2009 Themes

I. Political Governance

Globalization has multiplied political units that play a role in the international system and have a capacity to affect it more or less seriously. How to ensure coexistence among these political units? How to make their conflicts manageable in peaceful ways, compatible with the system’s global stability? Two decades after the end of the Cold War, the progressive emergence of a new multipolar world, heterogeneous and global, first suggests the need to evaluate the pertinence of existing institutions at the global and regional levels. What assessment can be given of the mutations of the United Nations and what reforms are needed in order to overcome current blockages – including the blockage of reform itself? How efficient are regional security systems today – systems from which we expected so much in the 1990s – or regional defense groupings? European examples (OSCE, Atlantic Alliance, European Union etc.) as well as African ones (reform of the UA, initiatives for sub-regional groupings) and Asian ones (ASEAN, attempts to build new security forums) all provide the first series of lessons in this respect.

In parallel to the institutions, with their triple functions as forums, norms producers and crisis regulators, other processes play an important role for the resolution of today’s central problems: in particular, weapons proliferation and disarmament. The North Korean and Iranian crises – following the Iraki or Libyan examples – visibly confront non-proliferation measures, be they institutional or not (Non Proliferation Treaty, International Atomic Energy Agency, Proliferation Security Initiative). Similarly, the resumption, after a long hiatus, of disarmament negotiations between Washington and Moscow does not resolve the problem: what role will nuclear arms play tomorrow in the global equilibrium? On what vision of the world will a new NPT have to be based? And what processes must be established to deal effectively with other types of arms (conventional weapons in general, or low caliber murderous ones)?
Beyond the institutions and the processes which must be reinforced or developed, one must also integrate the tools inherited from thinking and experimentation these last few decades. This brings to mind confidence-building measures which are now present universally, whose establishment and development are essential, in particular when it comes to preventive conflict management. As for the methods of crisis management, with the help of strategic cultures and the experience of all the actors who have gotten to know them over the last 20 years, they constitute a promising field for the study of and cooperation between states.

Together, these institutional, political, conceptual approaches will have to combine in a global governance of the international system to organize peaceful yet competitive coexistence to which the society of states aspires.

The topic will be covered during two sessions:

  1. Architecture of Political Governance
  2. Security

II. Economic and Financial Governance

The economic and financial crisis has dashed hopes for a tranquil form of globalization that would peacefully promote the expansion of free-markets and democracy. In the face of this crisis, and out of necessity, governments are the first responders. States have made a massive comeback. In a world in which several forms of capitalism seem to be competing, Western values and interests are called into question. Today, globalization appears much more fragile than it was once thought to be. And yet, there is no viable alternative: the failure of globalization would be the worst of all scenarios. The challenges which the world economy must overcome are tremendous: the rise of unemployment, financial uncertainty, a dearth of resources – all of this makes the future unclear, puts the decisions that companies must make into a more uncertain and riskier context and jeopardizes development projects.

Today, the world economy requires a comprehensive form of regulation. In the face of these challenges, the governance of the international system has aged. We are inheriting institutions that reflect the realities of the period that followed World War II, decolonization and the Cold War. They are poorly adapted to a world now marked by the emergence of new powers. The meeting of Heads of State in the G20 format is a hopeful initiative. By tackling financial regulation, it has taken only the first step. It is the next series of steps that we must now imagine and put into practice.

  • • Has globalization reached its peak?
  • • What are the appropriate budgetary and monetary policies? Do we need a more active international cooperation?
  • • What is the appropriate exit strategy and how to put it into practice?
  • • How far should we push the harmonization of new financial regulations?
  • • How to ensure a better adjustment between savings and investment on a global scale? How to ensure the harmonious evolution of balances of payments?
  • • What initiatives could more powerfully push back nationalist and protectionist temptations and stimulate international trade?
  • • What could be the consequences of calling into question the anglo-saxon financial capitalism system?
  • • What political consequences could derive from economic and social strains? How to confront the risks of economic nationalism?
  • • Taking the G20 initiatives further, is there a need for new forms of world governance in the economic and financial domain?

These issues will be discussed during 3 sessions:

  1. Macro-economic Governance: the efficiency of budgetary policies, non-conventional monetary policies; exit strategies, world trade, economic nationalism; the future of poor countries, movement of capital and exchange rates; international monetary system, governance (G20, IMF etc.)
  2. Economic and Financial Regulations: banking supervision, the infrastructure of globalization (accounting standards, rating agencies…); a new business model for banks; remittances, governance (G20, Financial Stability Board etc.)
  3. The future of capitalism: the recasting of the anglo-saxon model; the diversity of models; the creation and distribution of wealth; shareholders and stakeholders; challenges to the middle class; risk aversion and seeking protection; “Animal Spirits” and the intervention of the State; what kind of international cooperation for this new phase of globalization?

