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Making problem solving truly global

At the Paris Peace Forum on November 12 last year, French President Emmanuel Macron and other world leaders launched a global discussion on forging a new consensus for the post-Covid-19 world. This discussion is continuing through an ongoing debate, with contributions from leaders and experts from around the world. Below, explore the contribution of Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of New America.


A new consensus for the post-Covid19 world: Making problem solving truly global

If the Washington Consensus was the charter for the unfettered globalization of the first two decades of the post-Cold War world, embracing neoliberal economics and the gospel of growth, an emerging Paris Consensus has the potential to guide a sustainable and far more equitable global economy. The Paris Peace Forum equally has the chance to attract and mobilize a new generation of global problem-solvers. Yet only if the leaders of national governments and international recognize the necessity of creating a genuinely equal role for mayors, governors, corporate, philanthropic, civic, educational, religious, and cultural leaders around the decision-making table.

The tenth Principle for a Post-Covid World nods in this direction by acknowledging that “non-state actors can do their part in tackling global challenges, and issue-based coalitions must complement the work done by multilateral institutions.” This principle envisions a distinctly secondary role for global actors; however, states and the international organizations they created and control remain firmly in charge.

That’s just not good enough. It leaves an enormous amount of talent, energy, commitment, innovation and resources on the table. Where would the global climate movement be without Greta Thunberg and the Extinction Rebellion? Where would global equity be without Black Lives Matter? How could we manage global vaccination campaigns without the Global Vaccine Alliance? How can we possibly achieve fair global taxation without corporate buy-in and leadership?

National government officials might reasonably reply: “We were elected by our populations to represent them or otherwise enjoy support as legitimate governments.” Who elected or otherwise chose corporate CEOs or civic leaders of various kinds? Why should Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates, who created the foundation that put in much of the funding to create GAVI, have status as global leaders or problem-solvers?

The answer depends on different types of legitimacy. Scholars distinguish between “input legitimacy,” meaning that decision-makers are legitimate because of the way they were chosen, and “output legitimacy,” meaning that their legitimacy depends on the effectiveness of the results they achieve measured on a scale of common values. In other words, no one elected Bill or Melinda Gates, or the many other business and civic sector CEOs who have made GAVI work (alongside many government representatives as well), but the Alliance has immunized 65 million children in 2019, an outcome that aligns with global goals that have been adopted by the world’s governments.

Suppose, then, that the legitimacy of would-be global problem solvers was measured by their results. Suppose further that those results were guided by the Sustainable Development Goals, all of which have been broken down into sub-goals with metrics attached. Corporations, philanthropies, civic organizations, universities, cities, and provinces can all align their work with these goals and make their progress completely transparent.

The global impact investing market offers a model: investments intended “to generate positive, measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.” According to the Global Impact Investing Network, the size of the impact investment market in 2020 was $715 billion. In their book Making Money Moral Judith Rodin and Saadia Madsbjerg estimate that assets under management  across the five major world markets “using sustainable strategies … was almost $31 trillion.”

Terms like generating “social and environmental impact” or “using sustainable strategies” are too vague to measure concrete progress toward specific goals. The world needs “impact hubs,” virtual and/or physical, that can serve as focal points for engaging public, private, and civic problem-solvers in ways that allow collective measurement, information gathering and dissemination, coordination and collaboration, and political accountability. If the United Nations can sponsor or spur these hubs as anchors of what Secretary General Gutierrez calls “networked multilateralism.” If not, then the field is open for any actors – national, subnational, global, public, private, or civic – that want to try.

In sum, the 1oth Principle for a Post-Covid World should read: “Global actors willing and able to subject their activities and results to rigorous measurement aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals can and should take their place alongside governments in tackling global challenges.” The world is moving too fast for governments to control and enmesh in endless political and bureaucratic delays; the problems – and the solutions – are all of ours.

Anne-Marie Slaughter is the CEO of New America and the Bert G. Kerstetter ’66. She serves as University Professor Emerita of Politics and International Affairs at the Princeton University. From 2009-2011 she served as the director of Policy Planning for the United States Department of State, the first woman to hold that position. Prior to her government service, Dr. Slaughter was the Dean of Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs (formerly the Woodrow Wilson School) from 2002–2009.


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