The Global Future and its Policy Implications: Views from Leading Thinkers on Five Continents

Robert L. Hutchings

University of Texas at Austin - Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs

Bart M.J. Szewczyk

Columbia Law School


The Atlantic Council of the United States, 2009

This article discusses perspectives of leading thinkers from around the world on the impact of key global trends on their respective countries and regions. It is based on a series of 14 conferences involving experts and officials from more than two dozen countries on five continents organized by the Atlantic Council of the United States, in cooperation with the National Intelligence Council, between June 2006 and October 2008. The visits included Japan, South Korea, and China, in June 2006; Mexico, Chile, and Brazil, in January 2007; South Africa, Nigeria, and Egypt, in June 2007; and India, Turkey, and Kazakhstan, in November 2007, with the Kazakhstan event consisting of a regional conference involving five Central Asian countries. In May 2008, there was a regional conference in Paris with participants from 10 European countries. The final conferences - in Germany and Russia - were held in March 2009.

The strategic dialogues around the world over the past two years revealed a set of widely shared global challenges – involving the global trading and financial system, climate change, energy security, resource constraints, and others – that take on distinctive regional characteristics without providing an overarching global rationale for action. The old order is fraying, but a new one has yet to be defined. Existing institutions – regional as well as global – seem ill-equipped to deal with these challenges, and emerging global powers led by China and India seem more inclined to operate outside these institutions than to embrace the Western-led international order of a bygone era.

Integration and fragmentation are two sides of globalization, and our trips around the world revealed both. The positive sides of globalization are evident everywhere, most obviously in Asia but also in rising prosperity in almost every part of the world. But these same forces also produce disruptive changes. In Europe, the forces of integration are still ascendant, despite the travails of the European constitution after the referenda in France, the Netherlands, and, most recently, Ireland. Elsewhere, the watchword is not regional integration, which is seen as neither necessary nor possible, but closer cooperation, as countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa strive toward common approaches to the potentially divisive effects of globalization.

Meanwhile, the current U.S. financial crisis underscored the interdependence and vulnerability of the global financial system, and demonstrated the key role played by the liquidity of emerging market countries in Asia and the Middle East, which hold 70% of the world’s currency reserves. These developments, together with the collapse of the Doha round trade negotiations call into question the extent to which the U.S. and other countries that created this global system 60 years ago still have control of it. Domestically, states at different stages of development see not one but multiple paths to modernity: American, European, and Asian. Many in the Arab world, and those left behind by globalization in other regions, increasingly reject modernity altogether.

These various trends constitute both a challenge and an opportunity. The U.S. and its European and Asian allies need to open the global system to accommodate rising powers while preserving the fundamental values undergirding it, and they need to mitigate the downside effects of globalization lest poverty and instability overwhelm large parts of the world. The open question is whether “the West is within us,” as an Indian scholar put it, or whether it will be “the West versus the rest.”

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Date posted: July 10, 2011 ; Last revised: June 18, 2014

Suggested Citation

Hutchings, Robert L. and Szewczyk, Bart M.J., The Global Future and its Policy Implications: Views from Leading Thinkers on Five Continents (2009). The Atlantic Council of the United States, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1881953

Contact Information

Robert L. Hutchings
University of Texas at Austin - Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs ( email )
2300 Red River St., Stop E2700
PO Box Y
Austin, TX 78713
United States
Bart M.J. Szewczyk (Contact Author)
Columbia Law School ( email )
435 West 116th St
New York, NY 10025
United States

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