World Agenda Studio

Council of Councils: Report Card on International Cooperation 2016-2017
The Genron NPO releases its evaluation
of international cooperation on top 10 global issues

Overall grade for 2016 - "Poor"

Our grade on international cooperation as a whole for 2016 is "poor," or one on a scale of five.
While acknowledging that the situation was moving in an appropriate way, we have extended grades of three or higher here to climate change, transnational terrorism, global health problems, and the international economic system.

But this only means that we have confirmed that efforts were being made toward solving
the challenges in the respective issues, and the performance in the problematic areas was not so favorable that something would be expected to be achieved. If our grade would have been made in terms of expectations of an impact which would contribute to producing an outcome or creating a new system, it would have been difficult for us to give grades of three or four to these issues.

Today's international order is so unstable that grades to these global governance-related issues cannot be increased unless we evaluate the fact itself that efforts have been made in the direction toward a solution. The year 2016 was no doubt a year in which the liberal order and the multilateral governance system, which seeks to solve global issues in a multilateral way--the aim that states have continued to pursue in the postwar era--began to be greatly shaken.
Following the United Kingdom's referendum in June to pull out of the European Union, we also saw the emergence of the new Trump administration just before our adoption of this evaluation report.

These developments made us lower our grades on the global issues at a stroke. This is the foremost reason that we have provided lower grades of one or two on many of the issues involved. In the report card evaluation Genron released last year, we pinned hopes on new developments that would improve the international trading system, and we gave a high priority to this problem area.

Japan and other countries involved have obtained approval from their respective parliaments to ratify the TPP, but President Trump's rejection of U.S. participation in the TPP agreement has undermined the efforts made so far to introduce a new, high-quality, twenty-first century style rule for free trade.

This does not simply mean that the brakes have been applied to globalization suddenly. The situation is even more serious.

A major challenge is ahead of us with the current liberal economic order feared to be collapsing. But the present instability should not be entirely attributed to the arrival of the Trump administration; we had already seen challenges emerging on a broad front in maintaining our longstanding postwar values, notably the international political order, freedom, and democracy.

A way out of the current uncertainty is yet to be seen. We have provided lower grades not only to the international trading system but also to transnational terrorism, interstate violence, and nuclear proliferation. This indicates that we cannot find a way out of this situation, as major countries involved are widely divided on how to solve these issues.

The confusion has come to the fore following the dramatic political developments in the United Kingdom and the United States, two countries that have played major roles in building the global standards for the postwar era. This demonstrates the seriousness of today's situation.


Assessment Standard

5 Successful
4 Good 
3 Decent 
2 Mediocre
1 Poor 
0 Failed 


2017 Top Global Challenges

Our top priority for 2017 is international efforts to expand global trade. Our concern is that
the current international economic system created by the United States in the postwar era will be destroyed if President Trump resorts to protectionist trade strategies for the purpose of defending the United States' domestic jobs, for example by imposing retaliatory heavy import duties on China, triggering further retaliations and legal challenges.

We give international efforts to combat transnational terrorism the second highest priority.
Trump's executive order to limit people entering the United States from seven Muslim-majority nations caused major confusion at home and abroad. The racially discriminatory and xenophobic moves in the United States are feared to give an impetus to the expansion of transnational terrorism. While the international community is enhancing the legitimacy of the fight against terrorism, the developments in the United States are likely to fuel a row with Muslim countries.


Since the end of World War II, the international community has been making strenuous efforts to solve global issues through multilateral collaboration and dialogue. Regrettably, President Trump has yet to put forward a vision of increased global cooperation. On the contrary, his words and deeds sometimes run counter to the long-established international norms of freedom and democracy.
Provided the United States should continue to take such a posture, international efforts to address global issues would stall, and 2017 would be the year in which cracks in the international order, which have been vaguely visible amid the erosion of U.S. prowess and the rise of newly emerging countries, will become visible more clearly than before.

We also choose cyber governance management, intrastate violence, interstate violence, and management of the international economic system as high-priority challenges for 2017 out of our concern over the fragility of the established international order. Given such circumstances, conditions and outcomes have the potential to utterly change direction, depending on whether
the United States will continue to exert leadership in addressing global issues and how China and Russia will deal with the new U.S. president.

