Sachs: Where are the Global Leaders?

Jeffrey Sachs urges leaders to recognize that “working with the UN agencies is in fact the only way to solve global problems”:

Where are the global leaders?, by Jeffrey Sachs, Commentary, Project Syndicate: The G8 Summit in Japan earlier this month was a painful demonstration of the pitiful state of global cooperation.

The world is in deepening crisis. Food prices are soaring. Oil prices are at historic highs. The leading economies are entering a recession. Climate change negotiations are going around in circles. Aid to the poorest countries is stagnant, despite years of promised increases. And yet in this gathering storm it was hard to find a single real accomplishment by the world’s leaders. The world needs global solutions for global problems, but the G8 leaders clearly cannot provide them. Because virtually all of the political leaders that went to the summit are deeply unpopular at home, few offer any global leadership. They are weak individually, and even weaker when they get together and display to the world their inability to mobilize real action.

There are four deep problems. The first is the incoherence of American leadership. … The will to global cooperation was weak even in the Clinton administration, but it has disappeared entirely during the Bush administration. The second problem is the lack of global financing. …

Global solutions are not expensive, but they are not free, either. Global solutions to poverty, food production and development of new clean energy technology will require annual investments of roughly $350 billion, or 1 percent of the gross national product (GNP) of the rich world. This is obviously affordable and is modest compared to military spending, but is far above the pittance that the G8 actually brings to the table to solve these urgent challenges. …

The third problem is the disconnection between global scientific expertise and politicians. … The fourth problem is that the G8 ignores the very international institutions — notably the United Nations and the World Bank — that offer the best hope to implement global solutions. These institutions are often deprived of political backing, underfinanced and then blamed by the G8 when global problems aren’t solved. Instead, they should be given clear authority and responsibilities and then held accountable for their performance. …

Starting in January 2009 with the new US president, politicians should take the best chance for their own political survival, and of course for their countries’ well-being, by reinvigorating global cooperation. They should agree to address shared global goals, including the fight against poverty, hunger and disease … as well as climate change and environmental destruction. … The smartest move would be to agree that each country tax its CO2 emissions in order to reduce climate change and then devote a fixed amount of the proceeds to global problem solving. With the funding assured, the G8 would suddenly move from empty promises to real policies. … Rather than regarding the UN and its agencies as competitors or threats to national sovereignty, they should recognize that working with the UN agencies is in fact the only way to solve global problems and therefore is the key to their own political survival. … Time is short… It is time to say to the G8 leaders, “Get your act together or don’t even bother to meet next year.” It’s too embarrassing to watch grown men and women gather for empty photo opportunities.

How important do you think the global issues Sachs is concerned about would be in an Obama administration? I expect Obama will support these goals, and it would be hard to be less cooperative on global issues than the Bush administration, but will Obama do more than just cooperate, will he step up and be a global leader?


Originally published at Economist’s View and reproduced here with the author’s permission.

2 Responses to "Sachs: Where are the Global Leaders?"

  1. Luigi   July 29, 2008 at 8:51 am

    After 8 years of the Bush administration’s foreign policy of "my way or the highway", are you surprised that the G8 is not a policy making group, but simply a gathering to promote domestic policies back home.Hopefully Barack Obama will cease the opportunity for a more inclusive US policy in determining global policy.