Center for Governance and Sustainability

at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Prognosis for Change

The Davos community has been concerned about the propensity of the existing global governance system to hide from tough issues. Without a new set of tools for managing the international financial system, the central corporate institutions aligned around Davos perceived a risk of a deeper, structural failure with the next unexpected crisis.  1  And with unexpected crises come increased unexpected consequences and an ever diminishing set of effective policy tools to manage subsequent crises.  2  A key premise of the Global Redesign Initiative is that action was needed following the 2008/2009 events and that the experiences flowing from Davos gatherings can bring the right Actors to the table to design the appropriate actions.

WEF’s own prognosis for meaningful change in global governance shifted from an optimistic tone to a rather pessimistic one by the end of its one and a half year GRI project. By January of 2010, it recognized that the intense interest shown by the world’s elite political, business, and media professionals for new international structures to reverse the global economic recession seem to have dropped down a memory hole. These leaders were more concerned about ‘exit strategies’ from state intervention and nation-state debt management than about global governance reform and structural instabilities in globalization. But the de-legitimatization of the global system and threats to the integrity of the existing global governance system from globalization remained a long-term problem in urgent need of a solution. As Samans, Schwab, and Malloch-Brown wrote in their joint introductory essay:

The world has paid a severe price for its complacency about systemic financial and macroeconomic risks that were well publicized but nevertheless allowed to accumulate for too long. Many other serious global risks are accumulating, awaiting a proactive cooperative response. It would be a serious, historic error to revert to complacency and return to business as usual in international relations. 3

While the fundamental redesign of the global system might be put on hold until the next major uncontrollable crisis, WEF still wants to use its position as a high profile international organization to nurture a multitude of individual proposals. Each of these proposals might provide an experimental platform that could, in coming years, stimulate governance debates in line with WEF's broader policy directions. 

 

Related Ideas: Appetite for reform waned; Historic error to revert to complacency

The Readers' Guide welcomes comments with alternative examples or counter examples and commentary – critical or otherwise – of the above interpretation of GRI’s perspective.

  • 1. ^ “The international system has reached an evolutionary crossroads. At best, it can be said to be experiencing natural growing pains as it adapts to new circumstances. At worst, it is in full crisis, facing the prospect that further shortfalls of cooperation will generate political tensions that degrade the international order which was painstakingly constructed out of the ashes of conflict in the mid-20th century.” Samans, Schwab, and Malloch-Brown, introductory essay, pg 5
  • 2. ^ "In particular, economic disparity and global governance failures are shaping the evolution of many other global risks, and inhibit our capacity to respond to them. The interconnectedness and complexity of issues mean that unintended consequences abound, and traditional risk response mechanisms often simply shift risk to other stakeholders or parts of society.” WEF press release 12 June 2011 : New Report Warns Current Global Governance Systems Lack Capacity to Deal with Global Risks “  United Kingdom, 12 January 2011
  • 3. ^ Samans, Schwab, and Malloch-Brown, introductory essay, GRI pg 6.

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