Editorial Note
The International Spectator
Volume XL, No. 4
October - December 2005

Editorial Note

The articles contained in this issue revolve around the widely debated question of reform of international institutions. The core subject is UN reform, with Jeff Laurenti providing a critical American perspective, complemented by Giancarlo Chevallard, Chris Hill and Antonio Missiroli, who address the multi-faceted European dimension of the problem.

Laurenti sets the context, discussing the run-up to current activity, and most notably the widely felt need for change generated by the acrimonious divisions over the Iraqi crisis. The crisis induced an intense period of soul-searching, culminating in a near but rather superficial consensus on the need for UN reform. Yet, according to Laurenti, the role played by a crucially important actor, the US government, has been far from constructive. The Bush administration has criticised the corruption (that is, regarding the Iraqi Oil-for-Food programme) and ineffectiveness of the UN but, rather than strive to promote change, it has denounced UN shortcomings to justify its own unilateralism. In fact, according to some in Washington, a reformed and more effective UN would be seen as an unwelcome counter-weight to US power and policy, whereas the existing system has served US interests in cases such as Lebanon (over the Hariri affair), Syria (regarding withdrawal from Lebanon), Sudan (approving a UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur) and post-war Iraq. According to the author, it is in this context, spiced by the obstructionism of US representative John Bolton, that the failure of the UN summit in September 2005 should be read.

Chevallard views the Millennium Summit differently, arguing that the widespread disappointment it generated is due to excessively high expec-tations and the result- rather than process-oriented lenses through which it has been assessed. Chevallard recognises the failure to move forward on key areas such as UNSC reform, the fight against WMD proliferation, and the marginal progress made in areas such as terrorism, development and UN Secretariat reform. But the author concentrates on what he describes as the "glass half full", namely the successes in establishing the UN Peace-building Commission and Fund, the Human Rights Council, and the entrenchment of the principle of the "responsibility to protect". And it is precisely in these areas that Chevallard flags the importance of the EU's leadership and its bridging role, without which, he argues, these important steps forward would not have been taken.

Hill and Missiroli instead focus on the "glass half empty", and in particular on the critical issue of UNSC reform. While there is substantial EU unity in the areas mentioned above, EU divisions (most notably between France, Germany and the UK, on the one hand, and Italy and Spain, on the other) have been partly responsible for the failure over the UNSC. Hill analyses how the resulting stalemate has had negative and inter-connected effects on the UN as well as on European foreign policy. He argues that UNSC reform should reconcile the principles of regional/continental representation and of revolving membership. To escape the deadlock, he proposes a weighted European rotation of one non-veto wielding seat between Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland, with more time allocated to the former. An alternative solution is put forward by Missiroli, who claims that Europeans know only too well that an increase in size is no recipe for greater effectiveness. He proposes that the three non-permanent members currently elected every other year from two "European" caucuses would be replaced by only two non-permanent seats (in addition to the permanent British and French ones) drawn from a single new caucus encompassing all EU countries, candidates and neighbours, called "EU and others". The extra seat thus made available by "Europe" could be assigned to the "Asia and Africa" grouping to achieve a fairer geographical distribution of Council seats.

From the reform of the UN, the issue shifts to reform in the EU, with articles by Alberto Majocchi, Cesare Merlini and Steven Szabo. The authors approach the question from different perspectives, yet interestingly converge on similar solutions.

Majocchi tackles the thorny question of Europe's ailing economy, lagging behind that of the US in terms of growth and productivity. The Lisbon Agenda provides an agreement in principle to resolve Europe's economic dilemma, but the ambition to upgrade the EU's status as a top-class knowledge-based economy has not translated into practice. The constraints imposed by the Stability and Growth Pact, on the one hand, and the limited size of the EU budget, on the other, have prevented allocation of the public funds needed to realise the Lisbon project. As a way out, Majocchi proposes to implement the Lisbon Agenda at EU level, funding it through the issue of EU bonds by the member states and a European Lisbon Agency. Such a development would federalise the Union in the fiscal domain and (at least initially) in the Euro group, in line with the vision of a two-speed Europe with a federal core. The same conclusions are reached by Merlini, coming from a different perspective. He contrasts the lack of an EU identity with the re-awakening in the United States of national pride and the growing centralisation of powers in Washington (shifting the federal balance towards the centre). He notes that, quite the opposite of what is happening in the US, the current challenge for the EU is to develop a new identity on the basis of the decline of the old nations, and in spite of the absence of a constitution and of defined borders. One solution would be to freeze new enlargements and devote attention to the internal state of the Union. An alternative, mirroring the bottom line in Majocchi's argument, would be to proceed at multiple speeds, with integrationist (but not necessarily perfectly overlapping) cores in different policy areas.

Szabo tackles another key problem bedevilling the West in general and Europe in particular, that is the absence of strong leadership in these testing times marked by the EU's constitutional crisis, the budget impasse, the stalemate in agricultural reform and the wider challenges of terrorism. Szabo points out the structural constraints under which European leaders operate, ranging from the EU's multi-level governance to the proportional nature of electoral systems. Yet the need for leadership remains as pressing as ever, in a European context marked by generational change, a return of ideology, the erosion of values, the challenges of globalisation, European reunification and the loosening of transatlantic ties. Szabo is sceptical about the emergence of leadership at EU level and focuses instead on the desirability of a Merkel-style collaborative leadership within key member states.

The issue of leadership is discussed in a different international context - that of the World Bank - in articles by Marco Zupi and Antonio Tricarico. Both speculate on whether or not the changing of the guard from James Wolfensohn to Paul Wolfowitz at the head of the institution will result in continuity. Zupi highlights the difficulty in steering a large and complex organisation like the Bank in new directions and refers to the World Bank's changes under the previous leadership. He develops his argument by tackling two key dilemmas facing the Bank, first the balance between "security" and "development" and second that between "poverty-reduction" and "efficiency" in determining the Bank's policy choices. Yet the new leadership is also likely to be motivated by the aim to mark a change from Wolfensohn's presidency. While unlikely to materialise in a radical shift in policy substance, Zupi argues that greater attention devoted to monitoring and impact assessment could mark a welcome new imprimatur of the new leadership. In the last article in the issue, Tricarico reaches a similar conclusion regarding the degree of continuity under Wolfowitz. He argues that, from a civil society perspective, little change can be detected so far with respect to the conservative trend in the World Bank's approach that seems to have been regaining ground in recent years. This claim is substantiated by an assessment of three controversial policy issues. First, the Bank has not adequately introduced analysis of the impact on poverty and society of the implementation of its Poverty Reduction Strategies. Second, unheeding of the negative findings of the World Commission on Dams Report, the Bank has continued to finance controversial dam projects, the latest in Laos and Pakistan in 2005. Third, notwithstanding the emphasis put on renewable energy in the Extractive Industry Review, the Bank has persisted in financing fossil fuel industries in developing and middle-income countries. Taking the lead from the reform of other international organi-sations, Tricarico, like Zupi, suggests that the introduction of measures to assess results could reassure those waiting for the Wolf to bite.

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