It’s almost too obvious to say that countries benefit from working together, rather than simply in their own narrow national interests.
We can see the benefits of cooperation in our everyday lives, when families, neighbours, friends and colleagues help each other towards a particular aim. And it stands to reason that nations with common concerns can share a burden and work together towards better outcomes.
With the Brexit negotiations rumbling on, it’s becoming clear just how entangled our institutions are with the European Union but also what an extraordinary example of cooperation the EU is, whether or not you feel membership is to the UK’s advantage.
In security and medicine, Europeans share vital information with each other to promote our safety and our health. In trade and currency, they constantly do business under an agreed set of rules. Indeed, many of the world’s largest companies are multinational.
And as George Soros, one of the most successful investors in the world, said: “By working together, countries can achieve so much more than they can alone.”
The battle against climate change brought about the Paris Accord of 2015 in which nearly 200 countries accepted a framework to tackle greenhouse gases for the sake of the whole planet.
Admittedly, it has been undermined by the withdrawal of the United States of America, a significant contributor of carbon dioxide emissions, but it remains to be seen if America will so prioritise business over the environment beyond the presidency of Donald Trump.
Some believe the agreement doesn’t go far enough, but the fact that almost every nation in the world has signed up to it represents a solid foundation for improving humanity’s effect on global temperatures. Now we’re working together, almost anything is possible as we aim to end the fossil fuel era.
Another encouraging development has seen the EU working closely with the United Nations to improve the lives of millions of people around the globe. Their focus on sustainable development has helped people get access to education and health services at the same time as the two giant organisations focus on poverty reduction.
In 2014-15, tens of millions of people in 49 countries received food assistance from the joint efforts of the EU and UN to alleviate hunger for victims of war and famine. They also use their partnership to help people in Iraq, the Central African Republic, Thailand, Ukraine and Colombia integrate human rights into their development plans.
But these huge blocks are not alone in trying to find ways to help heal the world. Charities and NGOs also work together to relieve global suffering.
For example, an organisation called The Funding Network provides crowdfunding events for innovative global charities to effect social change and enable healthier, fairer and more sustainable societies. Over the last 15 years, they have funded and helped a wide variety of charities including those supporting global community health initiatives.
Healthy business also provides a framework for cooperation between countries. It can be tough being neighbours with such an economic powerhouse as China, but when they use their vast resources to build infrastructure and connectivity, everybody involved benefits. The Road and Belt Initiative links Asia and Europe, which in turn will help the trade routes of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).
China has invested billions in the infrastructure of Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Singapore, which, while it will help Chinese business concerns reach their markets, is undoubtedly a major upgrade for businesses in the recipient nations. Cooperation and mutual assistance can achieve so much more than barriers and conflict.
Natural disasters often bring out the best in international cooperation, with worldwide assistance offered in times of crisis.
The Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004 was triggered by one of the biggest earthquakes we have seen, and it costed over 200,000 lives, with Indonesia worst hit.
In the wake of the disaster, Australia, India, Japan and the United States formed a coalition to coordinate aid efforts, with over 50 countries pledging funds to help victims, before handing over responsibility to the United Nations.
The Clinton Global Initiative was one of the groups involved in disaster relief in that tragedy. Former President Clinton stated: “We still have much more in common and can accomplish much more by working together than by knocking each other down.”
The truth is, as countries, we can’t get away from each other. We’d be better getting on with getting on.