We must keep a close eye on any new developments. Despite such an unstable situation, we must proceed with what has been agreed to regarding climate change and international development.
We do not discount the importance of addressing these issues. However, we dare to give higher priority to formidable challenges in the hope that we, leading think tanks of the world, should work together hand-in-hand in addressing them.


Opportunity for Breakthrough in 2017

The global challenges that can be expected to make any kind of progress in 2017 would be ones that already have international agreements in place and have built momentum, such as climate change and international development. President Trump is not enthusiastic about climate change, and whether international cooperation can make any progress on other global issues depends on the actions of the new U.S. administration.

At this point, it is hard to predict what will happen in 2017. Therefore, my ranking does not necessarily reflect the probability for making breakthroughs. Instead, the hope for progress or no major disruption can be the sole criteria to determine the ranking.


Ranking Performance Grade in 10 categories

1. Mitigating and Adapting to Climate Change in 2016 -GOOD


Performance in 2016

Te Paris Agreement came into force on November 4, 2016, or less than one year since the historic adoption of the agreement at the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) in December 2015, owing to the successful treaty ratification in critical areas such as China,
the European Union, India, and the United States. Six important meetings, including the COP22, the first session of the Conference of Parties to the Paris Agreement, and the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement, were held between November 7 and November 18 to
begin discussions on the practical implementation of the agreement. The U.S. presidential election cast a shadow over the COP22 negotiations, but all the contracting parties committed to promoting measures to cope with global warming based on their respective national targets, and eventually the negotiations progressed without major disruption.

The Paris Agreement aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping the global temperature increase this century well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and by pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. But the 1.5 degrees Celsius target is not legally binding, and, even if all the pledged national targets are met, it is not enough to achieve the two degrees Celsius target.

To enhance the effectiveness of the Paris Agreement it is necessary for each contracting party to ratchet up their pledged national contributions, reinforce countermeasures alongside the action plans, and agree on even more ambitious targets and implementation plans by 2018. The Paris Agreement's earlier-than-expected entry into force in 2016 and the start of discussions on detailed measures toward the 2018 deadline deserve praise. But it remains to be seen whether the agreement can achieve its objectives, and it is premature to conclude at this point that international efforts in mitigating and adapting to climate change have been successful.




2. Promoting Global Health -DECENT

Performance in 2016

This year marked the start of structural reforms for the World Health Organization (WHO).
WHO divisions in charge of containing infectious diseases and managing disastrous situations were integrated, and new personnel was recruited as part of the reform. A new financial scheme was also introduced to better initiate quick responses to critical cases. But the reform stopped short of properly examining the WHO's alleged shortcomings that led to the spread of Ebola in 2014,
and, based on the examination, fully restructuring its governance system. Various reports were compiled, and the countries involved agreed to enhance the WHO's quick response ability.

It remains uncertain, however, whether the WHO can appropriately manage another global health crisis, and whether it can do so alone. When the Zika virus spread in South America in February 2016, the WHO declared an emergency situation for the affected areas relatively quickly in comparison to its response to the Ebola outbreak. This may be satisfactory, but it is difficult to determine at present if the WHO actually displayed the necessary or appropriate leadership required to improve the situation.

It is said that the Pan American Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control made a greater contribution to improving the situation in the affected countries. A better system has yet to be built for the WHO to contain a future epidemic effectively. Despite the outbreak of Ebola in 2014, nothing has been done yet for individual country capacity-building, as stipulated under the International Health Regulation after the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome incident in 2005.

The process is in a grace period until pertinent measures will be enforced, and no major progress has been seen in African countries or other concerned areas. The Universal Health Coverage system, the scheme designed to allow persons around the world to receive medical service under basic medical care plans, was included in the Sustainable Development Goals last year.

The G7 countries also moved to help promote the initiative at their summit meeting in 2016, but enormous money is necessary to achieve the goal. It must be considered from now on how the initiative can be feasibly implemented.




