Gridlock and Innovation in Global Governance: The Partial Transnational Solution

The political institutions that manage transborder problems are changing, offering new avenues around the inadequacies of the existing multilateral order. Several trends in global politics – for example the emergence of new powers, the growing challenge of collective action problems and the complexity of institutions that seek to address them – have made it increasingly difficult to govern transnational problems through multilateral cooperation. Global priorities ranging from climate change, to the Doha trade round, to financial stability are faced with gridlock. But even as ‘traditional’ intergovernmental institutions stall, new kinds of transborder institutions are emerging alongside them. These institutions bring new kinds of actors, public and private, into global governance, and deploy innovative governance ‘technologies’ to make rules and provide public goods. We evaluate these new institutions in the areas of financial and environmental governance. While no panacea, we argue that innovative institutional forms offer a partial solution for the challenges of contemporary interdependence.

Policy Implications

  • Gridlock in many international negotiations and multinational institutions can hobble intergovernmental agreements. New kinds of governance arrangements may help meet some of the governance gaps that multilateral institutions are failing to fill.
  • Scholars have only begun to catalogue the new forms of global governance that play an increasingly prominent role in world politics.
  • We must also strive to explain these changes and study their implications. Together, these tasks form an important future research agenda.
  • Policy makers should familiarize themselves with the full range of transborder governance institutions. These include transgovernmental networks, multistakeholder initiatives, voluntary regulations and innovative tools for adjudication and financing. Such instruments may offer functional benefits over more ‘traditional’ governance arrangements, especially when political factors constrain the latter.
  • While new governance institutions may represent at best a partial solution to the challenges of transborder cooperation, their adaptability and flexibility suggest a significant contribution nonetheless.
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