Madeleine Albright: Postwar development institutions too slow for today's world

Madeleine Albright, former U.S. secretary of state. Photo by: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

In a world marked by increasing interdependence, technological innovation and rising inequality, Madeleine Albright believes many of the international development institutions of the past are failing to keep up with the changes.

“Many of the institutions on which we have long depended are beginning to show their age,” the former U.S. secretary of state said Tuesday at the Inter-American Development Bank’s Demand Solutions conference in Washington, D.C. “Our postwar institutions simply move too slowly for a world that spins at Internet speed. The result is a kind of ad hocery in global affairs.”

The concern today, she explained, should be over how little power institutions like the United Nations actually wield. Those institutions are reacting too slowly and in some cases are being outpaced by the rise of nonstate actors — not just terrorists, but also nongovernmental organizations, pension funds and multinational corporations — who make decisions that are shaping the future.

“I’m not saying we should just put nonstate actors at every decision-making table, but the international system has not yet adjusted to the impact of these agents of change,” Albright said.

The private sector, she added, has an important role to play in the coming years in sorting through today’s conflicts, inequality gaps and stagnant growth, as business can provide the know-how, innovation and job creation that will invigorate communities and countries.

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About the author

  • Saldiner adva

    Adva Saldinger

    Adva Saldinger is an Associate Editor at Devex, where she covers the intersection of business and international development, as well as U.S. foreign aid policy. From partnerships to trade and social entrepreneurship to impact investing, Adva explores the role the private sector and private capital play in development. A journalist with more than 10 years of experience, she has worked at several newspapers in the U.S. and lived in both Ghana and South Africa.