US elections: a wake-up call to re-assert the independence of global public organisations

By | November 13, 2016

There is a strong argument to be made that Trump’s challenge to the US political establishment is also a challenge to the wide range of global public organisations which are part of the way the whole system works.

The World Bank, IMF and WTO may be the usual suspects for many people. Next in line, the UN and its agencies for their perceived ineffectiveness to perform their mandate as a promotor and guarantor of peace and security and development, and the whiff of corruption that surrounds it. International NGOs have become a target of accountability challenges from the public, private and governmental donors, often amplified by the media.

But the reality is far more complex. The web of who drives global policymaking on key issues of global public goods, those who ride on its coat-tails, and those who start out as challengers and find it hard to keep independent is not evenly woven.

Virtually all global public organisations, intergovernmental and non-governmental, have a case to answer about whether and how they are truly focused on their mission which is the definition, negotiation, protection and provision of public goods, or whether they and their leaders have succumbed to the lure of being part of a global economic and political elite.

The recent election result in the US should serve as a call for re-invention for many of these organisations, re-discovering their call to service of those who have the least voice and bargaining power in this world.

The biggest risks they face are either oblivion or subordination to national interests. Global public organisations need to challenge themselves about the way they operate, are structured and financed to demonstrate this.  Transparency and formal accountability to those who they serve will be key.

But the credibility of global public organisations in the eyes of citizens, especially those who have most to gain from their work, will also depend on their ability to stay true to mission and ethics. This will mean a capacity to resist: for all of them the ability to resist the pressures to align with powers that will seek to make them an instrument of national interest, for IGOs (Intergovernmental Organisations) to resist pressures to close the space and practice of working transparently and open to access from others, for INGOs (International Non-Governmental) to resist the appeal of co-optation by always trying to be part of the top-table and inner-circles, and to resist the interest of continuously increasing their access to funding.

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