How academics from middle power countries can improve global governance on issues as divisive as climate change.
This year the theme of the 2015 MIKTA Academic Network Conference – which brings together scholars from middle powers Mexico, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Turkey and Australia – was ‘Partnership in Knowledge for Better Global Governance’.
For me this was more than just another multilateral talk fest. It represented an opportunity for driving genuine and meaningful change at the international level.
Much of this insight comes from my time attending the First MIKTA Academic Network Conference in Seoul last month.
One of the key issues discussed by the conference was climate change: a global governance challenge that is on the minds of governments, scholars and civil society as we look forward to the Paris Climate Change Conference in December 2015.
What struck me in meeting with my fellow delegates in Seoul was the great diversity of our five MIKTA countries with respect to the issue of climate change.
As a group, we represent: developed and developing countries; major energy importers and exporters; diverse economies (including major manufacturing hubs, agriculture exporters and high-tech producers); diverse environmental and ecological profiles; diverse geographical locations; and diverse domestic political institutions and dynamics.
Most importantly, the countries of MIKTA represent a group with a diverse history of engagement with climate change. Mexico, for example, was the host of the seminal Cancun Climate Change Conference. South Korea is the leader of the Global Green Growth Initiative.
Meanwhile, Australia and Indonesia have both had much slower engagement with global climate change initiatives.
For me, MIKTA’s diversity is its strength when it comes to dealing with pressing global governance challenges such as climate change.
If these five, highly-diverse countries—which represent a wide range of developed and developing world interests, energy importer/exporter interests, regional multilateral organisational interests, and domestic political interests—can work together to commit to a common position on climate change in the lead up to the Paris Conference, the world will take notice.
As MIKTA countries, this diversity means that there is much we can learn from each other on how climate change is being dealt with domestically within our five countries.
It is no secret to acknowledge that here in Australia, climate change has been a divisive political issue. Climate change has influenced the rise and fall of the last two Labor Prime Ministers, the rise and fall of the last two Federal Opposition Leaders, and the rise to power of our current Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
As Australians, I think we could learn much from other MIKTA countries about the nature of their own climate change debates.
For example, how has South Korea—a major energy intensive country—managed to achieve its prominence on international climate change diplomacy?
How have these international achievements been viewed domestically in Korea? What is the nature of the Korean debate on climate change? How have successive Korean governments mobilised domestic interest groups to support international climate change action?
That is, how do we, as democracies, with strong domestic interests constraining action on climate change, and genuine popular fears about the costs of climate change action, deal with a global challenge such as climate change? There is much we can learn from our MIKTA colleagues.
As academics, we can make a contribution by putting forward bold new ideas and research findings to assist our political leaders find solutions to major global challenges like climate change. This is our value as academics: we can engage in the kinds of critical debate and airing of contentious ideas that our political leaders will likely find more difficult.
For instance, we might sponsor a MIKTA conference on the future of global energy supplies. Such a theme would demand bold thinking by climate scientists, economists, political scientists and civil society actors. By pooling our academic resources we can bring new ideas to the table to expand the set of options available to our governments.
As MIKTA countries we are diverse. Working together to debate, discuss and find new solutions to pressing challenges such as climate change will be of great value in strengthening global governance.
I wish the MIKTA Academic Network every success in its future.
This article is based on a speech delivered at the MIKTA seminar hosted by The Australian National University on Wednesday 24 June, 2015.