Back Again: The Global Order in Our Sights

Munk School - 940x622It has been a long hiatus.  Truth be told, I was planning to remain silent for an entire year.  But I couldn’t resist coming back before then.  As it turns out – just on the cusp of Memorial Day weekend for my American colleagues – and in the face of the announcement that Donald Trump had enough delegates to be nominated in Cleveland at the Republican Convention in July, I am back. The fact is too much is happening both in the world of global governance and also in the examination of global order ideas.  So it’s time to end my silence.

What’s up then.  Well on the global governance front China is hosting the upcoming G20 on September 4th-5th at Hangzhou.  This is a big deal.  This hosting reinforces the view that the Liberal Order (much discussed by my colleague John Ikenberry) remains in place. And we have just seen the final  – at least for now – Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) (For a good introduction on the NSS see Global Summitry Vol.1:1 Anya Loukianova’s “Improving Nuclear Security – One Summit at a Time”). The NSS is a very evident instance of global summitry in action – leader driven, informal and often functionally targeted.  It was called together by President Obama in 2010 and has met several times since then before holding this final gathering in March.   I am certainly planning to encourage more discussion about the Summit and its accomplishments – and failures – in Global Summitry: Politics, Economics and Law in  International Governance (the Journal). As one of the senior editors of this new Oxford journal I will try and tie this blog with insights and happenings gained at the Journal.  Here then another reason for finding my voice.

And then there are the conferences and workshops that I have been fortunate enough to join in the last month or two.  There was the annual activity – in this instance the ISA meeting held in 2016 in Atlanta.   As many of you will know this is a gathering of thousands – and almost as many panels and roundtables.  I stopped in at many panels and helped organize a few myself including panels on: “middle power diplomacy” and “the BRICS and the G20” and most interestingly in some ways a roundtable on “determining success: the results of COP21”. In one manner or another the panels/roundtables examined the changing actors and the arrangements they have concluded in seeking to further global governance. Clearly I hope to elaborate further on the changing elements in global governance.  Stay tuned for further efforts next year at the ISA, this time in Baltimore in February 2017 with the rather grand conference title, ‘Understanding Change in World Politics’.  

But for me such global governance activity was not restricted to the big annual gatherings.  Your ‘global governance blogger’, or as well like to say the GG blogger was rather busy helping to organize a number of exciting workshops.  One was  a ‘doozy’.   So with the lead of Yves Tiberghien the Director of the Institute of Asian Research at the University of British Columbia, the Munk School of Global Affairs  and Zhejiang University (Zheda) hosted the first V20 –Vision 20: International Summit on Global Governance’s New Frontiers at Zheda. The Partners sought with the assistance of a stellar group of experts from academia and the think tank world and a large contingent of former officials to evaluate the progress of the G20 and in the face of China hosting the G20 at Hangzhou in September – where Zheda is located – to build a set of recommendations that a Working Group could take and fashion into a report  The hope was that these recommendations would suggest policy initiatives beyond the technical and incremental that had become the signature of recent G20 communiques – to seek, in the words of the partners, a bigger-picture approach to the G20, initiate a new network, and produce a blue paper for leadership and then possibly a book for the G20 meeting in September 2016.   

Meanwhile, back in North America with many colleagues I had been organizing several other events.  With my good friends at the the Kennedy School at Harvard we worked on the next iteration of the US-China Dialogue.  This Dialogue was begun at least eight years ago and on the US side Harvard has played the key role.  This year, as in the recent past, our China dialogue partner has been The Chinese Academy of Social Science (CASS). The Harvard Team – and a few others – was led by our ‘fearless leader, Richard Rosecrance with the able assistance of the Director of Research at the Belfer Center, Gary Samore.  We were fortunate enough to work with Huang Ping a senior research professor and the Director General of the Institute of European Studies at CASS. He along with a number of his colleagues including Tao Wenzhao, Li Xiangyang, Major General Yao Yunzhu and Fan Jishe along with a special guest He Fan were able to join us for the dialogue in April at Harvard. The participants accept that the US-China relationship remains the most critical in the contemporary global order.  We held panels on key issues including the economic relationship between the two, the renminbi as a reserve currency, the politics of US-China relations, politics and military issues between the two, the efforts to build a cybersecurity regime and the continuing tensions in the South China Sea. Great insights were provided from the American side by professors  Drew Perkins, Dick Cooper, Benjamin Friedman, Ezra Vogel, Iain Johnston, Tony Saich all of Harvard and Taylor Fravel, MIT, Etel Solingen, UCI, and Arthur Stein, UCLA.  In addition we were joined by William Tobey a senior fellow at the Belfer Center, Michael Sulmeyer, Cyber Security Project director at the Belfer Center, Brigadier General Mark Gillette, and General Jim Cartwright, CSIS.  We were most pleased to welcome Professor Lawrence Summers who delivered a highly informative set of remarks at lunch. I intend to return to the conclusions that can be taken from this serious dialogue. 

