Embedding Emerging Powers in Global Governance
WASHINGTON – A contested issue lurked behind the curtain at the recent Annual Meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) -- the redistribution of power between the industrialized and the emerging economies. While some European countries are willing to cede influence, others, including certainly the United States, are not. China, India, and Brazil -- those countries in ascendance -- have thus far regarded all offers by the older industrialized countries as insufficient. This lingering quarrel is emblematic of the larger controversy over how to integrate rising powers into international organizations. One core argument of the debate focuses on whether emerging powers are “ready for prime time.” Conventional wisdom holds that they are not. Former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda, writing in Foreign Affairs, argues that Brazil, China, South Africa, and India should not be entrusted with a larger role in global governance because of their weak commitment to the international promotion of democracy, human rights, nuclear nonproliferation, and environmental protection. Awarding these countries more influence would weaken the international system. Another argument reckons “rivalry” and “competition” to be the defining features of the relationship between emerging powers and the West, as Aaron Friedberg has written in Survival. While compelling at first glance, both arguments need to be reconsidered. Failing to integrate emerging powers fully into governance mechanisms or portraying them as rivals weakens the capacity of international institutions to solve problems. Here is why: First, since global problems cannot be managed by the West alone, increased inclusion of emerging powers stops being optional and becomes necessary. This necessity has already brought emerging powers into the G20 and the inner circle at the climate change talks. It strengthened their role in the World Trade Organization (WTO). In fact, more transfer of power is needed -- Brazilian and Indian membership in the UN Security Council (UNSC) for example, and larger voting shares at the IMF for China, India, Brazil, and other rising nations. There need not be artificial entry requirements for the great powers’ club. The key should be the ability to solve common problems. Second, it is sometimes suggested that an empowerment of rising countries endangers the efficiency and legitimacy of the Security Council and the Bretton Woods System. The opposite seems true -- it is within the existing system that emerging powers have risen. They trade as members of the WTO and they contribute soldiers to UN missions. Thus, even though emerging powers perceive Bretton Woods and the UN to favor the West, they support the system. In addition, Brazil and India are democracies, act multilaterally, and have softened their preference for non-intervention. Third, the West itself was not always “ready” for multilateral problem solving. The United States, for instance, has in the past supported non-democratic regimes, refrained from fostering the rule of law by not joining the International Criminal Court, and obstructed climate change negotiations. Europe and the United States have decisively hampered the WTO Doha Round with agricultural protectionism, and most industrialized countries have not complied with their commitment to development aid. Thus, arguing that emerging powers are not “ready” for full participation in global governance sounds like a classic double standard. Fourth, the real danger for the United States and Europe is not that emerging powers may have more influence in the global institutions, but rather that they increasingly act outside of global institutions and without the West. Regional cooperation in the South has been blossoming in the last two decades in economic and security matters. Some elements of international organizations have been replaced by national policies such as the IMF’s safety net being replaced by national currency reserves. In order to prevent the global institutions from hollowing out, it is necessary to allow emerging powers to grow inside of them, thus giving them a sense of ownership. Europe and the United States should act through inclusive leadership. Fifth, emerging powers -- just like established ones -- pursue their goals by acting on domestic interest group pressure, ideologies of governing parties, and societal values. Therefore, international policy positions should be treated equally whether they come from established or emerging powers, with an emphasis on pragmatic and solution-oriented actions. If policy positions diverge, it seems reasonable to negotiate compromises, to offer incentives, or to exert pressure to get concessions. Economic globalization and the absence of inter-state war have produced an age of affluence in many regions of the globe. Inclusive global governance can ensure that it stays that way. Europe and the United States should focus on common problems, interests, and values vis-a-vis each other and vis-a-vis the emerging powers. Focusing on differences and framing the relationship as rivalry may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It provokes corresponding reactions and hampers the ability of governments to make international cooperation acceptable to their voters. At the same time, emerging powers must live up to their own expectations as well as the expectations of others if they want to be seen as serious participants of a system that provides global public goods. The West should welcome them in this endeavor.
Stefan Schirm is a fellow with the Transatlantic Academy in Washington, DC
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.