Following is the full transcript of the November 25th, 2019 Hudson event titled Multilateral Institutions: Indispensable or Irrelevant to Global Peace and Prosperity?
LISELOTTE ODGAARD: Good day. Welcome to the Hudson Institute. And thanks for showing up for this panel on Multilateral Institutions: Indispensable or Irrelevant to Global Peace and Prosperity? I will be the moderator. I’m Liselotte Odgaard, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, who put together this panel, which, I think, is on a key issue in D.C. and globally, indeed. It’s talked about a lot, but there aren’t that many panels about the topic around town. So I look forward to this discussion. So as I mentioned, for the past couple of years, there’s been a lot of debate about multilateral institutions and on China’s influence and how that is quickly growing and leading to changes in the fundamental rules of these institutions and also giving rise to alternatives to the old ones. And one question that arises then – does that make the institutions that we already have counterproductive to preserving a liberal world order when authoritarian states rise within the institutions and partly take over responsibility for them?
Another key issue is the one on fragile states. They seem to be continuously bogged down in poverty, lack of education, et cetera, although we have spent decades on development, aid, on peacekeeping, et cetera, from the institutions such as World Bank and the U.N. Does that mean that the institutions have failed to contribute to raising basic individual welfare and quality of life then? There is also the issue of the human rights situation in countries such as Mali and South Sudan continues to be disastrous despite U.N. peacekeeping. Does that mean that these instruments have failed? Does the multilateral institutions not do the job well enough? Have they, instead, become money machines for corrupt governments and for employees instead of assisting the civilians that they pretend to serve? That’s some of the key issues that I hope we can talk about today. Few people seem to think the institutions should be left as they are. Some demand pragmatic reforms. Others call for wholesale transformation, and yet, others – total destruction of the global framework that we have now of multilateral institutions. And this panel will address the pros and cons of preserving a system of multilateral institutions at a time where we have fluctuating alliances, trade wars rising, authoritarianism and other developments that fundamentally affect how they work.
We have four distinguished speakers to address these issues. First, we have Kathryn Lavelle. She’s the Ellen and Dixon Long Professor of World Affairs at Case Western Reserve University. She’s written numerous books on international organization and U.S. politics. And her most recent book is called “The Challenges Of Multilateralism.” It’s come out at Yale University Press, and it reviews the history of domestic and international politics that have helped or hindered global cooperation. Prior to this, she has been a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. And she also held numerous other positions as researcher. And she was a staff at the House Committee on Financial Services.
Then, we have Eli Whitney Debevoise. He’s currently a partner at the law firm Arnold & Porter, but prior to this position, he served as an executive director of the World Bank from 2007 to ’10. Mr. Debevoise has extensive experience in major international financial transactions in the capital markets, and he functions at the forefront of trade liberalization, advising with respect to World Trade Organization accession and panel proceedings and regional trade integration. Earlier this month on 13 of November, he served as a witness in the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services hearing on multilateral development institutions.
Third, we have Blaise Misztal. He’s a fellow here at Hudson. And most recently, Misztal served as the executive director of the Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States, which is a congressionally mandated project convened by the U.S. Institute of Peace. Prior to that, he was director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Security Program, where he managed a team responsible for researching and developing policy recommendations concerning a variety of national security issues, including Iran and its nuclear program, U.S.-Turkey relations, cybersecurity, countering extremism and state fragility.
And last but not least, we have His Excellency Martin Bille Hermann, who took up his post as ambassador and permanent representative of Denmark to the United Nations in January 2019. Before taking up this – his position, the ambassador served as state secretary for development policy in the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And prior to this appointment, Martin Bille Hermann served as ambassador to Indonesia and was also accredited to East Timor and Papua New Guinea. He has also been the head of department for Asia and the Pacific Ocean region in the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And before that, he worked for the UNDP in Bhutan. The panel will spend about an hour debating the issue of multilateral institutions. And after that, we will open it up for questions from the audience.
KATHRYN LAVELLE: And I will start (inaudible).
ODGAARD: Kathryn, you’ve just written a book on multilateral institutions that is about to come out – already has come out, I think. Can you briefly describe how you see the role of multilateral institutions in today’s world order, where we have these fluctuating lines (ph) patterns, trade wars rising, authoritarianism? Does these trends mean that the institutions are counterproductive to preserving a liberal world order? Are they, for example, taken over by authoritarian regimes with little respect for basic liberal market economic and human rights principles? Or how should we read it?
LAVELLE: Thank you. Well, thank you for that question. And thank you for inviting me and having me here today at the Hudson Institute. And it’s just been really a privilege to meet my copanelists. And I look forward to the discussion. I think that you’re raising really good questions. The – my recent – the book is forthcoming. And the book really looks at the, you know, we’d say the – kind of the long view of multilateralism and the long view of the history of these organizations. And I think when you take a longer view – and by long, I mean the end of the Napoleonic wars. When you go back that far, you see so many things that are the same. And then you see a few things that are different. So the things that are the same is the nationalist tendencies. The controversies about the organizations themselves have certainly always been there. The way I look at the history of the organizations is that they have been intermingled with the history of scientific progress and the Industrial Revolution.
And so as scientific progress has evolved, states have had to figure out ways to handle what’s going on and what’s being discovered. But also, the international community has had to understand that. So if you want to think about something like an environmental issue, back in the 1800s, the issues of migratory birds were very, very important. When you look at the history of disease, the – and cooperation in health, what was very important was trying to grapple with the problem of cholera on the trade routes in the British Empire. So the problems that people encountered back in the 1800s had to do with a lot of the science behind what was going on. Longitude – we were talking about the Telecommunications Union. But medicine had to come to terms with what caused cholera and how to treat it. And then once you could get that agreement, you could try to figure out what nations could handle and then what the international community would handle. Now, we all know as students of international relations that then-world history has had intermittent episodes of hegemonic war. And I think the – if you want to look at it as more – the more optimistic, hopeful side of the picture is the – in some of the darkest hours, people have tried to figure out what to do about multilateralism. How can we make these institutions better? I’m not sure I would have that instinct, as World War II was winding down, to try to figure out what I would do. But that certainly has been the history.
Now to the present era, the way I look at the problem is that scientific progress has continued. Two really big things have happened since the 1960s – the digital revolution – so we all can see each other and talk to each other, and we’re aware, in real time, of what’s going on – and also massive advances in global health and the world community trying to come to terms with how those benefits are going to be distributed and who’s going to pay for them as welfare systems have evolved. So we know the institutions fostered the national welfare systems but then kind of coming to terms with that now – our problems. And these are real challenges that these organizations confront. So I don’t know if I would say it’s so much either-or in terms of whether or not they need to go or come or something like that. They’re certainly going to have to adapt to the new realities of the problems of global immigration and taxpayers in advanced industrial democracies. But I think there’s also reason to be somewhat hopeful that they’ve been able to adjust in the past and will probably be able to do so in the future.
ODGAARD: Thanks, Katy (ph). Whitney, you have been executive director of the World Bank. And a lot of contemporary critics of these institutions point to an imbalance between the financial contributions made by member states on the one hand and then the actual tangible benefits of multilateral institutions for a common interest in prosperity and stability. Can you tell us from your experience to what extent these multilateral institutions such as the World Bank are more ending up being tools for corrupt governments or authoritarian governments than they actually help the people they pretend to serve?
