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Struggling for Coordination on Global Challenges

By Callie Plapinger

This month, the Millennium Project, a think tank that seeks to increase global knowledge to further human development, published the 2015-2016 “State of the Future.” The report details 15 global challenges and outlines a series of policy suggestions to address them. As stated in the report, it strives to provide “serious, coherent, and integrated understandings of mega-problems” and gives “opportunities to identify and implement strategies” on a worldwide scale. With the Global Peace Index’s 2015 findings that the world has become less peaceful every year since 2008, these global challenges and the proposed innovative solutions offer critical insight into the causes of conflict and unrest.

Many of the world’s most pressing issues revolve around the question of balance. For example, the challenge of addressing climate change through sustainable rather than unchecked development involves balancing growth with environmental conservation. According to Jerome Glenn, the CEO of the Millennium Project, many governments have created “pledges and benchmarks,” as well as “policies to meet the benchmarks.” Glenn cites the November 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting, where the United States pledged to cut its emissions between 26 percent and 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, and China pledged to cap greenhouse gasses by 2030. However, these pledges are nonbinding, and do not reflect the sense of urgency that climate change warrants, given its immediacy.

To ensure that balance is maintained while addressing these global challenges, intra-governmental regulations and institutional benchmarks must be implemented. However, the lack of enforcement of these pledges is not limited to climate change—with every global challenge comes the plights of implementation and accountability.  Though there is no international body capable of rendering pledges as binding or contractual. Glenn posits that the United Nations plays a crucial role as both an intermediary as well as a leader, describing the body as “the international media center of data.” Glenn further argues that the United Nations ability to collect data and present it against global standards places leadership under scrutiny yet fosters public faith in media institutions and the information that they are presenting the public. 

Besides the threat of climate change, the report points out that though the current global security focus is mostly on terrorism and extremist groups, many have pointed to artificial intelligence as both a security issue and a source of job displacement. Thus, artificial intelligence has the dangerous potential to catalyze massive unemployment. As the report states, “the speed and integration of technological change and population growth is so much greater this time that long-term structural unemployment is a very plausible future.” In order to ensure global security, artificial intelligence must be cautiously developed, so that job displacement does not occur.

Crucially, the report tackles the status of women across the world. While citing statistics of political participation and constitutional inclusion, the report highlights that many “discriminatory social structures,” glass ceilings, and unequal pay continue to permeate societies on a global scale. After assessing 121 countries, the report found that 86 of those countries still have discriminatory inheritance laws or practices. Not only do these discriminatory practices negatively affect women, but they also prevent national economic growth. According to the report, if women’s paid employment rates were equal to that of men’s, the income per capita would increase by as much as 20 percent in a matter of 14 years.  Besides economic discrimination, violence against women is the largest ongoing contemporary war, as measured by deaths and casualties per year. An estimated 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime. Worse yet, 1 in 5 girls across the world have been sexually abused.

In order to address the issue of the status of women around the world, Glenn believes that three forces must be implemented: the enforcement of United Nations treaties, the attention of international media, and the pressure of individual players. According the Glenn, “external media attention” will help to “reinforce people inside of countries.” In addition to the role of the media, treaties such as the United Nations’ Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women are crucial to catalyze global progress on gender equality and issues of women’s rights. However, ratification of these treaties is another issue.

The United States has signed but not yet ratified this treaty, so it is not required to adapt any existing laws or practices. Therefore, as Glenn points out, “change in countries is effected by international treaties—if they are ratified, they are obliged to change internal laws.” Though centuries of sexist conventions render the status of women a slow march, often rife with challenges and setbacks, when considering the status of women, past attitudes of balance and moderation must be disregarded so that the crimes against women and patriarchal culture can be abolished.

Similar to the status of women, the global challenge of democratization is not only crucial to worldwide development, but also to the maintenance of peace and to combatting corruption. USAID found that “developing countries that have ineffective government institutions, rampant corruption, and a weak rule of law have a 30–45 percent higher risk for civil war and extreme criminal violence than other developing countries.” With democratization intricately tied to issues of financial and political corruption, Glenn highlights that “organized crime and corruption cannot work without money laundering.”

In order to combat corruption, which is contingent upon organized crime, information sharing is key, as outlined in the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. When information regarding money laundering and corruption is shared across country borders, “police systems can collaborate to find banks [that are] laundering money.” Therefore, transnational communication and collaboration are strategies that must be employed in order to strengthen both the processes of democratization as well as the eradication of corruption.

When confronting challenges from the democratization of authoritarian governments to the status of women, international cooperation and coordination is crucial. The plight of making strides while coordinating with relevant governments and without infringing upon national sovereignty will always arise. To address this issue, Glenn states that United Nations treaties must be employed, but less conventional measures should also be used, such as “self-organizing on the Internet” and “coalitions of the willing.”

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Callie Plapinger is a former editorial assistant at World Policy Journal.

[Photo courtesy of Flickr]

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