MADRID – The annus horribilis of 2016 is behind us now. But its low points – the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union, the election of Donald Trump as US president, the ongoing atrocities in Syria – were merely symptoms of a process of dissolution of the liberal rules-based global system that began long before. Unfortunately, those symptoms are now accelerating the system’s decline.
For years, the liberal order has been under strain. Perhaps most obvious, there has been a lack of progress in the development of institutions and legal instruments. In short, we have been trying to fit the round pegs of twenty-first-century global power into the square holes of post-World War II institutions.
Skewed representation reflecting a bygone era, whether on the United Nations Security Council or the International Monetary Fund’s Board, undermines global institutions’ legitimacy and ability to respond to new challenges. This has spurred a shift toward informal mechanisms like the G-20 and new, untested institutions like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
A better approach would aim to boost the representation of emerging economies in existing institutions. It would also seek to incorporate more non-state actors, both civil-society organizations and business representatives, into international decision-making processes.