The Irish "Nay ": Is the Lisbon treaty the first multilateral domino to fall?
Picture a long line of dominoes, each one representing one of the globe's special clubs, such as the United Nations, the World Bank, or the International Atomic Energy Agency, and so on. At the front of the line stands the European Union. Evidenced by the sheer amount of media coverage, the Irish "no" vote on the Lisbon treaty, the refined version of the failed European Constitution from a few years ago, means the EU is experiencing yet another existential crisis. If Lisbon doesn't pass the second Irish test, which is tentatively set for October, the evolution of the EU grinds to a halt, and the 27-member union will teeter. If the European club, which features some of the world's wealthiest and most democratic countries, can't get its act together, how will the other, larger clubs fare? Are the dominoes ready to fall?
Many of these multilateral organizations do outstanding work and serve the globe with aplomb, but many also have become outmoded, irrelevant, and bureaucratic. A recent article in the Economist points out that the world economy has changed and suggests that the current set up of the G-8 must be reinvented. Circumstances have changed, and the current club doesn't necessarily reflect the new global economic makeup. Perhaps emerging economies, such as China, India, and Brazil, need to be included, as well as an African representative, the piece suggests.
Another article, entitled "The Next World," appeared in the Germany weekly Die Zeit last week before the G-8 summit, arguing that a new era of "flexible associations" will emerge. The author, Parag Khanna, asks how the UN, G-8, or IMF expect to set the tone for a globalized world when globalization follows another principle: decentralization. The decentralization of power from these older clubs, and especially from the United States, is perhaps what the next world will feature. Khanna traveled to a handful of so-called "second-world" countries, including Turkey, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia, and was surprised to find an extraordinary flexibility in each. For example, India buys weapons from Russia, is expanding trade with China, and just signed an agreement with the United States on the civil use of atomic energy. Kazakhstan is modernizing its pipelines with Russian help, working with the EU on having their turn at the helm of the OSCE, and proclaiming a strategic partnership with China. "No one trusts anyone else, not the least the United States," Khanna writes.
The question to ask is whether we need to seriously reform the world's clubs to represent a better cross-section of the global relations and economy. After all, integrating economies, as with France's and Germany's steel industries in 1955, was how the European Union found its feet. A few dominoes may fall in the process, but this could be a welcome impetus for rethinking the way we handle our multilateral clubs.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.