THE THREAT TO GLOBAL GOVERNANCE
Thursday April 18, 2019 4:00pm
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- Since the end of the Second World War a system of Global Governance, based primarily on the United Nations, has been in place. This system has been directed at ensuring world peace, promoting human rights, and facilitating international cooperation to achieve economic development and the reduction of global poverty.
- The core of the system is the United Nations and its related specialised agencies dealing with issues such as Finance (the International Monetary Fund), Trade (the World Trade Organisation), Economic Development (the World Bank), Health (the World Health Organisation), the Environment (the United Nations Environmental Programme), Labour and Social Policy (the International Labour Organisation) etc.
- This system does not constitute a Global Government in the sense that it has executive powers over national governments. Rather, it is premised on respect for the national sovereignty of its member states and can only act when there is very broad agreement among them. Nevertheless, it has provided an indispensable framework for reducing international conflict and promoting international cooperation on a wide range of issues that affected most countries in the world.
- The underlying rationale for the operation of the system is that all nations of the world stand to benefit from having a common set of rules and standards to govern the relationships between nation states in a wide and growing range of areas. Examples of these range from things that are often taken for granted (e.g. the international postal and telecommunications system, international air traffic control) to the facilitation of financial and trade relationships across national borders. There are also huge benefits to be derived from international cooperation to prevent or mitigate global crises such as climate change, the spread of infectious diseases, financial crises, cross-border crime, and surges in international migration.
- The primary means for developing the instruments for common action has been broad-based international negotiations based on sound technical studies of the issues involved that were undertaken by the staff of the relevant international organisations. These technical studies typically highlighted the benefits to be gained from international cooperation and contrasted this to costs that would be incurred from a lack of cooperation.
- International cooperation also served an important normative role in promoting respect universal human rights and international labour standards. Countries which failed to respect these standards were `named and shamed` and, in extreme cases, faced international sanctions.
- The current system of Global Governance is still highly imperfect and has been characterised by notable failures in some areas. Nevertheless, there have also been huge successes in areas such as the expansion of global trade and investment flows that brought about unprecedented economic growth across the world and a substantial reduction in global poverty. Moreover, several severe financial crises have been sufficiently contained to avert a second Great Depression.
- This system of Global Governance is now facing a great threat to its existence from the rise extreme nationalism in a growing number of countries. This ideology sees international relations as a zero-sum competition in which each country should seek to maximise the benefits it can obtain for itself regardless of what this may imply for the common global good. This strikes at the heart of the current system of global governance that is based on the firm belief that international cooperation ensures a more peaceful, stable, prosperous and just world than one that will result from unbridled competition among nation states. Eddy Lee is a former Economic Adviser (Chief Economist ) to the International Labour Office in Geneva. He studied at Magdalen College, Oxford and obtained the degrees of B.Phil and D. Phil in Economics. He has published widely on issues relating to economic development, income distribution and poverty reduction, the social impact of globalisation and labour market and employment policies.