Rising Above Differences: Exploring the Significance of International Cooperation

Welcome to the blog post: “Rising Above Differences: Exploring the Significance of International Cooperation”. In this article, we will explore the importance of goodwill in international affairs, and how it can help to bring about a stable and just international order, and ultimately a longed-for peace in the world. It will hopefully provide a spiritual perspective on how countries can rise above differences, encourage international cooperation, and foster better relations.

If we are to move from conflict to greater integration in the world and transcend our differences, then international relations should be driven by progressive leadership, mutual trust, and above all, the dynamic of goodwill. Without these elements, the sound foundations of a balanced and just world order will be difficult to achieve. Today, we fall short of some or all of these requirements in many areas of international relations. But, of course, there are notable exceptions, such as the European Union, in which 27 member-states work together to embody these values in a shared vision of cooperation. The EU is a remarkable experiment in closer alignment between nation-states. Not without its flaws and challenges, the EU recognises that progress lies in consensus, peaceful co-existence, democratic principles in its institutions, accountability, and ultimately further integration. 

Let us take a closer look at the drivers that are essential to international cooperation:

The Dynamic of Goodwill

Right-thinking people, drawn from all religious beliefs or of none, look for a time in which compassion and justice walk hand in hand, in which people can live in dignity, and have the opportunity to lead creative and fulfilling lives. Many would probably agree that there is an innate goodness in human nature, which when tapped and mobilised has the potential to transform human living.

People are familiar with the word ‘goodwill’. They may consider it a worthy sentiment but fail to recognise its impact. In the last century, Alice Bailey, an eminent spiritual philosopher, wrote extensively about its constructive role in human and world affairs in the decades and centuries to come. “Goodwill”, she wrote, “is a dynamic energy which can bring about world changes of a fundamental kind.”1 Goodwill is the catalyst that can ignite human living. Not without good reason has it been described as “one of the deepest human characteristics and our divine inheritance.”2 It transcends race, religion, and social standing. It resides within us all and it is an intrinsic part of our psyche. Such is the evolutionary development of the human family today that it is working out in the lives of many millions in all countries of the world. Sometimes it is deeply hidden but more often than not it is visible in our relationships, not only in our circle of friends and family, but also in our communities, and throughout the wider world in diplomacy, international cooperation, and understanding.

Described as the highest manifestation of spiritual love that the human family can reveal at this time, goodwill is becoming a defining quality of the modern age. It demonstrates as right relationships, not only within our kingdom but also with those lives above and below it.  Spanning the spiritual and material worlds, humankind acts as a lighted and intelligent bridge, bringing a practical inner vision ever closer to the outer world.

Goodwill though needs both a spiritual and a mental foundation for it to flourish and anchor. Spiritual because this is the source, the fount from which it springs, the universal pool of energy, and the blueprint for the world. It needs to work out in constructive initiatives and projects in the human family. This can only be done when a mind or a group of minds are instrumental in carrying the vision down to address the deep-seated and underlying human problems of our age, and there are many.

There are a number of individuals and groups in the world focusing on the practical working out of goodwill in human living. One such initiative is World Goodwill, an international organisation, whose vision is to foster an “understanding of this energy and the role it is playing in the development of a new humanity.”

Progressive Leadership

Progressive leadership is important, not only in our elected political representatives, but also in religion, civil society, NGOs, institutions, business, academia, communities, and of course the family environment. It can make a difference in bringing about improved political and social conditions in the world.

Lao Tzu, an inspired Eastern thinker of antiquity, observed: “A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

Vision, personal integrity, a right sense of proportion, and a spirit of inclusiveness, are some of the essential characteristics of those in positions of responsibility. Their motivation is not driven by ambition or power over others. They lead by example and by love of their fellow human beings. We may be familiar with the observation of Albert Schweitzer, a visionary thinker and philosopher of the twentieth century: “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” They understand human psychology and recognise the valuable contribution of others. Wise are those who see effort as just as important as accomplishment.

A growing number of people of goodwill are developing these characteristics. They serve communities, nations, and the world community. In the last 100 years or so, their numbers have grown exponentially, and they are becoming a formidable force for good in the world.

Mutual Trust

Mutual trust is a necessary factor in fostering international cooperation. It forms a basis for diplomatic relations and international partnerships. All, of which, are important for fostering a more integrated and cooperative global community where goodness, fairness, and justice are fundamental guiding principles.

Goodwill, leadership, and trust are some of the criteria that can help to change the direction of world events onto a surer and sound footing.

But before we go any further, there is merit in taking a closer look at the mechanism that currently underpins international affairs and that is the ‘Rules-Based International Order’:

The Rules-Based International Order

Since 1945, the rules-based international order has been the foundation upon which international relations, conduct, and cooperation have been upheld. This framework was drawn up by the Allied powers after the Second World War to establish order out of the devastation in Europe and many other parts of the world. Before 1945, rampant nationalism and totalitarianism cast a dark shadow over the earth. It is little wonder that at the end of the bloodiest conflict in human history, the Allied powers created the rules-based system. Although it is not perfect, it has provided some measure of stability, order, and peace, in contrast to the upheavals and tumult of the nineteenth century and the early to middle periods of the twentieth century.

