The unprecedented multifaceted crises that recently hit the world demonstrate that we have now entered an era characterized by the “acceleration in the velocity of our history and the uncertainty of its trajectory” (Schell, 1982). These intertwined crises put at risk the global stability and raise new environmental, social, economic, and security challenges. The lack of coordinated political responses led to a fragmented world, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and new voices questioning the efficiency of the international architecture built in the aftermath of the Second World War. Time has come for a renewed architecture, with more resources to face the multiple challenges ahead and a more balanced governance reflecting the new world order.

The UN Secretary General relentlessly calls for urgent reforms, stressing that the global financial architecture is “outdated, dysfunctional, and unjust” and “no longer capable of meeting the needs of the 21st century world” (Guterres, 2023). Growing gaps between the North and the South create geopolitical tensions, as well as local political and social instability. Developing countries are the most directly affected by the crises, including food and energy insecurity. They would need another USD 4 trillion to achieve their 17 Sustainable Development Goals, but the international community is not getting even close to filling this gap (OECD, 2023).

The Bretton Woods system has failed to deliver on its promise. For instance, African countries received only a tiny fraction – less than 10% – of Special Drawing Rights allocated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2021. The Official Development Assistance provided by developed countries is also reaching its limits, with champions like the United Kingdom reducing their efforts due to budgetary constraints and new political priorities. Facing higher interest rates, developing countries struggle with soaring debt burdens, limiting their capacity to invest in a sustainable future. Ways forward to regain financial leeway include in-depth reforms of the international financial institutions (IFI), as initiated by the new President of the World Bank, to significantly increase their fire power. The scale of the challenges also requires additional mobilization of private sector resources. To this end, political engagement is crucial: on the one hand in the developed countries to reinforce the capital structure of the IFI and to encourage the private sector to further invest in developing countries; on the other hand in the developing countries to conduct reforms to enhance attractiveness for foreign investments.

Yet, additional resources need also to be accompanied by a renewed governance. Most international institutions are still G7-led and driven by a western perspective. But a more balanced and inclusive governance is expected: for instance, India ran the G20 in 2023 under the banner “We are One Earth, One Family, and we share One Future” and the Chinese President reaffirmed at the Asia Annual Conference that “Humanity is a community with a shared future where all people rise and fall together” (Xi, 2022). A more legitimate and broadly-accepted global architecture should thus better include emerging and developing countries to serve the interests of humanity as a whole.

Solutions are at hand to build a more efficient architecture. The expected reforms of the United Nations Security Council, the upcoming quota review at the IMF and the next capital review at the World Bank will be decisive tests to engage this necessary transition. Should this fail, the world fragmentation will accelerate. The recently enlarged group of BRICS countries will then eventually take the lead towards an alternative, and possibly competing, global architecture.


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