III. International Law

For some, the notion of governance has nothing to do with international law, and even with law more generally. It refers to the process of articulation and decision-making among different instances, of different statutes, which cooperate so as to resolve problems of common concern. The G 7, G 8 or G 20 forums, which have been constituted empirically but regularly, partly satisfy this demand. But this remains above all a desire and a need, more than it does a reality. What role could international law play in this context? It would have to satisfy the double dimension of governance. In its regulatory dimension, governance creates norms of sustainable behavior, so as to ensure the security of relations among actors, their mutual trust, the predictability of their behavior, the efficiency of established prescriptions. In it decisional dimension, it must allow to adapt rapidly to change, to react to crises or urgent situations by casting aside ordinary rules, or even modifying them in light of a new durable context.

International law as an instrument of governance’s double dimension 

International law governs societies based on a plurality of actors: States. Each one conducts its own policies but they share common interests. Their relations are theoretically not based on a hierarchical structure, but on a horizontal contractual logic, and their interests adjust through negotiation. Their common wish is to preserve their dominant status as legitimate and efficient actors of international regulation, but also as principal actors faced with international crises and situations which call for quick and coherent decisions. In this context, international law offers a number of useful techniques.

International law as a regulatory instrument 

In the field of peaceful relations, that of economic and commercial exchanges, the WTO is the last great organizations to have been established after the end of the East-West confrontation. With a light structure and limited power, but with strong ambitions, the WTO rests upon two pillars, adaptation and adjustment – adaptation through agreements which progressively open markets ; and adjustment by resolving the various trade disputes among states, as they pertain to these agreements. How to emerge from the current gridlock ? What lessons should be drawn from the original techniques of conflict resolution for other aspects of international relations?

International law as a mechanism of crisis management

The UN Security Council, which is the principal instance and tool of international crisis management, sanctions juridical inequality among state, resting upon the privileged position of the permanent members. It can take decisions that are binding for all, and make use of constraints. It must respond to crisis situations in a timely manner. It is in keeping with the decisional dimension of governance, since it can cast aside ordinary rules and substitute exceptional measures. It has demonstrated a great ability to adapt in the face of major crises in the last decades, but is often criticized for creating inequality among States though a composition which many deem archaic, and even recused by the United States, which are reluctant to accept the constraints that it seeks to imply. This instrument is not always made sufficient use of. How to reinforce it, adapt it and enhance its efficiency? Would reforming it not bring on its demise?

Legal techniques for global governance

The principles and techniques of international law are indispensable for a balanced and efficient system of global governance.

The absolute primacy of States in international society, their sovereignty and their equality are based on principles of rationality, stability and equilibrium which are indispensable for effective governance. What role for non-State actors? Classical multilateralism calls for a combination of universal participation and an allocation of tasks based on the relative power of states. Lacking an organizing project, it is unable to define a common interest which would transcend the specific requests from the members of a deeply heterogeneous international society. How to contribute to the revival of multilateralism, which is a key of global governance? As for institutional unilateralism, it does not limit itself to the Security Council. It can manifest itself in response to urgent situations and also in response to the need for universal norms, notably in the domain of public health. How to make it more legitimate and effective?

Soft law, or concerted instruments which are not conventional and not legally binding but respected when they are well-balanced and carry mutual trust, is a flexible technique which is well-suited for governance. On the other hand, what role for international jurisdictions which have multiplied over the last several decades, in the political and non judicial process of governance? Can they efficiently handle crises or urgent situations? Can they serve as mainstream regulatory instruments?

IV. Migrations

International cross-border migration is a global challenge to which all States are confronted. In the last 15 years, migration has expanded to reach all regions of the planet. Across the globe, the population of migrants has increased dramatically. The impact of remittances on the economies of migrants’ countries of origin is considerable. Departure points and regions of emigration have also become hubs of transit and arrival. Cross-border migrations have transformed international relations. At the same time, this is a politically loaded topic with much media coverage, which can cloud the assessment of the true issues at stake.

