For me Yekaterinburg evokes Russian history and the events of the Russian Revolution. But it now calls forth a different, and much more contemporary event. On May 16th, the 4 Foreign Ministers of the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and Mexico) met together formally for the first time. As we have pointed out in these blog posts, the time would seem to raise critical questions on the evolution and integration of the BRICs and B(R)ICSAM into new or reformed organizations and institutions of global and regional governance. In recent blog posts we’ve begun to report on Distinguished CIGI Fellow, Andy Cooper’s economic diplomacy Project examining the path of interaction and possible enlargement of the G7/8 with the structured dialogue of the Heiligendamm Process (HP). Discussions abound over the possible creation of any of the following: the G9 or 10 or G13 or an earlier enlargement the L20. These are exciting global governance possibilities enhance at least legitimacy, if not necessarily effectiveness, of global governance through enlargement.
What then of the meeting? Well, the communique of the Foreign Ministers is revealing if, I may say, expressing a highly traditional diplomacy. Here from paragraph 3 is the architectural clarion call of the Foreign Ministers: “The Ministers reiterated that today’s world order should be based on the rule of international law and the strengthening of multilateralism with the United Nations playing the central role. They reaffirmed the need for comprehensive reform of the UN with a view to make it more efficient so that it can deal with the current global challenges more effectively.” And in the communique that follows the Foreign Ministers call to support a litany of UN issues and initiatives: sustainable development and solutions to global problems - poverty, hunger and diseases; international security; the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy; climate change in the context of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol; and development goals through the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). It is only at paragraph 11 of 13 sections that the Foreign Ministers even acknowledge a process outside the UN setting: “The Ministers look forward to continued cooperation between the Group of Eight and its traditional dialogue partners.”
Today there would appear to be two distinct models of global governance reform. They are not exclusive at all but focus on quite different organizations and institutions. They have quite distinct measures of legitimacy and effectiveness. For the moment let me label these two distinct reform models as the, ‘Great power’ or ‘Steering Committee’ model in distinction to the ‘UN’ or ‘Universal’ model. Notwithstanding the swirl of events and declarations with respect to the Great power model - HP process, G13 or whatever, these BRIC Foreign Ministers barely acknowledge the approach. It is a communique rooted in the Universal model of global governance. One has to ask, what influence and from which powers, the determination to stress the Universal Model came. The stress on legitimacy and global multilateral participation is evident but you have to wonder if climate change might not be better tackled in the Great power model, which includes the principal energy users. It is puzzling to see, at least in this communique, the BRIC Foreign Ministers so wedded to the UN model. It sure looks like an opportunity forgone.