World Politics

Protectionism will inadvertently lead to a new and more democratic political model, former UN executive says

Share
Key Points
  • Speaking to CNBC at the One Young World conference in London last week, Michael Moller, former director-general of the UN's Office at Geneva, said politics was currently undergoing a "transition across the globe."
  • As many countries implement more inward-looking policies, he said that "different actors" are stepping in to counteract any possible negative impacts that protectionism brings.
Michael Moller, former director-general of the UN's Office at Geneva, speaking at the One Young World 2019 conference in London
One Young World

Political systems will be overhauled to curb the "mismanagement of our planet," a former UN executive has told CNBC.

Speaking to CNBC at the One Young World conference in London last week, Michael Moller, former director-general of the UN's Office at Geneva, said politics are currently undergoing a "transition across the globe."

"The more the state doesn't deliver, the more the other actors are going to take responsibility. This means we'll end up, in some years, with a very different governance model that will be more effective, and actually more democratic in many ways," he said.

"It will certainly take people's different needs into account much better," he said.

As many countries, including the U.S., implement more inward-looking policies, he said that these "different actors" are stepping in to counteract any possible negative impacts that protectionism brings.

His example was when President Donald Trump decided to quit the Paris agreement on climate change. Moller said that his initial announcement in 2017 was quickly followed by the "whole country" showing their disapproval.

The U.S. president said he wanted to negotiate a new "fair" deal when he withdrew from the UN's agreement, claiming that staying in would cost the U.S. 2.7 million jobs by 2025.

Mayors, governors, big businesses, and individuals in the U.S. have taken action to continue working toward lower emissions targets, Moller explained, noting billionaire Michael Bloomberg's multi-billion-dollar donations to make up for the funding gap left by the United States' withdrawal.

"Of course (rising protectionism) worries me, but it doesn't worry me too much because we are evolving," Moller told CNBC.

He also pointed to the climate protests taking place around the world as an example of the public taking action on an "urgent" issue.

"There's a citizen activism that has blossomed in ways that just two years ago you couldn't have imagined," he said. According to Moller, this activism was part of the political transition occurring around the world. He suggested that global "existential issues" could eventually be devolved to local authorities as current political systems are ill-equipped to implement lasting change.

"There's a disconnect between the short-term political systems we have and the long-term solutions we need," he said. The system "works a little bit better at city level, where the connection between the citizen and the leaders, particularly mayors, is a much closer one, where they understand the needs of the citizen and deliver to those needs," he added.

Yael Selfin, chief economist at KPMG U.K., told CNBC she agrees there are signs of a transition in the way major issues are being governed.

"We are already seeing a little bit of (a shift in governance) and I think the internet is making it easier for the public to get organized," Selfin added. "It's really a question of how far and how quickly politicians respond to the things people are concerned about, and whether it can be resolved in the political framework."