Today, states find themselves in a difficult conundrum. They increasingly consider cross-border migration to be a factor of economic growth and global development; yet they put into place restrictive policies, which have actually proven to be less effective than predicted. In this context, the idea of a world governance for migration has progressively taken hold. It was a matter of reconciling the policy objectives of “Northern” countries, the interests at play on the international marketplace, the development of “Southern” countries and the respect of the rights and security of migrants. Today, does a consensus exist on the diagnosis of the limits of national migratory policies? Would a form of world governance in the area of migration make sense? And if it does, what can the objectives be, and the common means to achieve it? What can be the role of non-state actors, and in particular of companies?

This raises several challenges: how to adapt the national sovereignty of States to the global phenomenon of cross-border migration? A global governance of migration will not be possible without States. Nevertheless, what can be the appropriate institutional and political means to regulate migration? Another decisive question: what is the impact of migrations on North / South relations? Can cross-border migration pave the way to new, more balanced and symmetrical relations between the countries of departure, transit and arrival? What are the real common issues at stake with respect to migration and development? How to solve the dilemma of the “brain drain”? How to foresee the future, and notably the anticipated impact of climate change on migratory flows? Is migration also a global means of regulation for demographic problems in the North as well as in the South? Last challenge: the evolution of national societies in a world of migration. A stronger human mobility should not be accompanied by a rise of xenophobic and racist identities. How to ensure that this is the case?

V. Energy and Climate

The same energy that warms us, lights us and cooks our food is at the center of some of the greatest challenges to mankind. There has never been any question that there is ample clean, reliable energy for every man, woman and child on earth, but many do without. Man’s use of energy has evolved over the millennia, but it is only in the past 150 years that fossil fuels have come to dominate our energy requirements. We extract these fossil fuels from the earth wherever they are found. They are not evenly distributed around the world and create therefore haves and have nots. This has led to competition and aggression between nations and within nations. They are extracted from nature often without due regard for the impact on the global commons or the interests of neighboring populations. Trade in these fuels enriches governments and exporting nations, but depending on the quality of governance in those countries, the wealth generated by fossil fuels can be a source of growth and improving welfare, or it can lead to corruption, autocracy and exclusion. The resource curse has been written about and well studied, but it still ravages many resource rich countries. For the future, which starts now, the burning of vast quantities of fossil fuels is having a discernable negative effect on world climate and will have a catastrophic effect in the next decades if we continue on our present path.

What are the energies of the future and how do we deploy them rapidly enough to forestall insurmountable consequences? What are the carbon trajectories to 2050 for countries in which carbon emissions vary from 44 tons per capita to 0.01 tons per capita? How do we assure that more of the world’s population can have access to clean, reliable, affordable energy? And how do we improve international governance so as to reduce conflicts that take their origin in the uneven distribution of natural energy resources?

The institutions looking for answers to these challenges have not really evolved since the 1960s. They are still basically bimodal, north/south, G-77/Industrialised countries, rich/poor. They still centralize the debates and seek to negotiate consensual outcomes – but anyone can block or bolt. This mode of negotiation hasn’t worked for nearly two decades. What was the last successful multilateral trade negotiation? The Law of the Sea took 14 years and is still not fully ratified. The Energy Charter lacks the US and Russia ratification. The Kyoto Protocol is a stool with two legs.

Foreign Policy editor Moise Naim has suggested replacing multilateralism with minilateralism. Can Kyoto succeed in December in Copenhagen with 180 countries around the table? The same bimodal debates dominate although they are often bimodal for convenience – not conviction. It is defensive multilaterism. Should the debate be moved to or shaped in a smaller forum? There is the G8, the G20 and the Major Economies Forum (MEF) (16 countries). But in all of these, major European states speak with several voices – China and India with one each. Possibly the core of any effective climate change solution is to be found first in a bilateral US/China entente on broad principles – then expanded via the MEF or G20 to the Kyoto Conference of the Parties . Does inclusiveness need to mean paralysis?

The European Community has long practiced subsidiarity. Yet in current multilateralism, countries seek both to establish principles and to identify modalities. This is an overload on heads of state. Once principles are established, implementation and modalities should be split off into subsidiary bodies with the relevant technical competence. Political posturing and defense of the moral high-ground can be kept out of these subsidiary talks.

Climate talks began to take shape in 1988. It is already 20 years later and GHG emissions continue to grow. There remain only 40 years to 2050, a deadline for emissions stabilisation and decline. We cannot afford to lose more time.

