The Current

From Brexit to Trump, are we entering a post co-operative world?

From Brexit, to Trump, to some countries leaving the International Criminal Court. Are we entering a new, post co-operative world? The Current looks at the increased appetite for countries to "go it alone" and increased protectionism around the world.
Whatever happened to the community of nations? From the U.K., to the U.S. and beyond, more and more countries seem to want to go it alone — on trade, and more. (Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images)

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Soon after Donald Trump surprised the world by winning the U.S. presidency, NATO's chief, Jens Stoltenberg, issued a warning that going it alone is not an option, either for Europe, or the U.S.   

Yet going it alone, seems to be the flavour of the moment. From the ICC, to other examples of late, the world appears as if it could be at a crossroads when it comes to international cooperation, and maybe even entering a post co-operative phase.

"As you look at the world a century ago, it was very similar to what we have now," political science professor Barry Cooper tells The Current's guest host Piya Chattopadhyay.

"And I mean the result of that of course was World War I where countries did decide to go it alone. So it's essentially … a political rhythm."

Bessma Momani, a professor of political science, isn't convinced that countries will be going it alone.

"Partly because the issues that we're dealing with globally today just can't be handled alone," Momani tells Chattopadhyay.

"Whether we're talking about the environment and climate change, health and pandemics, cyber security, international financial crises, there is value in working together, and it's frankly cheaper."

Momani says examples like the ICC and Brexit stand are a "reflection of the populous trend we see across the world where there's just increased mistrust in government."

Member of European Parliament Nigel Farage, a key figure in the successful campaign to get Britain out of the European Union, supports Trump because he represents the same type of anti-establishment movement he believes in. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

In the case of Brexit, Momani says Brussels officials were out of touch with the needs of the common person.

"So I think that we can see the same kind of frustration at the domestic level now carrying over to the international level."

Momani points out that organizations such as the UN Security Council no longer reflect the power structure of today and it's in need of "deep reform."

"I wouldn't say that these organizations are useless. It's just that we need to ... invest more in making sure that they're modernized."

But Cooper doesn't think the UN as an institution can be fixed.

"Cooperation ... in international politics depends on the interests of states. That was true in 1945 which created the UN. And it's true today."

The UN has changed so much that according to Cooper ignoring the interests of sovereign states means "we're just going to miss an enormous amount of reality."

Cooper sees one fundamental problem with the the philosophy underlying international institutions.

"It doesn't take into account that you have to see a reason to cooperate."

Listen to the full conversation.

This segment was produced by The Current's Lara O'Brien, Julian Uzielli and Karin Marley.