ELI WHITNEY DEBEVOISE: Well, thank you. Thank you for inviting me. It’s a pleasure to be here today and particularly among such distinguished company. I think that we can’t reach a, you know, definitive judgment on a multilateral institution like the World Bank without remembering that it’s one player in a larger development landscape and that the landscape includes the countries themselves that are clients of the bank. But if we do take a longer view, I think you could say that we have made huge progress on this planet. We brought more people out of poverty in the last 25 to 30 years than in all the rest of human history. So that, to me, is a fairly remarkable measure. And I think that the multilaterals have made a significant contribution to that. We also have accumulated a lot of knowledge about the development process and disseminate that around the world. It’s interesting. When I was testifying two weeks ago up on the Hill, I got any number of questions about, why does China continue to borrow from the bank? And I think the primary answer there is not because they need the money, obviously, but because they do value the development expertise that the bank has.
That may beg the question of, why are they borrowing? I personally think that it’s time for them to graduate. And they could do what Saudi Arabia does, which is pay for whatever knowledge, technical assistance they want as they go. On the other hand, if you understand anything about the political model of at least the IBRD component of the World Bank Group – and I have to point out that there are five parts of the World Bank Group. And each one of them has its own separate financial model. And you need to understand those models before you start talking further. But in the IBRD side, which is where China borrows, a very large component of the annual budget comes from the interest which is earned on the loans. And if you said, China, repay everything tomorrow, there would be a big hole in that budget. Now some people – there’s always room to cut budgets of institutions like this. And heaven knows, when I was U.S. executive director, we were one of the budget hawks constantly and consistently. We were on the audit committee.
We were always trying to improve things. But I think a phase-out would be appropriate here in terms of the institutional approach. There also are other aspects of multilateral institutions which I think are important to remember. They can provide a lot of knowledge about public financial management. These lessons are not learned instantly by every country around the world. But on the whole, thankfully, there’s been a lot of progress. One aspect of that public financial management is actually the management of trust funds. And I think I would submit to you that perhaps one of the more successful multilaterals has been the Global Fund fighting disease. The United States has appropriated four times as much money on an annual basis to the Global Fund than it has to the World Bank. And so the World Bank, though, manages those trust funds. And so that’s a – itself, a valuable service. Now as to your question about capture and so forth, I mean, there is politics at the World Bank. I mean, it’s a little bit like Casablanca. I’m surprised there’s gambling going on here. And it’s constant. I had a question when I testified two weeks ago about, how could it possibly be that one of the managing directors of the World Bank today is from China, and he has responsibility for ethics?
And my response was, he is an international civil servant. If he’s not doing his job, the president can fire him. But, you know, these are things that need to be dealt with. There is a legitimate question, as raised by our moderator, about whether these institutions are captive or just within the political economy of different countries. Are there more to serve, you know, the civil servants or the elite as opposed to the people of the country? I think, in your question, you actually left out one dimension, which is the entire development community, you know? When I went to a country in Africa on one of my ED trips at the World Bank, I met with the head of USAID. And I said, how much is your budget? And he said, $80 million a year. And I said, how much of that is earmarked? And he said, 78 million of 80. Earmarks basically means, you know, for the beltway bandits around here who have their contracts every year and so forth – he was at a disadvantage to the head of DFID, the UK development agency, because that country had a discretionary budget of 10 million available to him so that when the president of the country has some problem that he wants help on, the UK had 10 million and the United States had 2. So there are captives.
I also remember looking at a loan for a road project in Niger. And let’s say it was a $20 million loan. And if you looked way back on, you know, page 57 in the annexes, you found that 500,000 of that was to buy four Toyota Land Cruisers. So, yes, there are, you know, as in any political situation, people whose interests are at play. But has it reached the point of capture – and we have alternative organizations. Think of the organization started by the BRICS. They were frustrated that the U.S. Congress took so long to approve a quota increase at the IMF. It took them five years. And so they formed their own monetary organization and their own new bank called the BRICS bank. Now it’s the New Development Bank. But look at what they did in the monetary arrangement. It has a headline number of X. But if you’re an individual country, and you want to access the monetary facilities of this new arrangement, you can only take 30% with no questions asked. The other 70% require an upper-tranche IMF program. So even the BRICS, when they’re forming an organization, are depending on another multilateral to establish important criteria and so forth. So I think I’ll leave it there. And we can hear from other panelists. But obviously, there’s no black or white answer to the questions being asked.
ODGAARD: Great. Thanks, Whitney. Move on to Blaise. You’ve done a lot of work on fragile states. And you – arguably, fragile states seem to be continuously bogged down in poverty, lack of education, all the usual development problems despite years of spending from the World Bank, also from the United Nations. Does that mean that they have failed to contribute to raising basic individual welfare and quality of life? Or can they still be helpful? Do they need reform? Or can we use them as they are?
BLAISE MISZTAL: Thank you, Liselotte, for putting together this event on this important topic. Thank you to the audience for joining us for this discussion. I’m honored to join this distinguished group of panelists and flattered that you think I can solve the fragile-states question in five minutes or however long I’ve been allotted. Let me maybe just give some context of why I think it is important to think about the problem of fragile states in a discussion of multilateralism. And that’s both because I think the problems surrounding fragility are particularly problems that are well-suited to – or driven by the sorts of issues that multilateral institutions are meant to solve. So something like 90% of all conflicts in the world today are happening in a fragile state. And we know that the United Nations is devoted to international peace and security and trying to minimize conflict.
Increasingly, poverty is incurring in fragile states. Ten years ago, it was something like 15% of the world’s poor lived in fragile states. Ten years from today, it’s going to be 60% of the world’s poor will live in fragile states. So for the World Bank’s poverty reduction mission, fragility is an increasingly important issue. But it’s also an issue – fragility is also an issue that matters to all of us. And so the ability of multilateral institutions to address fragility is something that we should care about, whether it’s problems like the spread of extremism and terrorism into fragile states, civil conflicts that displace hundreds of thousands if not millions of people, causing refugee and migration flows that have impacts well beyond their borders, whether it is the spread of pandemics – like most recently, Ebola – in fragile states that lack the institutions to address those issues on their own, causing them to become global and transnational health threats.
Fragility is really going to be, I think, a major driver of the sorts of national security issues we, as the United States, and the broader global community will be facing in the decades to come. And so it’s important to think about how we deal with it. And I would say that thus far, the record of the multilateral institutions has not been great, partly because the emphasis on fragility hasn’t been there. Even within our own U.S. national security policy, fragility is a relatively recent phenomenon. We were thinking about failed states up until maybe a decade ago whether that’s sort of – Somalia is the classic example or assumption going into the post-9/11 phase, that it was Afghanistan and failed states that were the sanctuaries and harborers of terrorism. This idea of fragility of states that haven’t completely failed that haven’t decomposed but are on the brink of it is a relatively recent one.
