| REVELATIONS OF THE COPENHAGEN SUMMIT:
Institutions and decision-making processes in a world with multiple stakeholders
by Félix Peña
English translation: Isabel Romero Carranza
After the United Nations Copenhagen Climate Change
Conference (COP-15) it is very likely that, during the upcoming year,
the debate will continue to focus on the extent and validity of the diagnosis
regarding the climate changes that are taking place, the measures to be
implemented, the responsibilities of each country -particularly the developed
and developing ones according to their past and present contribution towards
environmental pollution- and the distribution of costs and funding of
the measures to be adopted.
The meager results of the Copenhagen Summit have given clear evidence
of three aspects of the new international scenario. Firstly, that some
relevant matters that have a bearing on international relation, and that
can even affect the future of humankind, can only be tackled at a global
scale. Secondly, the difficulty in determining, in practice, how many
countries are needed to achieve a critical mass of power so that the decisions
that are adopted towards a reasonable global governance are of a binding
nature, efficient and socially legitimate. The third aspect is that some
of the current global international institutions have certain shortcomings
that could render them less than effective at the moment of building,
among its numerous member countries, the necessary consensus for action
and especially for the creation of binding commitments
The abovementioned are just a few of a number of aspects that show
the extent of the systemic world crisis and recreate the classical dialectic
tension between order and anarchy in international relations. This crisis
might have a domino effect in different regional global spaces and, eventually,
at a global scale. It can be clearly evinced precisely by the inability
to find efficient answers, within the scope of institutions that originated
in a collapsing world order, to the collective problems that are being
faced at a global scale.
After the United Nations Copenhagen Climate Change Conference (COP-15)
here and http://www.un.org/)
held last December, the analogy of the 'half-full or half-empty glass'
has been frequently used to illustrate its concrete results.
In this sense, the opinion of analysts is divided among those who perceive
that a step has been taken, albeit a timid one, towards the right direction
and those who, on the contrary, have pointed out that there is a long
distance between the few commitments that were made and those that would
be needed to attain a credible legal framework to successfully face the
great challenges posed by the profound climatic changes that are taking
Everything indicates that this debate will continue along the way towards
the upcoming Summit that will take place in Mexico next December (see
We may presume that during the current year the debate will continue
to focus on the scope and validity of the diagnosis regarding the severity
of the climatic changes that are taking place, on the measures to be adopted,
on the responsibilities to be borne by the different countries -particularly
developed and developing countries according to their past and present
contributions towards environmental pollution- and on the distribution
of the corresponding financing of the measures to be adopted.
It is a complex debate due to the scientific considerations but much
more so because even when the most serious consequences would take place
in the mid and long terms, many of the corresponding costs will have to
be assumed in the short term. In political terms, this lack of temporal
synchronicity is of great relevance for those countries that will have
to take on the greatest responsibilities.
In any case, after the meager results of the Copenhagen Summit, three
different aspects of the international scenario have been clearly exposed.
Firstly is that certain relevant issues that have a bearing on international
relations and that can even impact the future of mankind can only be dealt
with at a global scale. An example of this is precisely climate change.
The main problem is that if the most alarming scientific forecasts are
right any delay in the action can have strong consequences and important
Other relevant issue at a global scale, and as serious as the one mentioned
above, is the approach towards the several divisions raised by the present
security and peace agenda in the world. No individual country acting on
its own seems to be in the position to guarantee the efficiency of the
actions that may be required on this plane. Additionally, the situation
is getting even more complicated by the proliferation of non-state actors
employing different forms of violence in the international scenario.
Regarding both matters -among others that have a bearing on the international
agenda- global governance will be strongly conditioned by the willingness
of nations with certain prominence in the world scenario to work together.
It will also be conditioned by the success in developing new creative
forms of joint work among nations, both at the global level as well as
at each regional level (this was one of the issues dealt with at the Conference
"Global Governance: Future Trends and Challenges", organized
by Wilton Park in the U.K. between January 11 and January 13, 2010, and
whose account will be published on www.wiltonpark.org.uk).
This second aspect is related to the difficulty of pinpointing, in practice,
how many countries are needed to achieve a critical mass of power that
is sufficient to guarantee that the decisions that are taken to attain
reasonable global governance are of a binding nature, efficient and socially
legitimate. This is the main issue posed by the modality of informal associations
-the "G". It is of great relevance given that it is a known
fact that in the future global governance will not be able to depend on
one single nation, as powerful as this may still be -such the case of
the United States.
