U.S.-Japan Cooperation on the Reform of International Organizations

The global balance of power is undergoing a gradual but dramatic shift. While the United States will likely remain a preeminent economic and geopolitical power, the long era of American hegemony is coming to an end. In particular, managing the rise of Asia will likely prove to be the central challenge of international politics in the 21st century. In the face of such striking change, rigidity threatens to make international organizations relics of a bygone era. A substantial update of the international organizational architecture is needed. As two of the world’s leading democracies and economic powers, there is much that the United States and Japan can contribute toward such an effort. This paper will examine how U.S.-Japan cooperation can reinvigorate and update international organizations to meet contemporary challenges.

The first section discusses distributional imbalance as a serious shortcoming of several major international organizations, most prominently the United Nations Security Council and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Uneven representation can lead to needless tension and undermine the ability of international organizations to facilitate interstate cooperation. The major international organizations must be updated to reflect 21st century realities. The next section examines the economic and geopolitical rise of Asia and potential implications for institutionalized cooperation. Asia is a region with comparatively weak international organizations and inferior representation in universalistic institutions. Without deeper regional institutionalization and commensurate representation in global institutions, Asia’s rise may prove destabilizing for international cooperation. Accordingly, the paper then presents several policy prescriptions for how the United States and Japan can cooperate to update and reform the international organizational architecture.