| POLITICAL WILL, STRATEGIC IDEAS AND TECHNICAL
Their importance for building global and regional governance.
by Félix Peña
English translation: Isabel Romero Carranza
In historical terms, what is currently happening in
international relations poses an unprecedented challenge. It consists
of the attempt, through dialogue and negotiations between nations with
varying degrees of power and a diversity of interests, to find an agreement
on the mechanisms, rules and conditions that will enable to achieve reasonable
levels of regional and global governance.
The experience of the last centuries indicates that the shifts in
world power such as the ones which are taking place today at a global
scale and in certain regional spaces, have encouraged a tendency towards
anarchy and not necessarily towards a sustainable order of prevailing
The initiatives for the reform of the United Nations Security Council
and the attempts to turn the G20 into an ambit where to encourage effective
and legitimate decisions on the relevant issues of the current global
economic agenda illustrate the core problem of governance that is being
On the global plane, such problem consists of knowing which and how many
countries can represent the critical mass of power required to ensure
reasonable conditions for governance that is sustainable due to its effectiveness
and legitimacy. The recently concluded G20 Seoul meeting has not contributed
significant progress on this regard. The perspectives for the upcoming
Cancun Summit on climate change are not encouraging either. Moreover,
the Doha Round remains at a standstill.
There are three conditions that will be required to move forward in the
joint creation of reasonable global governance. These are a strong political
will focused on attaining ambitious goals, a feasible strategic idea and
technical creativity in the definition of the methods to be used for its
These conditions are also required for building regional and interregional
governance. This refers as much to the case of Mercosur itself as to its
bi-regional negotiations with the European Union.
Traditionally it has been force more than reason what has set the rules
for sustainable order in the relations between autonomous units of power
at the international plane. At least these are the teachings of the history
of mankind. This is the reason why what is currently happening in international
relations is such a novelty, both at the global plane and in some of the
regional spaces that have had a greater tradition of violent conflicts
In historical terms, what is currently happening poses an unprecedented
challenge. It consists of an attempt, through dialogue and negotiations
between nations with varying degrees of power and a diversity of interests,
to find an agreement on the mechanisms, rules and conditions that will
enable to achieve reasonable levels of regional and global governance.
It implies favoring the method of a gradual transformation in the sense
espoused by Edgar Morin (see his "Elogio de la Metamorfosis",
in El País newspaper of January 17, 2010 on http://www.elpais.com/),
that comes as a result of the same changes that are taking place at the
multiple planes of the political, economical, social and cultural life
It is an unprecedented challenge precisely because the experience of
the last centuries has shown that the shifts in world power, such as the
ones that can be seen today at a global scale and in certain regional
spaces, have encouraged a tendency towards anarchy and not necessarily
towards a sustainable order of prevailing peace.
Therefore, the violent confrontations and diverse and innovative modalities
of wars, which have sometimes lasted several years, have determined in
the past the transition towards new periods of world order in which those
demonstrating their superiority of power with facts prevailed.
The core issue that is currently being faced is illustrated by the initiatives
of reform of the UN Security Council -addressed by President Obama during
his recent visit to India- and by the attempts to turn the G20 into an
ambit where at least some effective and legitimate decisions regarding
the most relevant issues of the current global economic agenda can be
encouraged. (On this topic see the articles by Robert Wade and Jacob Vestergaard,
"Overhaul the G20 for the sake of the G172", published in the
Financial Times on Friday, October 22, 2010, page 9; that by Pedro Solbes
and Carlos Westendorp, "El G20 no es la ONU", in El País
newspaper from Wednesday, November 10, 2010, page 29, and that by Xavier
Vidal-Folch, also in El País, from Thursday, November 11, 2010,
Essentially, at the global plane, the problem consists of knowing which
and how many countries can represent the necessary critical mass of power
required to ensure reasonable conditions for governance that is sustainable
due to its effectiveness and legitimacy. The recently concluded G20 Seoul
meeting has failed to contribute any significant progress regarding this
Issues such as the dissimilarities in the approaches to face the effects
of the current financial crisis in the monetary and exchange rate policies
of the main countries, with their impact on world trade, are signaling
the depth of the challenges that are currently being faced. Neither is
it expected that any clear signals regarding the issue of climate change
rise at the upcoming Cancun Summit. Moreover, the standstill of the Doha
Round continues to endanger the very same multilateral system of world
trade institutionalized through the World Trade Organization (WTO).
However recent, it seems far from the time when the signals originating
in a great power, such as was the US in the last decades or such as the
European Union aspired to be, could suffice to guide international order
at the plane of collective security or, at the very least, at the level
of global finance and world trade.
It has become increasingly evident that there are currently several relevant
actors and that they do not necessarily share visions, objectives or interests.
