Rebooting Globalization

DUBAI – Globalization, as many have recently noted, is in retreat. Despite all of its undeniable benefits, it has spawned problems of governance and management that have exposed the inadequacy of national governments and international institutions.

This has left people everywhere, rich and poor alike, struggling to cope with problems – from failed states to failed banks, from over-fishing to under-employment, from climate change to economic stagnation – to which globalization has contributed but cannot address effectively. Fragile institutions have given rise to a political backlash and the danger of disaster on many fronts.

Mark Leonard, Director of the European Council on Foreign Relations and Vice Chair of the World Economic Forum’s new Global Agenda Council on Geo-economics, has noted that interdependence, formerly an economic boon, has now become a threat as well. “No one is willing to lose out on the benefits of a global economy,” he wrote recently, “but all great powers are thinking about how to protect themselves from its risks, military and otherwise.” Indeed, “After 25 years of being bound together ever more tightly, the world seems intent on re-segregating itself.”

Added to this “new isolationism” is the fact that governments, multi-national corporations, and international bodies can often find themselves too distracted to maintain the perspective that they need to build a comprehensive problem-solving agenda. For political leaders, facing electoral calendars or other short-term pressures, “long-term planning” can mean just four years, or even less.