Making Rio 2012 Work:Setting the stage for global economic, social and ecological renewal (2-3)
The world faces old and new security challenges that are more complex than our multilateral and national institutions are currently capable of managing. International cooperation is ever more necessary in meeting these challenges. The NYU Center on International Cooperation (CIC) works to enhance international responses to conflict, insecurity, and scarcity through applied research and direct engagement with multilateral institutions and the wider policy community.
CIC’s programs and research activities span the spectrum of conflict insecurity, and scarcity issues. This allows us to see critical inter-connections and highlight the coherence often necessary for effective response. We have a particular concentration on the UN and multilateral responses to conflict.
Building resilience to shocks and stresses
Finally, there is a need to invest in resilience – globally, regionally, nationally and on the ground. As globalization’s long crisis continues, shocks and stresses of all kinds are on the increase. The last decade saw 9/11 and the wars that followed; a commodity price shock; and the worst economic meltdown since the 1930s. Since 2010, we have seen another vicious oil and food price spike; chaotic political reform movements across the Middle East; the bailout of three Eurozone countries; and an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in the world’s third largest economy. But it is resource scarcity, climate change and environmental degradation that will test resilience above all.
Resilience provides Rio 2012 with a direct route to tackling issues that have powerful development, environmental, and political resonance. At international level, a resilience agenda involves upgrading international crisis management capacity to respond to food, energy, and environmental shocks, complementing the G20’s role as a ‘war room’ in economic crises; undertaking institutional stress testing to look at how international and regional institutions will cope with unfamiliar threats such as changes in precipitation patterns, competition for water, receding coastlines, and so on; and rebuilding the humanitarian assistance system, so that the world has sufficient capacity to cope with multiple disasters.
At national levels and in communities, meanwhile, a resilience agenda encompasses the need to make climate adaptation strategic, transforming it from a list of projects to an approach that mainstreams adaptation through all government policymaking and delivery; increasing investment in disaster risk reduction, an approach whose value was demonstrated again by Japan’s astonishing resilience to an ultra-high magnitude earthquake, despite the tsunami that followed; extending social protection, building on the extraordinary progress that has been made in recent years in countries such as Brazil, China, India and Mexico; focusing on increasing employment opportunities and heading off the risk of ‘jobless growth’; and making governance legitimate and accountable, especially in areas directly relevant to natural resources (e.g. access to land, water, forests and so on), where legitimate political systems can help to prevent violent conflict.
While investing in resilience will be a key area for action in all countries, it will be especially important in low income countries and fragile states, given that they have the greatest vulnerability to climate change and resource scarcity, and given that environmental shocks are such a frequent reason why people become poor or find it hard to escape poverty. So resilience needs to be drawn to the heart of the post-2015 development agenda, as the world begins to examine the obstacles to meeting the existing MDGs by 2015 and explore options for renewing development objectives.
Three: How Rio Can Succeed
So how can multilateral cooperation generally, and Rio 2012 in particular, help to bring about the agenda described in the last section?
To answer this question, it is useful to step back and consider three of the basic roles that multilateral cooperation can play on sustainable development.
• First, sharing ideas. International cooperation can be used as a way of diffusing innovations, catalyzing partnerships (usually win-win deals that are voluntary and do not rely on binding enforcement), networking actors with one another, and helping to build confidence and trust.
• Second, bargaining. Multilateral cooperation has a key role in enabling member states to reach “I will if you will” deals on the toughest and most politicized issues in sustainable development, especially where financial costs or other forms of burden-sharing are involved.
• Third, direct implementation. The multilateral system has considerable capacity to do things – from raising, coordinating and disbursing money, to running development programs, building capacity, deploying peacekeepers or emergency relief, and so on.
Each of these roles is discussed in more detail below.
The first role that multilateral cooperation can play is sharing ideas, diffusing innovations, catalyzing partnerships, networking actors, and helping build confidence, trust and shared awareness. This kind of work is especially central to the greening growth agenda.
To achieve its full potential here, Rio 2012 needs to reinvent the idea of a summit. Traditionally, a summit is either a small gathering of heads of government, who take two days in a remote location to produce a communiqué, or a rather larger assemblage of government negotiators who NYU CIC Setting the stage for global economic, social and ecological renewal 12 spend two weeks together in a room with no windows to produce a treaty.
When it comes to the task of greening growth, however, such a traditional approach leaves too many of the key players outside the room. Governments cannot build a green economy on their own. On the contrary, they must work with a plethora of non-state actors – particularly those that will actually do the work of building a green economy, from institutional investors, sovereign wealth funds and multinational companies to farmers’ organizations, civil society groups and faith communities. These perspectives must be at the table if Rio 2012 is to generate concrete plans of action that can have a transformative effect. In practice, the summit could take a two-phase approach.
By Alex Evans and David Steven, New York University, 09/06/2012