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Monday 21 Aug 2017 | 05:47 | SYDNEY
Monday 21 Aug 2017 | 05:47 | SYDNEY

Interview: Kishore Mahbubani's great convergence, part II



19 June 2013 09:07

Below, part 2 of my interview with Kishore Mahbubani, one of Asia's most prominent world-politics commentators and author of The Great Convergence. Part 1 here.

SR: You're very critical in The Great Convergence of international institutions such as the UN, WTO and World Bank, which you point out tend to either exclude or give too little weight to emerging economies, particularly those in Asia. This is an imbalance which you argue needs to be corrected. Can you explain why the task of making the key institutions of world order more representative is important? And secondly, how do we get there from here, given that the great powers have such a strong interest in maintaining the status quo?

KM: We all agree that we live in a global village. All well-ordered villages have village councils. The global village also needs well-run councils. To be successful, a village council must be democratically selected and enjoy the support of the majority of population of the village. This is the nub of the problem faced by key organisations like the UN Security Council, IMF and the World Bank. They are not democratically selected. Nor do they enjoy the support of the majority of the world. Over time, they will lose their legitimacy. This is why they need to be urgently restructured to retain global legitimacy.

Yet, we must also recognise that international institutions must also acknowledge geopolitical realities. Power is not distributed equally. The only way for international institutions to survive is to entrench the great powers and give them a vested interest in seeing them continue. The League of Nations died because the US had no vested interest to see continue. The UNSC continues because the US and other great powers have veto powers in it. For the veto to retain its relevance, it must be held by today's or tomorrow's great powers and not yesterday's great powers. This is why the UNSC needs to be restructured.

In short, if we want to reform the global order, we have to take on board the contradictory considerations of greater democratisation and greater weight being given to the great powers of the day. In theory, this cannot be done. In practice, as I have suggested with the 7-7-7 formula for UNSC reform in The Great Convergence, we can find the right formulas to achieve this.

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