Not Ready for Prime Time

Why Including Emerging Powers at the Helm Would Hurt Global Governance

Courtesy Reuters

Few matters generate as much consensus in international affairs today as the need to rebuild the world geopolitical order. Everyone seems to agree, at least in their rhetoric, that the makeup of the United Nations Security Council is obsolete and that the G-8 no longer includes all the world's most important economies. Belgium still has more voting power in the leading financial institutions than either China or India. New actors need to be brought in. But which ones? And what will be the likely results? If there is no doubt that a retooled international order would be far more representative of the distribution of power in the world today, it is not clear whether it would be better.

The major emerging powers, Brazil, Russia, India, and China, catchily labeled the BRICs by Goldman Sachs, are the main contenders for inclusion. There are other groupings, too: the G-5, the G-20, and the P-4; the last -- Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan -- are the wannabes that hope to join the UN Security Council and are named after the P-5, the council's permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States). Up for the G-8 are Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and South Africa. The G-8 invited representatives of those five states to its 2003 summit in Evian, France, and from 2005 through 2008, this so-called G-5 attended its own special sessions on the sidelines of the G-8's.

Others states also want in. Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, and South Africa aspire to join the UN Security Council as permanent members, with or without a veto. But with little progress on UN reform, none of them has been accepted or rejected (although China is known to oppose admitting Japan and, to a lesser degree, India). After the G-8 accommodated the G-5, other states, generally those close to the countries hosting the summits, also started to join the proceedings on an ad hoc basis. When the global economic crisis struck in 2008, matters

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