Magazine article Newsweek International

The World's New Actors Need a Bigger Stage

Magazine article Newsweek International

The World's New Actors Need a Bigger Stage

Article excerpt

As we survey the challenges of the new century, it is hard to escape a dismaying conclusion. The global institutions that we have so painstakingly built over the past half century--the United Nations, the IMF and World Bank, the WTO--are inadequate to deal with the many problems we face.

This fact of "systemic failure" threatens us all. It prompts the United States and other powerful nations to act unilaterally when their interests are threatened. That, in turn, can easily degenerate into national and regional protectionism. It has also sparked a powerful (and increasingly violent) backlash against globalization by those who feel frustrated or overwhelmed by the sheer complexity and pace of change. I am deeply skeptical, at this point, that the institutions responsible for promoting world peace, financial stability, socioeconomic development and the free flow of goods and services will ever again be able to address these challenges on their own.

One reason is that the power of states (and the global institutions they long ago created) has declined sharply over the past decade. Power has shifted to new actors, from multinational companies to NGOs and activist individuals. New challenges have also emerged. The U.S. economic slowdown, structural weakness in Japan, the struggle of the market economy in Russia, divergent views on Europe's future, global climate change and the formidable task of bridging the social, economic and technological divides between rich and poor--such difficult issues demand dramatically different solutions. …

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