FIFA and the Reform vs. Representation Conundrum

| June 2015
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Although Sepp Blatter subsequently announced his resignation, his re-election to the presidency of FIFA highlighted a problem: many national football federations were not particularly troubled by his style of governance, especially given his ability to redistribute the wealth. Appeals for good governance (on the part of some of the wealthier members) ran up, both against self-interest but also a latent desire not to have to follow the direction set by Europeans and Americans. It is not surprising, therefore, that in the wake of Blatter’s ability to win at the FIFA ballot box that some football federations, like Germany’s, to call for redesigning the rules, to move away from one federation, one vote, to weighted voting that would give the main FIFA contributors more say in how it is run.

This is also a problem that continues to dog American foreign policy—greater inclusion and global representation does not automatically translate into support for reform. The push to “democratize” international institutions correspondingly leads to a reduction in influence of the major industrialized democracies—and with it, their ability to set and move a liberal agenda forward. The State Department, for instance, is still bedeviled by the unwillingness to many countries around the world to impose sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine, even though respect for territorial integrity of states is a cornerstone of the international order and an important national security concern for many countries. Vladimir Putin is the Sepp Blatter of the international political system, a leader whose dossier of misdeeds painstakingly assembled by Western governments seems to gain little to no traction among the states of the global South and East.

On a whole host of issues—democracy promotion, protecting human rights, etc.—expanding the size of the table invariably leads to a dilution of the effort. To improve cohesion, the G-8 contracted by removing Russia from its ranks, yet the rise of China, India and Brazil has led to the G-20 acquiring greater importance for the management of global affairs while the G-7 no longer carries the same weight. Western-led financial institutions now face “competition” from alternate organizations who are less inclined to push for the types of conditionality Washington and Brussels prefer. There is a push for widening the base of decision making in the international organizations where the West has long held predominance in order to get greater buy-in from emerging powers, but with no guarantees that newer arrivals will share the same level of commitment to the existing agenda.

So, if you want a peek at what the future holds for the international system, FIFA might provide a useful microcosm.

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Category: Blog, Global Governance

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