And what we’ve seen is that the sorts of solutions that have been applied thus far traditionally by the United Nations in terms of trying to promote peace and security or by the World Bank and trying to achieve poverty-reduction goals either haven’t been applied to fragile states or haven’t been able really to take root in fragile states. So, for example, when you look at peacekeeping operations, most of the peacekeeping operations conducted by the U.N. today are not in the places that we would think of if you were to come up with a list of the top fragile states. So there’s no U.N. peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria and Yemen and Nigeria and Somalia and Libya and so on. I think the first state that you would hit if you were to try to go down the list of the world’s fragile states that has a U.N. peacekeeping operation is Mali. Similarly, the World Bank has not had a focus on fragile states thus far. And when it did, it applied its mostly technical poverty reduction methods in trying to solve just the problem with poverty in fragile states. So, for example, as of 2012, half of the programs that the World Bank was running in fragile states were geared towards infrastructure development, so it – something that really didn’t have a lot to do with fragility in the first place.
The good news is that that that is starting to change. There is an increasing recognition that fragility is a political problem. We define it as the lack of – or the breakdown of the social contract between the government and its people – so the lack of legitimacy, the lack of trust, the lack of delivery of services and accountability to the population. And the nature of that political problem, fragility, has been recognized by both the U.N. and the World Bank. In fact, I think one of the most astounding and positive developments in the multilateral space was the cooperation of those two institutions on a report that came out, I guess, two years ago now in 2017 called Pathways For Peace which looked at the nature of fragility, the nature of conflict and violence and how to start addressing it. And they recognize that it’s a political problem and a political problem that is going to bedevil traditional attempts at either peacekeeping or development unless you recognize that it’s a political problem and try to develop political solutions to undergird attempts to either keep the peace or to build prosperity.
And you’ve seen a large commitment in its most recent replenishment of IDA, the Development Fund. The World Bank doubled the amount of money that it’s going to give to fragile states from 7 to 14 billion. The bank is in the process of developing a new strategy for investing in fragile and conflict in violent states. But I think we’re also going to see the limitations of that approach which, I think, are emblematic of the limitations that we have when we’re talking about multilateral institutions and some of the challenges that have been laid out. And fundamentally, I think it comes down to the question that Kathryn sort of suggested is – you know, is progress possible on sort of along a purely enlightenment scientific technical track? Can we solve the problems of fragility by just investing and building capacity in fragile states and training more civil servants and building government institutions? Or is there sort of a darker side to things, you know?
As Bob Kagan put it in his recent book – right? – “The Jungle Grows Back,” it’s – the long arc of history – doesn’t always bend towards justice unless we will it there. And I think some of the findings that we’ve had in fragile states is that they’re kept fragile because the people who rule them or the people who are invested in them prefer to keep them fragile. Fragility is a governance strategy by corrupt elites or by outside actors who prefer to deal with corrupt and autocratic governments or who prefer disorder to order. And unless we figure out how to solve the problem of political will that keeps these countries mired in fragility, we’re not going to be able to address the sources of conflict and violence in them.
And so the question is, can the World Bank, can the United Nations create programs that start addressing these questions of political will of governance and other values in these countries? Or are they going to remain purely technical solutions? And I think that starts getting to the heart of this question of, are multilateral institutions, as they’re currently structured, capable of addressing the challenges that we have, because I think what fragile states show us is the challenges are political. They’re challenges of really how we think societies should be ordered and the way that multilateral institutions have functioned thus far, promoting sovereignty sort of at the U.N. system, promoting sort of technical, I’d say, governance – ignorance solutions within countries doesn’t really begin to answer those questions.
ODGAARD: Thank you very much, Blaise. You raised a number of interesting questions, I think, about economic security and values as well. I’ll move on to Martin. And Martin is an ambassador to the United Nations. Presumably, you have a lot of insights on U.N. peacekeeping operations and their contributions to peace and stability. And we have now heard some critique of those institutions. I wonder if you could comment on that if you agree with that. Is peacekeeping more about the image welfare and cooperation of peacekeepers and peacekeeping countries than about making a difference on the ground, for example, and also, the things Blaise addressed as problems?
MARTIN BILLE HERMANN: Well, thank you, Lis, for allowing me to join colleagues in the panel for – thank you for the opportunity to discuss what, of course, for a Danish ambassador to U.N. tremendously important issue. I arrived at – in New York almost 11 months ago. And one of the first things I did was to put up on the wall in my office a quote from the second secretary general of the U.N., a Swedish – Dag Hammarskjold – who wrote that we should remind ourselves that the purpose of the U.N. was not to take mankind to heaven but to save humanity from hell. And I think when we talk about not only about the U.N. but multilateral institutions in general, it is extremely important that we adjust expectations to what they can do and how long it takes. I mean – and they are dealing with extremely complex – now so you asked me specifically about peacekeeping operations.
And peacekeeping operations is one of these sort of instruments of multilateral institutions of the U.N. – and that is the world community – that has an extraordinarily bad name, which is a little bit odd actually because if you actually look at the facts, it’s the story of what you might call a tremendous success, but actually also a story that looks to a future that’s going to be very challenging. Now, if you look at the data, I mean, it’s very, very difficult to derive any conclusion but the fact that U.N. peacekeeping operations are cheap. They’re relatively effective. And if we look into the future, they are absolutely indispensable in the future. Now, today, there is around 100,000 troops under a U.N. Security Council mandate for peacekeeping operation.
The cost of a soldier with a blue helmet or a blue beret is around one-tenth. But let’s just be generous – at least considerably below one-quarter of the cost of a NATO soldier. And more importantly, they work in areas that nobody else wants to go. Now, so – and the cost, the annual cost of peacekeeping operation is around 7 billion U.S. dollar. I mean, according to my numbers, that’s 1% of the U.S. budget for defense, around, you know, half of what Spain’s budget for defense is. Now, it seems to me that that’s a fairly good investment. It covers an area of around 3 million square miles, you know, with a population of 100 million people. Now, you can do the math yourself. So you can imagine that actually U.N. peacekeeping troops are spread fairly thin. That’s one of the reasons, perhaps, they don’t always do what we implicitly expect them to do, and that is not only to keep peace but because of the realities, they are deployed in areas where often there is no peace to keep. First part of the problem with peacekeeping operations is that they’re not deployed in areas where there is a peace treaty. Secondly, that, actually, they are spread so thin. They don’t have the resources. They don’t have the personnel and the equipment to actually enforce peace.
So often, you end up what you might call not peacekeeping but freeze-keeping. And – but you have to ask yourself, is there not a value in that, in actually keeping conflict somewhat under wrap, protecting civilians, doing what you can to mitigate the human suffering? But my most important message – we tend to forget actually that peacekeeping operations have been a success. Now, there are 72 completed peacekeeping operations. And many of them are very successful. There are around 13 ongoing difficult ones. But they do important tasks. Now, Blaise mentioned all the places where there are no peacekeeping operations and where you could, I suppose, argue, well, actually, there ought to be, first of all, a peace to keep. But actually, there ought to be some kind of international military presence – you know, Libya, Syria, Yemen – although, there are U.N. operations. But let’s be clear. It’s not the U.N. It’s not the secretary general that doesn’t want to deploy troops there. It’s the U.N. Security Council that cannot agree that, actually, you ought to deploy troops there.