VI. Health and the Environment

Health and the environment have gradually imposed themselves as objects of international relations since the 19th century. Epidemics and pollution know no borders, and in their wake human communities find themselves inescapably interdependent. The increasing pace of globalization adds another dimension to this objective interdependence, fostered by the media whose coverage of events puts together and homogenizes the experiences and reactions of different audiences, confronted with a trans-border industrial accident or an influenza epidemic. In the face of this globalization process, political responses to health and environment issues remain partial. New institutions, norms, innovative financing mechanisms have been created, implemented or consolidated at the global level, but taken together, they present the picture of a shapeless global governance network, of a sketchy and uneven texture. How can those emerging forms of governance be improved and empowered to respond to crises and prevent health and environmental risks? Do we need a true formal and centralized governance system – for instance around the WHO, which remains highly decentralized today – or a “World Environment Organization,” which is yet to be created? Or should one rather aim to strengthen the existing fluid framework, which allows for a progressive harmonization of policies through the dissemination of ideas and analyses across different political spheres? And are there other options?

Such questions, relative to the structure of a global governance system, raise other ones, more specific but just as essential. How can we improve the strategic coherence between the many actors of the global health and environmental governance field? How can we consolidate the interest and the mobilization that alone can allow for the pooling of sufficient funding in a period of financial and economic crisis? How can we take care of the less visible, more delicate or more ambitious issues, such as the fight against the pollution of the Global Commons – ocean, space, etc. – the fight against non communicable diseases, the structural reform of health systems? How can we frame the contribution of science to political decision-making, taking into account the uncertainties that come with any form of knowledge? How can we develop equitable processes to allow for a better access to medicine and technological innovation (for example to the technological transfers needed in most developing countries to address climate change)? What balance can and should be established between the protection of trade and economic benefits on one side, and health and the environment, on the other, especially with regards to lessons that could be learned for the management of the new A/H1N1 influenza? How can we ensure that commitments taken by key actors are fulfilled, and how could we palliate to their failures? Should evaluation processes and audits be generalized? Should a health and environmental “responsibility to protect” be adopted? All these questions, some old and some emerging must be addressed to prepare for the future, and for the development of a new global health and environmental governance system or at the very least the refinement of existing options.

VII. Water, Agriculture and Food

Today every human being is entitled to have access to water. There is a universal “quasi-right” to water for all. But, because of exploding and diversifying needs, water, a basic and vital element, traditionally seen as unlimited, is becoming a good in short supply, which must have a price, ruled by economic laws. If one kilo of wheat requires 1000 liters of water, one kilo of meat requires 15000 liters.
Water issues are first of all regional: industrial areas that generate a great deal of pollution, deserts or semi-deserts faced with sudden increases of water consumption (demographic growth, food production, industrialization, urbanization….). Moreover, in many parts of the world (particularly in the case of rivers flowing through several states), the water issue cannot be separated from the main political challenges of the region, affecting questions of peace, security, relations among regional actors. For example, the planning of the Danube river, disputes over the Tigris and Euphrates, the Middle East peace process, the fact that the Nile is shared among ten states, the Sinkiang rivers (Irtysh, Ili)

  • • What kinds of regional plans promote more effective water management?
  • • Are global rules and institutions needed in this field?

Agriculture and Food
As access to water for all is a universally recognized right, a sufficient and healthy food supply for the whole population belongs to the basic needs which today must be fulfilled by any credible society. Around one billion people suffer from malnutrition (measured as having to live on one dollar or less per day). The so-called new middle classes in emerging countries (In 1990, 1.4 billion people were living on $2-13 per day; this number climbed to 2.6 billion in 2006) remain very dependent on food price fluctuations (in 2008, the striking rise of food prices reminded these people how precarious is their condition).

Food is perceived as a major sign of human inequality, the poor being both underfed and badly fed (huge spread of obesity). More generally, increasingly numerous populations and societies are claiming a balanced diet (a better diet being a way to an improved way of living).
Can food markets be handled like any other market, governed by free and open world competition? Or should agriculture, providing food and survival for human beings, be driven by security priorities, and demanding public intervention (regulations, subsidies, protection)?
Land takes on a role in the global free-for-all. China, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar are buying or renting arable grounds on a huge scale in foreign countries.
Ideally a viable global governance in agriculture and food should set up the following goals:

  • • To guarantee that no human being is underfed or badly fed.
  • • To promote healthy food in the whole world, being strongly aware of the links between food and public health.
  • • To monitor a better use of resources (soil, livestock…) within a global framework of sustainable development.
  • • To work out some form of international legal protection for land torn among at least three forces: an increasing demand for land; state sovereignty; the seeking of new income by the same states.