By Anna Jaguaribe, Trustee at CEBRI
The end of the cold war brought a new impetus to the discussion of global governance introducing into the governance debate the topic of global public goods, viewed in this context as intangible goods made common by virtue of globalization. The global agenda was premised on the possibility that the post-cold war scenario and the wide impact of globalization in production and services made rules of governance for global public goods both warranted and politically feasible. The numerous reports and assemblies dedicated to the reform of the United Nation during the early years of the century testify to this political mood. Notwithstanding the gaps, contradictions and differences in economic power amongst global players, it was deemed possible to arrive at a set of rules for cooperation and policy instruments that would make the management of global public goods politically viable.
Much policy discussion derived from this debate. While the debate lost political weight with the wars in the Middle East and the stall in the reforms of the Breton Woods institutions it maintained its analytical sharpness. Today, the accumulation of economic, migration, financial crisis and the covid-19 pandemic has given new political perspective to the issue of global public goods. While all countries concur on the global nature of public goods and dreads, regulation of said problems is made more difficult by the frailty of multilateral institutions and the geopolitical context characterized by asymmetric power relations of a post hegemonic world.
To start, the new political context of asymmetric power relations has altered the nature of multilateral negotiations. While the UN, its agencies and associated organization seem diminished in effectiveness there is a new proliferation of regional and inter-regional security and economic agreements and more recently financial institutions which are outpacing traditional global negotiations and turning more complex policy making regarding public goods. The current US-China dispute, the withdrawal of the US from the Paris negotiation and the World Health Organization indicate that the setting of rules and global standards have become a major political and strategic battle. This note explores some of the difficulties involved in defining global public goods and devising a policy agenda in this field.
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