Chapter Fourteen: The 21st Century - Narrative

VI. Governance

By 2030, almost all aspects of economic life were governed by rule-based, global organizations with attached judicial fora, built on the model of the World Trade Organization. Progress in this direction between 2015 and 2025 had been much faster in those sectors that already had English as a lingua franca. The advent of effective universal machine transation in 2020 removed most of the remaining barriers to global cooperation; and availability of the babelfish implant from 2025 (it was mandatory for international negotiators, legislators and jurists from 2028) more or less permanently destroyed national barriers based on language.

Progress in cultural and political globalization was slow as long as language barriers remained, but caught up rapidly in the 2030s. The United Nations had staggered from crisis to crisis in the 2010s, but as globalization became both inevitable and accepted after the Iran/Israeli war in 2025, the much-strengthened UN was the preferred umbrella organization for global cultural rule-making bodies. The model already existed in the form of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), both of them agencies of the UN since the end of the 20th century, although WIPO itself was transferred to the WTO in 2017 (the WTO had administered the judicial role of WIPO from the beginning). Other UN-related bodies which were formed between 2010 and 2030 included the World Association of Professionals (WAP), which takes in lawyers, doctors and architects among other professions, and the World Educational Organization (WEO), after almost all tertiary and much secondary education had migrated to the Internet.

A clutch of international bodies born in the 20th century while the market was still subservient to central planning were abolished or folded into other organizations. Thus, the IMF (intended originally to police foreign exchange) and the World Bank (intended originally to assist the rebuilding of Europe after WWII), were merged and made into a financial agency of the WTO. Private markets, securitization and disintermediation on the Internet had made them both irrelevant. The OECD held out for a while, but became the economic research agency of the WTO in 2020, joining the World Environmental Agency, which had acquired global reach under the Washington Accord in 2018 after the USA finally gave in to Chinese pressure.

The third member of the governance triumvirate alongside the WTO and the United Nations, the International Olympic Committee (see below) gained power during the 2010s and 2020s as the relative importance of sport, entertainment and recreation grew in relation to 'work'. Individual sporting bodies such as FIFA became affiliated agencies of the IOC, and a series of judicial bodies grew up to administer rules of conduct in the various recreational fields. For the IOC, the summit of its importance was reached when non-human sports were given their own Olympiad in 2037.

It took longer for the regional political organizations such as the European Union and Nafta to merge into a world political body, not so much because of economic boundaries (the world was 100% tariff-free by 2025) or because nation states (see below) resisted the process, but because of language and cultural barriers which were only finally demolished in the 2030s. The EU incorporated Turkey, the Ukraine, Belarus and European Russia, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Palestine by 2025; NAFTA merged with the Free Trade Area of the Americas and CARICOM in 2026; and APEC, excluding China, by then incorporated most of Australasia. India and China, due to their size, remained standouts.

Negotiations towards a final, global economic and political association accelerated after the Iran/Israeli war in 2025, but it was not until the widespread adoption of RCCs in the 2040s and 2050s that final agreement was reached. All 387 nations, while retaining their national identities and a number of reserved powers, collaborated in the World Union of 2057.

Between 2030 and 2057, the Directors-General of the three governance organizations, the WTO, the UN and the IOC, amounted to an informal world governing council, although there was no such body, and they had no power separate from what was provided by the rules of their individual organizations. They were joined only in 2057 by the Leader of the World Union, becoming known jokily as the Four Horsemen. From 2060 onwards, real power resided in the four RCCs which matched the four global governance bodies, flanked by judicial fora of various stripes.