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Extreme Makeover, International Edition

Author: Stewart M. Patrick, James H. Binger Senior Fellow in Global Governance and Director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program
July 11, 2008
Bellville News-Democrat


This week’s Group of Eight summit in Hokkaido highlights the growing irrelevance of some of the world’s most important institutions. Atop the G8 agenda are climate change, fuel prices and the global food crisis. And yet China and India - the world’s two most populous countries, second- and sixth-largest energy consumers, and second- and fourth-biggest carbon emitters - are not members of the club.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, globalization has transformed world politics. New power centers like China, India and Brazil have emerged. Terrorism and global warming compete with great power rivalry as security concerns.

These tectonic shifts are straining the foundations of global governance laid after World War II. Yet there has been no “act of creation” comparable to the late 1940s, when U.S. statesmen led the building of new global rules and institutions. The world thus makes do with creaky bodies like the G8, United Nations, IMF and NATO, whose agendas, capabilities and governance structures reflect a world that no longer exists.

Today’s global architecture should reflect contemporary power realities, threats, and sensibilities. But absent another world war to clean the slate, vested interests will surely resist fundamental change. Unless the United States takes the lead, the institutional reform agenda will go nowhere.

As the Bush administration straggles to the finish line, some of the most creative thinking about world order is occurring across the Atlantic. UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has proposed a sweeping overhaul of international institutions, to bring global governance into line with 21st-century realities. It is time for the two U.S. presidential candidates to engage this debate.

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