American University in Cairo - Global Governance Workshop

Low Profile of Global Governance Issues

The academic community of American University in Cairo showed relatively little interest and familiarity with the concept of global governance – a situation that arguably extends to the wider Egyptian public. With continuing internal political turmoil after the Arab Spring, domestic and regional politics seemed to attract most attention, leaving global political developments sidelined. For instance, calls for redistribution of wealth, often headlining the global governance discussion agendas, were felt within Egypt itself with much more immediacy and fervor.

At AUC, the number of courses addressing the international institutional set up and its potential to deal with the most pressing global problems was limited. This pointed firstly, at the low profile of the issue, and secondly, the dearth of local academics addressing it, resulting in low levels of awareness among the students. Namely, even the more active students involved in international projects like Model United Nations or Model Arab League had difficulty understanding the questions regarding global governance and were not ready to respond. Consequently, the essay is based on reactions from senior AUC researchers, collated over September-October 2011.

Institutional Framework as Greatest Success

Establishing international institutions addressing the issues relating to economic development and exercising control over global financial flows was seen by AUC scholars as a major achievement of global cooperation. The WTO and IMF were named as important examples where countries have managed to subtly balance out the implementing power of such institutions and the sovereign pushback from their member states. However, the functioning of the UN as a forum for addressing international crises, and increasingly engaging in humanitarian projects were also seen as a laudable, if less than ideal, outcome.

Major Concerns – Peace and Environment

Issues related to climate change were seen as some of the most pressing by AUC academics. The need to establish an effective control mechanism to counter the effects of global warming was indicated as a priority. Resource based conflicts were acknowledged as a threat, but a more alarmist approach of livability of the planet was also expressed.

Tangentially relating to that was the issue of nuclear disarmament. There were calls to strive more actively for a global zero through collective international effort, underlining the destructive capacity of such weapons, and the limited impact of single-handed efforts by any nation or organization.

Finally, the issue of recognizing Palestine at the UN was brought up as a means of defusing some of the current international conflicts.

National Interest - Obstacle for Progress

The surveyed academics were almost unanimous in their observations that national interest consistently take priority over global concerns, and in the absence of means for international institutions to enforce policy implementation upon their members, progress is slow.

There seemed to be a shared sense of unfairness and perceived Western domination in both, economic and political spheres. While there was an understanding about the need to mitigate the impact of the global financial crisis, the fact that it was slowing the West down, while progress in Asia continued, did not remain unnoticed.