Meaningful Conversations on “The Emergence of Global Institutions”: A Web Talk by Augusto Lopez Claros
Do current events, national and international, have you searching the Bahá’í writings and other literature for information about a global government? If so, we have a Web Talk you will want to listen to and share with friends and seekers. It is called “The Emergence of Global Institutions.” It was given by Dr. Augusto Lopez Claros, whose professional life gives him a unique perspective on the challenges that lie ahead as humanity moves through the Lesser Peace.
It is not customary to begin with a speaker’s credentials, but in this case it will set your mind at ease and prepare you for a talk that is sure to intrigue you. For decades Dr. Lopez Claros has been a popular speaker at Bahá’í academic and business conferences. He is the Director of the Global Indicators Group at the World Bank Group, the department responsible for the Bank’s Doing Business report and other international benchmarking studies. He has been the Chief Economist and Director of the Global Competitiveness Program at the World Economic Forum in Geneva, where he was also the editor of the Global Competitiveness Report, the Forum’s flagship publication, as well as a number of regional economic reports. Before joining the Forum he worked for several years in the financial sector in London, with a special focus on emerging markets. He was the International Monetary Fund’s Resident Representative in the Russian Federation during the 1990s.
As with any summary of a talk, the devil is not in the details, but the details are the illumination of the topic. Here we can only skim the surface; the details and the illumination will emerge when you listen to the talk yourself. Dr. Lopez Claros opened with two “sobering” quotations, as he described them, from the Bahá’í writings. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote in January 1920, shortly after the end of World War I, that the “Ills from which the world now suffers will multiply. The gloom which envelops it will deepen.” In 1931, during the Great (and global) Depression (1929–41) and what became the inter-war years, Shoghi Effendi added in “The Goal of a New World Order” (30–31):
Economic distress, . . , political confusion, financial upheavals, religious restlessness and racial animosities . . . have conspired to add immeasurably to the burdens under which an impoverished, a war-weary world is groaning. . . . The world, to whichever continent we turn our gaze, to however remote a region our survey may extend, is everywhere assailed by forces it can neither explain nor control.
Dr. Lopez Claros then turned to two forces and what he feels they mean for humanity: (1) population growth and (2) changes in the global economy. Taking population growth first, with an estimated nine to ten billion worldwide by 2050 and with 95 percent of the growth in developing counties, Dr. Lopez Claros discussed the implications of such growth, the areas of stress it will bring, and increases in the wish for higher standards of living and the mal-distribution of resources. Second, he examined the driving forces of economics in lower communications and transportation costs; the ease with which companies can relocate themselves; the increasing complexities of population growth; the rigid, slow, and hierarchal nature of human institutions; the crises nation-states; global issues straddling borders, such as climate change and AIDS; the inability of politicians to solve problems, leading to worldwide populism; and the governance gap.
As he moved toward the end of his discussion of emerging global institutions, Dr. Lopez Claros listed and discussed the various mechanisms that the world now has but that are not really working: treaties and conventions, intergovernmental conferences, the G-7 that has grown to the G-20, and multilateral organizations. He observed that the European Union, which has grown from five to twenty-eight countries since 1993, is still evolving from centuries of nationalism. Hence he feels that it is unlikely that a world government will come about during the next twenty to thirty years to solve the many and complex challenges facing the world right now. The reason can be found in the question that Shoghi Effendi asked in “The Goal of a New World Order” (36) in 1931:
Is it not a fact—and this is the central idea I desire to emphasize—that the fundamental cause of this world unrest is attributable, not so much to the consequences of what must sooner or later come to be regarded as a transitory dislocation in the affairs of a continually changing world, but rather to the failure of those into whose hands the immediate destinies of peoples and nations have been committed, to adjust their systems of economic and political institutions to the imperative needs of a fast evolving age?
Dr. Lopez Claros concluded with two scenarios, one positive, the other darker. The world could undertake institutional reform to address the governance gap, as it did in 1944 when forty-four Allied countries met in Breton Woods, New Hampshire, USA, to address the international monetary and financial order after World War II and produced a new economic order that fostered thirty years of economic growth—only this new conference would need to deal issues larger than economic ones. The darker scenario is one of political inertia, which will only make the world less governable.
Dr. Lopez Claros ended his formal remarks with two quotations from the writings of Bahá’u’lláh that keep us focused on the long view of His revelation. Both can be found in Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh (313, 136): “The day is approaching when We will have rolled up the world and all that is therein, and spread out a new order in its stead.” And “The world’s equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this new World Order. Mankind’s ordered life hath been revolutionized through the agency of this unique, this wondrous System—the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed.”
After completing his talk, Dr. Lopez Claros answered a number of questions, which are included in the recording of the talk. As noted above, a brief summary of the main points that Dr. Lopez Claros discussed truly only touches the tip of the iceberg. You can listen to the talk on “The Emergence of Global Institutions” on the Wilmette Institute’s YouTube channel and also print out the pdf of the accompanying PowerPoint.
Here is some more of Dr. Lopez Claros’s background and a listing of some of his publications. Before joining the IMF, Dr. Lopez-Claros was a Professor of Economics at the University of Chile in Santiago. He was educated in England and the United States, receiving a diploma in Mathematical Statistics from Cambridge University and a PhD in Economics from Duke University. He is a much-sought-after international speaker, having lectured in the last several years at some of the world’s leading universities and think tanks. In 2007 he coedited The International Monetary System, the IMF, and the G-20: A Great Transformation in the Making? and The Humanitarian Response Index: Measuring Commitment to Best Practice, both published by Palgrave. He was the editor of The Innovation for Development Report 2009–2010: Strengthening Innovation for the Prosperity of Nations, published by Palgrave in November 2009. More recent publications include: “Removing Impediments to Sustainable Economic Development: The Case of Corruption” (2015) and “Fiscal Challenges After the Global Financial Crisis: A Survey of Key Issues” (2014).
After Dr. Lopez Claros’ talk, Guity Arfaa Kiani shared the following about this and other Web Talks and how she uses them: “Thank you for having this and all other fabulous Web Talks. Not only do I enjoy and try to learn from them; I also share them with Bahá’ís and some non-Bahá’í friends who are open to increasing their information about the Faith.”