By Klaus Schwab, contributor
FORTUNE -- We talk of being a global community, but our institutions and behaviors tend to run counter to these currents. Our new reality -- complex, interconnected, and faster than ever -- means that the need for global cooperation and global solutions has never been greater. So what criteria should underpin a global system for the 21st century?
First, such a system must foster cooperation. We're all in this together. Governments, business, and civil society cannot do it on their own. Global issues are interrelated, and multi-stakeholder responses such as public-private partnerships bring innovative solutions to the table. They engage the passion, purpose, and networks of civil society with the resources and experience of business.
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Next, a global system must also approach challenges in a systemic, integrated way. The issues on the global agenda are all interrelated, but our current system is too compartmentalized: the World Trade Organization for trade, the World Health Organization for health, and the International Monetary Fund for finance. We also have to establish the necessary interlinkages to create coherence. For example, how do we strike the optimal balance between the G-20 and the United Nations? How do we best engage nongovernmental actors? We need flexible networks -- more heterarchies, fewer hierarchies.
Third, the system should be strategic, not crisis-driven. Most of our energy is currently absorbed by reactive rather than proactive measures. Managing crises instead of thinking about the future leads to defensive attitudes. We must adapt to a changing world, not defend outdated models.
Fourth, a global system must continually demonstrate legitimacy. Today, this goes beyond mandates based on democratic principles; it includes clear objectives and concrete results. We undoubtedly have a delivery problem. And since promised actions are not fulfilled, we also have a trust deficit with governments, international organizations, and business.
Finally, our global governance system must embrace the notion of global citizenship. In an interconnected world, it is in the interest of nation-states to strive for solutions to truly global challenges, such as climate change. Today, we not only need a Charter of Human Rights, but must also expand this notion to include responsibilities.
As a global community, we depend on the functioning of institutions and processes to manage our global neighborhood. Integrating these five criteria into our global system will be challenging, but if we don't, we will continue applying topical treatments to conditions that fundamentally require global cardiac care.
--Klaus Schwab is the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.
This story is from the February 4, 2013 issue of Fortune.
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