Rome Club Report 2018, Chapter 3.16: “Global Government”

Original author: Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Anders Wijkman
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3.16.1 Introduction: UN system and promising ideas

Most of the work of the Club of Rome is related to global issues and initiatives. Many of the ideas presented in ch. 3 of this book directly or indirectly requires some coordination or decision at the global level.

Clause 2.5 stated that the “philosophy” of the nation-state arising at the “empty world” stage should be revised in many ways, including some legal instruments of global governance. This is not new. When the United Nations was founded in 1945, everyone knew that the horrors of world war should be avoided in the future and that the peoples of the world should come together to create a transnational global institution with powers that in some cases could take over the powers of nation states. Our book does not focus on the functioning or disruption of the United Nations system. But it is safe to agree that, despite all its flaws, the UN must exist and is our gift of fate.

However, this book should consider ideas and institutions that contribute to the global coordination of policies that support the 17 sustainable development goals. For this, it is necessary to consider options for both the UN system and those outside it.
From the outset, two different approaches to global governance and international cooperation can be mentioned. One of them is the World Council of the Future (WFC), a non-governmental organization founded by Jacob von Ixkühl, founder and first sponsor of the Right to Life Award; the other is “The Great Transition” by Paul Ruskin.

The WFC has been working on the Global Policy Action Plan (GPACT) for several years, which is based on equity. An “Action Plan that will lead to a future-equitable world” was conceived, which contains seven sections, including peace and security, justice and generosity, and climate stability.


Figure 3.19 “Taxonomy of the Future” by Paul Raskin shows two desirable, two unpleasant, but possibly tolerable, and two terrible options for the future (Courtesy Paul Raskin, / taxonomy of the-future)

The WFC brochure on HPPACT summarizes many of the best policies from around the world, such as the Hungarian Basic Rights Ombudsman Act, the Belo Horizonte Food Safety Program (Brazil) or the Unified Planet MBA of the University of Exeter. In addition, the program defines the principles of future fair lawmaking, which are clearly addressed to national legislators around the world.

People and associations working on benign global governance should foster wider public acceptance of the GPACT philosophy. When such movements gain influence and power, there will be a debate about the more ambitious task of global governance for a sustainable world.

A related and no less ambitious line of thinking comes from Paul Raskin, mentioned in the “Binders of Chapters 1 and 2” section of this book. His "Journey to Earth" confronts "the challenges of the twenty-first century, forged by the ideas and institutions of the twentieth century. Zombie ideologies — territorial chauvinism, rampant consumerism and the illusion of infinite growth — inhabit the brains of living people. ”Raskin depicts three main trajectories: ordinary, barbaric, and large transitional, each of which opens up two more options, as shown in Fig. 3.19.

Ruskin’s latest brochure outlines the sinister tendencies resulting from the dominance of markets, which will lead to “barbarization” or at least to extremely unpleasant conditions. He continues to compare such negative trends with the “Greater Transition” options and names nine parameters: population, gross world product (or WFP), working time, poverty, energy, climate, food, habitat, and freshwater withdrawal. During the year 2100, all nine parameters, in terms of sustainability and happiness, are much worse in the market world than in the conditions of a world moving in the direction of the “Big transition”.

This leads to an increased conviction that the mechanisms of a clean market economy and weak interventions from well-meaning but weak “reforms” of politicians are outdated. In contrast, the Great Transition leads to the planetary phase of one world and many places with the principle of “restrained pluralism” of governance. Following this principle, wasteful consumption and population density must recede, international trade and economic turnover can stabilize, while education, free time, spirituality and social justice are becoming stronger.

At the present time, Traveling to Earth is, of course, only a dream but a necessary one, compared to alternatives to barbarization.

3.16.2 Specific Tasks

Global governance will in most cases consist of specific tasks. In the UN system, these tasks currently include activities such as local military interventions to maintain peace; setting the rules for trade in the WTO; loans and assistance programs from UNDP and the World Bank; or operations to combat infectious diseases organized by WHO. All these actions are widely supported by national states, civil society and the business community.

But today, of course, there are new problems that are discussed in this book. Section
1.10 pointed out the UN 2030 agenda with its 17 sustainable development goals, and sections 1.5 and 3.7 deal with global warming issues and ways to avoid it. In clause 1.6.1, “technological wild maps” were mentioned, in particular synthetic biology, geo-engineering and artificial intelligence, all of which have the potential to overcome human capabilities and get out of control. This list of three items was chosen by the Center for Existential Risk Studies at the University of Cambridge, but it is far from exhaustive. It seems inevitable that the international community should create an institution or network with the authority to use technology for technology assessment. Contrary to fashionable beliefs in the “innovation community”, it will not be a means of blocking or bureaucratizing technological progress, rather, it will bring to our attention some warnings at an early stage and suggest some redirection of the definition of this progress. In financial terms, this means preventing the huge irrational use (and subsequent destruction) of capital.
Another task, which was already mentioned in paragraph 3.11, is developing and implementing mechanisms for rebalancing public and private goods. This balance was lost in the 1980s and 1990s, when markets were freed from many legal restrictions and became truly global, while the law essentially remained national - creating a massive imbalance in favor of markets and an imbalance of law.

The term “markets” applies to two different things. There are markets for goods and services, and their success is largely determined by quality and prices. This is usually a benign mechanism that usually leads to a steady increase in quality and availability. Such a market may be global, perhaps with exceptions for “very young industries” that need some early protection, and for processes with high environmental impacts that require some cautious restrictions.

