am 28. Juli 1999
"Global Public Goods" offers a new rationale and framework for international development. The book's main argument is that in practice this has moved on from financially assisting the poor to broader issues, including among many others the ozone hole, global climate change and peacemaking. Aid, the book suggests, has been primarily guided by national development priorities; but in response to today's global and regional challenges, the aid agenda needs to be amplified. These topics are in many cases not poverty-related, but instead concern adequate provision of "global public goods." Published for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and edited by three senior members of its staff, the book seeks to better understand the roots of contemporary crises and to look at today's policy challenges through the lens of such goods, with a view to managing globalization. As any businessperson knows, the market may be the most efficient way of producing private goods and services, yet it relies on commodities that it cannot itself make. These include such things as property rights, public safety, etc. goods recognized as having benefits that cannot easily be confined to a particular "buyer." Yet once they are provided, many can enjoy them for free. A sustainable environment is an example that, like other topics covered in this volume, has "public good" qualities. This difference between public and the private benefits is called an externality, and one of the main points of this book is that in today's world, large externalities are increasingly borne by people in other countries. Indeed, issues that have traditionally been merely national are now global; and this problem is compounded by the main policymaking unit remaining the nation state. The book investigates policy options and strategies that would ensure a more reliable supply of such global public goods as market efficiency, environmental sustainability and peace. These questions are examined in relation to selected areas of global policy concern in 15 case studies. Framing the case studies are two additional sections, one on concepts, the other on policy implications. An intriguing essay in the latter, by Harvard's Lisa Cook and Jeffrey Sachs, discusses the need for greater focus on regional public goods, both for the specialized requirements of individual regions and to co-ordinate regional contributions to global public goods. Noting the minimal funding currently targeted at this level, Cook and Sachs consider the success of the Marshal Plan in post-World War II development cooperation in Europe, and suggest that regional action in the future could follow a similar model. I found this essay particularly topical and interesting given the present stage of the Middle East peace process. One important point also made in the book is that the division of the world into "developed" and "developing" countries is no longer valid in its traditional form. It is becoming evident that high income is no guarantee of equitable or sustainable development, and that the adequate provision of global goods is likely to be critical to meeting this challenge in all countries. The book goes on to say that contemporary global challenges cannot be adequately understood by relying on any one strand of economic literature; and a main policy message emanating from this work is the need to transform international cooperation from "external affairs" into policy-making applicable to all areas. Several factors are behind this new type of global public goods. Among them is the increasing openness of countries. Another is the growing number of global risks that require more respect for sustainability. A third is the strength of transnational actors, such as the private sector and civil society, which have stepped up the pressure on governments to adhere to common policy norms from efficient markets to technical standards. Under these conditions, such global actions as eradicating disease or supervising banks are important to national policy objectives. Most of the developments set out in "Global Public Goods" have been in the making for decades, but only recently have the accumulating effects of these changes attracted serious attention from policy analysts, political leaders and the private sector. It is not too surprising, then, to find that policymaking has not yet been adjusted. The case studies point to several key weaknesses in the current arrangements for providing global public goods. One is the jurisdictional gap the discrepancy between a globalized world and national, separate units of policymaking. This is an important book, but not one for the general reader. It will be the task of UNDP, working with local and regional advocacy groups and the media, to dumb down the concepts of "global" and "regional" public goods to the level of the man and woman in the street or the boardroom, as well as that of the average policymaker. The problem, of course, is that in the region many of the latter are entirely unaware of the crucial implications of externalities and public goods. Had our leaders and decision-makers been better informed in this respect, the present valuable work by UNDP could no doubt be shunted off to research institutes and classrooms. However, given the intellectual poverty of much of our regional leadership, the ideas presented in "Global Public Goods" must be presented properly and allowed to play an increasingly important role in our lives. Looking at peace as a public good and the region as a focus for development will help us to secure stability and prosperity. What the rigorous presentations in this useful book also show is that the proper application of such concepts will not only benefit our part of the world, but the rest of the globe as well.