Global challenges require updated global institutions, UNDP Chief says

13 Nov 2012

Wellington -- Global challenges such as pandemics, refugees flows, transnational crime, and climate change demand updated global institutions fit for the 21st Century, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark said Tuesday.

“We live in an era of unprecedented globalization and interdependence, in which global public goods cannot be secured and protected by any single nation, and emerging threats and challenges require coordinated responses,” she told Victoria University’s Institute for Governance & Policy Studies here.

UNDP is acutely aware of how crises generated in developed countries quickly spread, she said, “affecting the poorest and most distant nations, which saw weaker demand and lower prices for their exports, higher volatility in capital flows and commodity prices, and lower remittances. Greater global financial stability is unlikely without more coordination of financial regulation and oversight.”

“Global warming, the spread of pandemics, cyber-war and transnational crime, trade barriers, and the flow of refugees and other migrants will all be challenges in the 21st Century,” she said.  “Those with the least power and voice to influence solutions tend to sustain the most damaging blows.”

“One of the most visible 21st Century challenges is climate change. Coordinated action to combat global warming is badly needed, and the risks from failing to tackle the problem effectively are high,” she said.  “It would be a tragedy for future generations if leaders today prove incapable of taking the bold decisions needed to stop catastrophic and irreversible change to the world’s climate.”

“The collective of member states is making too little progress on ensuring the future sustainability of our ecosystems. Fine words in outcome documents must lead to action.”

Ms. Clark, a former prime minister of New Zealand, has been a leading advocate for greater efficiency and transparency at the United Nations.

New actors are also emerging with an eye toward tackling major global problems, she said.

“As the challenges requiring global responses have expanded, so has the range of state and non-state actors seeking to influence global decisions. The rise of large emerging economies is of particular significance, as their economic power and reach provide a firm foundation for greater geopolitical influence.”

But this too poses a new international challenge, she said, warning that “without stronger and more representative global governance, emerging powers may look increasingly to pursue their interests through alternative--regional, bilateral, or unilateral--mechanisms.”

UN and UN Security Council reform are critical and must be “designed for flexibility, so that 20 years from now the global community will not need to repeat the current discussion about the Council failing to reflect geopolitical realities.”

“A key question is whether global institutions give voice and decision-making power to those most impacted by global challenges--often the poorest and most vulnerable, and whether recipients of support are enabled to hold these institutions to account,” she said.

Contact Information

Christina LoNigro, christina.lonigro@undp.org +1 212 906 5301