Global Economic and Social Governance and the United Nations System
Working Paper #286
In recent years the world has been experienced a remarkable contrast between strong global adverse economic, social and environmental trends and the weakness of the international system of governance to manage them. These adverse trends include, among others, the global financial and economic crisis, the threats generated by climate change and the growing income inequality that affects a large number of countries. In the face of these challenges, the response of the international community has been weak. The major innovation during the recent economic crisis was the creation of the Group of 20 (G-20) at the leaders’ level. However, this ad-hoc intergovernmental group poses many questions of legitimacy and, after a good start, in which it helped the world avoid another Great Depression, its effectiveness has been mixed. In turn, the European system of governance, the most developed in the world, has shown many weaknesses and even a regression during the recent crisis to a dominantly intergovernmental process, led by the most powerful countries in the European Union.
This paper takes a broad look at the system of global economic and social governance. “Economic” is understood in a broad sense, to include also environmental sustainability. Its focus is on the UN system, understood in broad terms and thus encompassing the specialized agencies (including the International Monetary Fund [IMF], and the World Bank) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), which should formally become part of the UN system. We also refer in several parts to the UN Organization, defined as the UN Secretariat, Funds and Programs–i.e., those organizations that are under the direct mandate of the UN General Assembly. The paper is divided in six sections. The first considers the objectives of international cooperation. The next two analyze the essential dilemmas and challenges posed by the design of the system of global governance. The fourth and fifth consider the role of an apex organization and of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in terms of guaranteeing the coherence of the system. The last presents some conclusions.
About the Author
José Antonio Ocampo
Initiative for Policy Dialogue (IPD)
Jose Antonio Ocampo is Co-President of IPD, Professor of Professional Practice in the School of International and Public Affairs, and Fellow of the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University. Prior to his appointment at Columbia, Professor Ocampo served as the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, and head of UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), as Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and has held a number of high-level posts in the Government of Colombia, including Minister of Finance and Public Credit, Director of the National Planning Department, and Minister of Agriculture . Professor Ocampo is author or editor of over 30 books and has published over 200 scholarly articles on macroeconomic theory and policy, international financial issues, economic development, international trade, and Colombian and Latin American economic history.