The new arrangements promoted by the South and the resulting pluralism are challenging existing institutions and processes in the traditional domains of multilateralism—finance, trade, investment and health—sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly through alternative regional and subregional systems. Global and regional governance is becoming a multifaceted combination of new arrangements and old structures that need collective nurturing in multiple ways. Reforms in global institutions must be complemented by stronger cooperation with regional institutions—and in some cases broader mandates for those regional institutions. The accountability of organizations must be extended to a wider group of countries, as well as to a wider group of stakeholders.
Many of the current institutions and principles for international governance were designed for a world order that does not match contemporary reality. One consequence is that these institutions greatly underrepresent the South. If they are to survive, international institutions need to be more representative, transparent and accountable. Indeed, some intergovernmental processes would be invigorated by greater participation from the South, which can bring substantial financial, technological and human resources.
In all of this, governments are understandably concerned with preserving national sovereignty. Overly strict adherence to the primacy of national sovereignty can encourage zero-sum thinking. A better strategy is responsible sovereignty, whereby countries engage in fair, rule-based and accountable international cooperation, joining in collective endeavours that enhance global welfare. Responsible sovereignty also requires that states ensure the human rights security and safety of their citizens. According to this view, sovereignty is seen not just as a right but as a responsibility.
This changing world has profound implications for the provision of public goods. Areas of global international concern meriting urgent attention and cooperation include trade, migration and climate change. In some cases, public goods can be delivered by regional institutions, which can avoid the polarization that slows progress in larger, multilateral forums. Increasing regional cooperation may, however, have disadvantages—adding to a complex, multilevel and fragmented tapestry of institutions. The challenge therefore is to ensure “coherent pluralism”—so that institutions at all levels work in a broadly coordinated fashion.
International governance institutions can be held to account not just by member states, but also by global civil society. Civil society organizations have already influenced global transparency and rule setting on aid, debt, human rights, health and climate change. Civil society networks can now take advantage of new media and new communications technologies. Yet civil society organizations also face questions about their legitimacy and accountability and may take undesirable forms. Nevertheless, the future legitimacy of international governance will depend on the capabilities of institutions to engage with citizen networks and communities.
Many countries of the South have already demonstrated what can be done to ensure that human development proceeds in ways that are both productive and sustainable, but they have gone only part of the way. For the years ahead, the Report suggests five broad conclusions.
Investments in human development are justified not only on moral grounds, but also because improvements in health, education and social welfare are key to success in a more competitive and dynamic world economy. In particular, these investments should target the poor—connecting them to markets and increasing their livelihood opportunities. Poverty is an injustice that can and should be remedied by determined action.
Good policymaking also requires greater focus on enhancing social capacities, not just individual capabilities. Individuals function within social institutions that can limit or enhance their development potential. Policies that change social norms that limit human potential, such as strictures against early marriages or dowry requirements, can open up additional opportunities for individuals to reach their full potential.
The unprecedented accumulation of financial reserves and sovereign wealth funds in the South as well as the North provides an opportunity to accelerate broad-based progress. Even a small portion of these funds dedicated to human development and poverty eradication could have a large effect. At the same time South–South trade and investment flows can leverage foreign markets in new ways that enhance development opportunities, such as by participating in regional and global value chains.
Burgeoning South–South trade and investment in particular can lay the basis for shifting manufacturing capacity to other less developed regions and countries. Recent Chinese and Indian joint ventures and startup manufacturing investments in Africa serve as a prelude to a much expanded force. International production networks provide opportunities to speed up the development process by allowing countries to leap-frog to more sophisticated production modes.
New institutions and partnerships can help countries share knowledge, experiences and technology. This can be accompanied by new and stronger institutions to promote trade and investment and accelerate experience sharing across the South. One step would be to establish a new South Commission to bring a fresh vision of how the diversity of the South can be a force for solidarity.
The rise of the South is leading to a greater diversity of voice on the world stage. This represents an opportunity to build governance institutions that fully represent all constituencies that would make productive use of this diversity in finding solutions to world problems.
New guiding principles for international organizations are needed which incorporate the experience of the South. The emergence of the Group of 20 is an important step in this direction, but the countries of the South also need more equitable representation in the Bretton Woods institutions, the United Nations and other international bodies.
Active civil society and social movements, both national and transnational, are using the media to amplify their calls for just and fair governance. The spread of movements and increasing platforms for vocalizing key messages and demands challenge governance institutions to adapt more-democratic and more-inclusive principles. More generally, a fairer and less unequal world requires space for a multiplicity of voices and a system of public discourse.
A sustainable world requires a greater supply of global public goods. Global issues today are increasing in number and urgency, from mitigation of climate change and international economic and financial instability to the fight against terrorism and nuclear proliferation. They require a global response. Yet in many areas, international cooperation continues to be slow—and at times dangerously hesitant. The rise of the South presents new opportunities for providing global public goods more effectively and for unlocking today’s many stalemated global issues.
“Publicness” and “privateness” are in most cases not innate properties of a public good but social constructs. As such, they represent a policy choice. National governments can step in when there is underprovision at the national level, but when global challenges arise, international cooperation is necessary and can happen only by voluntary action of many governments. Given the many pressing challenges, progress in determining what is public and what is private will require strong, committed personal and institutional leadership.