So I think – and that’s the second point is we have to remember that multilateral institutions, international cooperation – it’s not the them. It’s the us. I mean, we are all part of making that machinery work. Now, I think the debate today around international cooperation multilaterally is absolutely fascinating. It seems to me that we live in an age – and I think, Kathryn, you were sort of also hinting at that – where we are more connected than ever before. You know, the world is more connected than ever before and not only by smartphones or digital technology. We are also more mobile than ever before in human history whether it comes to people, diseases or those that actually want to overthrow our way of life. Now, I suppose Denmark’s approach to this would be that actually that demands of us more international cooperation, not less international cooperation because, I mean, there are no boundaries that are going to stop Ebola, no? There are no boundaries that are going to stop the spread of intra-microbiological resistance bacteria. We need to work together. Now – but working together – and this has become blatantly clear from – to me after 11 months at the U.N. Working together – 193 countries – is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do.
And there are bound to be areas where you don’t necessarily agree in all the details on that particular case or in that particular file. And then of – suppose this is where your true commitment to international cooperation is brought to the test. Do you actually believe that international cooperation is so important to solve some of the biggest challenges that you’re willing to invest a little bit of yourself in not winning, if you like, every time? Now, I suppose, for a country of 5 1/2 million people, it’s quite clear that the pursuit of national interest can only lead to the conclusion we must invest in international cooperation, setting up and respecting rules of engagement, respecting the need to, from time to time, compromise. Now, does this make me a believer in the fact that what we need to preserve when it comes to the U.N. is the U.N. of yesterday? No, it’s not. I mean, what we must invest in is investing in and actually in developing, see an evolution of the U.N. because the world is also changing.
Now, when Dag Hammarskjold uttered those famous words, let’s be honest, the main challenge to humankind was that we were going to kill each other by arms. That’s not the only challenge out there today. There are many other challenges out there today. And some of them don’t originate from states or governments. They originate from what you might call non-state actors whether you want to call it violent extremism or fanaticism or terrorism. But there are also some that actually originate from the fact that we are, you know, 7 billion people and counting. And as such, we are much, much closer together than we ever were before. Now – so I arrive at that sort of, to some extent, that painful conclusion that there is no alternative. There is no other option. But also, that is going to require a lot of strategic patience in the sense that things are not going to be resolved tomorrow. But there is no other option. It’s going to be next to impossible to go it alone.
ODGAARD: Thank you, Martin. I will return to you with some questions. But I want to go back to Whitney now because you, several times, mentioned China and how – you know, their role in the World Bank. And what we see now, a lot of people would say, is a China that, as you said, on the one hand, can get favorable – or loans on favorable terms from the World Bank. But on the other hand, China is also a global power with a belt and road initiative coupled with financial resources from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. It has an alternative form of development system and even a system to support that or developing it that doesn’t have human rights condition. It’s not very transparent. Some people say it sort of doesn’t have all the other elements that we would like to see in, at least from the old institutions’ point of view, in order to perform this function of development and contributing to world prosperity. Can you comment on this and how that influences the whole working of the system, this role of China and what should be done about it if anything? And if the other panelists can chip in on that, that would be great at your convenience.
DEBEVOISE: Well, thank you. I mean, I mentioned China because you had mentioned it in the introduction. I do think there’s a distinction to be made between several actors in the Chinese firmament, if you will, between China Development Bank and China Exim on one hand and AIIB on the other hand. If you look at AIIB, it’s largely populated by alumni of the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. And they have environmental and social safeguards. And most of their projects so far have been cofinanced with these other mainline institutions. China Development Bank and China Exim, I think, are a different story. But, you know, I think that this is the story of any rising power. When there’s a multilateral organization, they will try to assert their influence using that tool, just the way Denmark does at the World Bank.
The magic word for, you know, the relationship between Denmark and the World Bank is leverage, right? I mean, the United States has leverage at the World Bank. The United States has put it in – if the new capital increases go through, we will have put in exactly $3 billion of capital. And with that $3 billion, that institution has done 800 billion of lending. That’s pretty good leverage in any institution. So imagine that same equation from Denmark’s perspective. What they put in, compared to what the World Bank puts in, is infinitesimal. And at the same time, they use the World Bank capability to administer trust funds to great effect. They don’t have a huge development agency. They have an institution that they can be very proud of and that’s made a lot of good contributions. But they also leverage the trust fund administrative capacity of the World Bank to do their development work. So for $5 million or 10 million that they put into a trust fund, they get someone else to run it, and off they go. And they don’t have to have 10 more civil servants to do that. So leverage is a big word in any multilateral. So it is for China, and they’re learning those lessons. And they are now setting up multilateral institutions in which they can be the predominant voice.
And it won’t be any surprise as that proceeds. I mean, you can imagine, as the U.S. director of the World Bank, the suspicions that come with any initiative that you take. On the other hand, U.S. leadership at a multilateral like the World Bank is extremely important, and setting the tone is important. And I think that’s, you know, where we have some real contributions to make as this sort of competition unfolds around the world. And, you know, I think the point of fragile states is a very important one. The entire World Development Report in 2010, I think, was devoted to fragile states because at that time, if you looked at Africa – 45 sub-Saharan African countries at the time – a good 17 or 18 of them were either in conflict, coming out of a conflict, about to go into conflict or whatever. And they were some of the development cases that were the most challenging. And I think there is a cross.
If you look at Liberia, for example, you know, the former leader of Liberia was the world’s darling and did a lot for her country. But a lot of people don’t know that there was a U.N. force there to – with an annual price tag of $600 million a year to keep the peace in that country and to permit some of that development to happen. As, you know, I think was suggested here by Blaise, if you – if the security council could authorize similar types of operations in about 10 other places, we might see very different results. And the question really is whether the world is willing to pay that price tag. Are we willing to pay $600 million dollars a year to keep Liberians from shooting each other and having a chance at developing institutions that will allow them to have good public financial management and actually develop?
ODGAARD: Thank you. Katy?
LAVELLE: Yeah, I agree with what you said. And I also think that maybe because I did work in Congress for a stint, one thing that really impresses me with the history of multilateral organizations has to do with developing constituencies and getting these institutions to reach out in industrial democracies and make them understand why they matter. That’s the reason that we were able to get into the IMF and the World Bank. And we had the failure or the problems that we had getting the League of Nations through. So when we think about constituencies matter, I’m from Ohio. I have to go to Ohio and explain to the Youngstown United Nations organization, as one of my jobs as a professor getting on talking about these things, I have to explain to them why the U.N. matters.
Why does the IMF matter? My mom – who will watch on the Internet – will say, what’s the IMF and the World Bank? So I have to explain it to them. And they look at a country like China. And they say, why would we want to support an organization that’s taking jobs from workers in Youngstown, Ohio? And what I think the organization’s job to do in this digital era and many of us who are knowledgeable about these organizations is to try to make that argument and explain why they matter. And absolutely, they matter because China is brought into this rulesbased system. And if we want to talk about environmental policies, we want to talk about labor policies, even though China might not get exclusive funding from the World Bank, when China participates in a World Bank package, that gives the global community an opportunity to influence some Chinese policies. And I just think that it needs to – the message needs to get out in a way that – I don’t like this expression, ordinary Americans, because I think of myself as one of them. But we need to get out.
And I think that politicians understood that in the interwar era. It’s great that we didn’t have another cataclysmic war after the digital era. And now that we understand the global environment, and we understand it to be one ecosystem – we didn’t know that at the time. So when we want these organizations to work on these things and to try to make a case about why China matters, we really need to explain that to people. And I think also, we owe a lot of success from a – we have a lot of Chinese students studying in American universities. So the opportunities are there. I just think we need to reach out and grab them.
