How did world leaders do in managing global challenges in 2018? Experts from twenty-eight think tanks around the world grade international cooperation a middling C.
May 14, 2019
by Terrence Mullan, assistant director for International Institutions and Global Governance at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Great power tensions continue to crescendo. Economic inequality and backlash against globalization fuel nationalist, populist, and protectionist forces in many nations. Multilateralism remains gridlocked. The world muddles along, crisis looming on the horizon.
That was the message of the Report Card on International Cooperation 2018-2019, which awarded a gentleman’s C to international efforts to solve the world’s most pressing challenges in 2018. This grade was an increase over the previous year’s C– and marked the first time the grade has increased since the survey began. Also for the first year, the Report Card identified an environmental issue—the struggle against climate change—as the top priority for world leaders in the coming year.
Each year since 2015, the Council of Councils (CoC)—a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) initiative comprising twenty-eight policy institutes from some of the world’s most influential countries—asks think tank heads to answer three questions: how would you evaluate and grade overall international cooperation and cooperation on ten critical global challenges in the previous year; how should world leaders prioritize these ten issues; and which of the issues offer the best opportunity for breakthrough in the coming year? This year, we also asked CoC institutes what one reform or initiative would most improve the global order.
The results are surprising, given the ostensibly dismal state of international cooperation. Not only did the grade on overall cooperation increase for 2018, but grades for seven of the ten global challenges—ranging from managing cyber governance to preventing nuclear proliferation and even expanding global trade—increased or stayed the same as the previous year.