Project Articles

Global Governance and Civics Workshop

Rosa Terlazzo, Luke Ebbs et al., Australian National University

What do you think are the notable achievements in global governance and global cooperation, and why?

We identified many achievements in global governance, ranging from specific treaties and international laws to major intergovernmental organisations. Given the number of suggestions, we agreed to narrow our analysis down to four major breakthroughs in global governance that we felt encompassed many of the more specific achievements.

It was agreed that the first of these breakthroughs was the establishment of the United Nations. Everybody recognised that while the UN has major flaws, and has contributed to injustices throughout its existence, it is the closest thing we have to a global government capable of overriding state sovereignty to enforce globally agreed upon rules and norms. Participants agreed that the UN and its subsidiaries are essential platforms for international dialogue, and that the UN system will play an essential role in the future of global governance and cooperation.

The second breakthrough was the establishment of the global international financial system through the emergence of the WTO, World Bank and IMF. The group acknowledged that while these organisations have contributed to serious harm throughout their existence (some argued that these organisations had worsened global inequality and poverty), they represent the economic interdependence of the world, and the need for global institutions to supervise and support global trade and economic cooperation. It was recognised that while these institutions have failed in this role, reformations could see them harness the power of economic interdependence as a force for global development and cooperation.

The third breakthrough in global governance agreed upon by the group was the emergence of regional treaties, bodies and partnerships, such as the EU, ASEAN, SADC, the African Union and Mercosur. The group considered such regional agreements to be a driving force of global cooperation. Some hoped that global governance would become easier if regional bodies began to supplant the significance of nation-states in the international system. Other were not so optimistic, but still agreed that regionalism was a positive trend towards better global cooperation.

The final achievement in global cooperation agreed upon by the group was the emergence of international human rights norms. The group agreed that individuals all over the world now recognise that people have rights and duties towards each other, simply by virtue of being human. While the group did not agree on a single event, act, or organisation that gave rise to this spirit of universal cooperation, we all agreed that cosmopolitan norms and values are being internalized by individuals living in societies all over the world in an unprecedented way. We agreed that we need only look at the growing interest in subjects such as global justice and global civics at universities across the world to see evidence of this.

Name three major breakthroughs in global governance arrangements that you would like to see achieved in the next 5-10 years, and explain why.

Participants offered a number of concrete suggestions in response to this question, but agreed that the most important of these were a set of three “umbrella” breakthroughs that could facilitate their more specific recommendations.
Participants agreed that two of these breakthroughs could best be understood as movements towards the increased institutionalization of global governance practices, while the other was a process of reform that would be a prerequisite for the desirability of this further institutionalization.

The first step of reforming global governance structures is intended to make them fairer, and to make their decision-making procedures more inclusive of those whose interests were most directly affected by the issues in question. Concrete proposals included reforms to the UN Security Council veto system and reform of the governing structures of the WTO.

As the first of two steps towards institutionalization, participants wanted to see the development of mechanisms for the enforcement of treaties, conventions, and other global governance outcomes. Participants suggested the formation of some body that could monitor the compliance of individual states and either require or permit the use of sanctions on the part of other states when some state violated the requirements of a global governance measure.

As the second step towards institutionalization, participants wanted to see the institution of an international form of taxation that could serve to fund outcomes proposed by global governance institutions. Participants emphasized that this tax should have a greater impact on rich countries and individuals than poor ones, and so preferred something like a financial transactions tax over, for instance, a global sales tax.

Participants saw these last two measures as working on concert: the tax could, in part, provide budget support to countries that lacked the means to fulfil the duties that global governance arrangements assigned to them. For instance, tax revenues could help to fund the outcomes of an enforceable agreement on climate change, or a Global Fund for child and maternal health. These two measures could also be used to place pressure on states to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and provide states with the necessary budget support to do so. Participants also suggested that the two measures could be used to make state-building resources available to states in the wake of humanitarian interventions, and to clarify and fairly enforce the criteria for humanitarian intervention in the first place.

What are the key obstacles to the development of global governance, global cooperation and solidarity, and why?

The group recognised three major obstacles to global governance, cooperation and solidarity.

We agreed that the vested political and economic interests of those currently in positions of power will always pose an obstacle to the reform of the global system. Powerful individuals, corporations and lobby groups working to maintain the status quo, and using their vast resources in order to achieve this, will always obstruct the development of better global governance and greater global solidarity. Breaking these power structures, we agreed, is one of the first steps towards achieving more effective global governance and cooperation.

The second obstacle identified by the group closely relates to the first – global inequality. We agreed that as long as global inequality prevents large segments of the world’s population from participating in the global order, global cooperation, solidarity and fair governance will never be achieved. There were disagreements over exactly what levels of equality were required, and what kinds of inequality were posing obstacles to global governance. There was also confusion over whether we need more equality between individual people, or more equality between states. This being said, there was strong agreement within the group that global inequalities in income and capabilities posed massive obstacles to achieving effective global governance.

We identified the lack of enforcement for international laws, treaties and cosmopolitan duties as the final obstacle to global governance. We agreed that initiatives to improve the global system and achieve more effective global governance are almost always thwarted by a lack of power to enforce or implement these initiatives. We found this to be a recurring theme throughout the entire discussion. The group provided some interesting suggestions on how international laws and treaties could be enforced. These included committing troops to a UN army, or introducing a global taxation system where revenue could be used to implement global governance initiatives and deter states from violating international agreements.