20 Nov 2013

Text of the Speech delivered by I&B Minister Shri Manish Tewari at the 3rd Asian Forum on Global Governance

 Shri Manish Tewari
“I read with great interest the outstanding programme that has been designed for and delivered to you over the past ten days. I have no doubt that ORF and the ZEIT stiftung would have created an immaculate platform for each of you to engage with, interactive on, and be provoked by. 

I would encourage you to take back these learnings and hopefully they will benefit you at every stage of the bright career that lies in front of you. I have engaged with the AFGG since its inception and have the pleasure of meeting each of the young leaders that has passed through this programme. Yet I never cease to be amazed by the competence and quality of the CVs I read, and am reassured by the thought that the future of this world is in your hands. 

What I would then like to propose is that each of us must commit to being responsible for how the world manages itself in the days ahead. Most of you here are under thirty five and have about three decades of an active professional life ahead of you and therefore your stakes are much higher than anyone else in this room

You owe it to yourselves, your families, your communities, and your people. Your commitment to an equitable, sustainable and peaceful world must be unimpeachable and I would hope in the last ten days you would have come across some ideas, some thoughts and some experiences of others that would enable you to deliver on this front. 

Since I have the luxury of being the last speaker, let me start off by taking a contrarian stand on the theme of the event itself. And say that what you describe as gridlock in the programme, as paralysis in your analyses, I describe as vibrant democracy and pluralism. 

What you see as a rudderless world, a listless world without direction, I see as one with diverse and vibrant voices. 

What you see as governance failure I see as the inability of government to comprehend and then respond in time to the contemporary societies that we seek to serve. 

What you see as incapacities and inefficiencies, I see as frameworks that are no longer relevant to our daily lives. 

So my proposition now is that each of us must understand that the paternalistic governance frameworks of the twentieth century be they national, regional or global are obsolete and inadequate. 

Technology has given voice to the voiceless. Transport has allowed people to migrate like never before. Cyberspace allows communities to inhabit territories which were inaccessible.This basically means we will have more voices emerge more rapidly, louder voices, demanding, seeking, contesting and suggesting. Communication has never been easy and conversations will never be more difficult. 

This loud pluralism perhaps frightens each one of us. And therefore we explain this away as a gridlock or a dead lock. 

All over the world there is no dearth of legislation and laws. Despite your commitments to your governments, to your colleges, to your companies, to your institutions, I would urge you to engage your communities as well. To work with them, to assist them, to provoke them if need be, to engage with them. It could be through charity, it could be through sharing your expertise, it could be through mobilising opinions, voices and support for change orit could be through creating frameworks to help governments. 

We are a world of seven billion people, so, we are also a world with an equal number of challenges, and a world with an equal number of opportunities, and most of these are at the community level. It will be leadership at the community level that will differentiate successful societies from ossified and failed ones. 

So here I would like to propose that gridlock is in fact a manifestation of the lack of leadership. 

You need not bet on politicians, you need not bet on politics, you need not bet on corporations, you need not bet on entrepreneurs, but you cannot - not bet on people. People is what this is all about and it is people who will find and resolve the knots we find ourselves in. 

Having spent considerable time at student politics and at youth level politics, and at national level politics, I would certainly concedethat the urge to be a creator and contributor develops and is created in the early days of any individual`s journey. 

This age group that you represent are the formative years of leadership, - do not let this opportunity pass you by. Do not be overly deferential to age and wisdom. You need to challenge hierarchies, contest narratives and upturn dogmas, challenge conventions. If these extant systems were so brilliant, apt,cogent and relevant we wouldn`t find ourselves in the state we are ....where we sek new answers to old questions. 

I do not believe that true leaders bring about incremental change. In fact the whole point of leadership is to change the whole discourse and bring about a paradigm shift in the way things are done. 

You people have to discover these new paradigms, this is a disruptive process but you must not be afraid of this disruption. You must dare to differ, you must be a heretic, because as well all know new thought starts off as heresy and ends up as dogma. 

There can be no change without disruption, no change without heresy. And no leadership that does not disrupt. That is management and not leadership

I cannot give you a template here, because true leadership does not come from preconceived notions. This is a path you will have to carve for yourself. 

But I can give you an example - India, a country that has benefitted from this kind of disruptive leadership, a leadership that dared to differ. 

In an era when violent revolution and war were the norm, India deployed non-violence - a tactic that was derided in its infancy. 

Those of you who work in NGOs and other institutions must realise that you serve the people and you don`t necessarily serve your self-interests, which become unsustainable.

There is a fine line between a creator and an activist. We seek creators not activists. Each one of us was born an activist - from the moment of our birth we cry out loud... now is the time to grow up, stop crying and become creators. 

So let us now look at what leadership is, what leadership implies and what are the forms of leadership this world demands from us? I would for the purpose of this address, very broadly categorise three levels of leadership. 

