In New York for United Nations week, Leonel Fernández, president of the Dominican Republic, visited the NYU School of Law to deliver a speech on global governance in which he was critical of the current international system. In the Sepember 25 event, co-hosted by the Institute for Policy Integrity and the Hauser Global Law School Program, Fernández characterized the existing global institutions as ineffective, and blamed their lack of enforcement power for the crisis in Honduras.
When Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was ousted in an early morning military coup on June 28—“the first in Latin America in the last 30 years,” Fernández said defiantly, every international organization condemned it, “but nothing has happened because they lack the capacity to enforce the resolutions,” he said. Fearing a domino effect if the coup is not reversed soon, Fernández called on the U.S. to strengthen its hand. “The final decision lies with President Obama,” he said, fielding questions from law students and faculty in the audience. “If the constitutional order has been affected by a coup d’etat, there should be a collective action headed by the leader of the U.S. to restore that constitutional order.”
In his talk, entitled "Global Governance and the Developing World", Fernández—a popular third term president and a friend of the U.S.—said that the U.N. and other global institutions are stuck in the Cold War days, out of step with reality. At the end of World War II, when the U.N. was created, “the world was very simple,” he said. “You were a communist or you were a capitalist.” But in the decades since then, four factors have irreversibly changed that world order. Starting in the mid-1970s with the death of Spain’s Francisco Franco and his dictatorship, and accelerating after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, democratization has taken root and spread worldwide. Political, economic and cultural globalization followed, resulting in developments such as the creation of the European Union. September 11 brought terrorism to the U.S., redefining how we think about security. And finally, the recent worldwide financial crisis—“the consequence of a system of deregulation nationally in the United States and internationally in global financial institutions” he said, changed our world economic order.
Some of our global institutions have undoubtedly evolved with the times, he noted. The World Trade Organization and the Group of 20, for example, give more economic power to developing countries than did their predecessor organizations. But the heads of both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are still traditionally European and American, respectively, even though the majority of their work targets the developing world. And the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, selected in the cold war era, aren’t representative enough. “There needs to be an overhaul of the system to make sense of the international reality that’s taking place in the 21st century,” he said.
The president’s visit also provided NYU Law with the opportunity to strengthen its ties to Fernández and his country. Fernández, who was honored with the designation of Distinguished Global Fellow, signed a cooperation agreement intended to foster an exchange of ideas between the law school and his development foundation—Fundación Global Democracia y Desarrollo. NYU Law students and faculty will study and teach at universities sponsored by the foundation, and vice versa.
Fernández, who was born in the Dominican Republic but spent his formative years in Washington Heights, New York, first visited NYU in 2005 to deliver the keynote speech at the 10th anniversary of the Hauser Global Law School Program. And Dean Revesz and Michael Livermore '06, faculty director and executive director of the Institute for Policy Integrity, respectively, met with Fernández last summer while they were speaking at environmental conferences throughout Latin America.
By Jennifer Frey