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International cooperation gets low grade from global think tank leaders

The Report Card on International Cooperation gives a dismal C- to international efforts to mitigate the world’s most pressing problems in 2017, the same grade given for 2016.

The Council of Councils (CoC), of which SAIIA is a member, surveyed the heads of member think tanks to evaluate the world’s performance on 10 transnational challenges of 2017, from countering terrorism to advancing global health. CoC is an initiative of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and comprises 29 major international policy institutes.

According to CFR President Richard N Haass, performance on international cooperation in 2017 received a lacklustre C- in part because:

“the United States changed from the principal preserver of order to a principal disrupter, as it called into question the global economic architecture and longstanding alliances, agreements, and institutions”.

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The grade for preventing nuclear proliferation dropped precipitously, from a B- in 2016 to a near-failing D+ in 2017. At the same time, respondents ranked non-proliferation the top priority for policymakers in 2018.

“International institutions and national governments failed to assuage the serious security concerns about the North Korean development of nuclear weapons – weapons that can now reach the continental United States – and the increasing risk of nuclear armament by South Korea and Japan,” commented Sook Jong Lee, president of the East Asia Institute in Seoul, South Korea.

“President Donald Trump’s policy has increased the likelihood that the Iranian nuclear agreement will fail,” Lee added.

The grade for efforts to expand global trade saw the sharpest improvement across all 10 issue areas. Respondents awarded it a C in 2017, up from a D+ in 2016. “Despite Trump’s anti-trade and anti-globalisation rhetoric, in 2017 global growth accelerated to 3.7%, the fastest pace in seven years, and global trade increased by 3.6%,” the report card notes. However, trade growth depends on robust global economic growth, and substantial risks and uncertainties from rising trade and geopolitical tensions still threaten the world economy.

SAIIA’s Chief Executive Elizabeth Sidiropoulos was on the panel at this year’s report card launch. Watch it here.

The survey was conducted between 1 December 2017 and 12 January 2018. The report card was made possible by the generous support of the Robina Foundation.