At a global level this aspect has surfaced with the G20 and also, in
good measure, in the chaotic final hours of the Copenhagen Summit. Not
only is it a problem to know which and how many countries should form
part of this or other similar groups (see the February 2009 edition of
this Newsletter). The debate on this regard is an ongoing one and may
not be over for a long time. Additionally, it is a matter of knowing how
to overcome the effects of the heterogeneity of power among the multiple
participating countries or those that may aspire to participate.
As was mentioned on previous opportunities (see the October 2009 edition
of this Newsletter) by expressing their opinion and acting within a "G"
group some countries reflect their own and unquestionable quota of relative
power, such the cases of the U.S. and China, Others reflect the ability
to rally nations through different modes of power coalition within an
institutional framework of working together in a given geographical space.
This is the case of the current European Union. Yet other countries, even
when they can be relevant in terms of economic dimension and relative
power -sometimes more of a potential than a actual reality- cannot really
claim to represent the prevailing opinion of the geographical region to
which they belong. Such are the cases for example of Argentina and Brazil
in the South American regional space and of India, Russia, Indonesia,
Egypt and South Africa., among others, in their own geographic regional
In any case, this informal modality of joint work at the international
level -informal in the sense that it does not involve the creation of
institutions with the legal capacity to generate binding commitments-
shows some difficulties which can lessen its relative effectiveness. These
problems are manifested in the preliminary processes of preparation of
each meeting and especially in the limited capacity to translate then
what is agreed into concrete realities. It may be more effective when
coordinating actions that ultimately depend on measures that are adopted
at the respective domestic level, such as for example some of the G20
agreements regarding the international financial system. However, this
effectiveness may be lessened, or even annulled, in the case of actions
that need to be translated into binding legal commitments or the development
of new international rules. This has been the case, for example, of the
G20 in relation to its resolution to conclude the Doha Round.
The third aspect is made manifest by the fact that some of the current
global international institutions exhibit certain shortcomings that render
them barely effective to build the consensus among the numerous member
nations that is needed for action and especially to generate binding agreements.
In their decision-making processes, they may be reflecting and international
architecture that has been outpaced or is in the process of being rapidly
left behind. On this regard there are three fundamental questions: How
is it possible to achieve the necessary balance of interests among 193
countries (the case of the UN) or among 153 countries (the case of the
WTO) that will enable to adopt binding decisions that actually impact
reality?; Would such decisions have the necessary effectiveness, efficiency
and social legitimacy if they were adopted only by a more limited number
of relevant countries?; And if this were the case, which countries should
these be so as not to cause the explicit or implicit rejection of those
not participating in the adoption of the corresponding decisions? To answer
these questions in actual fact will not be an easy or swift task. The
recent book published by Debra S. Steger offers very interesting contributions
regarding the case of the WTO. (Please refer to the Recommended Readings
Section of this Newsletter).
The abovementioned are only some of the aspects that expose the extent
of the systemic global crisis. They recreate the classic dialectic tension
between order and anarchy in international relations. It could have a
domino effect in different regional spaces and, eventually, at a global
scale. It is made manifest by the difficulty to find, within the institutional
ambit of a collapsing order, effective solutions to the collective problems
faced at a global scale.
As was mentioned on previous opportunities one of the risks is that this
situation results -as has happened in the past- in the emergence of systemic
problems within countries that have been and still are relevant actors
in the international scenario, or within those countries which, even when
not as relevant, can cause a domino effect in their respective regional
This can happen in the measure that the citizens of the different countries,
including the most developed ones, not only lose their trust in the markets
-a possible effect if the current global financial crisis continues- but
also in the capacity for finding solutions within the framework of their
respective democratic systems. If this were the case, the most dismal
forecasts of some analysts would pale in comparison to what would have
to be faced in the future.
Recommended Readings of Recent Publication:
- Auboin, Marc, "Restoring trade finance during a period of financial
crisis: stock-taking of recent initiatives", World Trade Organization,
Economic Research and Statistics Division, Staff Working Paper ERSD-2009-16,
Geneva, December 2009 en http://www.wto.org/;
- Centro de Economía Internacional, "Revista del CEI. Comercio
Exterior e Integración", CEI-MRECIC, Noviembre de 2009,
Número 16, en http://www.cei.gov.ar.
