Magazine article Foreign Policy in Focus

Toward a New Foreign Policy

Magazine article Foreign Policy in Focus

Toward a New Foreign Policy

Article excerpt

Global governance lies in shambles, but there is little indication that the world's most powerful political leaders have the inclination or will to reform current institutions or create new ones. Within the multilateral institutions, blame and recriminations abound, leaving no room for self-criticism and change. Neither have the various groupings of like-minded nations--the G8/G7 and the G77 as the most prominent--provided the kind of enlightened leadership and visionary thinking necessary to upgrade global governance.

Due to its booming economy, its lead in information technology, and its lack of military competitors, the U.S. once again exercises hegemonic power in the capitalist world--which now encompasses virtually the entire planet. As such, the U.S. must assume a large part of the blame for the dismal state of global governance, and a large part of the responsibility to set international affairs on a more forward-looking path. A new approach to U.S. participation in the G8/G7 would be a good place to start. In its deliberative capacity, the G8/G7 could play a key role in highlighting the need for substantial reforms in the decisionmaking institutions of global governance and in forging an international consensus on the policies needed to address global climate change and other pressing transnational issues.

Washington and the other G8/G7 leaders could begin by taking the representation and legitimacy critiques more seriously. Within successful global governance, there can be a constructive role for self-constituted groupings of like-minded countries such as the G8/G7. Unfortunately, this is not the case today. Without the presence of other strong country groupings (particularly of developing countries) and in the absence of more democratically constituted multilateral institutions, the G8/G7 countries have assumed an unhealthy degree of power.

Rather than working to foster forums of other like-minded nations, the U.S. has historically sought to undermine groups that it cannot or does not control. Just as the wealthy industrialized countries benefit from sessions involving only other like-minded nations and leaders, so too will poor and developing countries benefit from strategy meetings with their counterparts throughout the South and in the transitional states. The concerted campaign led by the U.S. to crush the factions within the UN supporting a "new international economic order" and its aid embargo against leaders of the nonaligned movement are cases in point. The apparent reemergence of the G77 at a meeting in April 2000 is a positive development that deserves U.S. support and encouragement, and more weight needs to be given to the G24, a smaller grouping of developing countries and emerging markets.

At the center of global governance, however, must be effective, representative intergovernmental institutions, starting with the United Nations. The representation and legitimacy problems of the G8/G7 need to be addressed, but these problems cannot be adequately considered without first addressing the representation and structural problems that beset the UN. One reason the G8/G7 has grown to be a such an influential player in global governance is the out-dated structure of the UN Security Council, whose permanent membership is limited to five nuclear powers, thereby keeping G8/G7 members Japan and Germany on the outside. If there are strong, credible, effective, and representative institutions at the center of global governance, the legitimacy of self-constituted forums like the G8/G7 will be less of an issue. …

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