Scholarly Publications and Papers
Help | Free Search | Search by Year | Search by Country | Search by Issue (Subject) | G8 Centre

Round Table Contents

A Japanese Perspective

Masao Kawai

It is likely that one topic of discussion at the Halifax Summit will be international institutional reform for global sustainable development. The United Nations has been extensively debating development policies and structural changes in the UN itself on the basis of the Secretary General's Paper and Agenda for Development. The main issues which frame the debate can be summarized as follows.

First, in recent years, there has been an enormous globalization of international economic activities which, in a regional context, represent an expansion of the quotaless economy. In functional terms, this has resulted in the integration of numerous economic activities including trade, investment and services. In the face of these developments, various economically related organizations, such as the Bretton Woods Institutions, are no longer equipped to deal effectively with the management of the global economy. The recognition of such a problem seems to underlie the present debate at the UN on the relationship between the UN and the Bretton Woods Institutions.

Second, there is a recognition that a truly effective strategy for development, which is a crucial

element in the effort to achieve harmonious global economic development, is lacking. In political terms, in the framework of the Cold War, development issues became NorthSouth political issues rather than economic policy issues. In economic terms, the coordination of the various developmentrelated institutions has been insufficient. These factors have contributed to the absence of a truly effective global development policy.

Third, there is an awareness that the response of the international organizations to new global issues such as environment, drugs, refugees, and human rights, has not been adequate. While individual issues have been dealt with by the existing organizations through a piecemeal approach, the institutions have not been able to develop a comprehensive approach, which is what is required.

All of these considerations are justified. In 1995, half a century after the Second World War, and in an era where issues which require cooperation among members of the international community are no longer held hostage to the EastWest conflict of the Cold War, it seems imperative for global stability and prosperity that the international community address these considerations seriously. In retrospect, it was the idealism after the First World War which gave birth to the League of Nations and the establishment of the framework for international cooperation centering upon the UN and the Bretton Woods Institutions after World War II.

Unfortunately, there is no political momentum to create a new international framework. Therefore, while a review of international organizations is called for at the upcoming G7 Summit, it will not produce the kind of revolutionary progress that was achieved following the two World Wars. Rather, this review can only contribute to an evolutionary process in which consensus can be built around the need to adapt the existing international organizations to the present global circumstances.

One of the most serious problems which must be faced when considering the development of the global economy in the 21st century is that, by virtue of the widening gap in wealth between rich and poor countries, the integration of some developing countries into the global economy is being obstructed. These countries are described by Robert Kaplan in his article "The Coming Anarchy" (The Atlantic Monthly). They will become further alienated from the world economy. As such they will cause potentially serious problems, not only from the viewpoint of equity, but also insofar as the gap will hurt the developed world by hindering the growth of the global economy.

However, the end of the Cold War offers a considerable opportunity as well as a major challenge. It certainly presents an opportunity for embarking upon a new strategy for development on the basis of genuine cooperation and partnership, rather than on the basis of confrontation and division. The EastWest conflict of the Cold War can be ideologically juxtaposed with the NorthSouth problem which has traditionally made meaningful dialogue and cooperation on development virtually impossible. But this ideological framework does not now exist.

Another factor which has emerged is the remarkable evolution toward diversity that has taken place within the developing world. Growth and development in many parts of the developing world are such that it is no longer possible to talk about the South as one group. What is important is that all these new changes in the developing world have been the result of a new policy orientation on the part of countries and new thinking based on cooperation rather than on confrontation. In this new setting, it is imperative to overcome the conservatism of sticking to the remnants of old thinking, which tends to look at the problem of development within the framework of the NorthSouth confrontation. It is necessary to encourage the development of new strategies based on a partnership between the developing and developed worlds.

Therefore, it is time for the international community, both developed and developing countries, to concentrate its efforts to formulate a new strategy for development. This strategy should be based on a comprehensive approach encompassing all factors relevant to development, including official development assistance, trade, investment, science and technology and, above all, the building of social infrastructure to enable the mobilization of all resources in society. The strategy should be designed to meet the needs of different situations, suggesting different prescriptions for different countries.

Such new strategies based on comprehensive and differentiated approaches should be set up through policy cooperation and coordination between the United Nations and the Bretton Woods Institutions. At the same time, in light of sluggish resource flows for development efforts, it is also vital to ensure the maximum use of limited resources, by strengthening coordination among international organizations. To this end, it is necessary to promote coordination between the UN system and the Bretton Woods Institutions. Such coordination would include the need to control military expenditure for the sake of development in developing countries. In short, the Halifax Summit is the right moment to move forward the discussions on the longstanding issue of improved coordination of development efforts between the UN system and the Bretton Woods Institutions.

As a part of the efforts to strengthen this coordination, the World Bank should participate more fully in the efforts of the UN, while also strengthening its own policies. At the same time, UN representatives should participate more actively in the development committee of the World Bank. As well, the UN and Bretton Woods committee could be restored.

At the local level, there should be more coordination of integration. At the Halifax Summit, the G7 countries should identify an effective coordination mechanism among organizations such as the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and even bodies such as the National Round Table, and give a mandate to an appropriate task force to make further studies on a workable mechanism.

The environment is an area where the international community clearly needs a more effective institutional setup. It is necessary to formulate a more integrated international framework to address newly emerging global issues, such as the environment, instead of taking an ad hoc approach. In this context, the current tendency to create separate institutions for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Biodiversity Convention, and the Convention to Combat Desertification is too scattered. It is essential to strengthen an existing institution, or to create a new one which could encourage integrated decision making and implementation. It is also critical that the UN Commission on Sustainable Development conduct its discussions with more focus on policy and strategy for environment and development, and exert stronger political leadership than it now does.

Therefore, there is a need for stronger and more integrated organizations for making policies as well as for implementing projects and programs. There is also a need for a strong central forum to discuss international rule making, and to make rules for the member states for conserving the environment. For implementing such rules as well as implementing projects, there should be one large and powerful organization which could be built by enlarging the mandate and structure of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

There are a number of difficult considerations in discussing the transformation of these institutions and these activities. Nevertheless, revolutionary change to existing institutions is impossible at this point in history, because the postCold War international order is very different from that order following World War I and World War II. It has to be an evolutionary process. Strong political will and strong leadership are crucial, however, even for evolutionary changes to the international system over the next few years.

Masao Kawai is Minister and Head of Chancery, Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations.

G8 Centre
This Information System is provided by the University of Toronto Library and the G8 Research Group at the University of Toronto.
Please send comments to:
This page was last updated .

All contents copyright © 1995-99. University of Toronto unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.