- CARI-KAS, "La Nueva Realidad Internacional. Su impacto en la
formación de especialistas", Consejo Argentino para las
Relaciones Internacionales (CARI) y Fundación Konrad Adenauer
(KAS), Documento de Trabajo nº 87 del CARI, visit http://www.cari.org.ar/
- Dabène, Olivier, "The Politics of Regional Integration
in Latin America. Theoretical and Comparative Explorations", Palgrave,
Macmillan, New York 2009.
- Denae Trasher, Rachel; Gallagher, Kevin P., "21st Century Trade
Agreements: Implications for Long-Run Development Policy", Boston
University, The Frederick S.Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range
Future, The Pardee Papers, nº 2, September 2008, visit http://www.bu.edu/
- Fundación Standard Bank, "Conectividad, creatividad y
competitividad: su relevancia para la internacionalización de
empresas", Instituto de Comercio Internacional de la FSTB, Material
didáctico sobre Comercio Internacional, nº 2, Buenos Aires
- Goswami, Anandajit; Dasgupta, Mitali; Nanda, Nitya, "Mapping
Climate Mitigation Technologies and Associated Goods within the Building
Sector", International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development
(ICTSD), Geneva, January 2010, visit http://ictsd.org/
- Grevi, Giovanni, "The interpolar world. A new scenario",
European Union Institute for Security Studies ISS-IES, Occasional Paper,
nº 79, June 2009, visit http://www.iss.europa.eu/
- Hoeckman, Bernard; Martin, Will; Mattoo, Aaditya, "Conclude Doha.
It matters!", The World Bank, Policy Research Working Paper (WPS5135),
Washington, November 2009, visit http://www-wds.worldbank.org/
- INTAL, "Informe Mercosur nº 14. Período Segundo Semestre
2008-Primer Semestre 2009", INTAL-BID, Buenos Aires, Diciembre
2009, en http://www.iadb.org/
or download here.
- Kosacoff, Bernardo; Mercado, Ruben (eds), "La Argentina ante
la nueva internacionalización de la producción. Crisis
y oportunidades", CEPAL - PNUD Argentina, Buenos Aires 2009.
- Mayne, Richard, "In Victory Magnanimity; In Peace, Goodwill.
A History of Wilton Park", Whitehall History Publishing in association
with Frank Cass, London - Portland, Or. 2003.
- Rhodes, David; Stelter, Daniel, "Collateral Damage. Preparing
for a Two-Speed World: Accelerating Out of the Great Recession",
The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), January 2010 en http://www.bcg.com/
- Steger, Debra S.(editor), "WTO. Redesigning the World Trade Organization
for the Twenty-first Century", CIF, Wilfrid Laurier University
Press, International Development Research Centre, Ottawa 2010.
- Stelzer, Joana; Nascimento, Natali; Duarte Peixoto Morella, Patricia
(org.), "Comércio Exterior em Açâo: estrategias
competitivas", Coleçâo Negócios Mundiais do
Curso de Comércio Exterior da Univali, UNIVALI, Itajaí
- Stelzer, Joana; Nascimento, Natali; Duarte Peixoto Morella, Patricia
(org.), "Desafíos do Comércio Mundial: sustentabilidade
e internacionalizaçâo de empresas", Coleçâo
Negócios Mundiais do Curso de Comércio Exterior da Univali,
UNIVALI, Itajaí 2009.
- The World Economic Forum, "A Partner in Shaping History. The
First 40 Years", WEF, Geneva 2009.
- Tussie, Diana (ed), "The Politics of Trade. The Role of Research
in Trade Policy and Negotiation", Republic of Letter, BRILL, International
Development Research Centre, Dordrecht - Leiden - Boston 2009.
- Valle Lomuto, Valeria Marina, "Las Negociaciones del Acuerdo
de Asociación Interregional entre la Unión Europea y el
Mercosur", Tesis para obtener el grado de Doctora en Ciencias Políticas
y Sociales con orientación en Relaciones Internacionales, Facultad
de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales, Universidad Nacional Autónoma
de México, México 2008.
- World Bank, "Connecting to compete. Trade Logistics in the World
Economy - The Logistics Performance Index and its Indicators - 2010",
The World Bank, Washington, January 2010, visit http://siteresources.worldbank.org/
Félix Peña Director
of the Institute of International Trade at the ICBC Foundation. Director
of the Masters Degree in International Trade Relations at Tres de Febrero
National University (UNTREF). Member of the Executive Committee of the
Argentine Council for International Relations (CARI). Member of the Evian
Group Brains Trust. More