Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair came to campus Monday to offer his perspective on international conflicts tied to globalization.
University President Richard Levin moderated the conversation, entitled “Global Crises: The Way Forward,” which also featured former President of Mexico Ernesto Zedillo, now the director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization. Blair and Zedillo questioned the sustainability of policies addressing international issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the European debt crisis and international environmental policies. Blair said he thinks connections caused by globalization can be beneficial but also have the potential to fracture societies unable to cope with diversity.
“The types of homogenous societies there used to be are being replaced by societies that are very diverse,” he said. “Over half of the conflicts today in the world have a religious dimension to them, and so it is very difficult for different people to interact with each other.”
Blair said globalization allows societies to understand better one another through increased Internet connectivity and physical accessibility. But globalization can also result in conflicts stemming from religious intolerance, he said, such as those that have arisen in Burma, Blair said. Half a million citizens have been displaced due to government injustice and escalated violence between the Burmese Buddhist and Muslim militants.
Concerning the Arab Spring, Zedillo and Blair both said nations should support democratic elements of the revolutionary regimes to encourage the governments to evolve into full-fledged democracies.
Both leaders were optimistic that newly re-elected President Barack Obama would stabilize the U.S. economy, which would benefit the global economy as well as that of the eurozone.
“Right now he has a great opportunity, but he has to have a plan — a very comprehensive plan — and he has to swallow a lot of discomfort within the next few weeks or months,” Zedillo said. “This is the moment of truth to get this country a viable sustainable program to recover its economic vigor.”
Zedillo also said he hopes world leaders will address environmental issues, adding that Obama could further commit to reducing pollution associated with climate change and energy dependence.
Blair said he aims to mitigate the problems associated with globalization through the Faith Foundation, a non-profit he started in 2008. The foundation sends teams to up to 20 countries working to foster mutual religious understanding by partnering schools with children of different faiths across the globe, he said. The group has also partnered with Yale and other universities to conduct research and involve future leaders in identifying new solutions to these issues, he added. Blair co-taught a seminar on faith and globalization from 2008 until last spring as part of the foundation’s Faith and Globalization Initiative at Yale.
Natalie Langburd ’14 said the event offered her new perspectives on the state of international politics and helped her understand the impact of U.S. policies.
“He did a great job showing how — despite some policies not playing out as perfectly as planned — we should keep in perspective the policies that are working,” she said. “It’s important that we’re aware of these global issues.”
Blair served as prime minister from 1997 to 2007.