Global governance: where we stand

3 March 2006

The European Policy Centre hosted a policy dialogue on Global governance: where we stand in collaboration with the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE). The speakers were Stefan Lunte, Assistant to COMECE’s Secretary General; Michel Camdessus, former Director General of the International Monetary Fund; Michel Hansenne, former Director General of the International Labour Organization; Raymond Van Ermen, Executive Director of European Partners for the Environment; and Antonio de Lecea, Director for International Economic and Financial Affairs, ECFIN Directorate-General, European Commission. The EPC’s Chief Policy Analyst Antonio Missiroli opened the event, and Noël Treanor, COMECE Secretary General, made some closing remarks.

COMECE’s assessment

Stefan Lunte introduced the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) Report Global Governance Assessment 2005: A Few More Steps On A Long Way To Go, and explained that its aim was to assess the progress of public policy in a globalised world and to come up with a set of recommendations for achieving the global common good and global governance.

The report focuses on three main areas: promoting human dignity and responsibility for a global common good, reducing poverty and protecting the environment, and producing proposals on the role key stakeholders could play in pushing for greater global governance.

In the area of promoting human dignity, the highlights in 2005 were the formation of an alliance between different world civilisations (Christianity and Islam) and the promotion of European values to respect human dignity. On a negative note, the report argues that there is a need for more systematic interfaith reflection on precise global governance issues.

In relation to poverty, the report points to positive moves on debt cancellation for the poorest countries, an increase in overseas aid, new mechanisms for raising development funds and improved access to HIV treatment worldwide. However, it calls for more joint efforts to improve world health.

On the environment, the report praises the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol and the lead taken by the EU on measures to combat climate change after 2012. However, despite these positive moves, global warming is increasing - 2005 was the warmest year on record.

Lastly, the report looks at global stakeholders’ contributions and welcomes the Belgian Bishops’ key document on globalisation. The massive civil society gathering of 150,000 people at the World Social Forum and business support for the UN Convention on Corruption were also two steps forward. On the downside, the report points to high levels of corruption in two-thirds of the world’s countries in 2005.

Other positive moves in this field include the presence of African leaders at the G8 Gleneagles Summit, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) decision to cancel debts for the poorest countries and the steps on dialogue taken at the World Trade Organization Summit in Hong Kong. However, the report sees little cause for congratulation at the lack of progress in achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) or International Labour Organization (ILO) standards for decent work.

Mr Lunte said the report’s general assessment was that while there were significant failures, there were also signs of hope. In conclusion, he said: “Today is Ash Wednesday - a time of reflection, so let us appeal for a stronger, more effective global governance.”

Europe’s special responsibility

Michel Camdessus, who is a member of COMECE’s global governance group, began by congratulating the report’s authors. “It is a remarkable document. It is succinct, balanced and well-informed, but it also makes strong points on the set-backs,” he said.

While agreeing with the report’s general conclusions, Mr Camdessus added several suggestions of his own. The first was to broaden G8 membership to include more heads of state, particularly from developing countries, along with more representatives of leading UN institutions. He suggested that this group could form an embryonic body for global governance.

Looking back on 2005, Mr Camdessus praised the agreement to double Overseas Development Assistance in five years, but was saddened by the setbacks in UN reform. He argued that a practical policy instrument was needed to ensure that the international community delivered on the pledges made at international meetings. In fact, this is now underway, with the establishment of a new special unit within the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to assess countries’ ability to deliver on agreements and monitor progress on the MDGs.

There should be more efforts at the European level to develop a sense of global citizenship and to show the lead in global governance, said Mr Camdessus, arguing that as the world’s leading trading partner, Europe had a special responsibility. “It should make the first move to create world government, build a better economic order and develop preventive peace,” he said.

Social and labour issues - must do better

Michel Hansenne, a member of COMECE’s global governance group, was sanguine about the report’s assessment. “Unfortunately, there is little progress on social or labour issues”, he said. Nevertheless, he saw two positive moves in 2005.

The first of these was the opening up of inter-governmental dialogue at the Hong Kong WTO meeting: this would have long-term gains, even if the immediate results were rather thin. The second was the UNESCO ‘Universal Declaration on Cultural Identity’ introduced in 2005 as a step towards increasing global awareness of the effects of trade liberalisation. Mr Hansenne said that in previous years, the ILO had been a “lone voice” in the UN in pointing out the drawbacks of globalisation, so he hoped the Declaration would herald the way for more global coherence within the UN.

Future energy wars

Raymond Van Ermen highlighted three issues he hoped to see in future global governance assessments: energy security, Europe and EU enlargement.

He said energy security issues were moving to the top of the political agenda and there had been a “seismic shift” in demand in 2005. He warned that “we could be witnessing the beginning of a war for energy resources” and hoped that future reports would address this critical issue.

He regretted that the report did not include a chapter on Europe, since it was important to examine what impact the current EU crisis was having on global governance. He was also uneasy about enlargement, saying it was going “both too fast for some countries to cope and too slowly in its response to security issues”. He added that in general, the Union needed to develop a new approach to its neighbours.

Future reports should include recommendations that targeted business and NGOs as well as multilateral organisations. “We should look at corporate social responsibility and socially-directed investment,” said Mr Van Ermen, adding that a growing movement of business and civil society were implementing new standards of ethical trading and ethical investments in areas the UN system could not reach.

He finished with a call for the Catholic Church to participate in the debate on ethical finance and to analyse the investment behaviour of charities and religious organisations.

Fighting poverty - a key EU task

Antonio de Lecea said global governance was an important topic for the European Commission, which was working to build links between development, global poverty and global governance. He said fostering development and reducing poverty were two top EU priorities in its programme to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

The Commission is taking a two-pronged approach, working to improve the distribution of aid to developing countries and to foster good governance within recipient countries. As the world’s largest aid donor, the EU is striving to achieve aid levels of 0.7% of GDP by 2015, with most aid targeted at sub-Saharan Africa.

Mr de Lecea said globalisation was a necessary condition for growth, but he acknowledged that while trade liberalisation had fuelled growth and improved business conditions in developing countries, this had not always reduced poverty. For example, globalisation had not improved Africa’s economic position, with its exports declining from 4% of world trade in 1980 to just 1% in 2005. As well as opening up trade, the EU needs to encourage more private and public investment in human resources.

“Unfortunately inter-regional trade in Africa is hampered by bureaucracy,” said Mr de Lecea. “We need to link the benefits of globalisation with better governance in developing countries.”

Closing remarks

In his closing comments, Monsignor Noël Treanor emphasised the need to assess globalisation’s impact from a spiritual standpoint. He said that for Christians, a guiding inspiration should be “how we interact with our neighbours” and argued that more weight should be given to the idea of people’s interdependence.

Christianity is reappraising its role and using the creation myth as a guide to emphasise the importance of custodianship and the management and protection of resources.

Talking about how globalisation affects religions, he said the Christian viewpoint stressed justice, protection, interdependence, and global citizenship. Its approach was “to create an interdependence of people and adopt a sense of responsibility towards the environment”.