Global institutions such as the United Nations risk fragmenting unless they become more democratic and share greater power with developing nations, warns an LSE political scientist ahead of this week's meeting of the G20 in London.
In a short film produced for The Independent newspaper, Professor David Held (pictured) points out that the world today is very different to the post-war era that gave birth to the United Nations in 1945.
Professor Held says: 'The world has changed dramatically. Power has diffused across the world. We have seen the rise of Asia and China and the rapidly developing BRIC* countries and these are only partially, if at all, represented in many of our global institutions.'
He claims that, given this transformed world, institutions such as the UN and bodies such as the IMF are flawed in two crucial ways: 'Firstly, many have a system of representation that is anachronistic and too skewed to the old western powers that have had their own way for a long time. Their other flaw is that they depend for their finance on the good will of the powerful countries.
'You wouldn't run a modern state today and call it a modern state if it depended on a system of representation that was skewed to the wealthy and depended on a system of taxation that depended on voluntary donations of the wealthy. And yet, effectively at a global level that is what we have. Markets alone don't work and unrepresentative systems don't work so the challenge is: can we make our global governance institutions more representative and better funded?
'We are facing crucial tests on climate change, on nuclear proliferation. Also, in light of the huge financial crisis that we live with now we need to create new financial institutions to transform the old Bretton Woods systems into an effective system of global regulation.
'If we get these right, we will rebuild multilateralism. If we don't, the multilateral order of 1945 will fragment into regions, competitive geopolitical power situations and potentially into a much nastier world.'
The Group of Twenty (G20), comprised of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, will meet in London on April 2. They will discuss stabilizing the world economy, new financial levers, new instruments of macro economic policy and the structure of global financial institutions.
Professor Held says: 'The question is: will there be sufficient leadership and vision to drive serious and decisive change? On the face of it a new world leader like Barack Obama would have to have extraordinary capacities to bring these countries together to forge a new internationalism. Can we create it at this moment? To borrow a phrase, "Yes we can," but are there formidable geopolitical obstacles to a new settlement? Yes there are.'
The film forms part of the Big Ideas series which has been produced by LSE in conjunction with Robin Powell, a freelance journalist for Sky News and The Politics Show on BBC1, and a director of Ember Regis. The company is a pioneer in the field of internet television and produces high-quality video content for a range of private and public sector clients and for all the major UK broadcasters.
You can see the film here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/global-institutions-need-a-drastic-overhaul-1658492.html
*Brazil, Russia, India, China
For more information contact LSE Press Office on 020 7955 7060
1 April 2009