I was preparing over the vacation a piece assessing the evolution of the global architecture as we move from the Toronto summits to Seoul. For a variety of reasons – more about this at a later date – I titled the piece – ‘Stuck in Transition’. It has appeared for some time now that the ‘new boy on the bloc’ – the G20 – seemed to be struggling to make the transition from a crisis committee to a more permanent steering committee for the global economy at least.
In thinking about the causes and consequences of a stalled transition, my attention was caught by a just published article by Jorge Castañeda, the former foreign minister of Mexico. The article, “Not Ready for Prime Time: Why Including Emerging Powers at the Helm Would Hurt Global Governance” appears in the most recently released Foreign Affairs for September/October. For Castañeda, avoiding the enlargement of global governance – including at least China, India, Brazil and South Africa - would appear to be a good thing. The focus on these 4 – almost the G5 but without his own Mexico – is a bit strange. I suppose the answer is that he would be perfectly happy to contemplate Mexico’s inclusion given what he believes the serious impediment in bringing in the other four. The impediment as he sees it: “
For now, however, these states’ core values are too different from the ones espoused, however partially and duplicitously, by the international community’s main players and their partners to warrant the emerging powers’ inclusion at the helm of the world’s top organizations. (p.122)
Now this perspective, as expressed by the former foreign minister is not unique. But it is slightly strange emerging from a former politician and official of the G5. It does however emerge from the liberal and even further left political spectrum in international relations thinking. From this perspective the international institutions and agreements of global governance are designed to promote democracy and human rights and to limit great power pragmatism. There is no question of course that for the G7 core countries democracy, human rights and civil protections are essential norms and values of the international system. And it is apparent that like-mindedness around these values sets these states apart from authoritarian China and even democratic Brazil and India. As Castañeda argues these new large emerging market states rely instead on:
On these questions, [democracy promotion, human rights] all four states remain attached to the rallying cries of their independence or national liberation struggles: sovereignty, self-determination, nonintervention, autonomous economic development. And today, these notions often contradict the values enshrined in the international order. (p. 113)
But the dilemma here is that the international system foundation is not just built around democracy promotion and human rights. A principal objective of the global governance system is to promote cooperation – to overcome the collective action problem and thus providing collective goods - and to insure global stability. While the promotion of human rights and democratic values are worthy goals sought by numerous states, the challenge of current existential problems – proliferation and climate change – the promotion of free exchange and open economies and societies – are objectives that challenge global governance as well. And in the pursuit of these goals more than the like-minded G7 are required.
Fashioning solutions to these challenges will require an enlarged leadership – like-minded or not. It will take great diplomatic skill to fashion policy. But the ‘big tent’ is here to stay