Building an International Architecture for Managing Global Threats

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Courtesy of NASA


This Emerging Insights paper argues that an improved international architecture is needed and that it should be built on improving systems, networks, coalitions and organisations that already exist.

The changing types, dimensions and dynamics of crisis threats are forecast to increase over the next decade – in some instances, exponentially. These threats will have growing global consequences in an increasingly interdependent world order. Yet, there is a lack of international systems and procedures that can consistently and effectively identify, monitor and, where necessary, mitigate the impacts of threats such as cyber systems collapse, global indebtedness, mass displacement, bioengineered pandemics and the multiple consequences of climate change.

The route towards achieving effective systems and procedures cannot, however, rely solely on the institutions that comprise the familiar multilateral construct, reflecting the ‘post-war world order’. There is growing support for the idea that states are ‘overloaded’ and increasingly unable to deal with some of the most serious global hazards that will need to be confronted, now and in the longer term.

The traditional multilateral construct may increasingly lack the capacities for dealing with such complex problems. Even in some of the richest states there are signs that opaque, drawn-out processes combined with contending bureaucratic interests all too often reflect pervasive dysfuncti onalities.

There are myriad international and global non-state and multisectoral institutions and networks, from the GAVI Vaccine Alliance to the International Science Council. These organisations guide states, compensate for their failings and further support them. In that sense, they fall naturally into a governance paradigm deemed to be polylateral.

To see how best to anticipate, monitor and mitigate the growing number of global threats, new approaches, arrangements and constructs will be required. What these may be needs to be carefully assessed and explored – including how to move from the multilateral to the polylateral.

This paper prosposes six steps to achieve these objectives:

  • Map the spectrum of potential actors that could contribute to a global architecture for managing and mitigating global threats.
  • Use AI to collect and prioritise data.
  • Horizon scan to test the plausibility of global threats and possible means to address them and, in so doing, arrive at a broad consensus.
  • Use systematic approaches to exchange knowledge. This would be multilevel and include institutions of learning even at a primary level.
  • Use transformative technologies.
  • Create a global platform that would reflect a more polylateral approach to the UN’s Humanitarian Coordination system, led by a Committee of the Wise.

These six steps for developing an international architecture for managing global threats are only starting points, and they will be tested and achieved along a route that will inevitably be arduous, often frustrating and uncertain. Yet, whatever eventually transpires, they are a recognition that international action must be taken now to deal with the global consequences of an exponential increase in interconnected and interrelated global threats.


Dr Randolph Kent

Senior Associate Fellow

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