Event ReportsPublished on Jun 14, 2010
The founder-president of the French Institute of International Relations, Mr. Thierry de Montbrial, has suggested that the United Nations system should and could be rethought as an organization where all governance mechanism could find their coherence.
Needed: A new UN system for better global governance
The founder-president of the French Institute of International Relations, Mr. Thierry de Montbrial, has suggested that the United Nations system should and could be rethought as an organization where all governance mechanism could find their coherence.

He made the suggestion while delivering a talk on “The stake of Global Governance” at ORF. He said in the current international scenario, it has become imperative to acknowledge the importance of global governance.

Giving his perception of the prevailing international system and the stance all nations must take henceforth to ensure mutual cooperation amongst one and all, Mr. Montbrial said various critical issues have the potential to turn into problems to existing structure of global governance.

Mr. Montbrial said after the World War II, the world emerged as bipolar, with a structure that was relatively easy to comprehend because the power calculus involved of only two powers, the USA and the erstwhile Soviet Union. This was then followed by the collapse of the Berlin Wall during 1989-1990. Mr. Montbrial reminisced this period as a ‘François-René de Chateaubriand’ feeling, that in the future shall earmark 1989 as a dividing line of huge historical significance.

Mr. Montbrial said the financial crisis of 2007-09 was the most significant event of the 21st century. It was a wakeup call that burst the bubble of eternal economic growth and perfect efficiency. According to him, 2008 was the real beginning of the 21st century both economically and politically speaking. He said though the 9/11 (September 11) terrorist attack was one of a grave nature, it was more of a repercussion rather than being the original cause in itself.

Current scenario

Mr. Montbrial said the world has become more legible in its current state and had three significant characteristics,  namely, multi-polarity, heterogeneity and globalization. He pointed out that after the World War II, where the world had emerged as bi-polar, the transition brought along with it an illusion of monopolarity, that of the United States being the sole power. He said he saw this as a mere lacuna in the thinking and ideology in terms of historical understanding, just as that of Chinese becoming allies of the west.

He said the ideology of bipolarity or monopolarity no longer existed in the current world scenario, with multipolarity being the order now.

Mr. Montbrial said even the US has understood that one country can no longer be in power all by itself owing to two main rationales. Firstly, no matter how powerful a country is, it cannot structure a whole international system by itself. Secondly, in the widespread public opinion, Americans are seen as being rather impatient to accept the duties and the long term costs of ruling the world as seen in the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Montbrial said another key factor is the emergence of new powers, some of which have already reached the status of major players like China, Japan, Russia. He said he, however, was not was not yet totally convinced about India and Brazil’s stance as global players. According to him, European Union is also a weak actor with negatives like that of weak governance.


Mr. Montbrial saw ideological and cultural heterogeneity as a factor that remained highly underestimated by most westerners. He said the transition period has caused a tendency in the west to believe that the western values per se would immediately extend to rest of the world. He pointed out the raison d’être being neglect of values of other civilizations, a corollary of the same being, the difficulty to deal with the Islamic problems.

He said there was a pressing need for the west to recognize the diversity of cultures and civilizations including those of adversaries in order to avoid friction in the near future.


The auxiliaries of globalization being technological revolution like the communication and information revolutions, he pointed out that any interruption in this arena shall lead to a world crisis of much more grave nature and might lead to situations where more wars and conflicts shall be inevitable.

Mr. Montbrial said globalization meant increasing interdependence of the world and hence the risk is high. He stressed upon the fact that without appropriate regulatory mechanism, it shall lead to situations like that of 2007-2009.

Need for UN reforms

Mr. Montbrial gave two suggestions one, a political suggestion showcasing the need for the UN to incorporate a separate charter that compliments the UN charter by coaxing the permanent members to agree on principles to regulate the world for the benefit of everyone. He said the vision and the motive of the Five Permanent Members still remain unclear. He also suggested that all nations who ‘pretend’ to be the permanent members should state clearly what resources (economic and military) they are able and willing to put on the table for the benefit of the whole world. According to him, the concept of military resources is a pre-requisite to be a part of the permanent members committee in order to sustain locally and globally.

The second idea illustrated by him was of G20 where he showcased 2 problems. The first being mutual agreement on certain principles by proposing a complimentary charter to their existing framework. Secondly, he mentioned the dubiousness that exists on the efficiency of the system and relative success as it lacks the zest to translate words into action.

Chairing the talk, Mr. M. Rasgotra, President of the Centre for International Relations, ORF, said the world is headed towards a path of non-alignment with countries like India entering into strategic partnerships with the US, China, Japan, Britain and France.

Mr. Montbrial was accompanied by the Ambassador of France to India, Mr. Jérôme Bonnafont.

The report is prepared by Mridulya Narasimhan, Research Intern, ORF.  

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