deep crisis

« The European Union is in crisis and it is not able to select the people that are going to take over their institutions or define its borders. (Emmanuel) Macron is saying no enlargement, Angela Merkel is saying yes enlargement and we see that the discussion is not very helpful nowadays.  People are faced with stereotypes and fears, and the global leadership is in deep crisis. »

When comedians take political power, it’s not funny

« No one has trust in politics anymore.  People are expecting totally different people to come to power. We are witnessing the situation in the many European Union countries, all democracies.  Do you remember the previous elections in Italy with Beppe Grillo, a comedian who became very popular?  My country was faced with that too.  Some comedian took the third position of the presidential elections only two years ago. If we are allowing comedians to take over power in in many different countries, maybe that is going to be very funny, but very dangerous.  We see an actor who is right now the president of Ukraine.  Ukraine is a 40 million-strong country in between the European Union and Russia, with disputes between NATO and Russia, a country with a crisis on Crimea, a country where we have war nowadays and we have people that are coming from the arts to take over the role of politicians. This is the world in which we are living. »

We have to be focused on African issues

« Now I have to say that Africa, where we are right now, is from my point of view the future of the world because the population in Africa is the youngest in the world. In Africa, we have a huge population and estimations are that Africa is going to be the continent with the largest population in the world very soon. We have to be very focused on African issues because of huge potential symptoms of population and so many issues that are becoming strategically important for the future of mankind and for the sustainability of global policy. »

Wars are coming overnight, the casualties are coming overnight, and sometimes this is totally unpredictable.  But we have to be capable of understanding that in order to deal with such challenges.

Troubles are coming overnight

« I am now coming down to challenges we face every day.  Let me mention once again the tragic events in our histories because not many people in the international arena are able to understand that troubles are coming overnight. Wars are coming overnight, the casualties are coming overnight, and sometimes this is totally unpredictable.  But we have to be capable of understanding that in order to deal with such challenges. When my friend in Belgrade told me just before starting that war is going to come, I said come on, this is not possible.  He is a Croat, I am a Serb. I am totally sure that not many people in Rwanda were aware that troubles were going to come that soon. Small countries like Rwanda and former Yugoslavia, Serbia Croatia, Bosnia can bring experiences from the many tragedies that they have faced. Not only big powers but small countries are very important as well. »

Without a reconciliation process this there is no possibility of implementing sustainable peace.

Create structures that can defend against global powers

« I think that a union of East African countries is very important and a good answer to global challenges. I am suggesting to leaders to create a format that can defend their economy from some global powers and also create more sustainable solutions for their own countries.  At the same time, I see potential of the European Union (even though we are not very happy with the current situation there). The European Union is a soft power even today, and it can be helpful in terms of creating a better environment for business, for development and the protection of the environment.  This is why I think that cooperation between countries like Rwanda, Kenya, and Uganda with the European Union can be extremely helpful for the citizens who are living in these countries. »

Co-operation between EU and China in Central Asia

« Also I see some prospect of cooperation between the European Union and China in Central Asia.  This is a very good initiative after the Silk Road as the Belt and Road Initiative was announced in Kazakhstan a few years ago, we see new initiative that is coming from the European Union and this is very important strategically speaking because of the importance of Central Asia, which is a soft stomach of global arena traditionally speaking. »

First apology, then reconciliation

« Finally, let me say something about implementing peace in the countries that have been facing atrocities like Rwanda and my country Serbia and the former Yugoslavia. There is no possibility to implement peace without a reconciliation process.  A reconciliation process is not possible without apologies. Without a reconciliation process this there is no possibility of implementing sustainable peace.  We have to help each other.  This process of reconciliation and a very simple gesture of showing not only tolerance but also respect for other entities even for your opponents or enemies in the past will help the situation. That is what I would like to share with my friends from Rwanda, because I fully respect what they have done and because of the opportunity to be here in this fantastic forum. Thank you for your attention and thank you for inviting me. »