Global Governance: a very French debate

by | Mar 30, 2010

This week, all the big ideas for the future of world order are coming from Frenchmen.  Here’s WTO Chief Pascal Lamy speaking in Brussels on how the EU should present itself in future G20 meetings (as recorded by Charlemagne):

“If one European takes the floor on one topic, and then another European takes the floor on the same topic, nobody listens. Nobody listens because either it’s the same thing and it gets boring, or it’s not the same thing and it will not influence the result at the end of the day….So the right solution, if I may, is at least to make sure that they speak with one mouth. Not one voice—one mouth—on each topic on the agenda. That would be a great improvement.”

If plodding Anglo-Saxons find this voice/mouth thing a bit too Gallic for comfort (they’ll be distinguishing the signifier and signified in EU policy next!) it’s really rather elegant: if lots of European leaders insist on going to G20 confabs they should “divvy up the agenda ahead of time, and agree that one leader would speak (and only one) on each topic in the name of the EU”.  In New York, meanwhile, President Sarkozy spoke on global governance at Columbia today, forsaking elegance for ambition:

“In the 21st century,” he said, “we cannot afford that only a handful of countries lead the way. India, Africa and Latin America represent 2.5 billion people, but have no permanent seats in the Security Council. On this trip, I am initiating a reform to have permanent members from every region of the world. We need this in order to tackle the global environmental and financial challenges we are facing.”

I’d like to tell you more about Sarkozy’s speech, but (i) he abandoned his prepared text, so we’re still waiting for a full transcript; (ii) almost every account of the event I’ve read so far has focused on how Carla looked.  Which was, if you must ask, good.

[Picture credit: Columbia’s Hoot.]

Update [David]: The Telegraph sees a conspiracy in something called asymmetrical translation:

The French version of the binding summit text, agreed on Thursday, used the original words “le gouvernement économique”.

To spare Mr Brown’s feelings, the English text used the more innocuous and less controversial term “economic governance”.

“There is no fundamental difference of view, but rather a sensitivity to certain words which has led to an asymmetrical translation,” remarked the EU president.


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    <strong><a href="">Richard Gowan</a></strong> coordinates the International Security Institutions program at the <a href="">Center on International Cooperation</a>, New York University. He is also the UN Policy Fellow at the <a href="">European Council on Foreign Relations</a> and an associate of the <a href="">Foreign Policy Center</a> (London).

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