Scenarios for 2030 - Day 2 - The Future Shape of Regional Cooperation




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Nov 26, 2013
by Louise Hallman
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Scenarios for 2030 - Day 2 - The Future Shape of Regional Cooperation

Building trust between government and other actors Akihiko Tanaka, explains the complex web of multilateral organizations in Asia

On our interconnected earth, opportunities and challenges, from the economic to the environment, have become the concern of more than just one individual nation, necessitating cooperation within and between regional blocs.

In Asia, numerous “soft power” multilateral co-operations have been established in the past 50 years including: the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), ASEAN+3, the ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference, the ASEAN Regional Forum, the East Asia Summit, and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.

The missions are similar, the memberships overlapping, but the goal of all these organizations is the same: use multilateral fora to raise, discuss and hopefully solve regional challenges, be they regional economic growth or territorial disputes. 

These multiple multilaterals have in many cases helped a diverse region find common interests and overcome historical legacies and political differences, as well as drag a once poor continent out of poverty.

Formerly one of the poorest regions of the world, Asia is expected to account for over 50% of the world’s GDP by 2030. But just how effective are all these organizations?

Should—and could—a better, more inclusive—or even more exclusive—mechanism be established? If so what? And more importantly, how? Which actors and what processes are needed to build stronger frameworks for the future?

This was the issue at hand on the first full day of the joint Salzburg Global Seminar-Nippon Foundation session ‘People, Peace and Planet in 2030: Shaping Inclusive and Sustainable Growth,’ currently ongoing in Kyoto, Japan.

Opening the day’s discussions, Akihiko Tanaka, President, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Professor of International Politics at the Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, University of Tokyo presented the complex web of multilateral cooperation in Asia and its related challenges.

Asia’s rise has been clear for all to see. While much of Europe still faces a year of negative growth and recession, in stark contrast, the vast majority of Asian economies are projected to experience at least 4% growth in 2013, with China, Indonesia and Myanmar (amongst others) forecast to enjoy over 6% growth.

But the rapid economic growth has changed the dynamic of the region, rendering many constructs of “developing” and “developed” nations, the global north and south, obsolete.

As the longest “developed” nation in the region, Japan has long played an additional role in the region in helping its development, outside of the multilateral system.

Through the JICA, established in 1954, Japan has given aid and concessional loans to countries across Asia – particularly Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines – for the use of building up basic transport and energy infrastructure, but as the traditional recipients of JICA’s aid have grown economically, JICA’s focus has shifted; more aid is given and volunteers sent to Africa now that Asia is more economically strong. 

Multilateral co-operation within the region and with other regions – both the “developed” West and the “developing” South – needs to be readdressed to reflect these new realities, suggested Professor Tanaka.

It is not only co-operation between nations that needs to be reconsidered, suggested Aimée Christensen, Founder and CEO, Christensen Global Strategies, but also between government and business.

In her talk on ‘Building Trust Across Boundaries – South to North, Public to Private,’ Christensen pointed out that increasingly governments are having to spend millions on man-made solutions to deal with issues that the environment used to handle for us—proof of just how important our ecosystems are to our security and survival.

These challenges, such climate change, shared energy resources, and the management of the global commons, are too great for government alone to tackle.

The private sector, with its resources of infrastructure and capital, can and should play a greater role in driving solutions in the face of these huge global challenges.

In addition to the action needed by government and business, advocacy from civil society and information from academics, together with visionary leadership in all of these areas, one of the key ingredients needed in solving these global challenges is greater trust.

Trust between countries’ governments – north and south, and south and south – and trust between the private sector and public policymakers.

For too long, businesses have been seen as purely short-term focussed and profit-driven.

But many businesses, such as Google (with whom Christensen worked on their ‘Clean Energy 2030’ initiative), are now beginning to see the longer-term benefits of being more green-minded, investing in cleaner technologies, off-setting their carbon footprints and finding more environmentally friendly solutions to everyday business practices.

Not only are they seeing long-term profit opportunities, but these green policies are in many cases also given businesses immediate boosts in brand recognition and renewed consumer trust and enthusiasm.

Showing their green credentials can help businesses also gain the trust of public policymakers, and in turn this can help lead to more effective, workable policies to tackle these challenges.

Civil society also has a key role to play, not only in advocacy, helping to push governments and businesses to act and maintain the ambition of all actors, but also by providing clean energy solutions in small local markets that are not yet considered profitable for for-profit organizations and businesses to move in.

Trust also needs to be regained between governments of the global north and the global south.

For too long, the south has not believed that the north is willing to pay their “fair share” for their polluting legacy, especially when it is the south that will bare the brunt of the environmental devastation.

This distrust was evident in the deadlocked and eventually much compromised climate change talks held in Poland this week.

Strong visionary leadership, collaboration, and open and honest dialog between different governments and the public and private sectors are all needed to help garner this trust, said Christensen.

These three elements were also needed by the 30 specially selected Salzburg Global Fellows as these rising leaders moved into their working groups in the afternoon to devise their own scenarios of what Asian multilateral relations and mechanisms might look like in the 2030.