International laws, rules, and norms underpin the order. The UN Charter, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Security Council, and General Assembly Resolutions form the framework. But there are other elements too, such as the Geneva Convention, Treaties (for example, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty), International Agreements, and the International Court or tribunal rulings. These are the main players. It is a complex structure and there is no overriding enforcement authority. For the system to work, all members of the international community must abide by the laws, rules, agreements, conventions, and protocols, not only in the letter of the law but also in its spirit too.

In a recent paper on the rules-based international order, the Parley Policy Initiative (a nonpartisan project focused on sharing ideas and knowledge about negotiation, diplomacy, and peacemaking) commented: “… for in an otherwise anarchic world, the system established in 1945 anchors the international community against the chaos of war, disaster, violence, and crime. That is why it exists and why it matters.”3

In recent years, some commentators have concluded that the rules-based system, although enduring, is now under more pressure than ever before. For example, in 2015, the respected London-based think-tank ‘The Royal Institute of International Affairs’ published a report ‘Challenges to the Rules-Based International Order’. In its analysis, the report observes: “… given its antique origins, it is not surprising that this order now seems increasingly under pressure. Challenges are coming from rising or revanchist states; from unhappy and distrustful electorates; from rapid and widespread technological change; and indeed from the economic and fiscal turmoil generated by the liberal international economic order itself.”4

Since its publication world affairs have changed and one might conclude that we live in a more divided world. For example, the recent unfolding conflict in the Middle East, the war in Ukraine, and the rise of populist national leaders, all add to the stresses and strains of international cooperation and the rule of international law. In its conclusion the report remarks: “There is no single route forward to improving global cooperation. It will take a great deal of pragmatism, patience, and diplomatic ingenuity to make progress. But, given the realities of economic and political interdependence, there is no more urgent agenda.”5

Fundamentally, the erosion of the rules-based order threatens to undermine trust and hinder diplomatic resolutions and collective action to address important global issues, such as climate change mitigation, disarmament, disruption to economic stability, human rights concerns, challenges to international institutions, and the rise of nationalism. The loosening of a reliable framework for conflict resolution could lead to the unintended escalation of conflicts. Countries need to work together to uphold the rules-based order. Failure may have far-reaching consequences for international relations and the well-being of nations worldwide.

Some analysts point to the need for a reform of the rules-based system to accommodate the changing world community. Whilst the London-based think tank, ‘The Royal Institute of International Affairs’, broadly agrees with this analysis, it sounds a note of caution: “Any reform of the rules-based order must first decide what the order aims to accomplish, and only then consider what structure is needed to achieve this.”6 Form must follow function, and if reform is necessary, then it must work in the interests of all countries fairly and equitably. Just as national laws change over time to reflect a deeper sense of morality; international law, conduct, and relations must change too to represent the best interests, values, and aspirations of the international community. We are far more interconnected than ever before and what happens on one side of the world can have far-reaching consequences on the other side in no time at all.

As we survey this ever-changing landscape, it is crucial to recognise the importance of maintaining the principles of collaboration, inclusivity, and shared responsibility. It is only through collective action that we can safeguard the future, and address the complex challenges that transcend national boundaries.

International Cooperation

International cooperation is important in forging peace and stability in the world. Dialogue and collaboration are essential elements in building bridges between nation-states and in laying the foundations for better relationships.

“The function of each nation”, wrote Alice Bailey, “is the perfecting of its national life, rhythm and machinery, so that it can be an efficient co-partner with all other nations.”7 No nation is an island. Each is an intrinsic part of an emerging pattern of a family of nations, and many today cooperate in understanding and trust.

Some of the Benefits of International Cooperation are:

1. Promoting Peace and Stability

One of the primary effects of goodwill is the expression of right relationships between individuals, groups, communities, and nation-states. Without this dynamic, it is difficult to achieve peace and stability in the world. Right relationships between nations must be a precursor to a just and lasting peace.

Through pooling resources, knowledge, and collective action countries can work together to tackle some of the most pressing issues on the global agenda. The United Nations is a profound example of how member-states can pursue common aims for the welfare of the global community. But the UN can only work effectively when countries act in relative unison and preferably with one voice. One of the greatest challenges in the UN is the reform of the Security Council. ‘Cutting the Gordian Knot: Global Perspectives on UN Security Council Reform’, a recent paper by the ‘Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’ observes: “The United Nations (UN) Security Council’s failure to act on Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has reignited long-smoldering global demands to overhaul the world’s premier body for international peace and security.”8 The complexity of reform is undoubtedly immense but ignoring it is not an option for the welfare and security of the present and future generations.

2. Enhancing Global Economic Growth

Just as international collaboration fosters improved diplomatic relations, it can also strengthen economic cooperation. The divide between rich and poor, between the developed and developing nations, whilst improving, has a long way to go to address global poverty. Current statistics suggest that over 1 billion people worldwide live below the poverty line. The global community needs to ask itself whether this is acceptable in the twenty-first century. Like everything else in international relations, there are many moving parts and unforeseen events. Last year, for example, the World Bank reported that the pandemic pushed about 70 million people into extreme poverty in 2020. Without international cooperation, sharing resources, and far-sighted planning global poverty is unlikely to improve.

