More than at any other time in history, the future of humankind is being shaped by issues that are beyond any one nation’s ability to solve. Climate change, avian flu, financial instability, terrorism, waves of migrants and refugees, water scarcities, disappearing fisheries, stark and seemingly intractable poverty—all of these are examples ofglobal issues whose solution requires cooperation among nations. Each issue seems at first be little connected to the next; the problems appear to come in all shapes and from all directions. But if one reflects a moment on these examples, some common features soon become apparent:
■ Each issue affects a large number of people on different sides of national boundaries.
■ Each issue is one ofsignificant concern, directly or indirectly, to all or most of the countries of the world, often as evidenced by a major United Nations (UN) declaration or the holding of a global conference on the issue.
■ Each issue has implications that require a global regulatory approach; no one government has the power or the authority to impose a solution, and market forces alone will not solve the problem.These commonalities amount almost to a definition of global issue and awareness of them will help throughout this book in identifying other such issues besides those named above. First, however, a few other definitions and distinctions will further clarify just what we mean by global issues.
I would like to thank Cinnamon Dornsife, Michael Treadway, Jean-François Rischard, andAsli Gurkan for their advice and comments on earlier versions of this chapter.
Global issues, globalization, and global public goods are related but differing concepts. Globalization generally refers to the increasing integration of economies around the world, particularly through trade, production chains (where parts for a final good, such as an automobile, are produced inone country and assembled in another), and financial flows. The term increasingly also refers to the movement of people and of information (including not only financial and other raw data but ideas, fashions, and culture as well) across international borders. Globalization can be understood as a driving force affecting many global issues, from migration to fair trade to debt relief.
The concept ofglobal public good sis a more recent one, and indeed its dimensions and implications are still being worked out by researchers and policy analysts. The International Task Force on Global Public Goods has defined international public goods (a term that includes both global and regional public goods) as goods and services that “address issues that: (i) are deemed to be important to theinternational community, to both developed and developing countries; (ii) typically cannot, or will not, be adequately addressed by individual countries or entities acting alone; and, in such cases (iii) are best addressed collectively on a multilateral basis.”1By this definition, most but not all of the global issues addressed in this book involve the creation of—or the failure to create—global public goods.We will return to the topic of global public goods later in the chapter.
What Global Issues Do We Face Today?
Global issues are present in all areas of our lives as citizens of the world. They affect our economies, our environment, our capabilities as humans, and our processes for making decisions regarding cooperation at the global level (which this book will call global governance). Theseissues often turn out to be interconnected, although they may not seem so at first. For example energy consumption drives climate change, Which in turn threatens (a) marine fish-eries through changes in ocean temperature and chemistry and (b) other food resources through changes in rainfall patterns. For purposes of this book, we group global issues into the five thematic areas shown in table 1.1...