The world at crossroads: Multipolarity or isolated blocs?

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The two “black swans,” the coronavirus pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war, have brought the whole world to the brink of a historic break. The term “black swan” is defined as an event or a process that causes irreversible and radical changes in the world economy and politics. In a free global trade system where products can even be supplied from 10,000 to 15,000 kilometers (6,213 to 9,320 miles) away, is it possible to reduce global carbon emissions and make the global supply chain sustainable at acceptable costs? Or, while some of the world’s leading countries globally discuss the concepts of climate change, sustainability, carbon emissions, zero waste and a green development revolution, will they continue to buy products from countries that do not prioritize or care about these concepts?

Question after question

Are we facing hypocrisy on a global scale? Will leading countries turn inward to supply their needs? Will we make the switch from totally free, globally scaled international trade to regionalization (intra-regional trade) and securing supplies from closer geographies (nearshoring) with the heavy, irreparable effects of the pandemic and war? Will there be, on the one side, a group of countries that develop and maintain standards focused on the abovementioned concepts (a “high standards league”) and, on the other side, countries which only care about producing cheaply no matter what, ignoring such concepts (a “low standards league”)?

Will the world evolve into a multipolar system based on “power centers” that stand out with their economic, political and military might in an international economic-political system equipped with global standards, where the abovementioned concepts are adopted as common values? Or, will we be dragged into “a world of isolated blocs” where global standards disappear, everyone creates their own standards and thick lines separate us? Will we be able to face the deep debates and bear the global and regional shocks and aftershocks caused by the pandemic and the Ukraine war on a global scale? Can we convince the world to fight for a common future without losing or killing international platforms like the G-20?

Duty for global organizations

In the next two years, the answers to those questions will be sought. The World Trade Organization (WTO) says that the Russia-Ukraine war can permanently split the global economy into “two blocs;” therefore, the rules-based international system is of paramount importance and can play an important role in mitigating the negative effects of the current crisis. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), on the other hand, stated that if divided blocs of different standards emerge that do not conduct trade with each other, it would spell disaster for the global economy and also pose a long-term risk. Thus, an extraordinary task awaits international leading organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the IMF, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the WTO and the leaders of the U.N.’s 17 sustainable development goals: to protect, develop and sustain global values, standards and rules.


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