A global coordination mechanism to address a global emergency: a network of local, national, regional, and global actors

During the past few years a lot of work and research was undertaken to establish a new type of a global crisis network with a coordination unit in New York and regional, national and local centers to be set up around the world. They would all be interconnected and jointly contributing to solving any future global crisis, a major topic of the book. So far funding has not been successful to move to the implementation phase except for the setting up of the Helsinki Sustainability Center (described separately in this blog) in September 2012. This entry below gives justifications for the establishment of this network.

The book tells in Chapter 8 that the Research Unit for Strategic Intelligence and Exploration of Futures at the Aalto University in Helsinki organized a seminar on the idea to establish the global crisis network in September 2010 so that the world would be really prepared for any major crisis of the future as described elsewhere in the book. The Social Science Research Institute of the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) sponsored another seminar in Honolulu, in November 2010 and the consultations were also conducted in fall 2010 with the Globalization Research Center of UHM, the East-West Center in Honolulu, the Research and Analysis Corporation of Finland, and the Stockholm Resilience Center in Sweden.

The seminars and consultations concluded that the world needs a new kind of institution for any massive, future crisis. It could be best described as a network of regional, national, and local centers as well as a global coordination unit to be established close to the UN in New York. The whole concept could be called a Global Crisis Network (GlobCriNet). Its main task would be the coordination of local, national, and regional initiatives with global policies, and catalyzing action. GlobCriNet should be based on the above centers at different levels and their own networks—whether physical or virtual (Internet or mobile-phone based)— and its New York coordination unit should also act as a crisis center, an operations room and a think tank

The book Crisis of Global Sustainability further tells that there already exists an example of a well-functioning regional-global interplay of centers in the area of political analysis and advocacy. The International Crisis Group (ICG) provides early warning on and monitoring of political crises, and advocates for action through a wide network in regions and conflict countries. The concept should be expanded and modified to deal effectively with interrelated global threats of the future.

Although local, national, and regional networks are key to providing a lasting impact on the ground, the proposed Global Crisis Network should ideally also function globally through its focal point in New York. The New York coordination unit, working in close cooperation with affiliated networks, would have three specialized functions according to the book:

1. First, the global coordination unit should work as a think tank. Traditional think tanks undertake research, organizing seminars, and give advice to decision-makers. The book refers to International Peace Institute (IPI) which, although operating independently of the UN, has acquired a semi-UN status over the decades, which enhances its legitimacy and impact—but as with ICG it only works in the political and security arenas. The IPI would be a good model for a Global Crisis Network and New York unit in terms of access and building the legitimacy of a network with a close connection to the Secretary-General, UN organs, and the UN system, but importantly, while maintaining its independence.

Second, the Global Crisis Network and its New York coordination unit should jointly act as a crisis center and early warning mechanism. Many Governments have crisis centers and the UN Peacekeeping Department a situation room, with similar crisis management functions, and there are several other such entities around the world that have been established to constantly monitor potential natural catastrophes.

Third, the Global Crisis Network and its New York unit should function as an operations room for practical, on-the-ground projects. Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room which the book described in Chapter 7, is a good model for this function but the concept should be expanded to cover all global threats, concerns, and their interlinkages beyond climate change. It should be a center bringing together such partners as the private sector, local and central government, foundations, the UN system and NGOs, with the help of the latest technology and appropriate funding.

The concept of the Global Crisis Network was also elaborated in the book from the perspective of climate change and the needs of Third World countries as follows:

1. Developing countries in particular face three major challenges and GlobCriNet could be instrumental in helping to find solutions to each. First, climate-change-related issues such as natural disasters, and food and water security are mostly felt locally but their solutions often require international funding and technology. However, such international assistance is often poor at identifying the most important local projects, as there are inadequate links between local, national, regional, and global efforts to combat climate change. A holistic framework is missing. The Global Crisis Network would address this concern by providing a framework for coordination and new possibilities for initiating badly needed projects in the field.

2. Second, seen from the global – or macro-perspective, the most critical problems are not necessarily addressed at the local level, as there is little awareness locally of their long-term impact on the globe and consequently inadequate political will, expertise, and funding for mitigation projects. GlobCriNet would work to acquire appropriate funding, technology, and expertise for such local projects. Working closely with the UN system it could be argued that the network will gain both the legitimacy and global expertise to make suggestions for critical national or local projects from a global, holistic perspective. Such recommendations would arguably have significant political clout and credibility.

3. Third, seen from a Third World perspective, at the moment there are inadequate links between, on the one hand, private and public sector financing of climate change projects, and those funded by international technical financial assistance. Again, a global framework is missing. Working closely with governments, the private sector, scientific organizations, and NGOs, a network could advise on the joint public and private financing of cooperative projects, or at least propose that a meaningful distribution of labor is established, in order to avoid duplication and waste. GlobCriNet could also propose funding important projects that existing financing ignores.”

The book notes that massive amounts of research, analysis, and data are already available around the world but a major problem is how to get the most relevant information to the right decision-makers in an understandable form. There needs to be a broker or facilitator between the knowledge and the user. During a rapidly evolving crisis this is especially important, stressing the importance of the coordination and brokering functions of the New York unit as well as the whole network. The function of seeking and suggesting cooperation with other institutions would make the network unique among institutions dealing with interconnected global, regional, national, and local threats.

Setting up the networks in the regions and countries

The book further describes how the Global Crisis Network could be built in practice in a given region with following phases:

“In the first phase, a comprehensive review and analysis of the all topical issues (such as climate change) should be conducted in pilot countries in a given region, including problems and vulnerabilities experienced or expected. The result of the review would be a mapping of all priority issues for each country to provide a holistic framework for deciding which institutions and universities should participate in the network once established (at least in the initial phase), as well priorities for monitoring and action;

In the second phase, a review of research and analysis of all relevant organizations, institutions and initiatives should be undertaken in pilot countries. The willingness of organizations to participate in regional or global networks—exchanging early warning, research and data as well as to undertake cooperative local projects—should ideally be clarified at this stage; and

In the third phase, a network of institutions in pilot countries should be established. The possibility of establishing a specialized regional center should also be explored. Operational conduct of a network (e.g. priorities of action) should also be set up and it might vary from a region to another”.
The Chapter 8 in the book concludes that the New York coordination unit could be established at any time but at the latest when the first regional network is operational. Climate change might be a good start for topical coverage by the first network, but in principle all relevant issues should be covered in due course. A feasibility study could and should determine the cooperative arrangements of the Global Crisis Network with other organizations, such as those listed in the beginning of this chapter, as well as whether linkages should be established to social forces and movements now spreading around the globe.

Those interested in the concept described above should send proposals to this blog how the network and/or its components could and should be established in practice, or even better yet, they could set up their own networks or centers which would eventually be connected to the Global Crisis Network once funding is secured for the feasibility study mentioned above and for the funding of the coordination unit in New York, Funding is an essential part of the establishment process and suggestions for concrete initiatives in this respect are welcome. No special fundraising is going on however at the moment. Some catalyst funding might be needed but essentially the setting of the Global Crisis Network is self-organizing, democratic, voluntary and transparent process without a central authority or command. Any coordination is based on suggestions and offers for assistance and ideas, not on command.


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