Simon Maxwell

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Brexit: lessons for global development governance


On 25 November, I gave a keynote address at the 2016 Annual Conference of the Norwegian Association of Development Research, Oslo, 24-25 November 2016: ‘Beyond North and South: Constructing Global Governance for the 21st Century’. My paper is here, and the Powerpoint here (or as a pdf here). An audio recording of the lecture, along with the powerpoint, can be viewed here. The official video of the lecture is available here

I introduced the 'global governance collective action console', with the idea that the drivers of collective action could be influenced in positive directions. The Conclusion of the paper reads as follows:


I have argued that global collective action is rising in priority on the international development agenda; that global governance is in a poor state; and that the theory of collective action can help remedy the problem. At the heart of the analysis is the idea that successful collective action requires a combination of both culture and calculus. Policy-makers, activists and researchers are faced with a console with eight sliders under these two headings that can, within reason, be, well, slid, in one direction or another. Brexit provides one case. Others include UN reform, climate change, global economic governance, via the G20, and the migration crisis.

It is impossible to end without returning to the burning topic of Brexit. My own view is that the In campaign in the UK was stymied by focusing on Project Fear rather than on common interests and values; and that it would have benefited from stronger messages on post-referendum reform of the EU.

More generally, my hope in the summer was that the UK might have done the EU a favour, by shocking the system and forcing Europe to confront its own failures. I argued that calls for ‘more Europe’ just did not resonate. Instead, some serious self-reflection was required, ‘a debate about the urgent need for reform, of structures, policies, budgets and messages’. It did seem that Jean-Claude Juncker State of the Union speech and the Bratislava and Euro-Med summits might have begun that process. Progress is slow, however, and anti-Brussels rhetoric continues to capture headlines. But here is a dream: that the EUEuropean Union reforms far and fast enough that the UK will change its mind and want to remain. Which sliders can be moved on the console of collective action to help that happen?


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