Center for Governance and Sustainability

at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Everybody’s Business

The report of the Global Redesign Initiative, Everybody’s Business, is really two reports in one. It is a proposal for a comprehensive reconstruction of the global governance system by the leadership of the World Economic Forum, and, separately, it is a complex package of hundreds of specific recommendations by independent taskforces. The comprehensive proposal seeks, amongst other ideas, to introduce voluntary multi-stakeholder governance as a replacement for part of the formal governance system; to enhance the G20 as a more effective global leadership body; and to re-cast the role of the United Nations in global governance matters.

Many of its major recommendations, including those dealing with the G20, can be put into place without a formal decision by the intergovernmental system. The report’s broad array of specific thematic proposals are designed to test the new governance approach and to elicit new thinking about how to address longstanding failures in the global community.

The challenge for WEF is that the political possibility of fundamental structural change in 2009 slipped away. Significant components of the international elite community have again become self-absorbed with their prosperity and want to pretend that the structural flaws exposed in the 2007/2008 crash will miraculously self-correct. Inertia is not only a concept in Newtonian physics but can equally apply to political systems. Some external shock or some internal conflict may well open the door again for change. In many parts of the OECD world, 2009 is as long ago as 1909, as firms, governments, and key institutions are pleased that they are back to business as usual.

The business-as-usual (BAU) scenario is clearly recognized by the WEF. It is, in another manner, a cornerstone of the work of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPPC). IPPC has a key message to the global community, that human induced climate change is a substantial global problem and that it is pushing the Earth's ecosystem in some very disruptive directions. For IPPC, the current business-as-usual scenario is extremely dangerous. However, many in the international elite, believing that the 2009 crisis 'has past', are very pleased to have even a partial return to a business-as-usual economic world and to continue to ignore the consequences of a business-as-usual climate trajectory.

WEF sees the current global governance system as if it were a globally failed state, and that this system cannot secure the future of globalization. Many in the financial and business world actually want to return to a BAU globalization model because it has brought them success in the past. Unfortunately, too many powerful elite actors now disagree with both WEF and the IPPC about the need to move dramatically away from the business-as-usual scenario. They are reluctant to move away from the current BAU governance system because big change scares those with invested resources in the present system. But 2012 and beyond is not going to be a flat, unchanging world. The speed of change and the drivers for change are going to continue to multiply. In the climate field, IPPC redefined the goal posts. In the area of global governance, WEF has the only comprehensive proposal on the table – ready when the business-as-usual economic world is shaken again.

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

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