The Neo-liberal world order has been plagued with crises that have emerged from unresolved issues in both the economic and political spheres of Global Governance.
In recent decades, the long-standing institutions that have sought to manage these crises have become gridlocked; signifying a breakdown in global cooperation. This gridlock has hindered the success of global multilateral agreements that have sought to solve global issues, such as Climate Change. As a result, there is a need to improve/reform the current institutions of Global Governance.
Through reviewing the failures and successes of past and current Institutions that manage global governance, it has been highlighted that for the crisis to be overcome these Institutions will need to be reformed. The method of this reform can be boiled down to two key principles; universal participation and common but differentiated responsibilities that are to be allocated to States. Reforming current Institutions or creating more innovative forums (such as the 2015 Paris Agreement), that can implement these principles may be a major leap forward in overcoming the crisis of global governance .
What is the current Crisis in Global Governance?
An Economic Crisis has emerged in Global Governance in the aftermath of the 2008 Great Financial Crisis (GFC). The global economy has struggled to gain momentum following 2008, as evidenced by stagnating trade and wage growth . It is feared that any expansion that the global economy may face in the future is unlikely to be sustainable, with the cyclical threat of previously unaddressed problems dampening sustained recovery .
This global economic concern had spilled into the global political sphere, with the general public become concerned about their prospects of employment and income. With the public unsure if their political systems are responsive enough to their demands and in light of decreased employment and growing inequality, people are growing wary of democratic institutions. To resolve this problem, known as a ‘crisis of democracy’ , States are beginning to pursue their own national interests as a means of protecting their citizens and furthering other nationalistic goals. Consequently, the notion of globalization under the Neo-liberal World Order is slowly being rejected .
This rejection of globalization is leading to a breakdown in cooperation between States. The rising powers of the South, specifically the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), have added to the difficulty of sustaining cooperation amongst States; all of which have varying interests and needs. As a result, the Global Governance stage has become gridlocked .
Hence, no global issue (such as Climate Change) can be tackled effectively, heightening the likelihood that such an issue will be left unresolved . This Crisis cannot, therefore, be resolved by ‘preserving the current status quo’ . There needs to be significant reforms to current Institutions that will address the economic and political issues and reduce, or bypass all together, the gridlock that has arisen as a consequence of the varying interests of States. Institutions in global Governance need to become more inclusive through the incorporation of the rising South (who without their participation the gridlock will remain). Institutions also need to be able to enforce common but differentiated responsibilities to each of the varying member States, in the hopes of overcoming the crisis of the neo-liberal world order .
Overcoming the crisis
Global problems can only be solved with global solutions, such solutions may only be acquired through universal participation of the 195 sovereign countries.
One of the first attempts at solving global issues through the participation and cooperation of various states was with the establishment of the League of Nations. The League ultimately failed ‘not because of its principles or conceptions. It failed because these principles were deserted by those states who had brought it into being’ . Hence, the notion of the Leagues inclusivity could not be upheld when the United States, a major proponent for the League, withdrew. Despite its failure, the League of Nations still provided the blueprint for many of the Global Institutions that exist today .
In more recent years, the G20 has adopted this notion of inclusivity, that stemmed from the League of Nations, in Global Governance by incorporating members from both the global North and South . However, despite the rather revolutionary inclusiveness of the G20, the Institution has been criticised as a forum for only wealthier States thereby excluding less developed States. The institution is also struggling to implement concreate solutions, especially as the incorporation of the rising South has brought new interests to the forum, which has increased the difficulty in reaching decisions. Inclusivity was a feature of both the League of Nations, and the G20 (along with many other Institutions), yet the League failed completely and the G20 has been criticised as ‘just a talking shop’ . Whilst both these institutions incorporated the notion of inclusivity, the issue was that this incorporation was not universal.
A positive example of universal participation can be seen in the Paris Climate Conference in 2015, where all 195 countries reached an agreement on a new climate treaty . This new form of inclusiveness represents ‘a major advance in the international climate negotiations’ . In attempting to reform the current system of global governance, it is vital that all States are members in institutions that intend to solve international crises. Not only will this inclusiveness generate a level of fairness that is lacking in the global system, it will also help to bridge the North South divide as the South, especially the developing counties within the South, become more included in decision making processes for various conventions and agreements that affect them.
Managing the varying States interests:
Whilst this universal participation is needed to solve the crisis of global governance, it will also bring with it added difficulties. The large number of actors from the North and South who will emerge will have varying, sometimes conflicting, interests. Failure to address this may mean that reformed Institutions are no better off than before.
However, if these reformed Institutions are willing to adopt a similar framework to the Paris Agreement, this gridlock may be overcome. The Paris Agreement has acknowledged the different interests and capabilities of states, and as a result, the Agreement has allowed States to establish their own level of ambitions for mitigating climate change. As States are not bound by norms or commitments, this agreement is more appealing than, for example, the Kyoto Protocol.
This global initiative to solve the issue of Climate Change is increased by the process of ‘naming and shaming’ States who are unable to meet their goals. This pressure to perform acts as an incentive for States to meet their goals, to ensure their reputation on the global level does not become tarnished.
The Agreement also sets out clear short- term and long-term emission goals, which have been crafted to meet the demand of both the civil society groups and developing countries . This is hoped to also increase global ambition and may also offer a chance for more ‘doable global cooperation’. By sidestepping the confrontational conflicts by which gridlock arises, the Paris Agreement manages to remove one of the biggest barriers to international climate cooperation. Thus, it would be highly beneficial for reformed institutions to adopt a similar framework to that of the Paris Agreement, and in doing so, increase the likelihood that the crisis will be resolved or minimised.
Conclusion: Will it work?
It is difficult to determine if Institutions that adopt a structure similar to that of the Paris Agreement will be successful in overcoming the crisis of global governance. Whilst incorporating universal participation and tailoring goals to suit the different interest of states may be a step in the rights direction, the gridlock in Global Governance may only be reduced in areas where there are more pressing global issues (such as Climate Change). For less pressing issues, States are likely to still resort to pursuing their own interests. It ultimate comes down to the willingness of States to participate in reformed Institutions that will determine if the crisis of Global Governance can be overcome.