This week I was involved with the OSCE-Asian Partners annual conference in Adelaide. The experience reminded me of one of the less studied and commented upon international policy dynamics: the resilience of existing international organisations that have lost their original drive, and the resulting pathology that it is extremely difficult for states to close down or exit international organisations.
One of the first pieces I co-wrote at the Lowy Institute on APEC tackled this dynamic and colourfully noted that 'after all, the zombie-like forms of several multilateral institutions that have outlived their purpose and their times still roam the global landscape; the international community's living dead.' Former Prime Minister Rudd's Asia Pacific Community idea ignored this dynamic when it came to East Asia's plethora of existing regional security organisations and died because of it.
I hope Interpreter readers can help me out by identifying:
- International institutions that have found a useful second life. I would offer the Bank for International Settlements. It started in the 1930s to manage German reparation payments and now is the 'central bank of central banks' at the centre of global efforts to maintain banking system stability.
- International institutions that have closed down or that Australia has withdrawn from. At the Adelaide conference, a coffee table of us came up with the Western European Union and SEATO.