After turning 10 in the Southern Cone and celebrating anniversary in Buenos Aires, G20 started its second decade of life in Osaka. The G20 was born to deal with the economic crisis and succeeded in the challenge. It was successful in handling the global financial crisis of 2008–2009 and containing its aftershocks. However, despite the importance of today’s global challenges, the world does not seem to perceive them with the same sense of urgency. And the tenth anniversary was marked by the tense trade relations between China and the United States and increasing new challenges such as regulating artificial intelligence or crypto-currencies. Climate change, the distribution of the costs and benefits of trade and technology, and inequality, among many others, are global challenges that create negative externalities. Despite the fact that their effects are felt as strongly in the short term as those of a financial crisis, countries have nowadays little incentive to implement individual solutions because these are costly and those who instigate solutions will not be the only ones to reap the benefits.
Against this background, in 2018 the T20, the network of think tanks advising the G20 has created a Task Force on global governance and the future of politics. It is a forum for prospective thinking about multilateralism and the role of the G20 in an era of global transition. Our goal is to examine how we can strengthen the global governance architecture so that it provides effective platforms to solve global challenges and what role governments, the civil society and the private sector should have to foster inclusive societies and sustainable economic growth. During 2019, the Task Force’s recommendations have continued to push this agenda. To begin with, by providing a comprehensive vision on the way forward for the global community. Moreover, by setting forth recommendations for the G20 leaders along 3 domains: strengthening multilateralism at multiple levels by coordinating discussions on global priorities and harmonizing multilateral agreements with domestic conditions; to adapt technology to advance inclusive policymaking for all; and to transform corporate governance as an instrument for cohesion, including a greater alignment with global and social goals.
Since we are convinced of the importance of anticipating the effects these issues will have, the task force has also engaged in prospective thinking to imagine the world to come. With colleagues from different think tanks of all over the world, we have embarked on design thinking exercises meant to study the consequences that three key trends (technological breakthroughs, transformations in the distribution of global economic power, and changes in socio-demographic indicators) will have on different dimensions of domestic and international politics. At the global level, we focus on the intersection between the organization and distribution of our productive structures and political power; that is, the size of firms and government structures. On the first dimension, the size of firms, it is unknown whether we will move to a scenario of a platform economy of a vast array of small companies or to a scenario of very large integrated companies. On the second dimension, the size of governance structures, we also are uncertain about whether current nationalist trends will take us to a world of powerful local governments or we will move to a world of stronger global powers.
The way in which these dimensions relate to each other and intersect will result in very different worlds, shaping how we organize our societies and lives. For example, we could live in a world dominated by very few and very large companies that coexist with global governments (a global parliament perhaps or a new version of the United Nations?). In such a world, it would surely be easier to agree on actions against climate change or other global problems. However, it is difficult to imagine how we, as citizens, could participate in decisions that are taking place in global centres. Of course, this world needs very capable political leaders because they have to carry out a double game: coordinate measures and negotiate decisions with large companies, and enact laws that apply to all the citizens of the world. Are we training those political leaders? On the opposite scenario, we could have an ecosystem of small businesses that compete in an environment of local governments. Here global problems will remain unresolved because it is very difficult to coordinate actions, but it would be easier for us to participate actively in decisions.
What will happen to politics and governance in the years to come is not clear for us yet and any predictive analysis will have a large margin of error. But we do know that the decisions we make and the way in which political leaders react today to the trends that are shaping our present will certainly mark our future. Think tanks should play a role in imagining global governance and the future of politics and engaging in the global conversation to get ready for what will come.