Center for Governance and Sustainability

at the University of Massachusetts Boston


pg. 33: Practical, results-oriented ways are also needed to make the principal international institutions more representative of and accountable to our more interdependent, bottom-up world. . . . based on the many views expressed over the course of the Global Redesign process, including particularly the country hearings in Switzerland and Singapore, there are three additional areas that require special attention if the multilateral system is to retain the confidence of the international community: updating voting structures, consulting more directly with citizens and their elected parliamentary representatives, and embedding the G20 in a manner that achieves both greater legitimacy and effectiveness for the system as a whole. 

Readers' Guide Comment on “bottom up world"

While the initial part of the text argues for increased "consult[ation] with citizens and their elected parliamentary representatives," the recommended actions deal only with increased consultation for parliamentarians. Invoking ‘citizens,’ the ‘people,’ and the ‘bottom-up world’ is disingenuous, as there are no GRI proposals that focus explicitly on reducing the democratic deficit in international relations.

The use of the phrase ‘bottom-up world’ invites attention away from international elites. The GRI report seems to use this phrase principally to discredit the intergovernmental UN system as not ‘representative of and accountable.’ It does not mean that WEF wants to invite to the governance table the billions of people who live on a dollar a day.

Readers' Guide Comment on “updating voting structures”

WEF’s recommendations for ‘updating voting structures’ apply in practice only to the international financial institutions (e.g. IMF, regional development banks, World Bank). They do not refer to decision-making processes in any other intergovernmental social, cultural, health, trade, or ecological organization. The voting structures in these bodies, too, could use an updated voting structure, say one that reflected relative population size or that used majority voting for normal organizational decisions or that treated democratically elected states differently from authoritarian states. Consideration of such new voting structures could act to spark a debate on democracy at the international level. That is not something that is a major goal of the GRI process (see other references below).   

Readers' Guide Comment on “consulting more directly with citizens and their elected parliamentary representatives”

If one wanted to address ‘representative of and accountable’ decision-making on the international level, one ought to tackle the disproportionate power of the international financial institutions (IFIs) and WTO structures over the rest of the universal membership UN system organizations, the imbalance in voting structures in the Security Council, and obstacles to accountability in ministries of foreign affairs and state departments. Instead of addressing these longstanding concerns, 1  WEF concludes its call for greater bottom-up engagement with the world by proposing that the elite G20 group be given greater legitimacy.

The GRI process missed an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how to consult more directly with citizens and their elected representatives when it prepared its proposals for a new global governance system. WEF could have hosted panels to exchange ideas with the public in various cities around the world, as typically done by UN-sponsored commissions for the past 40 years, and it could have posted a draft version of its recommendations on WEF’s website for comment, as is routinely done by government departments in a public comment period. The inconsistency between the GRI’s recommendation for enhanced public participation and its own practice seriously undermines the creditability of its position.

Related Ideas: Step Three and Four; democracy; missing issue; G20: global leaders; fixes to the G20; managing financial globalization; rules, procedures and culture

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

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