3. Advancing Development -DECENT

Performance in 2016

The importance of international development as a critical global priority was reaffirmed by
the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015. With the new set of goals and targets,
the SDGs have begun to guide international efforts to advance international development, engaging both public and private actors. At the G7 and G20 summits, as well as the Tokyo International Conference on African Development held in 2016, political leaders discussed goals and particular SDG targets on which to lead implementation efforts.

Under the auspices of the United Nations Statistical Commission's Interagency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators, there has been some progress in developing the Sustainable Development Goal Indicators to monitor progress. One caveat has to be made about how to secure the development funding. Achieving all of the goals and targets, stipulated in the SDGs, requires enormous development funds.

Official development assistance and other public funds alone are nowhere near sufficient. Therefore, how to mobilize private funding and form a partnership with private actors are crucial questions for achieving these goals. There has not been enough progress made in this field yet. Meanwhile, there have been lingering concerns over the possible crack in the rules for infrastructure investment due to the differences in the strategies between traditional donors and nontraditional donors such as China over the past few years, especially in the wake of the establishment of the AIIB.

But there are emerging signs that China and advanced countries will cooperate with each other in this area. It will be a test to see how to make use of contributions from non-traditional donor countries, including China, within the international framework of development assistance.




4. Preventing Nuclear Proliferation -POOR

Performance in 2016

There was no progress made in nuclear disarmament due to worsening U.S.-Russia relations. Instead, 2016 revealed further gaps between nuclear-weapon states and nonnuclear weapon states under the Non-Proliferation Treaty regime. This was exemplified in the UN General Assembly's decision to launch negotiations in 2017 on a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons without the cooperation and participation of nuclear weapon states. Although Iran has steadily implemented the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2016, the threat of North Korea's nuclear program has grown, and no effective countermeasures have yet been developed.




5. Managing the Global Economic System -DECENT

Performance in 2016

One important turning point in international cooperation on global economic governance in 2016 is the change in China's attitude. The "Hangzhou Consensus," adopted by Group of Twenty (G20) leaders at the end of the Hangzhou Summit in China last September, called for facilitating global economic growth in a "more comprehensive, open, innovative and inclusive manner." In particular, China made clear its rejection of "protectionism."

The global economic system is being tested on whether it can appropriately respond to the economic adjustment necessary to get out of the stagnation triggered by the global financial crisis in 2008. The ongoing economic adjustment has so far depended excessively on monetary easing and the economic growth of emerging countries. Although there has been some progress in adjusting to China's excess production capacity, the currencies of emerging countries sharply devalued against the U.S. dollar due to widespread speculation of the U.S. interest rate increases, which triggered massive outflows of capital from these countries.

The Chinese yuan dropped especially steeply, resulting in a substantial decline in China's foreign reserves. In implementing global economic governance, there is a widening gap in the monetary policies between the U.S. Federal Reserve and the central banks of other major countries, which increases the risk of affecting the economies of emerging countries. The global economy is, in fact, still in an unstable phase. In such circumstances, the arrival of a new U.S. president, who prioritizes bilateral deals to maximize U.S. national interests over multilateral economic policy coordination and global economic governance, may pose a significant risk to the management of the global economic system.

The China-initiated Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) approved loans to finance ten projects in 2016, six of which are financed jointly with other international institutions. However, AIIB's operations have not yet reached a point of influencing the rules-based international economic order. On the reinforcement of financial regulations, there has been steady progress under the leadership of the Financial Stability Board.

The regulation of shadow banking and adaptations to new forms of risks, such as the disclosure of climate-related risk in financial filings, have started. Although the implementation of the Basel III accord on bank capital adequacy was postponed again in January 2017, there has been some progress on financial regulation at the initiatives of the G20. That said, the new U.S. administration's policy direction and the anti-liberal movement in Europe may trigger discord in global policy coordination and the rules-based international economy. It is more likely that unforeseeable risks would appear under such circumstances.




6. Combating Transnational Terrorism -DECENT

Performance in 2016

Efforts to contain territory controlled by the self-proclaimed Islamic State have made progress in 2016, but international terrorist activities became more widespread than before, as terrorist incidents occurred in European cities. The international community has shown its resilience and responsibility in various counterterrorism campaigns.