ODGAARD: Thanks, Katy. Blaise, you had a point?
MISZTAL: Sure, thanks. So if I could key off two things. Martin, you said that compromise is an important value in the U.N. system and sort of giving a little bit of yourself to get something that’s better for the global good. And Katy, you talked about bringing China into the rules-based order. I think – both those points reminded me of my children. And I apologize. When you have young kids, you see the world completely through them. But they’re very much into playing board games right now. And my 5-year-old loves to memorize all the rules, knows all of them and adheres to them and more importantly, polices the 4-year-old to make sure he adheres to them. The 4-year-old, on the other hand, just wants to win, right? So he’ll roll the die. He’ll get a four, and he’ll move 12 spots. And if he gets called out on it, he throws the board over and leaves. And I think that’s really a good analogy for understanding this issue of China or Russia or other actors in their international system.
It is a system that’s built on the idea of following rules, of compromise and cooperation. But those are themselves political values that are not necessarily shared by the actors who are parts of the system. And so I think you’re correct that we’ve followed this policy, ever since the fall – especially since the fall – of the Berlin Wall, of entanglement, of the idea that if we bring countries that were outside of the rules-based liberal international order into that order in various means, that order will then perpetuate from the inside – from the outside into those countries and will minimize some of their most damaging or corrosive or dangerous behavior. And so we’ve tied ourselves to China through the WTO and thinking that economic interdependencies will make us safer. We’ve brought countries into international organizations hoping that they’ll follow those rules. We’ve hoped that economic liberalization will lead to political liberalization at home. And I think we’ve seen that that theory has largely failed – that, in fact, rather than sort of bringing them into the rules-based order, rather than compromise, rather than just the regular use of leverage as Denmark uses in the World Bank system, what we’ve had instead is colonization of the multilateral system by countries who are not afraid to not follow the rules and use the fact that those of us who do follow the rules – use that against us.
And I think the perfect example of that is the fact that where we send our peacekeeping forces is determined by votes at the U.N. Security Council. And I think, you know, we have this interesting juxtaposition where the 2002 National Security Strategy by George W. Bush administration said the greatest threat to international security is no longer countries invading one another. It’s non-state actors. And in 2017, the Trump administration said the greatest threat to international security is no longer non-state actors and terrorists, it’s now states trying to invade one another. And the answer is, it lies somewhere in between. And, in fact, the two can’t be really separated from one another, which is why I think the case of fragile states is so interesting because they’re places where conflicts overlap, where civil, ethnic, tribal conflicts are taken over by transnational jihadi groups who are armed for the purposes of geopolitical actors who are trying to achieve their own ends.
Syria is obviously an incredible example of this new type of both inter and intrastate warfare happening at the same time through the use of proxies. But it’s happening in Libya. It’s happening in the Horn of Africa. It’s happening in the Sahel, and it’s going to be an increasing feature of the world we inhabit. So even if we’re talking about trying to solve some of the nonstate threats that you mentioned, Martin, the nature of geopolitics and the fact of state backers using these conflicts to further their own ends is going to be a major problem. And so if we are committed to the idea that – and I absolutely agree with you that we want U.N. peacekeeping missions in the places that – where there is both a peace to keep and there needs to be a peace to keep.
But the question is, are the current rules that we’ve constructed and the current mechanisms we have for using those forces or are the current means we have for making investments in poor and fragile states actually capable of solving the problems as they currently exist? And I think as long as we are under the assumption that we play by the rules and everyone else plays by the rules and is going to be bound by them, that’s ultimately going to fail. And as much as I admire the peacekeepers, one need only think back to Srebrenica to see the limitations of that system as they’re imposed by outside great powers that have interests in how those conflicts unfold.
ODGAARD: Thank you. Martin, you’ve waited patiently.
HERMANN: Yeah. No, thank you, Blaise and Whitney and Kathryn – a lot of triggers there for me. I mean, actually, I think Srebrenica is an excellent example of, perhaps, U.N. peacekeepers being put in a situation that actually their mandate did not at all sort of equip them to enter. I mean, traditionally U.N. peacekeepers – that’s how the world’s countries designed them – is to put in between two armies that have agreed not to fight each other for the moment. That’s what peacekeepers are. Look at all the theaters in which you have deployed peacekeeping operations today. None – well, at least very, very few – look anything like that. Doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be deployed. Just need to recognize that it is an extremely complex environment. Just on China, which I suppose you can expand to on India, on Indonesia, on Ethiopia, on South Africa – the fact that a number of these countries have, first of all, grown economically and politically I suppose is actually a happy occasion.
I mean, at least that’s part of what my profession where I’ve worked in development for many years have – you know, have been striving for for decades – to see people lifted out of poverty. And it is no surprise that countries that have gained in economic weight and importance will also demand, you know, more of a say at the table. Now, the challenge, of course, is those – if you like those aching pains, to say a little bit in Blaise as sort of a comparison, those aching pains, you know, are difficult to handle in a situation where we have more global challenges to handle than ever before. But the answer, of course, is not to walk away from the game but to stay in the game. And I think that was the point you were making, Whitney, you know, that a lot of these new institutions that have come up that as these sort of quasi-multilateral institutions have actually imported, you know, standards, procedures, approaches from the multilateral system, from the World Bank and the IMF, from those institutions because they have an awful lot of experience.
And I think we have a profound interest in that and recognizing that actually part of our history, of our legacy, is not only sort of the spread of ideas and values around liberal, you know, democracy. It’s actually also about, you know, what do we know about sustainable development? You know, what mistakes have we made that we can actually share with others so they don’t make the same mistakes? I think, for me, and I – multilateralism is not an ideology. It’s a method of work. And I think that’s extremely important. Sometimes, the discussion around international cooperation becomes a little bit sort of, you know, do you believe in it, you know? It’s a sort of – almost sort of a religious issue. For me, it’s not an ideology. It’s not a religion. It’s a method of work. It’s a method of work that’s not perfect, but I’m yet to find somebody that can actually give me something better. And I think the big change here, as I tried to say before, is that this is no longer an altruistic project. I mean, if you look at Denmark, I would perhaps assert that, you know, 20, 30 years ago many people looked at the U.N. as an altruistic project. The U.N. was good for the world.
Actually, it didn’t matter that much for Denmark. But the U.N. was good for the world. Now I think, you know, events over the last, you know, 5, 10, 15 years have changed that calculation. Now, multilateralism, international cooperation is no longer an altruistic project. It is a project of what I would call enlightened self-interest. And I think that’s – and when you come to that recognition, you may realize that it is not working as well as it ought to. It is not working as well as it should. But there is only one answer to that, and that is to engage and to invest to make it work better because if we abandon it, well, then God knows who is going to influence it.
ODGAARD: Thank you. Before we turn it over to the audience, I want to – I would like the speakers to address two important issues. How – first, how do you concretely envisage reform of the current institutions? Blaise, you mentioned the link between security and economic concerns, and it seems to me that in the current system security concerns is the premise for a lot of economic decisions – who to give development assistance, who to give preferential trade access, you know, et cetera. This link – is that part of the institutions or not? And if so – if it isn’t, should it be? You also mentioned values and that would be another consideration. Do we need to have some element – significant element of common values or can the institutions work in the absence of that?
