Global Interdependence and National Sovereignty

Chaired by Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo
11 March 1990
Lisbon, Portugal


The world is at a crucial turning point in its history. Behind us: forty years of cold war, superpower confrontation and ever-burgeoning military arsenals. Before us: the chance to move towards a new era of peace, co-operation and dialogue. But this new era will only begin if we take positive and concrete steps to seize the opportunity for change. It is in the interest of all mankind that the changes that we have so far witnessed should not be reversed.

The management of this era will require new instruments, new forms of leadership and a new definition of the interrelationship between national and global interests.

Global interdependence increasingly affects all aspects of human activity. As such, it is a reality which can no longer be ignored. Yet approaches to problem solving remain largely focused at the national level. The concept of national sovereignty, the inviolability of borders and the autonomy of the nation-state, encapsulated as they are by international law, now function against a backdrop of ever-shrinking national autonomy. Unilateral national instruments cannot solve the growing number of global problems which confront us. Alone, the nation-state cannot cope.

To ensure stability for the twenty-first century, effective and co-operative steps must be taken to curb environmental degradation; to redress both the persistent economic imbalances between North and South and the financial disequilibria among industrialized countries; to stabilize population growth ; to eradicate absolute poverty; and to reduce consumer demand in developed nations.

Managing interdependence will require the establishment of a new - essentially holistic - global order encompassing the areas of peace and security, the global economy, the population- environment-development nexus and human rights. This order will be characterized by the exercise of delegated sovereignty based on the principle that decisions should be taken at the lowest possible level at which they can be effective. This will entail the strengthening of existing, or the creation of new, institutions. Religious leaders, scientists, educators, non-governmental organizations and the cultural community have a central role to play. But, ultimately, the global order will depend on the understanding of the citizens of all nations and on the commitment, quality and accountability of political leaders. Education is vital to the promotion of global citizenship.


The following actions will be required:

Peace and Security

a) An early conclusion of further arms reduction agreements.

b) The establishment of international agreements to limit and control arms production and trade, particularly in the field of aircraft and ballistic missiles.

c) The radical reduction of defence expenditures.

d) Agreement to utilize and strengthen the United Nations Security Council and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE).

The Global Economy

a) The correction of the economic imbalances between the North and the South through the elimination of the debt burden, improvement in the terms of trade, and access to knowledge and skills of developed countries.

b) The correction of financial imbalances between the United States on the one hand, and the Federal Republic of Germany and Japan on the other.

c) The development of a system of international financial law leading to the establishment of a regulatory authority for financial markets and the international harmonization of rules governing the operations, financial transactions, social policies and practices of transnational corporations.

d) The restoration of a system of stable and co-ordinated exchange rates.

e) The acceptance of the principle of binding targets for Official Development Assistance (ODA) flows to developing countries linked to the progressive reduction of recipients' military expenditures.

f) The conclusion and full application of international agreements among all those countries involved to check the growth, spread, trafficking and use of drugs.


a) The recognition that population is intimately linked to economic development and the availability of resources.

b) The stabilisation of global population in the twenty-first century at eight to ten billion. A doubling of the resources allocated to international population assistance programmes for contraception, accompanied by a programme of education for birth control.


a) The implementation of the agreement reached at the Hague in April 1989 for the establishment of a High Authority to set an internationally binding policy framework with regulatory powers.

b) The convening of an international conference to adopt a convention on global warming with binding commitments.

c) The creation of regional institutions to manage specific issues such as deforestation, shared water resources etc.

d) The adoption of a convention on transboundary co-operation in environmental matters.

e) The recognition that toxic wastes should be disposed of in the country of origin and should not be sent to developing countries or dumped at sea.

f) Strict application of the 'polluter pays principle' at the national and the international level.

g) The establishment and progressive reduction of targets for fossil fuel emissions by the major industrialized countries; the establishment of a monitoring system by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the publication of its results.

h) The creation of a facility to assist developing countries in the development and implementation of environmental programmes.


a) The launching of a massive international research programme into the development of renewable energy sources - in particular nuclear fusion, solar energy (photovoltaics), and geothermal energy.

b) The intensification of efforts, co-ordinated by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to find solutions for safe and stable nuclear waste disposal and safe procedures for the decommissioning of nuclear reactors.

Human rights

a) The promotion of the democratic process and international recognition of the fundamental principle of free access and unimpeded movement of observers in national elections.

b) The international recognition and protection of the right to individuals to monitor their Government's observation of human rights.

c) The ratification of existing human rights agreements, including the Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which provides for the right of individuals, non-governmental organizations and governments to submit petitions to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

d) The incorporation into international law of the right of humanitarian assistance i.e. the right of humanitarian organizations to assist, the right to request assistance and the right to receive assistance.

e) The extension of international law to cover United Nations-approved international sanctions against human rights violations.