“Never again” was the maxim adopted in Europe after World War One. The same maxim was nevertheless repeated less than thirty years later, after World War Two, more broadly around the world. This time, some real progress was made towards building the common institutions that have since supported peace and better cooperation between nation states.
More than seventy years have passed since the UN and the Bretton Woods system were founded. Globalisation has accelerated, but those institutions have not developed at the same pace. The consequence of this gap can be summarised as a radical increase in risk: risk of climate change, risk of other large-scale environmental damage, risk of politically motivated violence, and increasingly today, risk from new technologies leaving our control.
In order to tackle these risks, we need to renew our global governance systems. This was the motivation for the New Shape Prize, inviting participants from all over the world to propose new governance models to deal with global catastrophic risks.
More than 10.000 teams signed up to the challenge from 186 countries. In total, 2,700 entries were received and read by 8 panels spread around the globe, bringing together representatives from civil society, academia, business and politics. For each submission, panel members were asked to give an overall recommendation flavoured by the 10 criteria highlighted in the invitation to the New Shape Prize: core values, effectiveness, enforcement, decision making capacity, resources & financing, trust & insight, flexibility, protection against abuse of power, accountability and implementability. By the end of this first round, 60 submissions made it to the semi-final where I had the privilege to coordinate a jury that brought together the chairs of each regional panel. From those, 14 entries were selected as finalists. Those ideas fell into four broad categories: reformation of existing institutions within global decision making, new institutions within traditional global decision making, models beyond traditional and emergence of a movement for global governance reform. Eventually, at the end of the New Shape Forum held on May 27-29 2018 in Stockholm, three proposals were selected to receive a prize sum of USD 600,000 each.
The New Shape Forum was not an endpoint in itself: it marked the beginning of the second step in the New Shape Process. The judging process made it clear that at least three questions needed some extra attention. How could new models to structure global governance be operationalised, how could they achieve legitimacy, and how could they be viable? Those questions where discussed at the New Shape Forum by over 250 expert attendees from around the world. At the end of the Forum, the Global Challenges Foundation sent an invitation to form working groups that would refine ideas from the competition finalists, or other ideas inspired by them, and articulate viable pathways forwards.
We were now looking for teams who would explore governance solutions to global catastrophic risks in more detail – considering both concrete models as to the shape of future institutions and proposed pathways to implementation. Five groups were selected, bringing together a diversity of knowledge and experience. Two of those are ambitiously articulating the potential shape of a reformed institutional architecture for our global instituions: Global Governance and the Emergence of Global Institutions for the 21st Century and A World Security Community of Democratic Nations. Two of those focus on the difficult question of potential pathways to implementation: Getting from Here to There and Upholding the San Francisco Promise: The Roadmap to a Constitutionalised UN. Finally, one proposes an innovative approach that could help overcome some of the most pressing current gridlocks: Planetary Condominium: The Legal Framework for the Common Home of Humanity.
Over the coming months, those five working groups will refine their ideas through a constructive process of iterative feedback from the Global Challenges Foundation, as well as a series of focused workshops and engagement with external peers. Although some of the groups present comprehensive ideas, they are all open for support from other groups – just as part of their own ideas can fit into the needs of another group. On November 11-13, they will present their ideas at the Paris Peace Forum – a conference whose purpose, according to host Emanuel Macron, is to live up to the promise made 100 years ago, at the end of World War One: “Never again”.
This process, further exploring the viability of ideas surfaced through the New Shape Prize, is an important step. But it is just one step. Our goal is to continue refining the most promising ideas that have emerged from the New Shape Prize and the New Shape Forum, and that will emerge from the Paris Peace Forum. For that reason, we encourage you to continue working with us, and together, develop new global governance models that can better handle global catastrophic risks.