And then there was the sixth annual Princeton Workshop.  This Workshop held this year in May at Princeton was begun years ago as an opportunity to bring together academics, think tank types and officials (largely past officials) to discuss key global governance issues.  This year we were fortunate enough not only to have the past partners, the Project on the Future of Multilateralism at Princeton University, led by John Ikenberry, the International Institutions and Global Governance Program at the Council on Foreign Relations, headed up by Stewart Patrick, The Stanley Foundation and its president Keith Porter but also a new partner Brookings led by Bruce Jones the vice president and director of the Foreign Policy program at Brookings and Tom Wright a fellow and director of the Project on International Order and Strategy. The final partner of course was the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.

This year’s agenda was titled, “Challenging Multilateralism and the Liberal Order: What Stance Should the United States Take?”.  The discussions were wide-ranging indeed, and rather sobering in light of current presidential politics.  We held panels on ‘measuring progress in multilateralism”, ‘assessing alternative global orders’, ‘the crisis of European Integration’ (co-sponsored with the European Union Program at Princeton), ‘a divided global economic order’, ‘the Middle East: Is a Multilateral Cooperation Strategy Possible?’ and ‘US Grand Strategy: What’s Possible? What’s Likely?’ Here too, I hope to come back to the conclusions drawn by the participants at these panels as soon as the Report is posted.

So what is your favorite GG blogger intent on focusing on in the next months.  Here is just a sample of the priority subjects:      

  • First the changing architecture of the global order.  As Bruce Jones at Brookings recently wrote in a Brookings blog:

For the past several years, international affairs have been analyzed through two lenses. One lens has focused on geopolitics: in particular, the question of how great power relations are evolving at a time of redistribution in the world’s economic and now also political power. The second lens considers the framework of global governance, especially the question of whether or not the existing formal and informal institutions have the tools and the ability to manage complex global challenges. …There is little doubt that we are at an important inflection point in international order. For the past 25 years, the international system—with its win-win economic structures—has been relatively stable. But this order is under challenge and threat, and it is eroding. We risk the rise of a lose-lose international system, encompassing a deterioration of the security relations between great powers, and a breakdown of the basic structures of international cooperation.

  • Then there the focus on the ‘mechanics’ of global governance.  Who – whcih actors – are taking the actions and what arrangements – institutions, rules, norms – are being organized to address, and hopefully advance global policy? As John Ikenberry has written recently in a chapter on liberal internationalism in The Oxford Handbook of Historical Institutionalism edited by Orfeo Fioretos, Tulia G. Falleti, Adam Sheingate: 

But the focus is on how states create rules and arrangements for ongoing relations of competition and cooperation.  World politics is not simply states operating in anarchy – it is an active political order with rules, institutions, roles, and accumulated understandings and expectations.

  • In examining the ‘mechanics’, and as we discussed in the panel on the global economy at Princeton, it may well be that current global economic governance is not focused on the central concerns affecting the global economy.  Most critical today is the crisis in global economic growth. One need only look at the anemic global growth since the global economic recession – in the developed economies, and now in the emerging market countries and in China. Increases year-over-year in global trade have evaporated. And now there is a growing concern over the decline in productivity.  In an FT article by Sam Fleming and Chris Giles,  it appears that the US will suffer its first fall in productivity in 3 decades. As the journalists wrote:

Productivity growth lies at the heart of economic progress. Without an improvement in output for every hour worked, economies can grow only if people work harder and longer or more people find jobs.”

The dilemma is that current global economic governance is ill-equipped to deal with declining growth and productivity. Without the broad foundation of prosperity, the global order is at risk.     

  • Finally there the ‘elephant in the room’ the US election.  At every election there is always the insistence by politicians that the current election, whenever it is, is critical.  Generally that doesn’t prove to be the case.  All elections are of course important but there would appear to be great continuity from one election to another no matter who is running.  But somehow I think this is definitely not that kind of election. If Donald Trump is elected … well US foreign policy, indeed the US Liberal Order could be at risk.  And then what.





Why Not Diplomacy

2nd Republican debate

So it would appear that the Obama Administration has crossed the finish line on the US-Iran nuclear deal or as it called, the  Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The period of Congressional approval/disapproval – the 60-day period of congressional review  – ends today. With the vote of disapproval eliminated, the US-Iran deal is secured. Of course ‘US approval’ says nothing about implementation, verification and surveillance. That will come next.