All signs indicate that for some time it will continue to be difficult
to figure out the number to be appended to the letter "G". This
if the aim is to have at least an informal but relevant mechanism for
the promotion of collective decisions that penetrate reality on key issues
of a growingly complex global agenda and that aspire to have legitimacy
in the rest of the nations. (On this issue see the November 2008, February
2009 and January 2010 issues of this newsletter on www.felixpena.com.ar).
It is possible to imagine that the effectiveness and legitimacy of the
decisions that result from an ambit such as the G20 -or of its eventual
future replacements- would de enhanced if some of the countries that form
part of it could speak in the name of their own regions. This seems not
to be happening today, not even in the case of the EU in spite of the
steps taken regarding its foreign policy with the enforcement of the Treaty
of Lisbon. It even has serious difficulties to preserve its capacity to
devise collective answers to the economic and financial problems being
faced by some of its members. This situation was made evident by the discrepancies
that rose during the French-German attempt to promote an adaptation of
the Treaty of Lisbon to the new realities.
In the case of the South American space, even when Argentina and Brazil
are members of the G20, it would be difficult to consider that they necessarily
reflect the point of view of their region in such ambit. Neither would
be the case if Brazil were made full member of the UN Security Council.
Three conditions are seemingly required in order to move forward in the
concerted construction of reasonable governance, both global and regional.
These would apply also if the aim is to build inter-regional spaces such
as the ones that could eventually result from the re-launched negotiations
between Mercosur and the EU, in the measure that it effectively aspires
to become something more than just an attempt at improving mutual investment
and trade flows.
These conditions are a firm political will aimed at achieving ambitious
goals, a strategic idea that is feasible and technical creativity in the
definition of the methods to be used for its attainment.
As for the political will, it is a necessary condition in the measure
that it originates at the highest political level of each of the protagonists
but it would seem not to suffice if it were limited to just a foundational
moment. On the contrary, the idea is that it becomes sustainable in time.
This means that it should translate into a political drive that flows
steadily into the negotiating table where the actual decisions are made.
This was what characterized the initial period of the reconstruction of
Europe after the Second World War.
How to achieve this is one of the most relevant issues in the future
of Mercosur. From there the importance of the signals coming from Brasilia
in relation to the much needed institutional reform of the sub-regional
process. Something similar might happen in the Mercosur-EU bi-regional
negotiations after the momentum achieved at the Madrid Summit last May.
If they were to be left in the hands of bureaucratic inertia, where the
negotiating table was not permanently connected to the sources of political
will at the highest level on both sides of the Atlantic, then the energy
required might prove insufficient for the ambitious results that are apparently
being sought after.
As for the second condition, the strategic idea driving the political
thrust should be feasible. This implies that it needs to be based on the
concrete interests of the different countries, on the reality of their
relative power and, most particularly, on a correct assessment of the
international context where the initiative is inserted, including its
continuous adaptation to the changes that are taking place, sometimes
at a very fast pace. For a long time, this was accomplished in the European
construction on the basis of a brilliant vision molded after the idea
inspired by Jean Monnet and which was nurtured by the political will of
such personalities as Robert Schumann and Konrad Adenauer, among others.
The third condition is a good dose of technical creativity. The idea
is not to follow previous models or text-book recommendations. On the
contrary, it is about the creation of mechanisms and instruments adapted
to the desired objectives and to the reality of the protagonists, and
to the conditions that might result from the array of global and regional
commitments previously assumed by them. Both in the case of the future
construction of Mercosur as of the Mercosur-EU bi-regional partnership,
said creativity should additionally take advantage of all the flexibilities
that result from the ambiguous rules of the WTO and, particularly, of
the GATT. (On this issue see the works referenced in the recommended reading
If fulfilled and combined together, the three abovementioned conditions
would signify a qualitative leap both in Mercosur's experience and in
the future development of an eventual bi-regional partnership with the
EU. If this were the case, both processes would contribute towards the
construction of global governance.
In the case of Mercosur it is important to retrieve its symbolic power
as a political and strategic project, such as is expressed by Antonio
José Ferreira Simôes in his very interesting article (see
the reference in the recommended reading section).
However, even more fundamental still will be that the citizens of the
member countries can see a clear link with their legitimate expectations
for employment and wellbeing in the commitments that are assumed in the
future and even in the effective application of those already adopted.
This is not happening today and could be the origin of the evident signs
of dissatisfaction that can be seen regarding their results.
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Félix Peña Director
of the Institute of International Trade at the ICBC Foundation. Director
of the Masters Degree in International Trade Relations at Tres de Febrero
National University (UNTREF). Member of the Executive Committee of the
Argentine Council for International Relations (CARI). Member of the Evian
Group Brains Trust. More