Strategic Aspects of Difficult Global Challenges

This game-theoretic paper distills various strategic aspects of difficult-to-handle global challenges, such as climate change, disease eradication, financial crises, nuclear weapon proliferation, trade boycotts, species preservation, and transnational terrorism. The analysis focuses on issues that involve shoring up weakest links, coordinating actions among many countries, promoting partial cooperation, and addressing regional best-shot problems. In each of these cases, the paper displays the strategic concern and assesses the prognosis for overcoming the roadblock. For instance, for some partial cooperation concerns, noncooperators can completely annihilate the achieved gains of the cooperators. The role of uncertainty, countries' asymmetries, and component groups' composition are considered. Among its many findings, the paper shows that the prognosis for weakest-link public goods, where the smallest effort fixes the good's overall level, is not so optimistic when countries possess different financial capabilities. The need to shore up one or more poor countries often creates a situation where countries wait for others to act.

Policy Implications

  • Weakest-link public goods, where the smallest contribution determines the level of the good, pose a significant global challenge when some countries are financially constrained.
  • The need to shore up many poor ‘weakest-link’ countries gives rise to collective action concerns when there are many capable countries.
  • Significant asymmetry in derived benefits is the key for a capable country to come forward and shore up the countries that cannot adequately support the weakest-link public good
  • Partial cooperation poses the greatest worry when one or a few noncooperating countries can annihilate the gains of the cooperators.
  • Coordination is particularly difficult to achieve when countries are unsure about the intentions of other countries, whose cooperation is needed. This coordination concern worsens as the required number of cooperators increases.
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