Other types of markets are financial markets. They have become extremely powerful and, as a rule, contain strong speculative functions. There are estimates (see Section 1.1.2) that out of every 100 dollars moving across borders (essentially at the speed of light), only two actually pay for goods and services. The predominance of financial markets forces lawmakers in all countries to establish rules that allow or support the highest possible return on investment (RoI). From a practical point of view, this means reducing the tax burden for businesses, reducing rules, maintaining low prices for the use of infrastructure, land, energy, water and other resources, even subsidizing investor activity. Unsurprisingly, this worldwide trend often works to the detriment of public goods, such as natural resources or public infrastructure, for which the state is usually responsible. Here, the task of global governance is simply to return to a better balance between public and private goods and wealth.

Social equity can also be seen as a public good that also suffers. In the process of globalization of capital markets, we observe that direct taxation, mainly on capital, is diminishing, while indirect taxes are increasing, for example, value-added tax (VAT), which affects poor families (which cannot escape to countries with low taxes) is much more than rich people and corporations. Again, global governance should reduce the role of tax havens and should be aimed at harmonizing tax rates on profits, capital and financial flows.

3.16.3 COHAB: the mode of cohabitation of states of the nation

Reform of the United Nations with strict rules of global governance is unlikely to occur. Therefore, it may be helpful to consider different approaches. One of them is the idea of ​​“cohabitation” among almost 200 states of the world. Gerhard Prins, a scientist from Hamburg, Germany, and one of the initiators of the idea of ​​the Desertec club in the Rome Club, and now the organizer of the network of a viable world, is engaged in an operational strategy aimed at achieving a viable world. It consists of a modification of the United Nations architecture based on tolerance, with the imperative goal of protecting and developing global commons, for example, providing a more stable climate along with other environmental and evolving goals of the 2030 Agenda.

At a time when the UK electoral majority considers the EU too large for its own purposes and votes to leave to “take control” of national affairs, any idea of ​​global governance may seem impossible. But the global problems we face do not disappear just because some voters do not recognize them. Supranational cooperation simply has to take place with increasing intensity and scope.

Knys calls his approach a cohabitation model for a sustainable world. Cohabitation means that nations and other geographical units will voluntarily organize ways of living together, instead of fighting or ignoring each other.

Full peace implies certain limitations on the sovereignty of nation states. The UN has about 200 national states. The internal sovereignty of each state effectively limits, to some extent, the external sovereign rights of all other states. In the whole world, this has become a serious problem. Moreover, the ecological footprint of every single individual affects the internal sovereignty of any state. Every kilogram of CO2 emitted from any of the 7.5 billion people on the planet affects everyone else on Earth, including all future generations.

Cohabitation means you have to do everything possible and optimize this connection. From the traditional rivalry between nations, human society must move to the vision of a global community. How will this work? Knys offers five successive stages:

Stage 1: The Intergovernmental Panel on Fitness for Long-Term Habitat on Planet Earth - IPHE.
The first step will be the modernization of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in the Intergovernmental Panel on Long Term Habitat Fitness (IPHE) to prepare the basic information necessary for a global contract to restore and maintain sufficient viability of our planet. Joining IPHE will be voluntary, but some incentives may be created to encourage joining.

Stage 2: National Ministries for Global Cohabitation.
As a second step, Knys proposes that each state create national ministries for global living together. Their tasks will be to identify critical events around the world and bring them to the attention of their national governments so that they can solve them on the basis of national policies.

Stage 3:International conferences on sharing - like climate conferences. Cohabiting ministers from several cohabiting countries can begin to learn how to combine different ideas, policies, and national capabilities to build a sustainable world. Ministers could organize “joint conferences” to brainstorm how to tackle a wide range of interrelated issues, such as climate, water, food, prosperity, population growth, and other threats to Earth’s habitability. They could develop rules for cohabitation and joint actions and gradually involve more nations.

Stage 4: Nation-states mutate from rivals to commoners.
National states can begin to devote a growing part of their military budgets to projects that reduce environmental damage and promote human development in the country and abroad. Their military forces may be gradually replaced by the people and infrastructures necessary to protect a sustainable world.

Stage 5: Shared Global Governance.
Expanding the cohabitation model for nation states will enhance the ability of humanity to solve our pressing global problems, whether new or already recognized, in an organized and constructive way. More and more countries will join this “Sustainable World Alliance”, which will see humanity as a whole, and not as a set of 200 independent and often competing national groups that currently exist. Being outside the Alliance will be embarrassing, especially if the Alliance succeeds in creating a viable world, reducing the military sector and using its experience in social unity to increase the viable social and environmental structures on this planet.

The COHAB model is still clearly a dream of global political innovation. Nevertheless, it has a goal: to reconsider the United Nations system once and, possibly, to be called “United Humanity” (united humanity). It can support many of the specialized UN agencies, but it will have to provide them with human rights mechanisms, wherever global problems arise. This is an important sense of global governance.

For all of humanity, a survival plan does not require a global government; just some parameters of how control will work. Of course, certain rules and codes of global cohabitation will be required. Since the conditions have changed in the anthropocene, these codes would replace the UN Charter. Democratic processes should be supported and strengthened, but on the principle of subsidiarity. That is, issues that affect the local level should be organized and regulated there. Higher levels, such as provinces, countries and geographic regions, should have an appropriate democratic view. But global problems should be solved at the level of the aforementioned Alliance, always respecting, of course, the needs and priorities of people at the regional, national or lower levels.

To be continued...

For the translation, thanks to Diana Sheremyeva. If you are interested, I invite you to join the "flashmob" to translate a 220-page report. Write in a personal or email

More translations of the report of the Club of Rome 2018

Chapter 1.1.1 “Various types of crises and feelings of helplessness”
Chapter 1.1.2: “Financing”
Chapter 1.1.3: “An Empty World Against Full Peace”

Chapter 3.11: “Financial Sector Reforms”
Chapter 3.15: “Collective Leadership”
Chapter 3.18: “Literacy for the Future”


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