The existing global institutional architecture is rooted in a distinctly American vision of world order that dates back to World War II. The United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs were at the heart of that order, complemented by NATO and regional organizations like the European Community and Organization of American States. With dramatic changes in the global power structure in recent decades, the world needs a debate about the future of the institutional architecture.
Today, all eyes are on the future of the European Union post-Brexit. At the global level, governance reform in the World Bank and IMF has not stopped China from establishing the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Nor has it stopped BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) from creating the New Development Bank.
As for the UN Security Council, not even the five permanent members deny that the composition and structure are out of date. Yet efforts at reform bump up against their veto power and the difficulty of getting two-thirds of the rest of the UN, including aspirants to permanent membership, to go along with whatever is proposed.
Meanwhile, informal groupings of states, like the G-7, G-8 and G-20 are struggling for relevance. And it is increasingly apparent that state-based organizations are not capable of dealing effectively with transnational threats like violent extremism, cyber attacks, forced displacement and infectious disease.
So the US needs a debate on reform of the existing architecture, what strategy to pursue to bring about that reform, and what role the US should play. The debate should take place now, before the US finds itself in a purely reactive mode, responding to initiatives taken by emerging powers and others who are increasingly able to shape the global agenda.
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