Governance must reflect global reality (Financial Times, 15/11/2010)
A profound adjustment is needed in world governance.
We seem to be stuck with structures similar to those of vast empires of the past, where decisions are taken behind closed doors by a handful of actors, regardless of what wider society has become.
An article published this year by the Financial Times showed that the Bric countries will account for more than 60 per cent of the world’s growth from 2008 to 2014.
Emerging and developing economies will create a significantly larger share of global growth. Brazil itself is poised to become the fifth-largest economy by the end of the decade.
A new group of countries has surely earned growing influence on core issues on the international agenda, from climate change to trade, from finance to peace and security.
They bring fresh perspectives and contribute to a new, fairer international balance.
Yet their ability to express legitimate interests, is constrained by global governance structures that are no longer representative.
In a domestic context, such a situation might lead to revolution; in a world with obsolete institutions, it is leading to collateral alliances.
Greater co-ordination in the WTO, the IMF, the UN, as well as new coalitions, such as the Bric, have allowed developing countries to raise their profile.
The Bric grouping has evolved to an effective forum for discussion and co-ordination of international issues, especially those related to the economy.
Two summits have already been held, the first in Ekaterinburg, the second in Brasília. The third is scheduled for 2011 in China, but before that the leaders will meet in Seoul at the margins of the G20.
Although there are differences between members, there is a shared view of the need to improve global governance.
Regional and inter-regional co-ordination among emerging and developing countries is expanding rapidly in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean.
Trade and investment patterns have changed to reflect this. So much so, that the definition of peripheral countries has to be continuously reassessed.
Overall these trends represent a welcome evolution, generating more balance. It was the perception of such a scenario several years ago, that prompted Brazilian diplomacy to adjust its course.
The more developing countries discuss and co-operate, the more their voices will be heard.
The memory of a side meeting during the WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong, in 2005, is still vivid for me. We had decided to summon a gathering of developing nations to discuss – and protest against – the subsidies paid by rich countries to their agriculture, to the detriment of poor farmers around the world, in particular cotton growers in Africa.
Quite unexpectedly, more than 100 delegations showed up, eager to tackle one of the most harmful forms of agricultural subsidies.
The “G110”, as this group called itself, issued a strong statement urging that export subsidies be eliminated by 2010.
In the event, the Hong Kong Declaration established 2013 as a deadline. As things stand now, we are far from sure this promise will be kept.
But that near-spontaneous movement had a bigger impact on the result of the conference than any behind-the-scenes negotiation.
Another example of “collateral action” was the recent Brazilian-Turkish brokered Tehran Declaration, which made clear that new perspectives and approaches are necessary to solve seemingly intractable problems.
This initiative, essentially the proposal originally made by some permanent members of the Security Council (and ultimately rejected), was brought to fruition by two emerging powers.
The recent financial crisis also made it clear that the world can no longer be run by a club of just a few.
The economic meltdown – from which, not by accident, some emerging economies were essentially spared – represented a “revolution” of some sort, replacing the inoperative G8 with the brisk G20.
The IMF has just increased the voting power of developing nations, thus increasing its legitimacy as well. But change in decision-making structures needs to go beyond the economic sphere.
Barack Obama just announced US support for India’s candidacy for a permanent seat in the Security Council.
From finance to peace and security, no sustainable solution to any significant problem can be found if relevant players are not involved.
The idea is simple: representativeness brings legitimacy and thus greater efficacy.
Let us not wait for widespread crises to bring the core institutions of world governance in line with the real world. Let us practice democracy not only domestically but also in the global sphere.
Celso Amorim is Brazil’s foreign minister