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A Global Civics Lesson

ISTANBUL – The reality of the world’s epic interdependence is well known. We have seen how financial engineering in the United States can determine economic growth in every part of the world; how carbon-dioxide emissions from China end up influencing crop yields and livelihoods in Vietnam, Bangladesh, the Maldives, and beyond; how an epidemic in Mexico endangers the rhythm of public life in the US; or how volcanic ash from Iceland affects travel across Europe.

We are also familiar with the inherent difficulties of devising and implementing solutions to global problems through nation-states, and have relied on two broad models to deal with this predicament. The first is composed of a wide range of creative ad hoc alliances and solutions.

When standard global public health instruments proved insufficient, for example, we built the Global Fund to Fight Tuberculosis, AIDS, and Malaria. When the Internet became global, its management was turned over to ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which enlists the voices of individual Internet users in its governance – a significant departure from intergovernmental multilateralism.

The US, as the most powerful member of the international system, tends to prefer ad hoc approaches to global governance. With its vast resources and alliances, ad hoc solutions allow the US to advance its interests effectively without the entanglements of more enduring rules, customs, and structures.