The Grand Challenge in International Development

A grand challenge is a technically complex societal problem that has stubbornly defied solution. It can range from cures for cancer to better management of resources. With globalization, a grand challenge is no longer limited to being a domestic issue. There are a number of global grand challenges. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals each copes with a grand challenge that is faced by the international community. With this understanding, solutions to grand challenges are no longer limited to cooperation between domestic actors and coordination between different sectors within a country. The solutions lie in global connection and coordination of resources. Under global strategic frameworks like the MDGs and SDGs, there are a variety of actors including international organizations, international NGOs, private sector, and local and foreign governments. While development projects by international organizations see global strategic frameworks as guidelines, it is not always the case for foreign government projects. To address grand challenges, an alignment between different actors is essential.

One of the many ways to encourage various actors, especially governments to follow international guidelines in the face of grand challenges, is to build platforms for multistakeholder global governance. The absence of such multistakeholder governance mechanism may result in escalation of conflicts. In early September, 2017, indigenous communities in Ecuador carried out protest against Chinese mining because the mining company did not negotiate with the communities for its projects which were creating damage to local environment and wildlife protection. The protest escalated into violent conflict and resulted in one death and multiple injured. If there were a multistakeholder governance mechanism in place for this project, a more peaceful conversation would have taken place instead of violent conflicts. A global multistakeholder governance mechanism would create a platform where the Chinese state-owned mining company and local communities would be equal actors in the face of the global grand challenge of resource management. This would encourage the Chinese government to apply global strategic frameworks to its development projects and contribute to the global efforts by making positive impact.

Multistakeholder global governance mechanism is valued more and more by international organizations, such as the inclusion of Major Groups and other stakeholders by the UN. This mechanism should not be limited to policy-making at the global level. It should also be applied to decision-making and policy-making on regional and bilateral platforms. In this way, we can build a more holistic global partnership in addressing the grand challenges faced by all.

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