First we need global leaders, citizens of this world, not removed from the realities of their nations, their provinces or their communities, but those who can see the congruence between these and what the world wants. What we seek is people who can see through the fog and navigate a straight line that connects their people`s aspiration with the demands of stable and prosperous world. To be able to connect the dots easily, simply and sustainably. 

The second type of leadership we require is at the national level. Essentially national leaders who can shed populism in the dance of democracy, or those who can induce rationality in autocracies and theocracies. We need leaders at that level who can see national interest....leaders who can link the national interest to the good of the world, people who can see that what is good for the world is good for Germany and what is good for the world is good for India. 

Finally and most importantly we need community leadership. ...because this is probably the most neglected and dying leadership of all. And let me emphasise that lack of leadership at the level of the community, will undo leadership at every other level. Community leadership therefore is the most vital, but community leadership is also the most scarce. 

Now what do I mean by community leadership? In the age of cosmopolitanism, in the age of globalisation, communities are dying. The evolution of mankind was supported by strong families and communities. 

I would just like to caveat that this is not an advertorial for catholic family values, or Hindu joint family set-up in the Indian system. Far from it, this is pragmatism. Philanthropy, care, aid and social security, all these emanated at the level of communities. 

And we see all over the world that while at one level, the globe is aggregating, at another level communities are fragmenting. So there is no dichotomy between strong communities and a united world. 

Community leadership therefore is where I think the real solutions lie. How you use your water, how you price resources, how you treat women, children, the vulnerable and the weak. These are all answers we need to find at the micro level, at the level of the community, of the town. 

We live in a new and still emerging world. And what we are unfamiliar with scares us. Many of us in government, the private sector, civil society and media have never seen vibrancy and plurality and diversity of opinion, thought and action like what we see today. 

This is not paralysis this is a comprehension gap. And the sooner we are able to understanding this new operating environment, the sooner we will be able to adjust the form and format of how governments and citizens engage with the emerging realities. Status Quo will never be the answer and I would suggest change is what we need to engage with. 

So how do we redefine and reimagine governance? How do we rearticulate democracy? And here I would suggest that the solution is in fact simple. Not easy but simple. 

Like always like in each century that has preceded this one the protagonist for this change will be the individual. We seek leadership from each individual in this room and from others around the world. 

Leadership is the only basis for re-comprehending this new world, for reimagining governance, for reshaping engagement and of signing a new social contract between people and governments. 

And therefore this programme and this setting is about leadership. When the organisers picked each one of you, they were betting on the leader in you. And if my understanding of this programme is accurate, they expect a network of leaders and they expect new forms of leadership with creative solutions and creative ideas to flow from this network of leaders. 

If they have been able to catalyse this translation or accelerate the process of translation this programme would have served its purpose. 

I`m sure countries and government around the world would be only too happy to see this new age and new generation of leadership emerge....shedding the dogmas of the past, going beyond zero sum games, going beyond north-south, east-west discourses while absorbing diversity, common interests, differences with a certain pragmatism that the 21st century compels us to imbibe. 

For those of you in the sphere of International Relations I would venture, that foreign policy that does not take into account domestic politics becomes unsustainable. 

When domestic policies do not reflect domestic realties, it becomes unsustainable, and when domestic realities are not in consonance with capabilities and resources that are available, societies become unsustainable. 

So those of you who work in foreign policy must take into account the national priorities and national aspirations, those of you who work in national governments must understand the needs and requirements the people. 

And those of you who work in companies and corporations must realise that your success and your prosperity will be unsustainable if it cannot be linked to grassroots and organic economic existences. 

The Mahatma and India`s first prime minister - Jawaharlal Nehru, chose pathways and modes of government that were unique in the newly liberated colonies. If we have been able to lift three hundred million people out of poverty and send a mission to mars it is because, of the leadership that shaped this countries destiny in its formative years. `

India now like other countries again stands at a cusp. We seek new ideas, we seek new solutions. We seek them from you and from within from our young leaders. We have heard you over these last ten days and we will learn from you. 

I must congratulate the Public Diplomacy Division of the Ministry of External Affairs for their support to this venture which is truly outstanding. The fact that they don`t meet you till the last day is a testimony to their commitment, on supporting leadership without agendas and wit out conditions. I must again congratulate the organisers - ORF and ZEIT who have truly created a formidable leadership programme. 

I must also congratulate Shashi for his vision and leadership and dedication in remaining involved and giving the Asian Forum a truly distinct character, a contemporary agenda and a peerless curriculum. 

I hope some of you are going to take this opportunity to travel a bit - to see India to experience its diversity, to see some of its struggles, experience some of its riches - both in nature and in society - in its art, its cuisine, its culture. I would urge you to pack your bags and experience this very interesting and warm country, or at least come back to India again -soon.

Let me conclude by saying that this is your home, you have a family here, and we look forward to welcoming you back - India after all is an idea and not geography....keep this idea with you and when you can this geography will welcome you again. 

God Speed for those traveling and my warmest wishes to each one of you for the future.” 

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