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Global Cooperation, U.S. Leadership Score Poorly on New CFR Report Card

June 6, 2014


International cooperation on critical issues such as nuclear nonproliferation, terrorism, and global finance is in decline, finds a new report from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). U.S. leadership is also faltering in these areas, as well as in preventing armed conflict and slowing climate change.

"The report card confirms a clear trend. Around the world, leaders are less willing to compromise and cooperate in global institutions—even when their interests align," says Stewart M. Patrick, director of CFR's International Institutions and Global Governance program, which issued the report. "And at the same time the United States appears to be losing interest or capacity to marshal collective action to fight transnational threats and or promote global goods."

The new Report Card is the assessment of fifty experts who ranked international and U.S. efforts to address transnational issues during 2013. It uses last year's inaugural Report Card as a baseline. This year's report finds that multilateral efforts declined in half of six issue areas: terrorism (from B to C+), nonproliferation (from C to C-), and global finance (from B to B-).

"Despite a steady if uneven global economic recovery, multilateral efforts to mitigate global risks and threats were at best lackluster," the Report Card finds. "Enthusiasm for global cooperation waned, critical negotiations cooled, and U.S. leadership stalled as the Obama administration focused on confronting spoilers abroad and grappling with pressing challenges (including a fractious Congress) at home."

Grades for international cooperation improved in only two areas: armed conflict (from C+ to B-) and global health (from C to C+). The only issue area where the overall grade remained the same was climate change, where international efforts earned a D.

"In virtually every issue area, the dearth of effective global leadership proved a major stumbling block to more effective international cooperation," the report finds.

The grades given to U.S. performance also worsened over the last year: terrorism (from B+ to B-), armed conflict (from B- to C+), climate change (C to C-), nonproliferation (B to B-), and global finance (B+ to B). The grade given for its performance on public health remained a B.

While the Report Card suggests ample room for improvement in U.S. efforts, it points out that "there is plenty of blame to spread around, among both established and rising powers, for failures of collective action."

View the Report Card at Each issue is explored in depth in the Global Governance Monitor, IIGG's award-winning multimedia interactive. This report was made possible by the generous support of the Robina Foundation.

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