Global Governance Through the Lens of Global Commons

The effectiveness of global governance directly affects Global Commons. This term is used not only in a narrow environmental sense, but a broader social sense to denote a shared-by-all foundation for the harmonious functioning of global society in the coming decades. Many of the world's problems stem from fundamental inequality, including access to resources in the broad sense of the word. Despite the fact that the right of all to equal access to resources is postulated, which is an imperative in global ethics, the situation is much more complex in reality. In many cases, the right to equal access is a fiction. 

The Valdai International Discussion Club’s annual expert program on Global Commons focused on these matters. Several case studies and panels were held as part of it.A report on global environmental ideologies and a Valdai Paper on Islam and Global Commons have already been published. Materials on the right to migrate as part of Global Common, global public opinion as part of Global Common, utopianism/realism correlation as seen through the lens of Global Commons, and the social dimension of Global Commons in the context of inequality are being prepared for publication. 

We believe these papers highlight the key problems underlying the global regulation of Global Commons (both natural and social) and offer possible solutions. Global inequality was the main cause of conflict in almost all aspects of Global Commons. Therefore, the leading states and global society should make concerted efforts if not to overcome this inequality on a global scale, then at least to reduce its negative impact. We believe there are several areas of Global Commons that require special attention.

Globalization and the Social Inequality Increase
The wealth share of the world’s top 1% wealthiest people increased from 28% to 33%, while the share commanded by the bottom 75% oscillated around 10% between 1980 and 2016.
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1. Global Socioeconomic Equality 

Challenge: Global inequality remains, perhaps, the key problem of the modern world despite international organizations’ best efforts. The traditional gap between the north and the south has recently been complemented by increased differences between the old financial centers in the West and the new producing economies in Eurasia and Latin America. This undermines not only the stability of individual countries, but global stability as well; hence the increasing civil unrest in many countries around the world. The existing restrictions on access to resources, innovation, technology, knowledge and the global labor market are increasingly causing discontent. The fragmentation of the world prevails over global cohesion. 

Suggestion: It is necessary to develop global solutions in a way that is not conducive to greater inequality. International forums and platforms should receive expanded representation and equal influence on decision-making from all segments of the population of the Earth, as well as the states (groups of states) with various levels of socioeconomic development. There is a need for dialogue rather than trade wars between financial and producing centers in the global economy. 

2. Environment 

Challenge: The developed and developing countries evaluate global environmental initiatives differently. Most environmental problems are caused by industrialization, which allowed the countries of the Global North to achieve high levels of development. The Global South believes that the proposed solutions to these problems are unfair, because they actually deny it the right to develop. In addition, in the long term, the environmental agenda may become an instrument of unfair competition. The conflict between humans and nature is really about the conflict between the rich and the poor. 

Suggestion: Global solutions should not deepen inequality. It is important to understand that attempts to introduce, on a global scale, environmental protection measures designed by developed countries will meet with resistance from the developing countries. When the developed countries built industrialization, the environment or labor protection were the last thing they were thinking about and they didn’t hesitate to pump resources from their colonies. A situation where global environmental policy is perceived as a kind of environmental neocolonialism must be overcome.

3. Striving for dignified living standards and migration 

Challenge: In an environment, where the right to equal access to resources remains a fiction, the right to migrate is the only way to exercise it. With this approach, migration is not a measure of last resort, but an inalienable right. But migration is both a solution to a problem and a problem in and of itself both for the countries that send migrants and the host countries. 

The affluent economies of the Global North with aging populations and shrinking manpower need migrants. However, the problems associated with integration of immigrants into society cause social tensions and lead to an increase in right-wing sentiment. 

For millions of people from the countries of the Global South, migration is the only chance to live with dignity. Money transfers by migrant workers to their families back home help contain social tensions. However, they do not hamper structural changes in these societies. Many of those who migrate to more prosperous countries cannot find a fulfilling job. 

Suggestion: It is impossible to stop migration: the demographic pressure in the countries of the Global South will continue to increase (by 2040, the population of Africa is estimated to reach 2 billion people). Initiatives to stimulate the development of the countries sending migrants are unlikely to succeed as local elites generally benefit from the status quo. 

In recent years, migration has increasingly included growing numbers and percentages of women who cross state borders in search of employment in other countries. They have a somewhat better chance to succeed. Life shows that women and their children tend to be the best citizens. The host countries should provide them with full support and protection. 

With regard to the countries sending migrants, adopting the practices of more successful countries has the greatest transforming effect on them. Rethinking the status of women in society is playing a key role here as well. 

Reducing global migration flows is possible primarily through eliminating inequalities between the north and the south and between the west and the east. In this regard, there’s a need for a broad discussion in the context of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which is currently being considered. Flexible approaches to state sovereignty in the context of migration are on the agenda as well.

 

4. War and Peace. Humanitarian Aspects of Global Commons 

Challenge: Wars are not becoming more humane. The emergence of new types of weapons leads to new challenges. The world has so far managed to save itself from a nuclear war, but wars waged with conventional weapons have truly disastrous consequences. In the presence of military superiority, humanitarian norms fade into the background. 

Suggestion: It is imperative to demand compliance with the norms of international humanitarian law, if necessary, adapting it to new and emerging types of weapons (robots or unmanned aerial vehicles). It is important to protect international humanitarian organizations working in conflict zones and prevent their criminalization.

5. Freedom of Information 

Challenge: With the advent of the internet, the freedom and speed of information dissemination have reached unprecedented proportions. However, in recent years, against the background of unprecedented growth in the number and types of information sources, quality and reliability have decreased, and fake news has become the staple of information policy in leading countries in the world. In international relations, there is a deliberate and almost absolute rejection of “Cold War ethics” and a course towards the complete villainization of a rival. Media wars are transforming individual societies in major ways, polarizing and demoralizing them. 

Suggestion: Successful navigation of audiences in the modern information space is impossible without restoring the hierarchy of the communications sphere’s credibility. Professional media should be at the top of this pyramid. If a truly international society is being created in online communications, it will need new public media that can both generate information, and accurately aggregate and verify the information that the communication participants offer to other online users. There’s need for a new journalistic Renaissance.

6. Access to scientific knowledge and innovation 

Challenge: Restricted access to scientific knowledge, technology and innovation is the most important factor behind global inequality. The publishers’ policy makes subscription to scientific journals unaffordable even for the leading universities (Harvard, in particular, said this in 2012). Scientists from middle-income or low-income countries, if they stay at home, find themselves at a disadvantage in terms of access to scientific information. Global inequality with regard to access to technology and innovation also constrains global development. 

Suggestion: It is necessary to promote openness in science and innovation. The Budapest Open Access Initiative adopted in 2001 is a good case in point. The situation of inequality in ​​access to scientific knowledge and innovation gives rise to intellectual piracy. But trying to fight it by blocking websites and filing multimillion-dollar lawsuits is just as hopeless as fighting migration by building walls. We need new approaches to intellectual property rights. 

In general, approaches to the perception of the social universal Global Commons of humankind are complex and contradictory. Moreover, these contradictions have already caused major conflicts. Global inequality in all its dimensions is the root cause. Without realizing effective solutions, any talk of Global Commons will remain a utopia or unachievable good intentions.

The 2018 Trends and Developments: Valdai Club’s Top Five
The stormy and alarming year 2018 is coming to an end. The Valdai Club offers its rating of events that had the greatest impact on the world situation.
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Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.