SINGAPORE (Jan 21): Will global cooperation finally emerge from the doldrums in 2019? The international community’s recent agreement on a “rulebook” for implementing the Paris climate agreement seems to offer some hope. But opinion polls suggest that many remain concerned that a global economic recession or major geopolitical crisis will test the international system’s resilience. And it is not at all clear that the system will pass.

As it stands, perhaps the biggest barriers to international cooperation are political. In recent years, there has been an intensifying backlash against international cooperation, rooted partly in fears — stoked by populist political leaders in many countries — that transnational “elites” are trying to impose “globalism”: an “ideology that prioritises the neoliberal global order over national interests”.

But perspectives that refute this narrative seem to be gaining ground. Many world leaders believe that the Western countries squandered their influence over the international system by intervening politically and militarily in the affairs of others without any clear endgame. Some also argue that the global elite has only pretended to pursue socio-economic change, while actually maintaining a status quo that has benefitted them.

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