Strengthening the Liberal World Order


The liberal world order that was created in the aftermath of World War II has produced immense benefits for peoples across the planet, says a new analysis from the World Economic Forum.

“The past 70 years have seen an unprecedented growth in prosperity, lifting billions out of poverty. Democratic government, once rare, has spread to over 100 nations around the world, on every continent, for people of all races and religions,” the report – Strengthening the Liberal World Ordernotes. “And, although the period has been marked by war and suffering as well, peace among the great powers has been preserved. There has been no recurrence of the two devastating world wars of the first half of the 20th century.”

Today, however, that liberal order is being challenged by a variety of forces—by powerful authoritarian governments and anti-liberal fundamentalist movements, as well as by long-term shifts in the global economy and changes in the physical environment. The questions we face are whether this liberal world order is worth defending, and whether it is capable of surviving the present challenges. We believe the answer to both questions is an emphatic “yes,” the ‘White Paper’ continues:

The liberal world order that arose after World War II rested on three pillars: a liberal economic order that could bring a greater degree of prosperity to all who participated in it; a liberal political order that favored democratic governance; and a strategic order that suppressed the great power conflicts that had produced so much destruction in the first half of the 20th century.

….To say that a “liberal” world order is worth defending is, of course, a declaration on behalf of a certain set of principles – a belief that the rights of the individual are primary, that it is the responsibility of governments to protect those rights and that democratic government, in particular, offers the best chance for human dignity, justice and freedom. This is not a universally held view. The leaders of some nations and more than a few people around the world disagree on this hierarchy of values.

There is, and always has been, a division about how nations should be governed, and about the differences in and between democratic and autocratic forms, the role of religion and the connections to economic structures, the paper adds:

While recognizing that these differences exist and that every structure has its failings, the authors of this report are confident in their conviction that the liberal world order offers the best hope for meeting human aspirations, both material and spiritual, and for calling forth the very best in people across the world……

Existing multilateral financial institutions, such as the IMF and World Bank, will inevitably evolve to reflect changing realities and a shifting economic balance of power. American policy should work to ensure that these changes are consistent with liberal economic norms and reflect the legitimate needs of partners that share and benefit from this order.

New institutions, meanwhile, have arisen and will continue to arise, sponsored by powers that may wish to challenge the existing order. The US, together with its allies, should strive to embrace these new institutions and engage constructively with them, encouraging them insofar as they reinforce liberal economic norms, discouraging them when they challenge those norms and, in general, urging them to engage collectively as part of a larger multilateral system, rather than seek to operate as an alternative.

Enabling Entrepreneurship

The US private sector has an important function to play in supporting workforce/vocational training, the paper continues:

Integrating young people into the formal economy is in the country’s enlightened self-interest. Many industries such as tourism/hospitality, construction and ICT will need hundreds of millions of skilled workers in the future. Only the private sector understands fully the future needs for skills to fuel the economy, and it should play a central role in guiding civil society, educational institutions and governments to provide workforce training on a very large scale in all regions.


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