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Bretton Woods 2.0?

Posted by: Don Tapscott on January 30, 2009

Editor’s Note: Author Don Tapscott will be blogging guest daily from Davos.

Three small countries, Qatar, Singapore and Switzerland, are sponsoring a bold initiative of the World Economic Forum to define the new institutions of global cooperation required to address the challenges and problems of the 21st century. The project is the brainchild of Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the WEF.

The outline for a packed plenary session posed the problem: “With the mismatch between 20th century institutions and 21st century challenges, how can the international system be rebooted to increase collaboration and innovative solutions?”

Micheline Calmy-Rey, Federal Councillor of Foreign Affairs of the Swiss Confederation, made the case saying: “There is a wide gap between the global problems we have and the institutions and mechanism we have to deal with them.” She argued that new problems have exploded onto the world stage and that more diverse actors are emerging who must be involved in global cooperation. “Our citizens demand that we as citizens react. We need a fundamental debate about how to govern the world.” She explained that topics of concern are wide — including finance and commerce, health, environment, and the management of human resources.

Sheikh Al Thani, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, explained that the initiative is being launched to address the deepening gap between the urgent issues on the global agenda and the levels of global cooperation between and among governments, business and the civil society organizations. The goal is to develop a set of principles and guidelines, along with proposals for the structures of government.

Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister of the Environment and Water Resources of Singapore, said this was a very timely initiative. “We have an increasingly interconnected world. We need to review our global institutions of global governance” he said. “The institutions established at Bretton Woods at the end of the Second World War need to be updated and improved to have appropriate global governance for the 21st century. “

The project will use the global communications platform being developed by the WEF — called WELCOM. The platform is described as a set of “innovative tools for locating and accessing expertise, sharing knowledge, and meeting and working with peers, WELCOM empowers a multi-stakeholder approach to addressing the most pressing business and global governance challenges.”

To say this is an ambitious undertaking is an understatement. The initiative will be a multi stakeholder process where broad range of people can be involved. It will require a significant investment and considerable resources. There are political minefields all along the route. And there is no more inscrutable topic than how to get the world, its institutions and its peoples to cooperate.

Can the WEF pull this off?

My view is “go for it!” A crisis of leadership has emerged on the world stage. The initiative is not to replace or bypass existing institutions. According to Micheline Calmy-Rey: “ We need to strengthen the role of the United Nations.” She believes the WEF “is the ideal forum to hold this discussion.”

Personally, I’m going to support this undertaking. The financial crisis has made the problem and the need as plain as the nose on your face. We need Bretton Woods 2.0. As for getting the ball rolling, if not the WEF, who?

Reader Comments


February 2, 2009 1:32 AM

And who will be enforcing Brettonwoods 2.0, a WorldWar3 winner ?


February 2, 2009 9:10 AM

Don - I thought the whote paper that you co-authored on transparency and risk management in a 2.0 world was a good discussion of some of the mechanics / details required to make such a vision operational, at an organizational entity level.

Have you made any additional updates to the original yet:

What would have to change for this to be less about the US system of financial risk mgmt and more about meetign the needs of groups affiliated with the WEF?

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