3. Addressing Global Challenges

Tackling global challenges requires the collective action of countries. By leveraging resources, skills, and expertise countries can work together to address the many worldwide issues on the global agenda. This approach fosters a sense of shared responsibility in working towards a better world for future generations.

4. Advancing Humanitarian Aid and Development

Global cooperation provides an important role in advancing humanitarian aid and development in the developing world. Without international cooperation, the means to improve the lives of those in the less well-off nations will be difficult to achieve. It is imperative for political, social, and global stability that these issues are addressed.

The plight of refugees worldwide is sadly too often overlooked. The UNHCR Global Trends Report 2022 observes that there are just under 110 million forcibly displaced children, women, and men in the world due to persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations, or events seriously disturbing public order. This is an important and complex subject and it is not possible to expand upon it here. In passing though, it can only be said that when countries can work together in a spirit of goodwill and cooperation, then solutions will be found to bring an end to the suffering and despair of countless millions of refugees.

These are just a few examples of how international cooperation when galvanised in a spirit of goodwill can radically change the dynamics in the world for the better. But what of the future?

The Future

Since the end of the last war, remarkable strides have been made in bringing about constructive change on the planet. In politics, economics, religion, philosophy, and psychology visionaries have been at the forefront of stretching the boundaries of human thinking. We now look for a time when all these multi-faceted disciplines can be joined together to serve the common good to better effect. All these fields of human enquiry, research, and study, together, paint a more complete picture of reality, than their parts in isolation. Their interrelationship at a practical level is dawning. A new synthesis of thought is required driven by goodwill, common sense, and the settled will of the peoples of the world to live in peace and security.

Science, too, is playing its part in improving the outer life of humanity – the strain and struggle of physical labour giving way to mechanisation, the eradication of preventable diseases, the advances of modern surgery, the expansion of the global communications network and research into nuclear energy, to name but a few. Atomic power, a cosmic energy, once safely harnessed through nuclear fusion rather than fission, will transform the world. It will open a door into a golden age and a completely new economic global structure is likely to emerge. But, there is a time and place for all things under the heavens, and its secrets withheld, until humanity has earned the right to unlock its secrets through improved international cooperation, and responsible management and sharing of the earth’s resources. Only then will humanity safely wield universal sources of limitless power. The list of scientific achievements is endless, but not yet complete. The quest goes on by visionary scientists to bridge science and religion so that they meet on common ground. Science is one of the next great frontiers of human creativity in consciousness.

It takes time for the new ideas, based upon cooperation and goodwill, to percolate through into human living. The proliferation of awakened individuals, groups, and NGOs is testimony to the emergence of a global consciousness, free from prejudices, and separative thinking. They are helping the human family, as Alice Bailey describes, “to rise out of the prison of self-interest into the freedom of shared opportunity”.9

What, then, are some of the visionary initiatives we can look for in a world that is changing from an old system of selfishness and mistrust to the spiritual, scientific, and physical rebuilding of humanity? Any new system must address the immediate needs of the world and not some distant utopia, it should recognise the rights (and responsibilities) of human beings everywhere, governments should work for the greatest good of the greatest number, and there should be recognition that the natural resources of the world belong to all of humanity and not just to individual nations, and a steady and regulated disarmament, turning swords to plowshares, and irrevocably leaving warfare behind. It will require seismic changes in human thinking but there are indications we are moving in the right direction.

So, it is not surprising, that as a race we face many challenging global problems. New and progressive ideas are required to offset the distorted and outdated ideologies and mindsets that have dominated international relations for many years. A broader vision of international relations that can transcend national boundaries and selfish interests is required. A philosophy of mutual trust over mistrust, cooperation over competition, vision over narrow-mindedness, and goodwill over separateness. To some, these may seem fanciful ideas, and worthy of fairy tales, but the cold reality is that if we are to move forward as a race and as a family of nations into a better future fit for the twenty-first century and beyond, then finding solutions to global problems, such as climate change, world health, conflict resolution, political and economic stability, global poverty and other challenges are worthy of our noblest endeavours and one-pointed dedication. It is within human imagination, creativity, and aspiration to do so, and all people in their countless millions deserve better. Rising above differences, and responding to the call of international cooperation, is the challenge before us. A growing number are awakening to our common heritage and destiny, and of our shared home, planet Earth. A vision of hope should never be lost.


  1. Alice Bailey, The Externalisation of the Hierarchy, p. 211
  2. Ibid, p. 81
  3. https://www.parleypolicy.com/post/the-rules-based-international-order-explained
  4. https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/default/files/London%20Conference%202015%20-%20Background%20Papers.pdf
  5. Ibid
  6. Ibid
  7. Alice Bailey, The Externalisation of the Hierarchy, p. 193
  8. https://carnegieendowment.org/2023/06/28/un-security-council-reform-what-world-thinks-pub-90032#intro
  9. Alice Bailey, The Rays and the Initiations, p. 750



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