As adopted in UN Security Council Resolution 2309, multilateral cooperation was enhanced globally and regionally through increased information-sharing and higher security standards in civil aviation networks. Progress was also made in efforts to halt inappropriate flows of funds. Preemptive measures were made to provide resources to keep young people from taking to violent extremism, but these measures have not yet been fully successful.

The Group of Seven (G7) adopted an action plan to contain transnational terrorist activities at their leaders' meeting hosted by Japan in the Ise-Shima area in 2016. The plan called for improving safety check systems at airport entrances and other locations, and more actively using the Interpol database. The Japanese government adopted a budget to this end, envisioning financial aid using official development assistance to help support pertinent initiatives in fields with cost-effective initiatives. A total of seventy-two countries, including Japan, recently released a joint statement on "Principles for UN Global Leadership on Preventing Violent Extremism," urging new UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to prepare measures by May to strengthen a UN scheme to eliminate transnational terrorist activities.

Efforts to contain transnational terrorism will not be successful unless terrorist incidents can be avoided preemptively. But, at a time when cross-border terrorist activities are increasing, the international community is working together to build resilience against terrorism, especially with the cost-effective measures outlined in the G7 action plan and the UN joint statement. This has led to our improved evaluation of antiterrorist measures.




7. Preventing & Responding to Violent Conflict Between States -MEDIOCRE

Performance in 2016

Two major cases of interstate violent conflicts today can still be seen in the South China Sea and Ukraine. It has been two years since the Minsk II Agreement, however the battle between pro-Russian forces and the Ukrainian army is sporadically continuing, and the issue of giving autonomy to Eastern Ukrainian oblasts remains unaddressed.

Against such a background, a foreign ministerial peace talk was convened in November 2016, but
it failed to agree on a consensus document, highlighting the gap between the positions of
Ukraine and Russia. Western countries, especially Germany and France, continue their efforts to address the Ukrainian crisis by sanctioning Russia and mediating the peace talks, but they have not made any breakthroughs.

Much of the rest of the world has backed away from the issue, and, as a result, the lack of action almost gives tacit approval to status quo. The South China Sea is another interstate conflict that is sowing uncertainty. The ruling by a tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in July 2016 rejected the Chinese claim of a territorial sea within the nine-dash line.

China reacted with anger and has not changed its posture of militarizing artificial islands in
the South China Sea. Japan and the United States continue to urge China to accept the ruling of the tribunal. They have also pushed for the inclusion of a clause to acknowledge the tribunal ruling in a joint communique at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers' meeting.

However, ASEAN member states were divided, and the clause was not included in
the final document. Despite having won the arbitration case, the Philippines is strengthening ties with China, particularly after President Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in. Each country is acting
for their benefit, and no progress has been made to resolve the issue adhering to international
laws and norms.

While the Obama administration did focus on Syrian civil war, it did not take an active role in the Ukrainian crisis in 2016. Overall, international cooperation on interstate violent conflict in 2016 must be considered poor.




8. Managing Cyber Governance -POOR

Performance in 2016

The past year may be long remembered as the end of an era when the internet was thought to help promote economic development and improve people's living through the free flow of information. The United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security was launched in 2016. But no progress has been made to date because it is difficult to expect any substantial agreement on cyber governance, specifically on how to adapt existing international laws to cyberspace or how to form new rules.

The crux of the issue is the confrontation of the two opposing ideals of free flow of information and cyberspace regulation by states. One symbolic development regarding cyber governance was the termination of the contract between the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the U.S. Department of Commerce in 2016. ICANN has become an independent global organization. However, this incident is not directly associated with the long-pending discussions on how the internet should be governed.

The reality is that barriers have been installed in cyberspace due to rivalries between states, while the rate of cyberattacks on critical facilities or industries are rising. The internet is losing its attractiveness as a tool for the realization of a free platform of information flow. Against this background, the 2016 U.S. presidential election was marked by cyberattacks on the election campaigns and the flood of fake news.