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The ‘Mechanics of Global Order’ – A Different Kind of World Ordering

Congress of Vienna 1815

I was reminded recently of the enormous influence of the nonagenarian Henry Kissinger.  My colleague from Brazil, Oliver Stuenkel, author of the blog Post-Western World reviewed Henry Kissinger’s most recent book, World Order. His review of the 2014 book caused me to look back at my notes on this book and then to drag from my University library his 1994 book, Diplomacy. Obviously quite laconic when it came to titles – don’t forget On China – Kissinger has been the most detailed – and THE contemporary deep thinker – both as an academic and a diplomatic practitioner – when it comes to articulating the contemporary global order and its inner workings. Kissinger has been enormously influential since at least his  A World Restored (Kissinger’s Ph.D. thesis originally) published in 1954.  And of course, his diplomatic practice in the Nixon and Ford administrations remains central to US foreign policy behavior and critique.  Today, he is still consulted by many in Washington for his views on US foreign policy – see his and George Shultz’s review of the Iran nuclear deal –  and in particular US diplomacy toward China.

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A Good Week for Diplomacy


It is jarring.  It shouldn’t be, but given the strategic actions of the leading state, it is.  We all have gotten so used to the exercise US military muscle (or not), especially in the Middle East, it is shocking almost, to see diplomacy in the lead.    It takes some getting used to.  So the Iran deal has been concluded.  As Robin Wright described it in The New Yorker:

The agreement is the Obama Administration’s boldest foreign-policy initiative. It marks the first success in dealing with Iran since its 1979 revolution and the prolonged seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran.

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Time to Return to the Blogosphere


So it’s time to rejoin the blogosphere!

I apologize to all of you who might have looked to Rising BRICSAM for news and views on the BRICS and the other Influentials in the global order.  It was an extended absence, I know, but it was not time ill-spent.

Over the last months we completed the chapter on ‘concert diplomacy’ for the volume the Next Great War? The Roots of World I and the Risks of US-China Conflict – a work edited by Richard Rosecrance and Steve Miller from the Belfer Center at Harvard.   And then there was the paper for the ISA in New Orleans entitled, “The Challenges to Contemporary Global Order” that can be found at my ResearchGate site.  But the most critical work has been the effort by myself and many others from the Global Summitry Project at the Munk School, The Rotman School of Management and especially from Oxford University Press to get the lights on for the new OUP journal, Global Summitry: Politics, Economics and Law in International Governance. Hopefully the lights will be fully lit by the end of this month.  This latter project is a ‘real labor of love’.  Working with Don Brean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, we hope

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In a World of Order? Or is it Disorder?

Central Bank Governors and Finance Ministers of G20 countries pose for a family picture near the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge

My good colleague, Stewart Patrick at the Council of Foreign Relations, left us a “must-watch list” of global summits for 2015 before he disappeared for Christmas and the New Year.  Prepared for the slightly pretentious Council of Councils, Stewart nevertheless left us a sensible “go-to”  list.  This list for 2015 is valuable if only to suggest the range of global governance meetings in what most commentators have described as a growing sense of disorder in contemporary global order.

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South Africa’s Place in an Economic Global Order

South Africa Pretoria

Without question South Africa remains a vibrant, complicated and seemingly a growing troubled land.  My colleagues from the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) one of the premiere think tanks in South Africa and the University of Pretoria, particularly the Department of Political Science there brought together some of their South African colleagues with experts from a number of countries for a conference (December 4th-5th) titled “Alliances Beyond BRICS: South Africa’s Role in Global Economic Governance”.  Hats off to both Elizabeth Sidiropoulos, President of SAIIA and Maxi Schoeman Head of Political Science at the University of Pretoria and all their colleagues for a job well done.

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A Few Surprises – But Just a Few at Brisbane

G20 BrisbaneA few surprises are worth mentioning – and then there were a lot of non-surprises.  On the not a surprise side.  Well start with headlines from most of the international press.  Early headlines focused on the cool reception delivered to President Putin by various Western leaders and then the early exit of Russia’s President.  Putin left before the collective lunch and before the release of the communique following the lunch.   All-in-all reasonable political theatre but little to do with the G20 agenda.

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Struggling to Steer – The G20

G20_PreSummitAfter serious progress at APEC among the leaders, what can we expect from this weekend’s G20 leaders meeting in Brisbane.  The continuing knock on the G20 as a “talkfest” continues.  Chris Giles of the FT, no fan of the G20, declaring:

It leaves the G20 as something of a forum for grandstanding, bilateral meetings over geopolitics and impotence on world economic affairs.

There are repeated warning from media and other experts that the G20 has somehow reached a watershed.  Ben Doherty at the Guardian  has declared: “This week’s Brisbane meeting of the Group of 20 will be a crucial test: can it be a genuine agent for change, or just another tired horse on the merry-go-round of international confabs?”

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