When we lose someone's trust, we realize we have taken it for granted. And once lost, it is close to impossible to regain.
Trust binds our world together. From the trust between family members, the trust between neighbours in a community, to the trust between customers and enterprises, and the trust between authorities and citizens. But many have lost trust in their leaders, in political systems, in religious institutions and in the very notion that we are all in this world together and share a common future.
This is a problem. Because trust is the essential element that allows us to build a world of agreed-upon rules, with a level playing field for all. We need trust in our religious establishments, governments, police and legal systems. As individuals, we need to trust our schools, our doctors and in one-another.
Our trust deficit is, to a large extent, the result of asymmetries in our world. The fact that so many are taking the trust bestowed on them for granted explains countless of these asymmetries. People in positions of authority abuse trust and break the rules, with no consequences. The deep sense of injustice that many feel, the sentiment of being excluded and not having the same opportunities of others, drives mistrust. And mistrust is one of the underlying factors that lead to extremism, terror and other expressions of frustration.
If we do not honestly address the lack of trust as a basic driver of violence, we miss the point. We risk spiraling in the wrong direction when we respond to violence with more violence. By bombing those who have attacked us, we do not solve the problem but exacerbate it. This is what we need to correct now, because our future is at stake.
We need to rebuild trust through legitimate leadership, justice and accountability so we all have institutions, systems and processes we can trust. We need to build trust in individuals that they belong to our community, that they make a difference and that they matter. This is the fundamental step in creating the necessary virtuous circle where trust leads to responsibility and response.
Creating trust is at the heart of what the United Nations does: from building trust between nations, to trust between people and their leaders; from trust in public health and education programmes to trust in international treaties. Above all, the United Nations is the embodiment of the world's collective trust that we can all come together to address our biggest challenges.
The United Nations can play this critical role if given the space to do so. Trust that the United Nations is here for you.
Follow Michael Møller on Twitter: www.twitter.com/UNOG_DG