A Crowded Field: The Financial Crisis and Global Governance

A Crowded Field: The Financial Crisis and Global Governance

As the world economy stares down the most severe crisis it has seen in nearly a century, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) finds itself positioned somewhere between danger and opportunity: Danger lurks in emergent alternatives to the fund; opportunity lies in reform. Yet, reform requires change, and change does not come easily in the realm of international politics. Invariably, it creates winners and losers.

The United States and Europe have long been the beneficiaries of the international financial institutions crafted during the waning hours of World War II. But the world of today is a far cry from that of 1944. In an increasingly multipolar economic system, is it likely -- or even possible -- that today's economic powers can reach an agreement on reforming the status quo? Can the IMF successfully reassert itself as the protector of global financial stability? Or will it soon represent just one of many options among an increasingly crowded system of multilateral and bilateral regional financial arrangements?

While the London G-20 summit resulted in a modest agreement to deal with today's crisis, these important questions of what might follow still loom large. The immediate effect of the crisis appears to be the revival of the IMF. But the institution remains unpopular and continues to represent a last resort for distressed economies. Despite its renewed relevance, it is far from certain that the fund will continue to fulfill its role unchallenged, as upstart institutions as well as countries with money to burn look to get into its line of business.

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