Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Global governance in a changing world

By Giles Chance (China Daily) Updated: 2013-01-22 07:42

Each year in January the World Economic Forum brings together leaders from business, government, academia and the media at its headquarters in Davos, Switzerland, for five days of lectures and discussions about issues of global importance.

Each meeting has a theme aimed at capturing important current events. Since 2008, when the financial crash in the United States changed the way the world works, the themes have related to key aspects of the post-crisis landscape. January 2009's conference was billed "Shaping the Post-Crisis World", and in 2010, it was "Improve the State of the World: Rethink, Redesign, Rebuild". In 2011 "Shared Norms for the New Reality" signaled acceptance of the new global balance of power. Last year's theme was "The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models".

This year's theme, "Resilient Dynamism", suggests that after four years in which the expected global economic recovery has failed to materialize the World Economic Forum might be forced to review its ideas. If so, what does that say about the world in which we now live?

The most important global issue today is how to manage the transition from a world controlled by the so-called developed economies to a new multilateral world in which emerging countries are already playing a leading role. The forum's problem in dealing with a changing, post-crisis world stems from the fact that the institutions of governance are controlled by the 35 so-called advanced countries that are gradually losing their influence over the global economy.

The International Monetary Fund projects that by 2017 the advanced countries will account for 56 percent of the global GDP, measured in current dollars. Adjusted for different countries' purchasing power, the share of advanced countries will be 46 percent. In other words, using the standard measure of purchasing power parity, in five years' time the advanced countries' economic output will account for less than half of the world's output.

But despite this big underlying change in the way the world works, the West, led by the US, still controls the main institutions that set the global agenda. When the top jobs at the IMF and the World Bank came up for renewal in the last couple of years, the candidates were once again chosen by horse-trading between the US and Europe.

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