The other issue I’d like you to address is the role of the U.S. during the Korean War that was fought by the U.N., and it was possible because the Soviet Union had a policy of nonappearance at the time in the U.N. Security Council. So what about the U.S.? Are they moving towards a policy of non-appearance or what is their position on these multilateral institutions? And does that have a positive role to play in your view, or how do you see it? Starting with Katy.
LAVELLE: Thanks. I got the seat at the end, huh? No. I appreciate that. And I think they’re great questions. I think the biggest problems going forward that I see – trends that are problems with multilateral organizations – is that as we understand these problems, we understand how interconnected they are. And the old system of international organizations that was set up after World War II was for specific problems as we understood them at the time. So for example, when we talk about environmental problems, there’s a lot of overlap with human rights problems, so the climate refugees problem or the problems of health that overact – interact with the environment when we talk about Arctic ice melting.
I know on – you know, in another project we’re working on, problems of disease that come out of that, problems with mental health of people who live in the region, and our system is very illequipped for these institutions to interact with each other and to address these problems that don’t just require a state solution but require the web. I mean, at one point someone said the World Wide Web of international organizations. But that really is an inadequate solution to understand how to get the different tasks completed in a way that meets the needs of the world right now. And as I’ve said, you know, in the past, we’ve had wars. We don’t want to have a war to have to redesign the whole system. With respect to the United States, you know, the question is out because as you pointed out with China, the number one – the Chicago Council on World Relations for, you know, those of you who follow all this data, came out this year. And the last year or so, the biggest partisan split in U.S. foreign policy is on the issue of China. Actually, support among Americans for multilateralism and membership in these organizations remains consistently strong. It always has been strong.
And so I think that there is a lot of widespread support in the American public to cooperate, to collaborate. Like you pointed out, you know, certainly when we’re being taken advantage of if we’re promoting a rules-based order and others are not following it, that needs to be addressed and something needs to be done about that. But I think that American people are pretty pragmatic. I think, you know, a couple of us were saying before, you know, you can have these conversations about trade. Certainly, where I live trade is a hot issue. But we also understand a lot of American jobs are dependent on trade and a lot – trade needs to be made fair to all of the people participating in it. And there’s certain things that the United States government can do.
But there’s also certain things that you need the world community to do something about. So I guess, yeah, it’s anyone’s guess with respect to, you know, how a next administration would handle it. Once again, I think the problems that we see right now with multilateralism in the American population really go back in time to the problems with workers in the 1970s. A lot of the problems are much deeper. They were covered over, maybe, by the years where we had the anti – well, the anti-globalization movement appeared, but then we had 9/11. So they were kind of underground for a while. They’ve been here, but so have multilateral organizations and there’s always been a debate about them and there probably always will be.
ODGAARD: Thank you. Whitney?
DEBEVOISE: Thank you. Well, if you don’t mind, I’ll just sort of meld your two questions because I think that the question of reform is also related to the role of the United States. And I think the key there is tough love. I mean, that’s what we’re seeing currently with the World Bank capital increase. You know, the current administration in the popular view, or certainly in this town, is not seen as an administration that is deeply in love with multilateral institutions. And yet, the United States Treasury really took the initiative in the negotiation of this most recent capital increase for the World Bank. And they said, fine. You think you need a capital increase?
But here are some things that need to change. You know, we’re going to have richer countries pay more for loans than poorer countries. We’re going to cut the budget. You know, the top-level salaries are going to be limited and so forth down the line. And, you know, certainly I think that if one has a leading role in a multilateral, it’s incumbent upon you to exercise leadership and to do it well. And I think tough love is probably usually the most appropriate approach.
ODGAARD: Thank you. Blaise?
MISZTAL: I think I’ll also try to meld the two questions together and maybe answer the first question by answering the second. I think a year out from a presidential election is really a bad time to be trying to predict anything about the direction of U.S. foreign policy. But I think even the criticisms that we’ve seen in this administration of multilateralism are not an opposition to multilateralism per se, but to different aspects of it. I think there’s actually a bit of attention in some of what we heard from President Trump which can be encapsulated in his phrase, don’t be a chump, which I think means two – sort of has two competing instincts in it.
The first is this idea that the United States shouldn’t be paying more than other countries in pursuit of common goals, right? So it’s not a rejection of cooperation, per se, but it’s an emphasis on what the president sees as fair sharing of the burden of that cooperation so that other countries shouldn’t be benefiting unduly on the back of the United States and its taxpayers. On the other hand, there’s this – there’s the sense that sort of the wool is being pulled over our eyes as to the true purpose or the way these institutions operate. And, you know, the things that get trotted out are things like Venezuela being on the U.N. Human Rights Council, or any number of other countries that have dubious human rights records and things that, in and of themselves, might not be systematic or structural issues with multilateral institutions, but which seem to Americans to suggest that these institutions are being used or their true purpose is being perverted.
And so this balance between making sure that, in fact, the goals and purposes of the multilateral institutions are being properly served but they’re – but everyone’s sort of investing in them fairly, I think, is the tension that we have in U.S. thoughts. And I’d go beyond saying that, you know, there’s a need for cooperation in solving global challenges going forward and say there is an important role for multilateral institutions in actually coordinating global responses. And so what we see, for example, when we look at fragile states among others is that when everybody rushes to say, for example, Tunisia to invest in countries that require international assistance, everybody’s international donors, whether they’re multilateral or country level development agencies, are giving to a multiplicity of goals – maybe giving so much money that, in fact, it overwhelms the ability of these countries to pursue all these projects, to use all of this aid effectively.
And so some of the biggest challenges, particularly in fragile states that I look at, is not how much we give or even what we give money to, but how we give it. And having institutions that are able to sort of play air traffic controller and coordinate that aid and make sure it’s united behind a common strategy in going to the right places and being used effectively is really important. But in order for that to work, and this goes back to your first question, you really need sort of a coalition of the willing, but a coalition that sees things in the same light. So, for example, you know, if you’re investing in a country where you’re trying to fight corruption, you’re trying to address governance problems, but you have China coming in and giving out sweetheart deals to build ports or other infrastructure that sees them skimming money off the top to give to corrupt elites, those two things are mutually incompatible.
And so if we really want to make a difference in these countries, we need not just cooperation and coordination, but coordination between countries that share the same goals and objectives and values, which is why I think you’ve seen the United States rely more on organizations that do share its values to some degree, like NATO rather than the United Nations, when it needs to achieve some of these harder goals like in Afghanistan or Iraq.
ODGAARD: Thanks, Blaise. Martin, you get final word before the Q&A.
HERMANN: Yeah. No, I mean, just on that point on – which goes to the heart of the legitimacy, I suppose, of U.N., I think – important to recognize. And I think it actually was a former American president – I can’t remember which one – that actually said, you have to recognize that the U.N. is sort of a little bit of a hybrid, you know? You know, on one hand, you have these pillars within the U.N. – to some extent a lot of these value-based things – you know, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, you know, mothered, if you like, by Eleanor Roosevelt, Human Rights Council is one of them. And on the other hand, it’s a hybrid because it mixes that with that balancing of the power of states – you know? – the respect for sovereignty and noninterference. And that then sometimes produces, I suppose, what in our views, you know, seems very odd situations. Now, I think – Kathryn, I think the point you made on – there is a need to adapt and there is a need to recognize that some of the developments in this world have had unfortunate, unforeseen, unintended consequences for a lot of people, I suppose.
