A new report finds the international order continued to fray in 2018 in the face of a daunting set of global challenges like climate change.
UNITED NATIONS – The leaders of 28 foreign policy think tanks gave the world a “C” grade this week for the state of multilateral problem-solving, finding that amid a daunting set of challenges, “the international order [continues] to fray.”
Stewart Patrick directs the International Institutions and Global Governance Program at the Council on Foreign Relations and says 2019 marked the first year climate change ranked as the world’s most pressing challenge, while the risks of global terrorism look easier to address by comparison.
“Most world leaders now, or at least think tank leaders, think that this is a manageable problem, whereas the issue of climate change quickly followed by nuclear proliferation, those are really the big issues we have to focus on.”
Patrick argues President Trump’s sovereignty agenda elevating narrow national interests ahead of international problem-solving is making both issues worse.
“What the president’s policies have done in terms of being skeptical of international arms control agreements or pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord on sovereignty grounds is it’s slowed the momentum towards stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and their related technologies; it’s made it much harder for the rest of the world to ensure that greenhouse gas emissions actually are stabilized at all.”
And with the U.S. opting out of global leadership, countries like China have started rewriting the rules of internet regulation and international development, and feel more confident about getting away with rights abuses like the mass imprisonment of Uighur Muslims.
“The interpretation of a lot of the members of this network is that the United States is all about power without offering any greater purpose. There’s not necessarily any positive agenda about what the shape of the world should be, and that is a major departure from previous administrations. International politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum, and so when the United States remains on the sidelines it actually permits others to take to the field and start to tweak the rules and play the game in a way that Americans might not want.”