Every year the leaders of the world’s largest and most powerful nations come together for a meeting – called the G20 summit. And, just as reliably, each year journalists and political scientists question the relevance of such organisations and what they actually stand to achieve. However, with the trend toward globalisation coming to a screeching halt, this issue is more important and relevant than ever.
It is difficult to pinpoint any tangible achievements by these organisations. Whether it’s the G20, the G7 or the UN, goals and targets are often set but rarely met. The Millennium Development Goals, created in 2000, had lofty aspirations. They gave the world 15 years to eradicate poverty and achieve universal primary education, among other targets. While almost all of the eight problem areas identified by the goals saw improvements over the 15 years, only one was reached in terms of the numerical growth demanded by the goals. While some may argue that any improvement is success, it is doubtful that the UN can claim full responsibility for this success.
International organisations are often dismissed as useless, slapped with the label ‘toothless tigers’. While they may have the participation and the backing of influential states, they lack power. Seeing as these international organisations have no legislative or authoritative powers, they gain their legitimacy from the participation of important groups. As the global super power of the past 70 years, the United States has been a pioneer for international cooperation as the most important founding member of the United Nations and NATO. However, the US support of international cooperation, as well as their position as the world’s foremost superpower, has been called into question as of late.
Many suggest that Trump’s election marks the end of US global leadership, but the more important question is whether he is even interested in ‘leading the free world’ (so to speak)? It seems that at this point Trump has little interest in being a leader in the international community. We saw this in failure to take any leadership at the G20 Summit where, before entering the negotiations, he said that he would discuss ‘whatever was on his mind.’ This admission led him resulted in widespread mocking from political and media leaders alike. Furthermore, Trump’s dangerous decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord signifies his lack of interest in cooperating with international organisations. While this is in line with Trump’s ‘America First’ campaign strategy, the loss of cooperation from the United States threatens to destabilise the very structure of international politics.
While Brexit and Trump suggest some backlash against globalisation, this may just be a temporary trend. We have already seen an overwhelming sentiment of regret in regards to both those decisions – with UKIP all but disappearing at the June UK elections, and Trump having one of the lowest approval ratings ever for a first-year president. Similarly, France rejected the far right in the convincing defeat of Marine Le Pen and Gert Wilder’s Party for Freedom underperformed in the Netherlands. It is possible that the tide has already turned, and the anti-globalisation sentiment has already calmed in the aftermath of the European Migrant Crisis.
Even if this is the case, without an impeachment, there are at least three more years of Donald Trump being in control of the world’s largest military and economy. These facts will ensure the United States’ relevance on the global stage, despite Trump’s resistance. Although, we are yet to see the damage that he may cause to the already questionable effectiveness of these international organisations.