|'China becomes a major world importer and exporter, eventually
growing to rival the United States as the world's largest economy.'
While systems of governance and longer term planning remain poorly developed,
the regional shifts described above modify relationships between regions
and the concerted management of common resources. These resources are
increasingly incorporated into the global economic system but authorities
in charge of their management persist in putting economic potential first.
In polar regions multinationals negotiate agreements, either with nations
or, in the case of the Arctic, directly with indigenous populations. More
areas and more resources (such as freshwater) are laid open to commercial
Developments in international security look still less promising. The
United States falls back on a more unilateralist stance, involving only
a limited number of partners. This encourages other nations and regions
to continue development of their military forces. Thus opportunities for
broad-based international cooperation are not pursued. Acts of terrorism
are followed by periods of retaliation involving short-lived coalitions.
This keeps the level of the problem fairly low in the short term, but
does little to address the root causes of discontent in the long term.
Influenced by large national and multinational corporations based inside
their borders, many countries adopt a fairly narrow approach to global
negotiations, in which the paramount concern is the protection of their
respective national interests rather than shared or common resources.
Efforts to ratify a treaty to address climate issues drag on without fruition
and are set aside part way through the first decade. There is more success
in other arenas, such as dealing with selected persistent organic pollutants,
but even here the scope of the agreements is limited and difficulties
with enforcement mechanisms lead to disappointing results.
Actions continue to address social and environmental issues, but are
mainly taken at local level. Europe drafts regional conventions which
deal primarily with transboundary pollutants and the burdensome environmental
legacy of the former Soviet Bloc. Similar efforts arise in other regions,
though not always resulting in formal conventions and even then many of
the signed conventions are not effectively implemented. There are attempts
to crosslink these instruments to trade and other economic agreements.
When conflicts arise, however, it is the economic imperative that usually
takes precedence. Most notably, the agreement on Trade-Related Aspects
of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of the WTO tends to override competing
pacts reflected in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and other
multilateral environmental agreements. In Europe, the policy change that
arguably has the greatest impact on the environment, the reform of the
Common Agricultural Policy at the end of the first decade of the century,
is pursued for primarily economic reasons.
|'Most advances in social and environmental arenas are by-products
of efforts to improve economic development.'
The United Nations, other international bodies, NGOs and some businesses
persist in their efforts to make advances on the goals set out in Agenda
21, at the WSSD and in other high-profile arenas. Nevertheless, without
full commitment from its member nations and without fundamental reform,
the United Nations continues to struggle to play the role many expect
of it. It makes slow progress in international coordination on environmental
and social issues. It scores moderate successes in peacekeeping and disaster
relief efforts, which are called on more and more frequently as the years
pass. However, the organization finds itself operating in a primarily
reactive, as distinct from a proactive, mode. NGOs also find their efforts
hindered by more powerful forces, including the steady ascendancy of individualistic
over altruistic values in civil society and public life. When NGOs urge
others to work for the common good, their appeals tend to be met with
complacent apathy. NGOs that prosper tend to be those that adopt a more
market-oriented approach or form partnerships directly with businesses,
industry or both.
Overall, most advances in social and environmental arenas are by-products
of efforts to improve economic development.