Governing Global Challenges in the Atlantic

New challenges and issues emerge in the globalised world such as the economic crisis, food security, climate change and energy scarcity, and new forms to address them are required. The world is becoming more polycentric and the international system pluralistic, with a variety of norms and ideas upheld and propagated by a multiplicity of players. New actors have emerged and a redistribution of power is taking place at the same time that interdependence is increasing. A general shift of power away from the Northern Atlantic towards the Pacific is a defining feature of contemporary international relations, particularly in terms of economic dynamism. The centre of growth is situated in Asia, with China as a major player. Latin America, with Brazilian leadership, and more recently also Africa are playing a growing role on the international stage. This shift of power towards the Global South is rebalancing relations around and within the Atlantic space. On the other hand, interdependence is increasing, with links growing not only among states but also among non-state actors, and with growing interconnectedness among international actors, issues, technological advances and the diffusion of power.

These changes challenge the current status quo and it is necessary to begin rethinking governance issues and how to resolve common problems collectively. The re-distribution of power narrows the scope for global leadership at the same time as interdependence deepens, encompassing not only trade and financial flows but also resource, environmental and security challenges in a web of inter-connected issues.

The Atlantic, an interrelated area where flows and linkages are growing, is a space that both mirrors and affects trends on the global stage. Because of its size and diversity, the Atlantic space can be regarded as a laboratory of new material and immaterial linkages, new formats of cooperation and areas of normative dissonance, as well as of new crises, challenges and threats at the interstate and transnational levels. New forms of governance can be designed and tested in order to address common challenges such as a more sustainable development. In spite of the rise of Latin America and West Africa, some countries in these regions face enormous development challenges and are being left out, such as Haiti in the Caribbean, Honduras in Central America or Liberia in Africa, to cite only a few.

This panel includes three of the papers produced under Atlantic Future project, a FP7 collaborative project that, among other goals, aims to explore forms of governance that take place in the Atlantic basin and that can tackle development as one of the main challenges. The first paper discusses as a key question for the future of multilateralism in the Atlantic whether the narrowing development gap between the North and South Atlantic will be by itself enough to bring about an alignment of worldviews and a convergence of political orientations among the relevant actors – a question that applies to other regions of the world. Greater symmetry of power and aspirations across the Atlantic basin could prod interested parties to invest into the creation of a (pan) Atlantic order based on the “like-mindedness” of its participants, starting perhaps with the democratic bond. The other two papers of the panel will mainly focus on two issues that directly affect the responsible development and that need to be addressed collectively: food security and climate change.

Food security problems are a hindrance to the development of some countries in the Atlantic. The demand for food is increasing in the Atlantic, at the same time as the costs (seeds, fertilizers and irrigation) are also going up dramatically. Climate change and poor land management are additional factors with catastrophic consequences. A collective solution is required at regional level at least.

Climate change impacts such as rising temperatures, changes in seasonal variability and precipitation patterns, coastal inundation, increases in the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events, reductions in freshwater supplies and agricultural yields, and increased health risks threaten Atlantic basin countries and regional development. These impacts will require significant adaptation efforts in order to minimize physical and socioeconomic risks. Successful adaptation to climate change can be facilitated by collective action and by effective governance mechanisms and institutions.