The New World Order and the End Times

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The National Intelligence Council is pleased to release Global Governance 2025: At a Critical Juncture. The report, produced in conjunction with the European Union’s Institute for Security Studies, is a follow-on to the NIC’s 2008 Global Trends 2025 study. Global Governance 2025 provides an informal contribution to an important international debate on the way forward for global, regional, and bilateral institutions and frameworks to meet emerging challenges such as climate change, resource management, international migration flows, and new technologies. While not policy prescriptive, the report shares a strong belief that global challenges will require global solutions. The report’s primary purpose is to help policymakers in the US and abroad to chart a course for effective management of international problems. In addition, we hope that it will stimulate a broad-ranging debate among academic and nongovernmental experts.

The United States’ National Intelligence Council (NIC) and the European Union’s Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) have joined forces to produce this assessment of the long-term prospects for global governance frameworks. This exercise builds on the experience of the two institutions in identifying the key trends shaping the future international system. Since the mid 1990s, the NIC has produced four editions of its landmark Global Trends report. The most recent one, Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World, published in late 2008, noted that momentous change was ahead, with the gap between increasing disorder and weakening governance structures widening. The EUISS produced the first EU-level report on the factors affecting the evolution of the international system in 2006, The New Global Puzzle. What World for the EU in 2025? The report stressed that a multipolar system is emerging and that matching the new distribution of power with new rules and institutions will be critical to preserving international peace and stability.

Global governance—the collective management of common problems at the international level—is at a critical juncture. Although global governance institutions have racked up many successes since their development after the Second World War, the growing number of issues on the international agenda, and their complexity, is outpacing the ability of international organizations and national governments to cope.

With the emergence of rapid globalization, the risks to the international system have grown to the extent that formerly localized threats are no longer locally containable but are now potentially dangerous to global security and stability. At the beginning of the century, threats such as ethnic conflicts, infectious diseases, and terrorism as well as a new generation of global challenges including climate change, energy security, food and water scarcity, international migration flows, and new technologies are increasingly taking center stage.

Three effects of rapid globalization are driving demands for more effective global governance. Interdependence has been a feature of economic globalization for many years, but the rise of China, India, Brazil, and other fast-growing economies has taken economic interdependence to a new level. The multiple links among climate change and resources issues; the economic crisis; and state fragility—“hubs” of risks for the future—illustrate the interconnected nature of the challenges on the international agenda today. Many of the issues cited above involve interwoven domestic and foreign challenges. Domestic politics creates tight constraints on international cooperation and reduces the scope for compromise.

The shift to a multipolar world is complicating the prospects for effective global governance over the next 10 years. The expanding economic clout of emerging powers increases their political influence well beyond their borders. Power is not only shifting from established powers to rising countries and, to some extent, the developing world, but also toward nonstate actors. Diverse perspectives and suspicions about global governance, which is seen as a Western concept, will add to the difficulties of effectively mastering the growing number of challenges.