The Future of Global Governance
BSSB.BE World Government Summit 29.08.2018
* Global governance will be a big challenge for the next generations, explained Fukuyama Francis, Political Scientist, Economist.
DOES GLOBAL GOVERNANCE HAVE A FUTURE? WHAT KIND OF FUTURE?
FARreaching changes to the architecture of global governance, especially the emergence of new actors, agents, and forms of governance, make these questions moot and timely. The big multilateral institutions around which the postwar system of global governance was initially anchored are no longer the only game or actors in global governance.
The “fragmentation” of global governance entails the emergence of “a patchwork of international institutions that are different in their character (organizations, regimes, and implicit norms), their constituencies (public and private), their spatial scope (from bilateral to global), and their subject matter (from specific policy fields to universal concerns).”
There has been a proliferation of regional and plurilateral arrangements, initiatives led by the private sector and transnational social movements, and various forms of partnership involving government, private, and civil society actors. Their effects are especially felt on the prominence, authority, and legitimacy of the global multilateral institutions that have been the bedrock of the postwar global governance system. This has produced confusion, uncertainty, and anxiety over the future of global governance among its traditional advocates.
At the most optimistic end, some see this fragmentation as producing a suboptimal or “good enough” global governance.2 Others view it in starkly negative terms. Daniel Plesch and Thomas Weiss lament “the global sprawl of networks and informal institutions” as a serious challenge to the postwar big multilaterals, especially the UN, that need strengthening. They warn of the dangers of “a misplaced enthusiasm for ad hoc and informal pluralism rather than for more formal and systematic multilateralism,” without which “states and their citizens will not reap the benefits of trade and globalization, discover nonviolent ways to meet security challenges, or address environmental degradation.”
These changes not only challenge the era of big multilaterals, they also do not fit the traditional description of a “multipolar” world. The notion of multipolarity is outdated. It was basically derived from pre−World War II Europe and connoted the geopolitical centrality of the Western great powers. Today, the actors in world politics are much more varied. Moreover, the nature of interdependence is more broad based. Interdependence during the prewar European multipolar system was largely trade based and eurocentric.
The rest of the world was actually in a relationship of dependence with Europe. Today, interdependence is global, complex, and broad based, comprising not only trade but also finance and production networks.
Furthermore, interdependence today is not just an economic phenomenon. The various issue areas that are central to global governance today—such as climate change, refugee flows, pandemics, and human rights abuses—are precisely what add scope, depth, and complexity to the nature of global interdependence. Such a world is best described as a multiplex world,4 whose distinctive feature is a proliferation of transnational challenges and a diffusion of ideas, actors, and processes of global governance.
This brings us to the forms and implications of global governance’s fragmentation.
Here, it is crucial to keep in mind that fragmentation is neither linear nor uniform across issue areas. A good deal of the debate over the future of global governance either is carried at the conceptual or macro level or draws on trends in a single or a limited number of issue areas, especially trade and environment. There has been little assessment of global governance comparatively across a range of issue areas. Yet without such assessment, it is difficult to have any definitive sense of the future of global governance.
- The demand for global governance is not linear and varies widely across issue areas. Demand may be strengthening in human rights, security governance (conflict prevention, management, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding, etc.), atrocities, and cyberspace, but weakening in health and trade, and static after having risen in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 financial turmoil. In trade, finance, and health, demand is crisis driven.
- Fragmentation is not a new phenomenon. Some forms, such as regionalization, have been going on since the inception of and in tandem with the postwar multilateral system.
- Fragmentation comes in many forms and varieties and differs depending on issue area. Regionalism and plurilateralism are especially strong in trade. Multistakeholderism is most evident in security, cyberspace, refugees, and climate change whereas trade and finance remain largely intergovernmental affairs. A private entity, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has made a major difference in health governance.
- It’s multicausal. The key factors are strategic, functional, and normative. Strategic factors include the global power shift and the rise of new powers demanding more say in global institutions, and, failing that, going for alternative or parallel mechanisms. It is also due to moves by the United States to sidestep those institutions, especially the World Trade Organization (WTO), where its influence is waning relative to the emerging powers. Fragmentation is also caused by doubts about the efficacy of the big multilaterals, and the demand for more justice and equity from the developing countries and creating more democratic space in global governance through civil society participation.
- Fragmentation is challenging, but not displacing, the existing international institutions and can be complementary to them. This is clearly evident in finance, health, security, and refugees. Trade at present is one area where the opposite seems to be the case.
- The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: World Government Summit