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November 21, 2008

Greybeards Urge Overhaul of Global Governance

by Jim Lobe

Capping a nearly two-year consultation involving dozens of US and international leaders, a new report by three US think tanks is calling on President-elect Barack Obama and other leaders to implement sweeping reforms in global governance to more effectively tackle shared regional and global threats over the next half century.

"Global governance is the number one challenge for the world and the number one challenge for the next president," said Strobe Talbott, president of the Washington-based Brookings Institution, one of the think tanks that sponsored the report.

"A Plan for Action: A New Era of International Cooperation for a Changed World", the Managing Global Insecurity (MGI) Project says that such reforms should begin with Washington's own re-engagement with the international community by closing the Guantanamo Detention facility and affirm its commitment to uphold the Geneva Conventions and other laws of war in order to "reestablish itself as a good-faith partner".

But the US and other western powers should also be prepared to give up their monopoly on the leadership of key global financial institutions, notably the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, and initiate reforms to the U.N. Security Council, including its expansion, that would both make it more representative and reduce the ability of its permanent members to block action in crisis situations, according to the plan.

It also calls for the creation of a new Group of 16 that would replace the Group of Eight most industrialized countries as the main international forum to forge preliminary agreements on major global challenges, including dealing with the ongoing financial crisis, climate change, nuclear proliferation, and terrorism.

In addition to the G8 members, which include the major western powers, the European Union (EU), and Russia, the G-16 would include Brazil, China, India, South Africa, Mexico – or what the authors call the "Outreach 5" – and Indonesia, Turkey, Egypt, or Nigeria, according to the plan, which was drafted before last week's summit here of the Group of 20 nations.

The plan also calls for urgent action by both the G16 and Obama to stabilize the Middle East, which it called the world's "most unstable region...and a vortex of transnational threats," through greater reliance on diplomacy, including immediate efforts to support an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement.

The plan, whose release was clearly designed for maximum impact on the incoming administration, offers a relatively detailed list of recommendations for US and international policymakers for action tied to already-scheduled international conferences on climate change, nonproliferation, global finance and security through Obama's first term.

While the MGI project has been directed by three US-based think tanks – Brookings, New York University's Center on International Cooperation, and Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation – it also featured strong foreign participation in both its financing and international advisory board, which included, among others, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, Former Organization of African Unity Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim, and the EU's current foreign-policy chief, Javier Solana, who also spoke at the plan's release here Thursday. The project also held consultations in Britain, Singapore, Berlin, Delhi, Beijing, Tokyo, Doha, and Mexico City.

Its US advisory group members included high-level veterans of both Democratic and Republican administrations, including former national security advisers Samuel Berger (Bill Clinton) and Brent Scowcroft (Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush); former secretaries of state Lawrence Eagleburger and Madeleine Albright, who, along with Talbott, who served as deputy secretary of state under Clinton, were also on hand at the Plan's release. John Podesta, who served as Bill Clinton's chief of staff and is currently in charge of Obama's transition team, also served on the US advisory group.

The plan identifies four tracks that should be pursued more or less simultaneously in order to build an "international security system for the 21st century" based on the "principle of responsible sovereignty", or the notion that sovereignty "entails obligations and duties toward other states as well as one's own citizens."

The first track, "restoring credible American leadership", is required because "no other state has the diplomatic, economic and military capacity necessary to rejuvenate international cooperation."

To demonstrate "its commitment to a rule-based international system that rejects unilateralism and looks beyond military might," the new US administration should, in addition to closing Guantanamo and reaffirming its adherence to international human rights treaties, deliver "consistent and strong messages on international cooperation domestically and internationally" in the run-up to major global meetings, begin a major expansion of its foreign service, and elevate development priorities in its foreign aid program, according to the plan.

The second track focuses on "revitalizing international institutions," first, by creating the G16 and the US taking the lead in restraining the use of the veto in the UN Security Council – both steps that could set the stage for expanding the membership of the UN Security Council later. At the same time, the governing boards of the IMF, the World Bank, and other international economic agencies would be restructured to reduce western dominance and make them more representative.

Discussion of the latter step is already underway in the context of the ongoing financial crisis and the G20 meeting here last week. Unlike the G20, the proposed G16 does not include Argentina, Australia, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. The plan's authors indicated they had no particular problem with the G20 as a group that could replace the G8.

The third track calls for action on specific global challenges faced by the international community, including the negotiation of an agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to set targets for reducing greenhouse emissions for 2020 and 2050 while securing investments in nonpolluting technologies, adaptation, and rainforests; reviving the nonproliferation regime by reducing existing nuclear arsenals, gaining ratification by all states of the Additional Protocol of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and creating an international fuel bank; and conducting G16 "pre-negotiations" to reduce protectionist pressures and conclude the World Trade Organization's Doha Round to benefit poor countries.

In addition, global leaders should take major initiatives to build local public health infrastructure in poor countries, build a reserve 50,000-strong international peacekeeping force and a two-billion-dollar peace-building fund; and establish a UN High Commissioner for Counter Terrorism Capacity Building.

Track Four focuses on resolving conflicts in the Greater Middle East by intensifying existing diplomatic efforts with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, with the eventual goal of building a new security architecture for the region.

(Inter Press Service)

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    Jim Lobe, works as Inter Press Service's correspondent in the Washington, D.C., bureau. He has followed the ups and downs of neo-conservatives since well before their rise in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

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