Those of us that have examined the success - or not - of the Gx process institutions have identified a number of dimensions used to compare and contrast the various organizations. Opinion makers and experts have focused particularly on membership and legitimacy. There has been a constant drumbeat over the inadequacy of the G7/8 membership, now momentarily quieted by the creation of the G20 Leaders Summit. Additionally, effectiveness has been a constant concern of experts. Accorded less attention than either legitimacy or effectiveness, two other dimensions have gained attention - hierarchy/equalness, and in the various leaders clubs – the quality of informality.
A last dimension that experts describe and interpret rather differently yet remains an important quality in assessing the success of Gx process institutions is - “like-mindedness.”
I have had some debate with various colleagues over this particular dimension. One of my colleagues – David Shorr from the Stanley Foundation (David has two blogs that you can follow – one at the Arsenal of Democracy and the other at TPM Café - has argued that what a successful Gx Leaders’ club must do is in fact to join together not so much the like-minded but also those that are not like-minded. Well that we’ve done at least in the context of the G8 plus the rising powers in the new G20 Leaders Summit.
These like-minded questions were in full display at Copenhagen. I shall not attempt to assess the value of the Copenhagen Accord. I’ll leave it up to those who follow climate change and can evaluate the impact of the agreement on bending the GHG curve. But let me take you back to my previous post (‘The Painful Truth’ – The Rise of the BRICSAM and the Fading Tyranny of the ‘193’) where I suggested that the Accord told us two important things about global governance and the BRICSAM. The first lesson from Cop15 is: the rise of the BRICSAM and the demise, if slowly, of universalism – what I’ve labeled in the UN system – ‘the tyranny of universalism’.
The second is the dimension of ‘like-mindedness’ and the limits it puts on global governance commitment and decision-making. Like-mindedness was very much in evidence between the US and China over these two weeks – and of course earlier. China remained stoutly against international verification of any emissions limits agreed to – what the US described as – transparency. China was adamant through much of the two weeks that it was unalterably opposed to any form of emission reduction verification, which it described as interference in the domestic affairs of states and a breach of national sovereignty. While China seemed to inch away from this implacable opposition, I anticipate there is more to be heard on this question.
This contentious discussion exposes the limits of like-mindedness and reveals its character. Like-mindedness comes down to a value proposition. While it is reasonably clear that the US and China appear to agree on the global ends in the area of climate change – that is the effort to collectively bind the nations to the reduction of carbon emissions; on the value dimensions – the protection and reinforcement of national sovereignty and non-interference in the domestic affairs of other states – there is a wide gulf between the US and China. We have seen this gulf before especially in the area of humanitarian intervention and considerations of ‘responsibility to protect’ raised in the Sudan, and in Myanmar. But the gulf should not be underestimated and it puts a brake on the global governance G20. So while the G20 has accepted non like-mindedness in joining the G8 and the G5 it has multiplied the complexity of reaching collaboration among the leaders.
As David Shorr recently wrote, in his blog post, “Copenhagen and the Future of International Cooperation”:
This captures the dynamic quite nicely. It's not that other nations necessarily have sharply divergent interests or are fundamentally at cross purposes with us. They're at least faintly aware of common global interests -- enough to be dragged along, if not serve as full problem-solving partners.
Well on the optimistic side, the Copenhagen Accord, suggests that the absence of like-mindedness does not preclude common ends and polices; but on the pessimistic front, it underlines the contention and grinding progress that may accompany negotiation and - it appears - painful collaborative agreement.