Interview with Prof Dennis J. Snower: “We need a renewal of multilateralism”


The President of the Global Solutions Initiative, Prof Dennis J. Snower, on the crisis in international cooperation, the challenges for the G20 and the need for recoupling the world.

Q: What is Global Solutions - in just one sentence?

Dennis Snower: Global Solutions is an initiative of outstanding global think tanks serving global institutions, in particular the G20, by aiming to provide tangible solutions for global problems. Now you get your one liner: The Global Solutions Initiative is policy thinkers helping policy leaders to recouple the world. 

What makes Global Solutions so important?

We are experiencing a period of crisis in international cooperation – exactly at a point in time when the world is facing vital challenges that demand more international cooperation, not less. Climate change, digital upheaval, and imbalances in the global distribution of wealth are challenges for all of humankind. We need a renewal of multilateralism – one that involves not only the top-down efforts of governments and international organizations, but also the bottom-up efforts of civil society initiatives, including those of the next generation. The Global Solutions Initiative seeks to promote such a renewal of multilateralism by leveraging the bottom-up efforts of researchers and other stakeholders. 

How do you plan to achieve your aims?

We focus primarily on the G20 because its membership is large enough to wield great influence on global affairs and small enough to permit close contacts among heads of state and other officials. To be useful and effective, we seek to work closely with the T20, the network of think tanks accompanying the G20, in each G20 Presidency, as well as other G20 stakeholders, bringing together many of the most influential think tanks of the T20, along with many other research organizations, in order to develop policy recommendations and visions that address the G20 priorities.  

In doing this, we are also creating a worldwide network that is itself already part of a new multilateralism. We support the G20 in refocusing its endeavors around the pursuit of social prosperity, which has become decoupled from economic prosperity in numerous G20 countries. This decoupling endangers the process of global cooperation, having led to the widespread rise of nationalism, protectionism and populism in many parts of the world. Through the Global Solutions Initiative, we generate policy recommendations and visions that promote social prosperity and aim to recouple economic prosperity with social prosperity. 

So Global Solutions seeks to work in partnership with each country assuming the G20 presidency?

Yes. Last year we supported the German government, through our co-chairing the T20 process. This year we are working closely with the Argentinian T20 organizers and are in contact with relevant G20 policy makers. We are also in contact with policy makers and researchers of countries that will assume the G20 Presidency in the future. As a network of think tanks, we of course remain independent. But we take our cues from the priorities set by the G20 Presidency – although, if necessary, we also bring in topics important to us. In this work it is crucial to bring together leading thinkers and decision makers from academia, politics, business and civil society, and to gain the perspectives of future generations.

How do you take the interests of the younger generation into account?

Like last year, we are launching what we call the Young Global Changers program quite early in the annual G20 process. It allows us to offer students and people just beginning their careers the chance to take part in our main conference - the Global Solutions Summit in Berlin – and to make their views heard. We are also offering them the opportunity to take part in a Summer School attached to the Summit. These up-and-coming talents will for several days be taught by leading researchers from around the world. We think it’s crucial to include young people, and we put much effort and resources into it.

You mentioned the Global Solutions Summit in Berlin at 28/29 May. Who will take part?

The world's leading think tanks will be there, as will top decision-makers from the G20 countries. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will give a speech, for example, and we’re expecting other high-ranking government officials from all over the world. We will also be inviting non-governmental organizations and other civil society representatives. Admission to the conference is by personal invitation only. But in principle we welcome anyone who has major insightful contributions to make in our global problem-solving initiative.