As world leaders meeting in Davos discuss “The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models”, a central question is how to grapple with the rise of regionalism – a consequence of a system of global governance that increasingly seems to have fallen short of expectations.
The dearth of truly effective global institutions is consistent with the broader geopolitical trend where the global agenda is increasingly influenced on a regional level. With general agreement that the unbridled pursuit of individual national interests would produce suboptimal results, regionalism, while far from ideal, is emerging as a stopgap to the shortage of effective global decision-making.
The problem is that while demands on global institutions have increased, their ability to respond effectively and quickly has stagnated and even weakened. This is due, in part, to governance structures that lack legitimacy and insufficient support from today’s great powers, namely the US and China.
A world where regional groupings and organisations address regional, and sometimes wider issues, is clearly second-best to a world of effective global governance. But it is nevertheless preferable to raw nationalism and reflects the broader diffusion of international power away from a pure “might-makes-right” system. The trick for global leaders is to recognise this new reality and try to ensure that the emerging institutions and alliances can work together. Read more