SNS Democracy Council 2023: Sweden should take the lead in strengthening international organizations

Transboundary problems such as climate change, military conflicts, trade barriers, and refugee flows require increased collaboration across borders. This is to a large extent possible using existing international organizations. In such a case, however, they need to be considerably strengthened – while current trends take us in the opposite direction, according to the researchers in the SNS Democracy Council 2023.

SNS Democracy Council 2023. Global governance – fit for purpose 1.0 MB PDF

International organizations such as the UN, WHO, and IMF need to become better at addressing the problems currently facing our planet. Countries and other actors should focus more on global collaboration, argues four professors in the SNS Democracy Council Report 2023, Global Governance: Fit for Purpose?

With regard to three important respects, they view the basic conditions as good:


In general, international organizations have more power and greater capabilities than what is widely believed. However, these organizations are no longer strengthened.

“Between around 1950 and 2010, international organizations were given increasing resources and influence. In the last decade, this development has come to a halt – and in some cases regressed,” argues Jonas Tallberg, professor of political science and chair of the SNS Democracy Council 2023.


International organizations are often seen as characterized by political deadlocks, but this is not the case at an overall level. When faced with new challenges, such as humanitarian or financial crises, they typically act quickly.

“Even though these organizations rarely solve the problems they have been tasked with addressing, they still contribute to improving the situation. The caricature of them being completely paralyzed is simply not true,” says Jonas Tallberg.


People generally have more confidence in international organizations than in their own governments. Moreover, support for these organizations remains fairly stable among citizens and decision-makers. In other words, there is no crisis in legitimacy.

Current arrangements insufficient

But today’s arrangements will not be sufficient to tackle current and future global challenges, conclude SNS Democracy Council 2023.

“Despite their shortcomings, international organizations offer much of what is needed for addressing urgent global problems. However, we need to strengthen their powers and resources if they are to manage the major challenges of the future. As a small country dependent on the outside world, Sweden should try to take the lead in these efforts,” according to Jonas Tallberg.

about the sns democracy council

Since 1995, independent researchers have presented reports on the workings and principles of democracy. The aim is to stimulate a factual debate on the conditions and development of democracy.

about the authors

Jonas Tallberg is a professor of political science at Stockholm University.

Karin Bäckstrand is a professor of environmental social science at Stockholm University.

Jan Aart Scholte is a professor of global transformations and governance challenges at Leiden University, the Netherlands.

Thomas Sommerer is a professor of international organizations at the University of Potsdam, Germany.