Global collaboration must be revived

Global collaboration must be revived

Three-million-euro EU subsidy for Maastricht political scientists

04-10-2023 · Science

The Paris climate agreements don’t seem to be getting off the ground, emerging economies are increasingly choosing their own course, and an international organisation like OSCE has largely come to a standstill. How can the EU revive global collaboration? Fourteen universities and a handful of think tanks, led by Maastricht political scientists, are going to look for answers. The EU set aside three million euro for this purpose last summer.

In December 2015, the Paris Agreement was presented, in which eventually 195 countries agreed to stop global warming. In the same year, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals were put on paper, an equally impressive piece of global collaboration.


But the mood changed in 2016 and global governance was miles away. In that year, Donald Trump came to power with his motto ‘America first’, Great Britain left the EU, and relations between the EU and China cooled, the latter country being classified as a threat for the first time. Together with other emerging economies (BRICS), including Russia and Brazil, China mapped out its own course. The group recently decided to admit six new countries, among them Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Populist leaders

Then there is the growing number of populist leaders, who are not always eager to deal with global problems together with other parties. The same applied to Trump, but also to Brazilian president Bolsonaro, who took no heed of the worldwide criticism and deforested large parts of the rain forest. Hungarian prime-minister Orban also often throws a spanner in the works of the international motor, among others by refusing to put human rights in China up for discussion.

Covid virus

How can the EU help to reinvigorate global collaboration? How can you make the international order more efficient, more robust and more democratic? These are the leading questions for the international research project ENSURED, for which the EU has recently reserved three million Euro. Led by Maastricht University, the project group includes fourteen universities, but also various think tanks and social organisations. Kick-off is on 1 November.

The project consists of case studies from fifteen international organisations, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), says co-ordinator Hylke Dijkstra, professor of International Security and Cooperation at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Those organisations suffer greatly due to the lack of global collaboration.

Take the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), says Dijkstra. “The OSCE – with 57 participating states, from North America to Asia - sends observers to elections, but since the war in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus no longer allow this. The organisation has even largely come to a standstill. There is no budget for 2023, and the chairmanship for 2024 has not been determined.”

The WHO is also going through hard times. “In 2020, the US and China clashed over the origin of the Covid virus and Trump refused to finance the WHO any longer. Nevertheless, the organisation continued to function well. That is remarkable, and it is why we will hold interviews with civil servants from various countries. Is it because of its structure, with regional offices operating independently from head office? What can other organisations learn from the WHO?”

Playing field

In addition, a total of thirty researchers will carry out quantitative analyses, in which they will take a closer look at all three hundred international organisations. “We also want to see what is one’s best bet. The EU wants to do everything at the same time, organisations must become more robust, more efficient, more democratic. But maybe you have to consider the pros and cons, accept the fact that an organisation is not up to scratch democratically, but that it is robust. We hope to provide recommendations in this field.” 

The research project is going to last three years. Will the findings then still be up-to-date, in a world that is changing at a tremendous pace? “We are not just looking forward, but we will also analyse the present state of affairs on the international playing field. So, even if the world looks different in three years’ time, the findings will still be interesting. Maybe not in all cases for policymakers but it will be for scientists.”  

Photo: Flickr/ digitalexander

Categories: News, Science
Tags: EU subsidy, Maastricht political scientists,who,eu,un

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