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Florence School of Transnational Governance

The World We Share: Forecasting a decade of geopolitical disorder

On 17 April 2023, a panel of academics and policymakers, led by Financial Times contributing editor Philip Stephens, explored the emerging shape of the global geopolitical landscape, its flaws, values and prospects.

09 May 2023 | Event

Alex Stubb speaking at the STG event "The World We Share"

On April 17, 2023, the EUI's School of Transnational Governance hosted an event titled ’The World We Share' at Palazzo Buontalenti in Florence. The first part of the event sought to explore the emerging shape of the current geopolitical landscape in the aftermath of Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine. The second part of the discussion assessed the relevance of values, rules, and institutions of the “Old World” as the foundation for this new global order.

Led by Philip Stephens, Financial Times contributing editor and scientific organiser of the event, the debate featured high-profile speakers coming from academia, diplomacy, and research institutions.

The first session, moderated by Stephens, focused on the emerging shape of the new world order.

One of the main takeaways from the debate according to Stephens is that the emerging geopolitical landscape has come to be “fluid” with the distinction between “good” democracies and “bad” autocracies no longer applying. As Samir Saran, president of Observer Research Foundation, put it, we have woken up to “a kaleidoscope which sees nations link up and disband in pursuit of narrow interests”. He defines this as a “limited liability partnership” mechanism.

Saran also noted that the Global South is no longer seduced by liberal democracy, but rather seeks greater agency in decision-making, picking and choosing "friends".

Sylvie Bermann, former Ambassador of France to China, and Alexander Stubb, Director of the EUI School of Transnational Governance, prophesied that the old world is dying and a new one is struggling to be born, resulting in what can be defined as a “decade of disorder”.

Fiona Hill, senior fellow in Foreign Policy at the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings, connected to the concepts of a “global disorder” and “limited liability partnership”. She also remarked how Russia seems to be stuck in the past and that makes it very difficult to find resolution to the conflict.

"Russia is in the grip of history, not 21st-century history, but it is in the grip of the distant past." However, as Samir pointed out with his “limited liability partnership” analogy, the stress on localities and regions, and specifically “regionalisation of security, trade and politics” might be the key to unlocking progress on the global stage. She concludes that we are “definitely heading towards a world that is not going to be dominated by any major power”, and that includes China.

Stefano Stefanini, Senior Advisor at ISPI, former Permanent Representative to NATO, and former Diplomatic Advisor to the President of Italy, challenged the ability of the EU to stand as a united front pointing at the fact that member states’ national interests have long had the tendency to trump collective ones.

The role of the “Global West” was also disputed in setting up the core values of the new world. Prof. Kalypso Nicolaidis, Chair in Global Affairs at the EUI School of Transnational Governance, and Tanvi Madan, Director of the India Project at the Brookings Institution, underlined the West’s loss of influence in the post-war system and urged western democracies to stop imposing their own values on the rest of the world.

In the second session, moderated by Teona Giuashvili, STG Visiting fellow, the speakers debated the role of such values, whether the West still retains its old sphere of influence, and the importance of collaborating with "Global South" in addressing common challenges, such as climate change.

William Hague, Lord Hague of Richmond, former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, and former Leader of the Conservative Party (UK) reiterated the possibility of a clash between ideologies and sheer national interests noting that the moral divide between “democracies” and “autocracies” is not conducive to international cooperation efforts. In this context, Hague suggests that the West starts to lead by example, and that wealthy democracies start providing financial resources and institutions to help the Global South achieve their net zero carbon emissions targets.

Charles Kupchan, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, spoke about the transformation of global cooperation in recent decades and the ways the world’s nations have become increasingly more tethered together, more interdependent.

“For the first time in global history we are headed towards what I call globalised multipolarity”, he said. The axes around which global policies will unfold are multiple; liberal democracies against Russia-China with the Global South not taking sides.

We have lived in a multipolar world before, Kupchan remarked, in the 1700 there were five centres of powers, but they were relatively independent. Conversely, globalisation, in the 19th century, brought world powers closer together, it made them interdependent. Today, for the first time, Kaplan noted “these relationships are not mediated by a more powerful force, a role that Washington and London have held for a long time. For the first time global politics doesn't have a captain at the helm, no anchor”.

For a further breakdown of the speakers’ interventions, check out Philip Stephens’ article on Substack.

Last update: 09 May 2023

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