Rules of Order: Assessing the State of Global Governance

Paper by Stewart Patrick: “The current disorder has multiple causes, although their relative weight can be debated. They include intensifying strategic competition between the United States and China, two superpowers with dramatically different world order visions and clashing material interests; Russia’s brazen assault against its neighbor, resulting in the most serious armed conflict in Europe since World War II; an ongoing diffusion of power from advanced market democracies to emerging nations with diverse preferences, combined with resistance from established powers against accommodating them in multilateral institutions; a widespread retreat from turbocharged globalization, as national governments seek to claw back autonomy from market forces to pursue industrial, social, national security, and other policies and, in some cases, to weaponize interdependence; growing alienation between richer and poorer nations, exacerbated by accelerating climate change and stalled development; a global democratic recession now in its seventeenth year that has left no democracy unscathed; and a resurgence of sovereignty-minded nationalism that calls on governments to take back control from forces blamed for undermining national security, prosperity, and identity. (The “America First” ethos of Donald Trump’s presidency, which rejected the tenets of post-1945 U.S. internationalism, is but the most prominent recent example.) In sum, the crisis of cooperation is as much a function of the would-be global problem-solvers as it is a function of the problems themselves.

Given these centrifugal tendencies, is there any hope for a renewed open, rules-based world order? As a first step in answering this question, this paper surveys areas of global convergence and divergence on principles and rules of state conduct across fourteen major global issue areas. These are grouped into four categories: (1) rules to promote basic stability and peaceful coexistence by reducing the specter of violence; (2) rules to facilitate economic exchange and prosperity; (3) rules to promote cooperation on transnational and even planetary challenges like climate change, pandemics, the global commons, and the regulation of cutting-edge technologies; and (4) rules that seek to embed liberal values, particularly principles of democracy and human rights, in the international sphere. This stocktaking reveals significant preference diversity and normative disagreement among nations in both emerging and long-established spheres of interdependence. Ideally, this brief survey will give global policymakers a better sense of what, collectively, they are up against—and perhaps even suggest ways to bridge existing differences…(More)”