Pluralism and Global Governance

Chaired by Malcolm Fraser
4-5 April 2001
The Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Pluralism and Global Governance

The collapse of the Soviet Union has produced a world in which the United States is overwhelmingly supreme economically, scientifically, and militarily. This creates new and serious challenges in the maintenance of global security. It is important that the actions of states be governed by ethical standards, and not merely by immediate political and ideological concerns.

Global Security and the US Role

1. It should be emphasized that unilateralism creates an inherently unstable political structure, leading to the largely unrestrained exercise of power. Whether through direct coercion or more subtle means, such power represents a serious challenge to individual autonomy as well as to the independence of states. Unilateral actions must be avoided and consultation - not only with allies but also with other significant actors - is absolutely essential.

2. Globalization in the late 20th and early 21st century has been a process of increasing interdependence between states. This process has in many ways been more rapid and more intensive than in any previous period. While conferring benefits, globalization also erodes the sovereignty of nation-states, raising questions about the optimal structure of stable international relationships.

3. International interdependence is asymmetrical - the United States and other wealthy nations have greatly disproportionate power to influence global events. In this global system, political and economic convenience often takes precedence over collective moral principles.

4. Compliance with legal norms of international behavior, particularly those inscribed in the Charter of the United Nations and exemplified by the authority of the Security Council, offers the best hope for continued, peaceful global development. Simultaneously, it must be realized that all organizations must adapt to the changing demands of their environment, and the United Nations should address the post-Cold War need for adequate responses to global humanitarian crises. Similarly, the Security Council and its member states must now demonstrate their capacity to deal effectively with emerging global challenges.

5. While some have asserted a right to independent action without the sanction of the Security Council, this raises questions about who has the authority to exercise force outside the framework of the United Nations. Power alone is no justification for such actions, as it opens the door to individual intervention and unlimited disorder in many regions. Authorization for interventions must be restricted to the Security Council if peace and good order are to be maintained.

6. The current permanent membership of the Security Council does not appropriately reflect the balance of power between nations. Modernization of the Security Council is therefore important. It would also be necessary to address the question as to whether additional permanent members should also have the veto or whether that should be restricted to the original five permanent members.

7. Fostering regional and sub-regional security organizations would allow the international community to coordinate responses to pressing concerns while increasing local autonomy. Such responses, however, must be managed within the framework and with the authority of the United Nations. It should not be overlooked that most existing regional or sub-regional organizations are currently inadequate for the challenges they face.

8. When interventions or counter-interventions occur, greater attention must be given to the consequences of the intervention in the long-term.

9. Very great concern has been expressed regarding the proposal by the United States to move forward with a plan for a National Missile Defense (NMD) system. An overwhelming majority of experts believes that NMD will destabilize international security, leading to the real risk of a renewed global arms race with Russia and other nuclear powers.

10. NMD has the potential to create the perception of invulnerability within the United States, which would lead to undesirable unilateral action. The international community will likewise feel threatened by such a system, further decreasing global stability and effective mechanisms for peaceful cooperation.

11. It is recognized that the United States seeks to play a stabilizing role in many regions. However, the NMD is contrary to the long-term interests of the United States and the promotion of global peace and stability.

12. A preferred alternative to NMD is the renewed pursuit of non-proliferation and disarmament of all nuclear states. This effort would be more effective in reaching the fundamental goal of global peace and security for all nation states. The lack of progress toward nuclear disarmament on the part of major nuclear states has itself encouraged proliferation. Therefore renewed efforts to achieve disarmament will offer the best prospect for a peaceful and stable world.

Cultural Globalization

13. In an increasingly globalized community, the survival of local and regional cultural diversity is an important concern for both policy makers and the larger public. The rules of international organizations, including the World Trade Organization, should not be used to constrain the scope of governments to encourage such diversity.

14. Government actions to maintain space for their own national, regional, or local cultures are legitimate. In shaping cultural policy, governments should seek for ways of liberating, rather than constraining, individual choices and economic well-being.

15. To survive, cultures must be dynamic, flexible, adaptive, and responsive to the new contexts and environments within which they shape the behavior of individuals. Adaptability involves raising difficult questions among the concerned community as to what is precious and what is expendable.

16. Cultural diversity is a source of strength when properly managed and encouraged. Appreciation for different peoples and cultures should be fostered, and the foundation for cultural exchange between nations should be equal respect for all cultures. Any attempts to establish cultural conformity will create conflict and division.

Information Technology and Development

17. The importance of information technology in the development process must be emphasized. There is concern at the large and growing 'technology gap' between citizens of rich and poor nations. The problems of economic development in Africa, however, are neither aggravated nor caused by the development of information technology in industrialized countries.

18. Command and control over information technology will be one of the keys to global success in the 21st century, and donor governments should give greater attention to this issue. International organizations should rapidly respond to developing countries' need for assistance in this sector.

19. The greatest challenge to the effective use of information technology for economic development is the lack of basic communications infrastructure, particularly reliable sources of electric power in lesser developed countries. This threatens to delay further the ability of poorer nations to access the wealth of information available through this technological innovation, exacerbating the growing information divide.

20. The development of adequate IT infrastructure depends on good governance, and the crucial role of government should be recognized in the formation and implementation of an effective IT development strategy.

21. Education is a key benefit that IT can bring to developing countries. Good political leadership is needed to take advantage of the possibilities and to make the right choices.

Global Governance

22. The crucial role of the United Nations in promoting international cooperation and development should be strongly supported. It is also suggested that other international organizations with greater focus, and hence greater specialization, have proven themselves particularly successful in addressing the issues arising from modern globalization. These agencies, however, should operate within and be accountable to the United Nations.

23. In responding to global challenges - environment and health in particular - all states will be required to cede some degree of autonomy. In designing and reforming international organizations, an environment should be created within which global interests can be effectively represented.

24. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank continue to play vital roles in developing nations progress toward industrialization and prosperity. However, the IMF should focus on macroeconomic management and the World Bank should direct its attention to sustainable development, avoiding unnecessary intervention in borrower states' political decision-making.

25. The United States and other donor states should recognize that IMF and World Bank lending decisions should be based on technical criteria, and should refrain absolutely from using these organizations to pursue vicariously their own domestic priorities.

26. Leaders worldwide are asked to recognize that all international organizations are handicapped by inadequate financial support, and that the success of these organizations in meeting current and future needs will be critically hampered by lack of appropriate resources.