IDOS Blog: “Zeitenwende”: The heat is on!

Europe is facing some heat. Literally – with another heat wave grasping the continent – and figuratively with threats to the global order through Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Profound shifts are happening – with political answers too quick for some, and painfully slow when looking at evidence on the ultimate challenge: human-made climate change and its effects. We have seen indicators for disruptive change in the global order before: terrorism (after 2001), a financial crisis (2008), a global pandemic (since 2020), and, after a long build-up, the drastic effects of a climate crisis coming into focus with numerous extreme weather events. This blog is about the future of globalisation, in times of uncertainties and while we find ourselves with multiple challenges in a volatile, if not “reeling global order”. Let’s get to the fundamental then.

Political reactions to crises created a year of multilateralism in 2015, with the Paris Agreement and the creation of the Agenda 2030. Even through years of backlash, with destructive populist agendas like Brexit, the presidencies of Donald Trump, of Jair Bolsonaro, the global community continued working around political bottlenecks, be that by pledging individual “nationally determined contributions” (too little, according to scientific evidence), be that by establishing informal club-like coordination mechanism like the G20. These formats aimed at short-circuiting blockages in established multilateral global institutions. And yet, they inadvertently also undermined multilateralism, creating excuses for those who did not believe in it in the first place.

We cannot ignore the (literal and figurative) heat, we need to face it! We do not inevitably relive the at the turn of the last century, when “progress” was disruptive, did away with old certainties and made societies dizzy, as Philipp Blom described it. It’s the 2020s, not the 1900s. Russia’s attack on Ukraine drastically added political momentum for change, destroyed old certainties (or delusions?) about a rules-based global order, as seen in Europe – and brought afore differences in perspective across the globe, where the war is often seen as a European conflict…

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Sven Grimm is Head of the Programme “Inter- and Transnational Cooperation with the Global South” at the German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS)