Every week, a selection of leading experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.


Federiga BindiSenior fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

Global governance may not be finished, but it is certainly not in good shape.

Global governance may not be finished, but it is not in good shape.
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The various Gs—after the great hopes of a few years ago—are reduced to clubs of prime ministers and presidents who get together with the only people who really understand their burden.

This is especially true of the G7: with Russia out of the picture, the group is a mere shadow of the former G8. Even less representative of the world than it was before, and even less influential, the G7 seems to be more useful to domestic audiences than as a way to effectively fix international problems. Leaders want to be pictured patting their peers on the back and heard calling each other by their first names to prove their international relevance to their audiences at home.

However, effective international cooperation has little to do with the use of first names. Former French president François Mitterrand and former German chancellor Helmut Kohl are a reminder of that: They did not speak each other’s language, they were hardly on first-name terms, and they did not even belong to the same political family. Yet, they knew that only by working together could they achieve the common good—and so they did.

None of today’s problems—climate change, war, poverty, the pressures of migration, terrorism—can be solved without effective international cooperation and some form of global governance.


Kris BledowskiDirector of economic studies at the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation

No, global governance is not finished.

But it’s a logical question to ask of someone who consumes only global media headlines. That person sees chaos spanning the globe—lawlessness across Africa, open warfare in parts of the Middle East, and China adding territory at will. There are also financial crises, sovereign bankruptcies, and wild gyrations in asset prices. Even a football association runs amok with seeming impunity.

Most global institutions are alive and kicking.
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Yet when you take a deep breath and look around, there is still quite of bit of global oversight. How many conflicts have been averted and lives saved with the African Union and the African Development Bank in place? The World Trade Organization gets a bad name for want of action on tariff reductions, but the body is watching while trade is as free as it has been in almost a century. The UN can’t stop the war in Ukraine, but it still matters to peacekeeping and monitoring. And how many countries would go belly-up without the global lender of last resort that is the International Monetary Fund?

The grass is always greener elsewhere. But here on Earth, global institutions are better than none, and most of them are alive and kicking hard—sometimes.


Thomas CarothersVice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Global governance is not finished—but it is changing, especially compared to old dreams and aspirations.

Global governance isn't finished, but it is changing.
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The quest of some global optimists for universal institutions that can apply governance solutions widely to solve major global challenges is largely spent. But governance across borders that is less than global in reach but still significant in impact is arguably increasing: The World Trade Organization may have faded, but regional trade accords are very much relevant. New regional investment banks, like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, are taking their place alongside the earlier generation of global financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. A new multinational climate accord is elusive, but the U.S.-Chinese climate agreement announced in November 2014 is notable.

It is telling, however, that the significant progress in international governance of recent years is coming in functional areas like trade, finance, and climate, not in peace and security issues. The growing global discord over core political values is undermining efforts to create new governance institutions adequate to the task of solving damaging security conflicts, such as those in the Middle East and between Ukraine and Russia.


Jamie SheaDeputy assistant secretary general for emerging security challenges at NATO

Global governance cannot be finished because it has never existed. What is understood as global governance can in fact mean three things: first, an entente cordiale among the great powers to respect each other’s rights and come together against trouble makers; second, the growth of a global system of rules and norms of behavior; or third, the rise of international organizations, which bind countries closely together into communities of shared values.

Global governance can't be finished because it has never existed.
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If these three meanings are taken together, then the prospects for global governance have certainly become worse lately. Russia’s March 2014 annexation of Crimea marked a return to geopolitics and great-power rivalries, with their accompanying military buildups. China’s pursuit of territorial claims in the East and South China Seas has raised tensions in Asia. Rules and norms that great powers are bound to observe, such as respect for borders, treaties, and the sovereignty of independent states, have been violated.

Does all this gloomy news mean the world is moving away from global governance? Not really, if we look at the longer term. Institutional integration has continued to advance. Organizations like the UN, the EU, and NATO have held up well, and others like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) or the Gulf Cooperation Council have taken on a greater regional security role. The number of candidates lining up for NATO and EU membership shows that even in an age of apparent disorder, the political, economic, and security benefits of institutional integration have lost none of their value.

Russia is a declining power, notwithstanding its current efforts to regain great-power status through self-assertion. The key great powers are China, which can still be integrated into the global political system as a cooperative partner, and the United States, which is the one great power with a sustained record of economic growth and a rapidly rising demography.

A concert of responsible powers is still possible as long as the West stays the course with its sanctions against Russia and establishes the principle that violation of the rules will carry a heavy penalty.


Ulrich SpeckVisiting scholar at Carnegie Europe

As long as there is globalization, there will be a need for global governance. And in fact, globalization is thriving: ever-increasing streams of information, people, money, and goods are moving around the globe at a fast pace.

As long as there is globalization, there will be a need for global governance.
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Global governance must provide the infrastructure for these interactions. And it must police globalization, making sure that crime, diseases, and other disruptions are filtered out and prevented from spreading globally.

States remain the main actors in this area, as they set and control the rules. The quality of global governance depends on the quality of the governance of leading states.

Whether globalization keeps the charisma it had in the 1990s—enabling people to become global citizens and moving global relations in the direction of a win-win logic—remains an open question. On the one hand, the recent scandal engulfing football’s world governing body, FIFA, has reminded observers that corruption and lawlessness can easily enter the global sphere. There is no world government to implement the kind of oversight that well-ordered states exert on a national level.

On the other hand, the June 7–8 meeting of the G7 industrialized nations in Schloss Elmau, Germany, demonstrated that global governance in the form of cooperation among leading democracies has plenty of potential to lead world politics on a path to widely shared prosperity, freedom, and security.


Pierre VimontSenior associate at Carnegie Europe

Global governance, as we have known it for the last forty years, definitely seems to have reached its limits. G7 and G20 meetings hopelessly try to catch up with events unfolding on the ground; sessions of the UN Security Council struggle in vain with the present crises in Libya, Syria, and Ukraine; and even the International Monetary Fund seems under pressure.

Global governance definitely seems to have reached its limits.
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Add to this list the BRICS gathering of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, as well as Beijing’s setting up of its own financial institution to rival the Asian Development Bank, and there is a deep feeling of a world coming to an end.

But does this mean global governance is over? Couldn’t this instead be the birth of something more in tune with today’s multipolar world? For the global governance that has existed up to now is very much a system invented by the West for the benefit of the West. And in recent years, weaknesses have begun to show, forcing, for instance, the G7 members to find all sorts of ways to reach out to other nations and not to appear as a club out of touch with reality.

The challenge now is to invent a form of global governance that is representative of the new balance of powers. But who among the world’s current leaders will be both bold and wise enough to come up with the right innovative answer?