Global Neighborhoods and Problem-Solving in a Multipolar World

The Role of Regional Subsystems in Shaping Global Power Relations

What will be the role of regions and regional organizations in addressing transnational problems and structuring power in a multipolar world? This multiyear, interdisciplinary project examines the past, present, and future of regional neighborhoods across the globe.

Project Title

Global Neighborhoods and Problem-Solving in a Multipolar World

This project aims to inform and aid policy and global problem-solving by building an intellectual bridge between knowledge of geographical regions, global power, and global problems to generate cross-regional, variable-oriented comparisons and to develop an empirically grounded assessment of how regions address transitional problems.

Project Summary

The organization of the international power system is in transition from a unipolar to a multipolar model. In an era of waning US power, in which global leadership and influence may be more widely and evenly distributed in the world, geographical regions and regional interactions are taking on greater importance. In addition, global problems such as migration, environmental change, war and conflict, and economic crisis and inequality are likely to be locally specific. For example, militarized disputes are more likely to break out between neighbors or to be triggered by neighbors; environmental issues affect neighbors in distinct ways; and migration occurs worldwide but often starts by crossing local borders. Even humanitarian issues have a regional aspect, as the consequences of abuses and disasters generate migration and other spillovers into nearby countries. The objectives of this project are to better understand the shape and logic of global neighborhoods and global problems, to examine how solutions to global problems have been addressed regionally and how problem-solving can be more effective if it considers “neighborhood effects,” and to investigate the role regions and regional actors may play in structuring our shared future.

Partner Affiliations in China and India

Aangan Trust

Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research in the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Beijing)

Observer Research Foundation (New Delhi)

Principal Investigators

  • MR

    Meg Rithmire

    F. Warren McFarlan Associate Professor of Business of Administration, Harvard Business School

  • Colton

    Timothy Colton

    Morris and Anna Feldberg Professor of Government and Russian Studies, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences

  • T. M.

    Tarek Masoud

    Sultan of Oman Professor of International Relations, Harvard Kennedy School

  • OAW

    Odd Arne Westad

    S.T. Lee Professor of US-Asia Relations, Harvard Kennedy School