As editors, we are thrilled to launch the Future of Globalisation blog. It provides a platform for debates on current world economic issues, global power shifts and the roles of formal and informal global governance institutions and relevant networks. These debates, based on solid empirical research, are increasingly important in view of a global system fraught with mounting uncertainties. The blog posts are written by researchers from international renown institutions, amongst them numerous prestigious think tanks from rising powers, and from the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE).
Our intention is not only to write for specialists in academic and government circles, but also to reach the broader public interested in global economic governance.
We are witnessing an increasing confusion about the way ahead for globalisation and global economic governance with many blind bends ahead of us. The challenges are mounting. The economic rise of large developing countries during the past decades have caused significant power shifts. The global governance system faces pressure to adapt to current challenges. How are we coping? There are two dimension we want to consider and discuss in the context of this blog: first, the policy substance. And second, the polity. i.e. the institutional setup in which we address the issues.
On policies, old convictions and assumed certainties are wearing thin, as we are living in a period marked by a significant redistribution of the gains and losses from globalisation – not only between but also within countries. The traditional guarantor of an open and rules-based multilateral order is rather pursuing inward looking strategies nowadays, not only with regard to incoming goods and services but also people. It remains unclear whether emerging countries, beyond the recent multilateral rhetoric, will be able to fill this power vacuum or will they also succumb to the resurgence of their own nationalism? Will the European Union overcome its internal problems? Will it not only be able to stabilise the current global system but also support the needed transformation towards a more equitable, democratic and environment-friendly global system?
Beyond these political rifts, other disruptive processes take place. Digitalisation and climate change, for instance, are two megatrends which pose huge challenges, affecting the generation and distribution of global wealth as well as our current institutional set-up. As a result, inter alia, we need to rethink labour markets, including appropriate training and education. Digitalisation will also impact the way we govern our political systems and ensure civil and private rights. The second process with profound global impact is dangerous, man-made climate change. Its impact is very fundamental and affects the basis of our life – the natural systems. Even in the best-case scenarios, the challenges are profound and will put substantial strain on our institutions, impacting for instance on the stability of financial markets and the competitiveness of companies and countries.
Against this background, there is a proliferation – if not eutrophy – of institutions. The picture is getting increasingly complex. But is it getting more effective in addressing challenges? The most comprehensive setting for global governance, the United Nations system, is difficult to reform. Pressure to act thus has led to a proliferation of different formats that aspire to impact on global governance. One of the most visible signs of this realignment of global structures has been the upgrading of the G20 from a process of finance ministers and central bank governors to a summit format at the level of heads of state and government ten years ago. In the midst of the global financial crisis, triggered by and hitting the developed world most severely, policy makers across the globe realised that they need to cooperate with relevant actors, whether they sit in Washington, Beijing, Brussels or Brasilia. It is less certain that the group can successfully shift from (financial) crisis-management to shaping the planet’s (sustainable) future – and whether the G20 is the right format for this task. We also see new “club” formats within and beyond the G20, such as BRICS and MIKTA and a continuation of the G7. Additionally, new multilateral institutions such as the New Development Bank or the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank are created, and, in parallel to these, country-to-continent formats such as FOCAC exist and shape relations and policies. This is not even mentioning the realm of non-state actors and their increased role in global governance.
More cooperation is urgently needed – internationally, regionally and nationally – as this short and certainly incomplete account of the mounting challenges illustrates. Yet, the international system seems increasingly ill-equipped to promote cooperative dynamic. We are convinced that think tanks working in transnational networks have an important role to play to overcome these logjams. We do have a wide range of international expertise available and need to share it – beyond our smaller community. This is the underlying rationale for this blog which builds on discussions that had initially been launched in 2016 as part of the Think20 process during the German G20 presidency. We will draw on global expertise, including from Germany and the OECD world as well as from emerging powers and developing countries. Our aim is to discuss and make knowledge available for better and more responsible decision-making in governments, international organisations and the corporate sector to advance global sustainability.