- The international institutions are falling short of fulfilling their mandate.
- The architecture of our global order needs reform.
- Global problems can only be solved together.
Our international rules-based order through which the world’s nations pursue global peace and development is crashing into the limits of its founding vision. What our predecessors built some eight decades ago, after the Second World War — from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to the United Nations — is in desperate need of repair.
Dire Need of Reforms
We must reform the architecture of our global order — the blueprint for our system of international relations and development finance. For instance,the Group of 7 countries, major global-development organizations and big global foundations remain too uncomfortable, too unwilling, to expand their range of funding and planning partners, especially stakeholders from the Global South. This needs to change.
According to a recent study from the United Nations Development Program, during 2020 and 2021 nine out of every 10 countries have slid back on the Human Development Index, a first in the three-decade history of this trusted report on health, education and standards of living. During the pandemic, the global order failed to sufficiently finance vaccine distribution and access, costing countless lives and inflicting incalculable damage on the economies of poor nations.
The Vision of Our Predecessors
The international system was founded to serve a simple, powerful ideal, peace through economic engagement. Never again would the United States and Europe allow widespread economic depression and dislocation to recreate the conditions that led to isolationism, fascism etc. This vision found its consummate expression at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, where delegates created the World Bank and International Monetary Fund and then in the charter of the United Nations a year later. By and large, this system of international cooperation helped achieve its original objective of preventing the horror of a third world war. It sustained peace and prosperity, at least for the West.
At the same time, and from the start, this order was rife with flaws. For one, it did little to impede the proxy wars of world powers. For another, it reinforced and even replicated the inequalities it ought to have dismantled, dividing the world into donors and recipients, creditors and debtors. Today we are even engaged in an ideological conflict between the efficacy of authoritarianism and democratic values. The consequences of climate change, the next pandemic or next recession will not be relegated to one country or another. Global leaders should commit to three principles for reform, to repair historic wrongs and to seize new opportunities for progress.
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