The Global Institutional Reform Workshop (GIR) or at least the label that we settled on (it’s royal “we” I’m afraid – I thought it up, I admit) began as an idea when I realized the release of a number of reports and analyses in close proximity, e.g. Sutherland, High Level Panel, 2020.   These reports looked at the future of global security and economic relations.   It will not come as a big surprise that most of these Reports struck me as inadequate.   That being said, I thought it was vital that a conscientious group of experts - you examine the reports and bring an assessment and evaluations that seemed to be missing from the immediate efforts.  

With the assistance of a number of our CIGI colleagues, Daniel Schwanen in particular, we launched an initial session in September 2006 at CIGI in Waterloo Canada.   CIGI is the place for us to undertake such a Project.   With a mandate explore global governance, CIGI seemed as the perfect institutional location to launch a review of the sort just described.  

The initial September session was an energetic starting point (by the way you can get a photo glimpse of the session by going to the gallery at this Portal).   A number of organizing ideas emerged from this session.   First, there was unchallenged acknowledgement that the traditional sovereignty was being reshaped in the current international system.   International relations has witnessed a growing intrusiveness in the affairs of other states in the international system.   There are actions according to Art Stein where, “states take an interest in how others treat minorities and provide services to its citizens.”   International treaties have codified an enormous degree of intrusiveness.   Yet the “liberal” effort to extend international action – most dramatically seen in the push for international acceptance  of humanitarian intervention and underpinned if only weakly by the Responsibility to Protect, has run afoul of the “conservative” doctrine for preemptive, probably more accurately preventative action to eliminate terrorists and those states that protect them.   This security initiative in particularly NSS 2002 was identified as a source for US efforts to build a “coalition of the willing” to eliminate the Saddam Hussein regime.   The grounds for acting have shifted over the course of the Bush administration.   WMD has come and gone.   Since the Second Inaugural there has been an Administration push for a policy that favors the “spread of democracy.” The bottom line appears to be that such a policy leaves open the idea of regime change.   Notwithstanding the evident incompetence of the Administration’s performance in Iraq, the spectre of regime change has been “put in play” and apparently has cooled the ardor of many who were eager to pursue intervention for humaitarian purposes.  And even if heightened caution emerges from the Iraq initiative there remains the prospect of international action in the “war on terror” or over the question of nuclear proliferation.  

The source of much of the global intrusiveness is a result of “failed” or near-failed states what John Quincy Adams and others of his generation called ‘derelict states.”   But if Iraq signals the limitations of unilateral or near-unilateral action, what is possible, feasible or likely multilateral action – hence the question of “New Multilateralism?”

The challenge to national sovereignty is not limited to security.   There is a growing intrusiveness through international organizations, institutions and treaties over trade, investment, sustainability, etc.   We also see how states have chaffed over the limitations to sovereignty brought by the IFIs the WTO, regional agreements such as NAFTA, BITs, and Kyoto and on it goes.  

If the New Multilateralism is the central thematic of this Workshop, identifying effective multilateralism across not only security but also political economy, especially in the face of globalization, is quite a challenge.

A second question that was raised was does the new multilateralism use old institutions but with different mandates or do states create new institutions?   Do these new institutions have to be rather rigid structures or can they instead be informal coalitions or ad hoc institutions.   And most critically when do they act and how.

In this original discussion some key drivers for the international system were suggested.   Probably most pertinent was the emergence of China both economically and regionally in Asia.   Richard Rosecrance focused a good deal of his analysis of Great Powers and the prospects, or not, of China becoming a part of the New Multilateralism.   John Ikenberry and Frank Fukuyama in the “Grand Strategy” document of the Princeton Project on National Security also suggested that China was the key focus for future American foreign policy.   Beyond China there is CIGIs own BRICSAM set of countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, ASEAN and Mexico.   Though a mouth-full there is an inquiry into how these countries or regional organizations can redefine international relations.   And of course the direction of American foreign policy remains a central feature in the New Multilateralism.   Beyond states critical drivers are energy, and terrorism and proliferation of nuclear weapons.   Stein has suggested the truly toxic brew in international relations in the next 5 to 10 years is the “strategic triad” of failed states, WMD and terrorism.

He also has suggested that the key concept in the New Multilateralism is “legitimacy”.  But how and in what ways do we act through which means that will be acknoledged as “legitimate.”

If you begin with the Reports that I identified at the beginning of this discussion the answers provided would seem to be much of the same, with say a little tweaking.   Some of our international relations colleagues have looked either to a slightly expanded G-8 or an “Alliance of Democracies.”   I’m going to suggest that these suggestions are not likely to be very effective answers to the dilemmas in global governance.   I think we can do better though the answer may not be simple or easily accomplished.  But lets assume that the legitimacy is the key.

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