Augusto Lopez-Claros is currently a Senior Fellow at Georgetown University’s Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service, on leave from a leadership position with the World Bank. In his capacity as Director of the World Bank’s development economics vice-presidency (DECIG) from 2011 to 2017, Lopez-Claros has always been keenly aware that a sustainable path to development will only be achieved when current mechanisms of international cooperation are significantly strengthened. Much of his writing is suffused with a consciousness of growing interdependence and insists that, whether we are speaking of climate change, the rights of women, education or economics, the process of globalization, as it is currently unfolding, lacks the international institutions to support and harness its potential for good.
Writing on climate change, for example, he states that as long as policy is being approached on an ad-hoc basis, with some elements of international cooperation, but limited to voluntary compliance and “large doses of hope,” the international community is abdicating management of the world’s environment to chance and the actions of a limited number of well-meaning states. Without a body having jurisdiction over the global environment, and having corresponding authority for legal enforcement, even current agreements, such as the 2015 Paris Agreement, if fully implemented by all 174 of the states and the European Union which signed on the very first day, would not prevent global warming in excess of 2 degrees C, the threshold widely recognized by climate scientists as vital for preventing climatic disasters.
Further, he writes, in order to ensure that the global economy develops in such a way that provides opportunities for all, especially the poor and disadvantaged, credible mechanisms of international cooperation, perceived as legitimate and capable of acting on behalf of the interests of the whole of humanity are essential. In their background paper, entitled “Global Governance and the Emergence of Global Institutions for the 21st Century,” Lopez-Claros and co-authors, Arthur Dahl and Maja Groff, express their conviction that no strategy aimed at fostering the emergence of sustainable development can motivate the nations to achieve such international cooperation without fundamental changes in our understanding of the critical role of human values and attitudes. They point to significant recent research showing that the formerly-assumed correlation between endless growth and human happiness—a subject fast becoming a concern of some governments—no longer holds true. In other words, human happiness is only correlated with income up to a certain point. Once basic material needs are satisfied, sources of happiness correlate more with human relationships, one’s worldview, a sense of purpose and security.
Thus, there is a need to broaden our understanding of the relationship between increasing market activity and the welfare of those who participate in the economic system, moving beyond quantitative measures of “growth,” to take into consideration those qualitative changes in the system of international governance which address the fundamental welfare and interrelationships of those which the “system” is ultimately intended to serve.