Over the past three days, policy-makers gathered in Busan have made clear that this year's High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF) was all about ensuring that the big new development players, and in particular Brazil, China and India, are on board of the new "Global Partnership of Effective Development Cooperation". (see pdf)
|Which way for the global governance on development?
Despite the formal agreement, the actual inclusion continues to be challenging, given the reluctance of these emerging powers to join the ongoing effectiveness game. For instance, China first accepted to get involved in the Busan Drafting Committee, then practically withdrew from the HLF and re-engaged once a specific text piece (para. 2) was included. In practice however, it is unclear if the Chinese government will become a constitutive part of the existing global governance on the day-to-day basis, that is once the army of 2,700 official delegates has left Busan.
Published some months ago, a policy brief explores why the emerging development players are still cautious about engaging as fully-fledged actors in the global game. It states the following five hypotheses:
- Competition vs. collaboration. - Europe and the US perceive the BRICs and other emerging players primarily as a competitive element in international relations – that is, as a threat to the existing status. However, based on a decades-old South-South culture, developing countries around the world prefer collaboration and approaches leading to complementarities and mutual benefit.
- Ad-hoc foreign agendas. - All emerging economies are still redesigning their foreign policy agendas, without necessarily following a long-term master plan. Due to their ad-hoc approach, the process of becoming a strong player in international relations often encounters limitations in the areas of institutional capacities, in particular the national diplomatic corps, but also in policy advice and strategic planning.
- Multi-polar world meets Western multilateralism? - While new poles of growth and resources emerge around the globe, today’s multilateralism is still anchored in the old order of Western dominance. Emerging economies often seem to doubt if they should play a stronger role in the old order, or rather bid for a renovated global institutional structure, such as that found at the G20 level. Given the inertia of industrialised countries to reshuffle power and developing countries’ rather incipient experiences with Southern-led multilateralism, it is difficult to see how common approaches of the South to global agendas might evolve in the future.
- Reputation costs. - In most of the developing world, the international financial institutions are perceived as post-colonial entities with a rather negative record of behaviour and impact. Having suffered first-hand the Washington Consensus, the growing middle classes in Asia and Latin America are very sensitive to both the IMF and the World Bank. Engaging positively with these institutions might actually have a high price for national political leaders.
- Prioritising poverty. - The new power players tend to perceive their global role as an interesting, yet secondary opportunity. Their primary focus is on ending the still persistent poverty and social inequality in their societies, and dealing with the tremendous economic, social and political challenges of directing an emerging economy.
These five elements should not be seen as static truths, but rather as the underlying dynamics of the role-searching process that many developing countries will continue to experience in this decade. Undoubtedly, the real success of the Busan HLF, let alone the Durban conference, depends on the extent to which they provide feasibles path for Southern engaging in global governance beyond reluctantly signing policy agreements.