30 January 2018

Preaching in the desert? Macron and the idea of a global social pact

Leaders from several key developed and developing countries made the trip to Davos this year to deliver key messages to the world. While they all highlighted national efforts to boost innovation and productivity and while many recognised that globalisation is under stress, there was much less attention given to collective, multilateral efforts to address the current fractures of the world – economic, social, environmental – the theme of this year’s edition of the WEF global annual meeting.  French President Emmanuel Macron stood out with his passionate call for a new global social pact to harness globalisation and bring trust in the system back.

For Macron, globalisation is in a major crisis because it has fed inequality, leading to a widespread public perception of unfairness. There is thus, in the view of the French President, an urgent need to adopt measures to reconcile citizens with globalisation and give the latter a meaning. Macron outlined in his speech three categories of measures to be coordinated between countries and implemented at the level not only of governments but also within each firm or organisation.  The first group relates to what he labels a “duty to invest” in some key public goods, in particular in education to better prepare workers to the current realities of the economy. The second pertains to a “duty to share” the wealth generated by a globalised economic system. Macron argued in favour of a fair international system of taxation, one that avoids a race to the bottom but at the same time does not kill innovation. Furthermore, firms should come up with less unequal pay schemes in a context of a global fiscal and financial framework, building upon work done by the OECD and the IMF.  The third, and last, set of measures should respond to a “duty to protect” citizens from harmful social and environmental growth-oriented developments. From this perspective, multilateral efforts to combat climate change should be strengthened and accelerated and countries should no longer sign trade and investment agreements that hurt social and human rights.

All in all, this three-pillar global social pact is, in Macron’s words, the necessary correction to the current system of financial capitalism and technological superstars. Has it any chance to see the light? For the French President, “we are our own frontier in our own conscience (…) There is only one question: do we decide to act now or not?” Considering the messages delivered by other country leaders, as well as the silence, or timidity, of CEOs of multinationals and banks on the duty to share, the world is not (yet?) ready for the journey passionately advocated by Emmanuel Macron.

Cédric Dupont, Professor of International Relations/Political Science and Director of Executive Education, The Graduate Institute

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