But the fact it changes on the agenda is inevitable. It is how we handle change, how we engage with change that’s going to determine not only the fates of international cooperation of multilateral institutions, but to a certain extent also the future of prosperity of our people. Now on reform, to answer your question, you have at the helm of the U.N. a secretary general perhaps more committed to reform of the system he’s been asked to judge than any other secretary general in recent history. So back him up. True, U.N. member states are not paying for the U.N. they order. No. I mean, it’s like people walking into a restaurant and saying, I’d like this on the menu and that one and this one and this one. But actually, we’ll only pay 30%. And, I mean, there is less than 40 member states of the 193 member states to the U.N. that pay on time and in full what their membership contribution is. I mean, it’s very difficult to ask an organization to reform if it has no resources to or no flexibility to allow it to do so. So I think, you know, for all member states – pay up, you know?
And I say this, of course, as the same – Denmark always pays on time and in full. The third thing is engage, no? Engage and be consistent. And then to U.S., I was thinking a little bit sitting here and being in Washington and living in New York, sometimes in all of the partnership that Denmark and the U.S. have had and have on a number of let’s also say very, very tough questions, Denmark – the Danish soldiers have stood shoulder to shoulder with U.S. soldiers. You know, across the world we have bled together, and that is a very, very, very, very special relationship. And I think perhaps no other relationship is more important for Denmark. So I suppose the message here is we need U.S. I mean, that reform that I think everybody agrees is needed of international cooperation of the multilateral – I find that difficult to see how that can happen without a strong and committed U.S. At least, I can guarantee it’s going to be a hell of a lot more difficult without the U.S. Now, I’m not seeing U.S. as such – as disengaging. But I will take Whitney’s tough love any day. I think that’s the excellent strategy to approach this – so tough love, please.
ODGAARD: Thank you, Martin. I will now turn to the audience. Please state your name and institutional affiliation. This gentleman over here. The mic is coming.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you. I just wanted to ask you a question about the – any member of the panel. When the U.N. charter was adopted, Article 109 anticipated that within a 10-year period there could be a conference – a general conference – that would actually take up the issue of reviewing the U.N. charter in light of the changes in the world. That has never happened. And I think that part of the problem that we have with the United Nations is that the one charter is a 1945 document. And we’re living 75 years later in a dramatically different world.
And so my question for you is, why – you know, countries like the U.S., other members of the U.N. council don’t take a leadership role in essentially raising the (unintelligible) of the need to modernize the United Nations by essentially rethinking the charter in light of climate change, in light of, you know, the income inequality, in light of the multiplicity of global catastrophic risks (unintelligible). Unless we do something about that, I think we’re just going to be (unintelligible).
ODGAARD: Thank you. The U.N. Charter – should we, can we rethink it? Anyone?
MISZTAL: I’ll pardon to see that the ambassador carries with him.
HERMANN: Always. Always carries it.
DEBEVOISE: The U.N….
ODGAARD: Well, maybe you want to take a stab on that.
DEBEVOISE: No I…
HERMANN: I’ll be a little bit cheeky, Augusto, if you forgive me. The Danish constitution is from 1849. Now, it has a lot of stuff in there that’s perhaps not, you know – you know, not followed, you know, word by word. But, of course, around it has been built a practice, an interpretation of it. Now, I think, you know, I think there is a lot of stuff in the U.N. charter where you can say actually the, you know, the countries of the world don’t fully live up to this. I do know that the article also says, you know, it has to be voted by two-thirds of the General Assembly to have such a review conference. And then if they fail to do that, then the General Assembly should consider this at the next coming General Assembly. Now, there is a lot of that types of voting going on at the U.N. I think it’s important to recognize that the U.N. charter and the U.N. was constructed in such a way that actually it is very difficult to change.
There was a purpose for this, you know? I mean, U.N. was created, you know, on the ruins of World War II. And the most important thing was actually to prevent World War III. And so it’s very difficult to change the U.N., but that’s actually on purpose and it will require member states coming together to begin to alter not necessarily the charter because I don’t think there is a huge need for charter changes. We live in an age of voluntarism. You know, it’s going to be difficult to force countries to do something – but more to change the way the U.N. works, the interpretation of what are the roles and responsibilities that the charter gives, fancying when it comes to working with private sector, working with civil society and others, which is, you know, very difficult for the U.N., you know? The U.N. charter may start with we the peoples, but let’s be honest; for 75 years, it’s been we the governments. And the U.N. has a difficult time adjusting to a new reality and the types of partnerships that’s going to be required. So I don’t think we will have your conference anytime soon.
ODGAARD: Thank you. Let’s take a couple. There’s one here, and there’s one here at the front and one back. So we’ll take the three and then return to the speaking.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I feel that the biggest weakness in the multilateral system is a certain spinelessness. Note that the Geneva Conventions are shredded by Russians using U.N. data to bomb hospitals in Syria. Note that the largest population in the world is attempting right now to eliminate Islam. And there’s no peep, not a squeak, from one of the IOs, any one of the IOs. What is the IO role in the responsibility to protect, which is a fundamental U.N. principle, and is there any hope of giving the IO some teeth?
ODGAARD: Thank you. And this gentleman at the front.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We found in the recent Ukraine scandal that much of the U.S. foreign policy is based on the president’s political personal desires or they’re based on where he has hotels. Is there any indication that the U.S. influence on multilateral institutions has been bent by financial or political needs of President Trump?
ODGAARD: And the gentleman behind you.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: The – not touching on the charter, but touching on the nature of the institution, the technical aspects of the institution, in an environment that has changed so much in the 75 years where you’re looking – let’s say an analogy with telecommunications in an environment where 75 years ago it was all based on cable, underground, over ground. And now we’re in an environment where people are empowered to communicate, to broadcast from their smartphones. The same thing – we’ve got institutions now that essentially are entrenched with an infrastructure from the mid-20th century. How do you see this type of infrastructure having to change in order to adequately be relevant in a world that has changed so much?
ODGAARD: Thank you. We’ll take those. So it was responsibility to protect the Ukraine issue and developments in communication technology. Who wants to take a stab on any of those? Blaise?
MISZTAL: I’m happy to jump in at least on the first one. I mean, I think this gets to the heart of this hybrid or dual nature of the U.N. system as it was created. So on the one hand, you know, it enshrines an article to state sovereignty as a foremost principle. But then it obviously also aspires to promoting universal human rights. I mean, I think the spinelessness and, as you put it – but this conflict within the United Nations goes back to the genocide convention that was passed in the ’40s, and it ratified in ’51 where the very act of negotiating that convention was a political act. You saw the Soviet Union exclude political groups, for example, from the definition of a protected classes under the convention. And the application of the genocide convention, I mean, it has failed to result in the prevention of genocide as it calls for in numerous places. And we go through this, you know, the crying out never again multiple times each decade.
