Between the coast, the main train station and a run-down parking garage, the GES 2011 was a great event. Here are some concluding remarks:
A recurring claim: New mechanisms
One statement that appeared in all panels was that old mechanisms for governments interacting with each other on a global level don’t work anymore. They were designed in an other time after the Second World War: The Bretton-Woods-System and its executive institutions, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank took care about the financial systems and the economic development of what used to be called Third World Countries.
The United Nations were the mechanism for foreign policy and diplomacy. The security council can influence war and peace as well as sending troupes. Probably the European Union was the most successful form of international coordination and collaboration, leading its countries to a common market and in parts even to a common currency. All three examples suffered from high level misuse: Nearly 70 times Eurozone governments ignored the limits of a 3 percent deficit cap compared to the GDP and went over the allowed 60 percent sovereign debt relative to the GDP. The United States ignoried the security council, when it decided to go to war in Iraq. The IMF and the Worldbank were highly critized for supposedly wrong recommendations towards Asian and Southamerican countries in their currency crisis in the late 1990s. All these things accounted for a loss of credibility.
This is very likely a reason why in nearly all panels there were requests for reforms or even for totally new forms of collaboration. The most radical version was Wolfgang Kleinwächter’s call for a decentralized multistakeholder-model for governing the internet. In the macro session about global imbalances there was a proposition to create a Bretton-Woods-System 2.0 (without an explanation how this should look like). More realistically, a reform of the IMF would be a feasible goal, even though this is probably the least radical step). In the panel about global governance there were similar remarks, for instance: “The institutions today were designed for yesterday.”
It is kind of a schizophrenic situation: Inside, the GES tries to be a transparent and free place for thinking using surveys, wikis and collaborating with young bloggers. To the outside world the GES is an event, to which leaders from all over the world are debating in a high-class hotel behind security. Their solutions are only distributed to governments, NGOs and so on, but not accessible for the general public. Basically, it is like Yannik Horas, my blogging colleague, put it: “When you’re not in, you’re out”.
The Chatham House Rule
Most panels were held off record following the Chatham House Rule: It is not allowed to cite or even indicate who exactly made a certain statement. This code of conduct grants panelists the possibility to speak frankly and without self-censorship. But in my opinion, there was not one of the statements extraordinarily surprising or provocative – at least not in the four panels I was attending. I don’t think the Chatham House Rule is neccessary. On the other hand, I have never been to a comparable conference and maybe it is quite common to report imprecisely.
Probably the most honest and surprising statement came from a relatively small countries former politician saying that not every single country in the world might be in need of its very own foreign policy. Consequently this would mean to voluntarily give up executive power.
The quota of women was ridiculously low: In my four panels (each held by five persons) there were only two women in total (one of them was the moderator) which means 10 percent in total numbers.