The credibility of information from the internet media has been tarnished. At issue now is how to ensure information security in the post-truth era. While the core values and principles of the internet have collapsed, there is no progress being made in agreeing on the norms and rules for cyber governance. The credibility of information on the internet has been lost, adding another layer of confusion and uncertainty to the future of internet governance.




9. Expanding Global Trade -POOR

Performance in 2016

The World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Round negotiations have been deadlocked for some time, and the future of international trade became increasingly uncertain. The WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi in December 2015 was not successful in that it could not reach a consensus on the future of the Doha Round.

The ministerial declaration ended up having two opposing positions--one for the developed countries and one for the newly industrialized countries. There was also an attempt to reach an agreement on the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), which aims to liberalize services trade in certain categories, preceding the stalled Doha Round negotiations. But the TiSA talks are hitting a snag as the participating countries could not reach an accord in 2016. As the WTO Doha Round negotiations remain stalled, the progress of the mega free trade agreements (FTAs) has also been halted.

The mega FTAs were originally expected to become a catalyst to revive the Doha Round negotiations and lead the way to rule-making for higher levels of trade liberalization that adapt to the reality of economic trade in the twenty-first century. However, the newly inaugurated U.S. President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order to pull out of the twelve-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and turned his sights on the North American Free Trade Agreement. The prospects for an early conclusion of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the European Union and the United States are also dim.

In order to revive the WTO Doha Round negotiations, attempts were made in vain to conclude in 2016 many mega FTAs, including the TPP, the Japan-Europe Economic Partnership Agreement, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership between the ten ASEAN governments and their six FTA partners. Today, protectionism is on the rise, exemplified by the words and deeds of the new U.S. president. There is a likelihood that 2017 will be a turning point for the worse for multilateral trade regime and free trade.




10.Preventing & Responding to Internal Violent Conflict -POOR

Performance in 2016

The Syrian government forces, with support from Iran and Russia, retook control of Aleppo in December from the Turkish supported rebels. The Iranian, Russian, and Turkish governments announced that the Assad regime and the Syrian rebels reached a nationwide cease-fire agreement in December. Although significant, it is still uncertain whether the third cease-fire in 2016 will be a starting point for the development of a stable peace process. Still, many of the violent extremist groups are outside of the cease-fire agreement or even of any political dialogue.

Therefore, ongoing battles remain, particularly in Damascus and Palmyra. Even if the Syrian peace process was a success, Assad might remain in power despite his inhumane conduct that produced the internal conflict in the first place. In fact, this can be the only possible exit from the Syrian conflict that keeps some form of governance structure intact. This case may be indicative of the limits of international intervention.

Conflicts in the Middle East are becoming proxy wars between regional powers, and any effective governance mechanisms have collapsed. The prolonged internal violence has produced a significant outflow of refugees in the region, and it has become increasingly challenging to absorb the outflow of refugees into Europe.

Without effective alternatives to the U.S. withdrawal and reluctance to intervene, it would become increasingly more difficult to construct fair and just international responses to internal conflicts. There are no effective measures developed yet to address internal violence.


About the Council of Councils Report Card on International Cooperation 2015-2016

The Council of Councils (CoC) Report Card on International Cooperation evaluates multilateral efforts to address ten of the world's most pressing global challenges, from countering transnational terrorism to advancing global health. No country can confront these issues better on its own. Combating the threats, managing the risks, and exploiting the opportunities presented by globalization require international cooperation.
To help policymakers around the world prioritize among these challenges, the CoC Report Card on International Cooperation surveyed the Council of Councils, a network of twenty-six foreign policy institutes around the world.

Respondents were asked to assess the state of international cooperation on five dimensions:

  • How did the world do overall on international cooperation in 2016?
  • How did the world do, in terms of performance, over the past year in addressing each challenge?
  • How should these challenges be ranked, in terms of their relative importance, for 2017?
  • Which of these problems offers the greatest opportunity for breakthrough in 2017?
  • What one reform would do the most to improve international cooperation on each issue in 2017?


Read more about the Council of Councils Report Card
Council of Councils: Report Card on International Cooperation 2016-2017 Overall Grade

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