And I think until we resolve this question of is the United Nations an organization of we the governments or we the people or if there’s an alternate multilateral institution that’s going to be focused more on rights as opposed to sovereignty, you’re going to keep seeing the same issue play out over and over again. And I think that goes back to the previous question about reforming the charter. You know, I think the foremost issue to get at this is reform of the U.N. Security Council and no one’s going to agree to that because everyone likes building their veto, which is ultimately why never going to be able to interfere or make statements on or have the U.N. have an impact on, for example, the horrors that are going on in Tsim Sha.
LAVELLE: You know, I think it’s the same but, you know, is the glass of water half-empty or is it half-full? So I mean, I appreciate what you’re saying about the responsibility to protect, and the United Nations has had a huge problem with that. But the incredible thing to me is that we haven’t had a hegemonic war in, you know, coming up on a hundred years we hope. And so on one hand, we can point to the success in not having a cataclysmic nuclear war after the end of the Second World War. I mean, for me, you know, one of the reviewers when I was finishing up the manuscript said to me, you know, you didn’t mention David Mitrany. Well, he’s not always the favorite of American political realism in the United States.
But, you know, I reread Mitrany, a British scholar, you know, at the end of World War II, again, at the – you know, after all the horrible things that happened. And he said, we’re not building these institutions because we want to police the world as much as we’re building them because we live in the world. And as people who live in the world, we are doing three things – we’re trying to fight poverty, we’re trying to fight ignorance and we’re trying to fight disease. And I love that because I think that sometimes, like you’re pointing out, I mean, you want to point to the failures of look at the League of Nations. It failed to prevent World War II. But there’s also this broader purpose that multilateral organizations have, and similarly spinelessness in some of those areas, but also a lot of success as well as failures.
ODGAARD: You had a point, Whitney.
DEBEVOISE: Yes. I’d like to maybe answer the first question in this round by going back to the previous round about the U.N. charter. I personally think that it would be important to update the political arrangements at the U.N. to today’s realities. You know, the Security Council today does not necessarily reflect current realities. And so I think that would be important and useful. And some U.S. leadership, they are the way it has provided leadership in the multilaterals where there has been, albeit for some too slow, but there has been an evolution in shareholdings and quotas in the multilateral institutions to reflect those changes, and I think that’s appropriate. I mean, the U.N. today is a situation – in a situation in which, you know, the contributions are expected to be made based on your economic weight in the world, but your vote is the same as everyone else’s vote. And that’s a challenge. But I think some updating would help. With respect to the question about personal interest or benefit of the current administration of the United States, I haven’t seen any immediate evidence of that.
But I would note that the then president of the World Bank, when this administration came to town, decided that the administration might not have the most love for multilaterals. And so he reached out to take advantage of the fact that a close relative of the president was interested in a certain subject matter, and lo and behold, the United States provided some significant money for the initiative of interest. Now, is that the administration feathering the family nest or is that an astute political actor saying if we want to get resources from the administration, this is the way we go about it? You can make your own decision about that. But on the whole, and in connection with this most recent capital increase, I’d say absolutely not. And, you know, I think on the question about 20th century infrastructures, I think we just need to realize that politics, like everything else, evolves. And there are different ways to play politics. And when you have a world of social media and other ways of communicating and so forth, it necessarily changes in some ways the way politics works. But it really changes the mechanics much less than the underlying rules, which I think have always been there.
ODGAARD: Thank you. Martin.
HERMANN: You know, it’s just thinking about is this – what you call the spinelessness of international organizations. I think that’s a little bit of a harsh judgment. I mean, if you actually go back and look, you will see not only the secretary general but actually the emergency relief chief and others speaking out quite clearly on the Security Council against the numerous violations of international humanitarian law that have occurred in Syria. Now, what of course is always difficult about it is well, then what do you do about it? The reality, of course, is that the U.N. as the Secretariat and the function of programs, I mean, they don’t have, if you like, independent authority.
They rely on the Security Council to reinforce. And I suppose it would be fair to say that what we have seen over the last many years have been a gradual but pretty constant decaying of respect, frankly the most fundamental principles of, for instance, how you behave during war. Now, I – you know, I not only think, I know this is of great concern to central figures within the U.N. And I think they have, on a number of occasions, spoken out against it. Now on – and then you mentioned Responsibility to Protect, which is a topic I’ve spent some time on. And Responsibility to Protect that was introduced back in the – the concept that was introduced back in 2005, you know, has had a difficult time. And of course, there are those that say that one of the reasons it’s had a difficult time is because the West used this, you know, as the concept that legitimized intervention in Libya, but not in so many other places, you know? And I think – so when we engage on those sort of fundamental values and principles, I think consistency is extremely important to maintain legitimacy and credibility also in the eyes of the rest of the U.N. member states. And then I think the point on the digital, I think it’s just a good example of why the U.N. as a way of working also needs to evolve.
Let’s be honest. Some of the big actors on the digital development – they’re not states. I mean, they’re corporations. And of course, they need to be part of that conversation about what types of rules and regulations is it that would actually be in everybody’s interests. On the charter, U.N. will turn 75 next year. So actually, the secretary general has actually said that he’s going to use that occasion not only as a commemoration, but to try and stir a global debate – a global conversation about what he’s called U.N. at 75 – The Future We Want, The U.N. We Need. No, so I suppose there is an opportunity to engage in that discussion, and whether that means invoking Article 106 will have to wait.
ODGAARD: Thank you, Martin. We have three minutes left, so if anyone has a very quick question. You – it will be the last.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I had a chance to work and look, actually, the peace building operations in different parts of Africa as well as to see the U.N. organization…
ODGAARD: Very quick question.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: …Were working on infrastructure development. One thing what you will observe from the ground from the local people is when the U.N. goes on the ground, they believe – they start thinking and believe, like, now our problem is solved. When you talk to the U.N. and when they come to the U.N. with the problems, there is no solution for them, right? I’m talking about the reform. Like, yes, the U.N. definitely may require a reform. But there was a question in the beginning about the destruction of the institution, which is definitely not a choice, yeah? And then I have a question which I am carrying in my heart from a 2007 – from Democratic Republic of Congo which was asked by an ex-combatant. And it was like I ask him, why did you join? And the question was like, why do you think a person like me can afford a thousand dollars’ worth of weapons but he cannot afford a toddler food?
ODGAARD: Thank you. Last-minute remark, half a minute – Katy, Whitney, Blaise, and then Martin, very quick.
LAVELLE: Yeah. Thanks. Yeah, I don’t know what to say in a minute. I’m sorry for that – in response to that question.
ODGAARD: But anything last minute you want to say as a concluding remark?
LAVELLE: No. Just that – thank you for organizing the panel and I think it’s just been a great discussion.
DEBEVOISE: Thank you. I think maybe what I take away from this session is that there is an important role for multilateral institutions on this planet, but we need – we have work ahead of us to make them fit for a purpose in the 21st century.
MISZTAL: I think I just reiterate that I think we all highlighted the needs for continued multilateral cooperation – most of all, I think some of the continued problems that people face on the ground and the fact that they look to multilateral organizations for help. And hopefully there’ll be lots of discussions in the year to come about how we can make some of the reforms that will make these organizations more viable.
ODGAARD: OK. Martin.
HERMANN: Yeah, no. I think just, I mean, international cooperation is not a nice to, it’s a need to. It – and I suppose it’s not going to be easy. But then again, important stuff seldom is. Thank you.
ODGAARD: Thank you. Join me in thanking the panel, and thank you very much for coming to this event.