The world is facing a series of challenges, ranging from financial crisis, grain and energy safety, environmental deterioration, climate change, natural calamities and poverty to terrorism. Directly related with mankind's survival, development and security, these challenges have also accelerated transformation of the established international order.
Founded after the end of World War II, the world's existent structure once suffered severe impacts caused by national liberation movements launched across Asia, Africa and Latin America in the 1950s and 60s, oil and international financial crises in the 1970s, as well as the disintegration of the Soviet Union and upheavals in Eastern European countries in the 1990s.
With development in the past decades, other major powers have continuously narrowed their gap with the US in terms of economic strength, and a kind of power equilibrium among themselves has also taken shape. Under these circumstances, the world is thought to have entered a post-US era. The emergence of some regional groups of economies and the rapid rise of some big developing powers have promoted great changes to the world's decades-long power establishments and accelerated its steps toward multi-polarization.
That more strengthened international cooperation is needed in coping with the growing number of global issues demonstrates that any attempt to simply patch up the current international order, especially its core rules and mechanisms, could not reflect the world's changed power configuration.
For example, the world's nuclear non-proliferation system remains impotent to handle the intractable proliferation issue; the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are unable to effectively handle the global climate change and grain security issues; the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank (WB) have become impotent in the face of strengthened trade protectionism and deteriorating international financial crisis. The global system is now in a worsening situation and world's multilateral bodies need to be reformed, as a cover story in the Economist magazine on July 5 puts it.
But it is impossible to completely overturn the existent international order and then frame a new one. Past experiences show a gradual reform model is an acceptable-to-all option in the restructuring of the world's system.
As a matter of fact, international rules and systems have experienced some tangible changes under the efforts of the whole international community since 2005. The UN has dismantled its Trusteeship Council and set up a Peace-building Commission in its stead. The world's largest multilateral body has elevated the status of the human rights issue and listed it as one of the body's three pillars alongside the issues of peace and security. It has also substituted the more powerful Human Rights Council for the obsolete Human rights Commission and put the organ only behind the Security Council and Economic and Social Council in its importance.
After years of development, the reform of international rules and mechanisms is being deepened and some principles related to human rights are now under discussion to become the basic norm of international relations. The IMF has adjusted its voting power distribution and is stepping up discussion about setting up a system to monitor the Sovereign Wealth Fund and international floating capital.
To effectively deal with global climate change, food crisis and humanitarian aid, the UN, the WHO and other bodies have made a step forward in exploring a new mechanism and model to deal with global crisis and raise their international status.
The ongoing international financial tsunami is engulfing the whole world, seriously hindering the development of the world's economy. The infectious crisis, which has inflicted huge impacts upon some developed European and American nations, has also prompted the international community to muse over the direction of the world's future.
To stem the most serious economic crisis since the 1930s, calls for reforming the existing international order have remained increasingly high and efforts to set up a more cooperative mechanism to solve the plaguing issue have also been strengthened.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has proposed to hold a global summit between state heads of the US, EU, China, Japan and India in November or December, to discuss how to rebuild the Bretton Woods system. WB President Robert Zoellick has explicitly cautioned that the foundation of the past US-dominated international establishment has already been shaken. He has also pointed to the ineptness of the Group-7 industrialized nations in dealing with changed international situations and proposed to give Brazil, China, India, Russia, Mexico, South Korea and Saudi Arabia a role in the decision-making of some international issues to structure a new 7 plus 7 multilateral organization.
There are reasons to expect more headway the international society will achieve in pushing for a new international order after it survives the ongoing turbulence.
The author is director of the Center of Strategic Studies, China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.
(China Daily 10/27/2008 page4)