International negotiations often follow a similar pattern: Global north countries promise bold action, summits come and go, and resources fail to materialize. In June, the ambitiously titled “Summit for a New Global Financing Pact” ultimately generated a road map of future meetings and announcements that rich countries would meet commitments they were supposed to have fulfilled years ago.
This pattern has only hardened the assumption that global north countries are unlikely to prioritize the needs of the global south. When global south countries complain, global north governments tell them to be realistic. For instance, last year, then-Executive Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans told African governments that “many of our citizens in Europe will not buy” the argument that Europeans hold outsize responsibility for addressing the climate crisis because they have emitted disproportionately. “Their worries are linked to their own existence in this energy crisis, in this food crisis, in this inflation crisis,” he said.
This hard-headed framing assumes that global north populations will naturally oppose the increased redistribution of money and power for the benefit of people abroad who they’ve never met. But what if this widely held assumption is not true?
According to conventional wisdom, globally redistributive policies—or policies that pull resources from wealthy countries and distribute them to poorer countries—go against the interests of the global north and will therefore never be implemented. But encouragingly for supporters of global justice, global north populations don’t seem to buy this argument.
A working paper from the World Inequality Lab, authored by Adrien Fabre, Thomas Douenne, and Linus Mattauch, suggests that global redistribution and cooperation are actually quite popular among the populations of rich countries. The paper, “International Attitudes Toward Global Policies,” is based on a survey of more than 40,000 people from 20 high- and middle-income countries. The respondents constitute a representative sample, both in terms of demographics and partisanship. While the results are surprising, existing research suggests that the paper’s findings are not an anomaly. [Continue reading…]