Working in the Field of International Cooperation

"To work in the field of international cooperation, you need to know how to take a broad and panoptic view."

Interview with Florent Stora on the importance of multilateralism and the opportunities and challenges of common sustainable development. On the occasion of his course for students of the Joint Master in Global Economic Governance & Public Affairs in Nice.


Florent Stora
A graduate of the ENA (the French National School of Administration), Florent Stora has a PhD in political science. Since 2018, he has been a diplomatic advisor at the Perm Rep of France to the OECD and has participated, in this context, in the French presidency of the G7 in 2019. *

At CIFE you teach a course on "Informal multilateralism of the G7 and G20 for sustainable development". What are the main objectives of your seminar? 
In this course, the students and I exchange ideas on a very current issue in international relations: multilateralism and its application in the G7 and G20. I want to give them knowledge about global governance as well as a pragmatic and operational vision of what happens during these meetings. Together we analyse how the G7 and G20 work, how agendas are set and how negotiations take place. We also focus on the major current issues in these multilateral forums, including climate change and biodiversity, sustainable development, the digitalisation of the economy and the challenges of adopting international taxation. It is therefore a seminar that is both theoretical and practical, with a professional focus. 

How does your seminar relate to your career as a diplomat at the OECD? 
In the last few years, I have been able to participate in several key meetings for international cooperation. For example, I was in the operational cell of the French Presidency of the EU Council in 2008. Then I was involved in the organisation of the Conference of the Parties in 2015 (COP 21). I had logistical missions, I had to find sponsors, establish links with the associated NGOs and raise awareness among civil society, especially among youth and students, about this major event for multilateral diplomacy. Then, in 2019, I actively participated in the organisation and implementation of the French presidency of the G7. So, I have a concrete and practical approach to these issues. I have tangible experience of the art of negotiating with multiple actors, preparing meetings, amending the texts under discussion, seeking coalitions to ensure that positions prevail and finding compromises to promote decision-making. And I think it is particularly interesting to pass on this experience, these skills and this view of an actor in multilateral diplomacy to students for their future career. 

What issue was of particular interest to the students? 
They were very concerned about the impact of the pandemic on international governance. There were quite diverse responses to this question because there are positive and negative effects. On the one hand, the pandemic has accelerated trends that already existed before, for example the development of digital technology with teleworking. During the crisis, we noticed that we could save a lot thanks to the energy transition. In my circle, we even talked about ‘Zoom diplomacy’, as so many international political meetings and conferences were held on Zoom! On the other hand, there has been a shift in trends and a questioning of some recent developments. This becomes clear when we look at the many companies that want to produce more locally. The underlying trends as well as the recent unforeseen circumstances must lead us to rethink our global governance both in its organisation and in its dominant principles and paradigms. 

How can multilateral governance in the G7/G20 framework lead to a sustainable political and economic model?
Multilateral governance makes it possible to share common diagnoses and thus provide global and collective responses to problems that affect all states. In order to establish a more sustainable policy and economy, the nations participating in the G7 and G20 intend to share their experiences in this field. They seek to find compromises and converge their efforts to become more efficient in the implementation of their policies. This type of governance involves several actors: companies, NGOs, experts, think tanks, states and international organisations. All these actors must cooperate, learn from each other and converge towards common goals. And there is always a need for indicators, facts and reliable figures based on shared criteria, which make it possible to check whether these convergent efforts and initiatives are being implemented and achieved.

It doesn't seem easy to coordinate all these different actors and interests… 
Indeed. In recent years, we have seen a weakening if not a certain contestation of multilateral diplomacy, with states having more difficulty agreeing on common objectives. In 2021, however, states have felt the need to cooperate and build consensus to fight the pandemic and to act against climate change. In order to bring all these actors together, including non-state actors, there are various bodies working in a particular sector, such as Business 7 or Business 20, which bring together the main business federations of the G7 and G20 countries. As far as business is concerned, these actors formulate common goals on global issues from an economic point of view. For example, the Fashion Pact adopted in 2019 under the French presidency of the G7 is a global coalition of fashion and retail companies, suppliers and distributors, committed to a common set of major environmental objectives centred on three topics: halting global warming, restoring biodiversity and protecting the oceans. It is indeed the whole point of these multilateral bodies, the G7 and the G20, to work in a flexible and informal way by grouping together the various players to bring out common interests.

How do you see the future of international cooperation? Will there be deglobalisation or more multilateralism?  
Today, it is possible to observe a dual movement and to anticipate developments in divergent directions. International cooperation has developed around the issues of regulation of the digital economy, research, particularly in the field of health and vaccines, and the challenges of the ecological transition. In my opinion, this trend will not weaken, as these issues require a pooling of efforts by states and all players in the international community. At the same time, the recent health crisis and the assertion of the logic of power have put the question of economic, technological and military sovereignty back at the centre of the debate. 
Consequently, the issues of re-industrialisation, the narrowing of value chains and the protection of strategic sectors of states will soon lead to a rethinking of globalisation or at least a correction of its effects. However, it seems to me that while competition between powers is becoming more acute, particularly in economic and technological terms, it does not erase the fact that our societies are increasingly complex and interdependent. Rivalries between states will not prevent them from seeking to compromise or forge consensus on issues that require cooperation, exchange and mutual assistance. For the objective of multilateralism remains as relevant as ever in promoting regulated, fairer, more sustainable and more inclusive globalisation.

And what weight will sustainable development have in future international cooperation?
Sustainable development has already gained and will continue to gain in importance in the coming years. The concept of sustainable development permeates all major international issues, such as health and the fight against pandemics, education, climate change and the renegotiation of world trade rules in the context of the digital economy. As such, it responds to the objectives set by the UN to promote peace, prosperity and development in the world. 
All the major international organisations, whether universal such as the UN, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), or regional such as the OECD or the EU, have taken up this concept. They seek to give it a tangible reality by promoting policies that stimulate strong, inclusive and sustainable growth. These policies aim to go beyond the sole concerns of profitability and productivity and to take better account of the well-being of individuals and the preservation of nature. Beyond rivalry, competition and the struggle for power, there is also a growing awareness of global issues that call for solidarity and cooperation.

In international cooperation and sustainable governance, there are therefore many opportunities, but also many challenges. To what extent does the Joint Master in Global Economic Governance and Public Affairs (GEGPA) prepare students for this?
The GEGPA programme is very complete and complementary at the same time. The students are well-aware of current issues, they have a lot of background knowledge. To work in the field of international cooperation, you need several skills, not just one. And that is exactly what this Master conveys: it enables students to become policy analysts and economists, they can work in sustainable finance and statistics. It’s an interdisciplinary course with a good mix of theory and practice. And this is what is increasingly important in the world of work: a broad and panoptic vision, technical skills in several fields, together with behavioural and life skills such as initiative, critical thinking and curiosity, adaptability, flexibility, teamwork, oral and writing skills, and the ability to summarise.

* Florent Stora
A graduate of the ENA (the French National School of Administration), Florent Stora has a PhD in political science and is the author of a thesis on “the processes of democratic transition”. Initially a teacher-researcher in political science, he then held positions in the fields of cultural and educational diplomacy. Since 2018, he has been a diplomatic advisor at the Permanent Representation of France to the OECD and has, in this context, participated in the French presidency of the G7 in 2019. He is now in charge of monitoring many social, educational, digital and political issues of global governance and is also associated with the preparation and implementation of the next French presidency of the EU Council in the first half of 2022. He also teaches at HEIP in Paris and at CIFE on European and international issues.



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