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Council of Councils Regional Conference

09/09/2013 - 10/09/2013, Rome

Today’s world is in great need of effective, legitimate and innovative forms of global governance in order to channel an increasingly multipolar international system towards constructive forms of common action on a whole series of global issues. No single country can hope to respond to the numerous challenges present on the world stage – from the financial crisis, to global warming, trade regulation, nuclear proliferation or instability in the Arab world – but at the same time international forums nominally built to promote collective decision-making are increasingly falling short of their mandate. In other words, as the need for effective and legitimate forms of global governance increase, the willingness or ability of international actors to compromise and agree – the sine qua non for effective common action – seems ever more distant and lacking.

Coming just days after the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, where world leaders failed to agree on a series of pressing international issues, and in particular on what policies to pursue in the context of the Syrian crisis, the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) together with the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) convened a high-level conference at Italy’s ministry of foreign affairs entitled: “Europe and the Future of Global Governance”.

Attending the conference were representatives from the global network of twenty-four think tanks known as the Council of Councils (CoC), an initiative headed by CFR and which aims to foster dialogue and debate between foreign policy institutes from around the world on issues relating to global governance and multilateral cooperation. As the only Italian think tank to be part of the CoC’s global network, IAI was tasked with organizing the first of two annual regional conferences under the heading of the Council of Councils. The Rome conference signaled the first CoC meeting to be held in an EU member country since the initiative was launched in March 2012 with an inaugural conference in Washington D.C.

Conference proceedings were held on 9-10 September and included two keynote speeches by Italy’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emma Bonino, and the governor of the Bank of Italy, Ignazio Visco. The speakers advocated increased European integration – in both the fiscal and political realms – and while Minister Bonino expressed her support for a ‘light’ federal Europe, Visco highlighted how the speedy implementation of a full EU banking union will be key to consolidating Europe’s financial stability and sustaining its recovery.

Topics debated during the two-day conference ranged from specifically European issues – the Eurozone crisis, the EU’s energy policy and Europe’s contribution to global governance – to more global issues, such as the negotiations for a EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and a US-Asia Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the future of the G20 as an effective venue for global governance and the role of regional and international institutions in the Arab world. Invited participants also focused on five rising powers – the so-called BRICS countries – by assessing their strategic priorities on the international stage and potential to contribute to global governance. Most participants agreed that a major challenge facing the BRICS grouping will be that of reconciling the diverse interests and priorities of its member countries. While many interesting ideas have indeed been tabled by this grouping – including but not limited to the creation of a BRICS Development Bank – it is still too early to judge whether such tools will be effective in tackling global issues and beneficial to the wider cause of global governance.