Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A Book Discussion with Author Didier Jacobs

Sponsored by the World Bank Infoshop, this informative and impassioned panel discussion was centered around Didier Jacobs’ first book, Global Democracy: The Struggle for Political and Civil Rights in the 21st Century (published by Vanderbilt University Press).It included panelists John Garrison of the World Bank Civil Society, Ann Florini, a Senior Fellow of Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institute, and Amar Bhattacharya, G-24 Secretariat. The author, who is special advisor to the president at Oxfam, was also in attendance.
The discussion was prompted by Jacobs’ commentary on his book, when he described the thesis as, “One person, one vote for global public policy decisions.” The author described his book as a long-term vision for foreign policy to promote peace and prosperity, which he believes can be achieved incrementally over the next several decades. There are three long term global trends relevant to the book which Jacobs outlined for the audience:
• globalization, describing the increasing economically, culturally, and politically porous borders of today’s world.
• the emergence of the “global middle class,” (countries such as Brazil, China, and Russia) as stronger players in world politics, leading to a shift in the distribution of global power.
• the rise of Cosmopolitanism, which Jacobs described as the “feeling of being a member of a global society.”
In accordance with these trends, Didier outlined three relevant hypotheses:
• globalization will increase the demand for global governance.
• there will be increased difficulties in reaching decisions as the number of players rises.
• the norm in international governance remains a system of “power to the powerful.”
Panelists freely critiqued the book, as Florini gave her strong opinion that while she believed the book was “readable” and raised questions, she was “not convinced” Jacobs presented a framework upon which we could act effectively to ease global problems. She argued that the sheer urgency of such issues, such as climate change and the hunger crisis, would not be efficiently curbed by Jacobs’ proposal of direct elections to a global parliament. She also said that his ideas of a “community of democracies” in which countries must abide by certain disciplines to remain members would be ineffective. Bhattacharya agreed with Florini. An exclusively democratic community, he said, would exclude the billions of citizens living in non-democratic nations. He also criticized Jacobs’ perceived habit of assuming that because we desperately need solutions to world problems, they will naturally arise. The panel concluded that they believed the book had its failings, but it succeeded in compelling readers and audience members to think about methods in approaching the issues we face day as citizens of the world.

Sponsor: The World Bank
Date: June 24, 2008
Representative Attending: Emma Gring

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