Today, it is commonplace to say there is a crisis in world governance. As citizens all over the world are fully aware, tensions, conflicts, and wars are persisting, and national, regional, and international institutions are powerless, even when limiting their role to avoiding the permanent deterioration of people’s living conditions and means of subsistence. The conceptual and ideological foundations of existing global institutions are based on international relations among nation-states, referring to an idea of the state that emerged in seventeenth-century Europe. This model makes no sense today unless nation-states themselves are built on new foundations, and their role, operational structures, and methods of interaction with other political structures are redefined.
First, however, we need to ask: What exactly is world governance? Setting aside the more complex, though often useful, definitions and subjective approaches to the concept, we have preferred to take the simple view of “world governance”: the collective management of the planet. While this definition may have the disadvantage of being too broad, it does ensure that we explore all the possibilities offered by “world governance.” In addition, this definition allows us to go beyond the restrictive framework of “international relations,” which until recently has been the only framework for approaching how the dominant political entities, nation-states, relate to one another, and which takes no other entity into account.
Throughout the history of humankind, tensions between countries have generated conflicts and wars. In the early twenty-first century, however, the spread of tensions to many areas of the planet and the difficulties in solving them, as well as the unprecedented ecological deterioration due to the interaction of human activities with the biosphere have reached levels that are threatening the very survival of humankind. We do not mean to be Apocalyptic, but, in the catalog of wars launched by states and of examples of dysfunctional management of our global ecology, we should also include the social wars that have broken out more or less openly, revealing an almost permanent demonstration of exclusion and of economic and social inequalities in the low-income districts of towns, both large and small, in every continent. Nor can we ignore the rising power of the networks of organized crime, trafficking drugs and human beings and taking advantage of the absence of strong institutions at every level.
This can no longer be dismissed as crazy doomsayer talk. Those being forced to live in war zones or under the threat of being bombed, those facing famine or floods, and the millions traveling the world in search of a place where they might be able to overcome the difficulties of their daily life, are the silent witnesses of this reality.
The causes of today's different wars and conflicts are many and diverse. They include economic inequalities, social conflicts, religious sectarianism, territorial disputes, and fighting for control of basic resources such as water or land. All of them are indications of a serious crisis in world governance. And although there have been considerably fewer "traditional" conflicts among states in recent years, today's are extremely violent and are increasingly affecting civil populations and the weaker regions of the world.