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Rethinking Global Governance

Created date

Wednesday, January 2, 2008 - 06:31

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, there are some who believe that the future of architecture of global politics will require setting up a global-governance system. The global-governance issue is characterized by the shift from a scenario where the power of the states is regulated to avoid disequilibrium and maintain the status quo, to one where international law and the role of international institutions need to be redefined in terms of their real arbitration potential in the management of global problems. To achieve this shift, the authors consider that rather than dreaming of a hypothetical global democracy or global government, it would be more reasonable to move gradually through the definition of the problems and objectives, in an approach similar to that adopted to build the European Union
More that the shock of September 11, 2001, the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 marked the end of a very long period of international history, that of the "balance of powers." Since this historic event, the planet has been in a phase of geostrategic rupture. The "national security" model, although still in force for most governments, is gradually giving way to an emerging collective conscience that goes beyond this excessively restrictive framework.

There are some who believe, including ourselves, that the future of global architecture will require setting up a global-governance system. However, today the equation has become significantly more complicated: whereas previously, it was simply a matter of regulating - and limiting - the power of states in order to avoid disequilibria and maintain the status quo, it is hereafter imperative to shape the world's destiny collectively by setting up a system to regulate the numerous interactions that supersede state action.

The main problem of governance, a problem with which we must cope every day in our daily lives, is that institutions have been set up, which define their objectives in terms of their competences (and their limits), when they should be doing the opposite. The global-governance issue is characterized by the fact that objectives are being defined through an institutional void at the international level - with the UN, and more generally speaking public international law, playing the role of the tree that hides the forest - and as a result, it is the states that are forced to solve problems that are beyond their competence and even their comprehension. How can states, with institutions poorly designed to solve even their domestic problems, be expected to solve problems that go beyond their political framework? Seen as such, the concept of "collective security" does no more than magnify the problem, as this security is only an aggregate of state institutions. It is significant that the concept of governance itself is perceived as a whole that makes little distinction between local, national, and global governance, the objectives of these different levels often being close or interconnected.

How can governance and global governance be conciliated? There is the root of the problem, since the key of the history of international relations is precisely in the fact that these two problems have been approached in radically different, even opposite ways.

The problem facing those who would like to see a true global-governance architecture emerge is that making such construction dreams come true does not in any way resemble anything that could possibly be built, given the constraints, limitations, and obstacles that we are often tempted to overlook or minimize. Thus, rather than dreaming of an illusory global democracy or a hypothetical global government, it would be more reasonable to move gradually through the definition of the problems and objectives with a view to design the type of structures and institutions likely to take vigorous action to solve specific, given problems. It is only through this sort of gradual progress that a "global governance" worthy of its name might take shape, and there is no way of knowing beforehand what it will look like as, by definition, it will take the shape of the objectives that it will set progressively.

This approach is entirely different from that adopted by the architects of the League of Nations after World War I, or of the UN after World War II, as well as, moving further back in history, from the internationalist dream that France's Henri IV maintained with his "Grand Design" for Europe. From a philosophical and political point of view, our approach would be closer to that adopted by Jean Monnet and the first architects of what was going to become the European Union.

Attached files doc_Rethinking_without_logo.doc ( B)