Global Audit

The growing significance of global interdependence is well understood, as is the inherent difficulty of managing global problems through voluntary and ad hoc cooperation of nation-states. The field of global governance has produced a number of breakthroughs, as well as failures, and may benefit at this point from a global and inclusive audit.

With this goal in mind, the editors of the Global Audit invited senior students and young scholars from universities and think-tanks around the world to write short essays on the following three questions:

  • What do you think are the notable achievements in global governance and global cooperation, and why?
  • Name three major breakthroughs in global governance arrangements that you would like to see achieved in the next 5-10 years, and explain why. 
  • What are the key obstacles to the development of global governance, global cooperation and solidarity, and explain why?

The first Essay by Dr Clara Brandi can be found below and the rest are on the left of the screen.

Editors: Hakan Altinay (Brookings Institution), Kalypso Nicolaidis (Oxford University), Miguel Maduro (European University Institute), Eva-Maria Nag (LSE)



The State of Global Governance - Achievements, Challenges and the Way Forward


The emerging field of global governance has produced a number of breakthroughs, as well as failures, aimed at managing global problems through the voluntary and ad hoc cooperation of a diverse range of international actors. The essays in this series represent the assessment of advanced students and young scholars from around the world, and document the key achievements, obstacles and challenges animating the field.

In today’s world, there are numerous notable achievements in global governance and global cooperation. The creation of the International Criminal Court, for example, constitutes the most significant reform of international law since the foundation of the United Nations in 1945: it gives teeth to both human rights and humanitarian law.

The establishment of the Financial Stability Board in 2009 added a fourth pillar to the architecture of global economic governance. Working alongside the IMF, World Bank and WTO, the Financial Stability Board monitors and makes recommendations about the global financial system and represents the G-20 leaders’ first major international institutional innovation.

The earth’s ecosystems are by now governed by an array of organizations and international treaties, including the United Nations Environment Programme and the Montreal protocol. The Montreal protocol led to a substantial decrease in the emission of ozone depleting substances and is the most successful example of international environmental cooperation to date.

The recently concluded Nagoya protocol, part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, adds an additional important system of global rules and ends a long-standing issue of contention between developed and developing countries. The protocol governs access to genetic such as wild plants to make medicines, cosmetics and other products. It also calls for a fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of such genetic resources, many of which are found in developing countries.

In the past decade, revolutionary changes in global health governance have taken place. New regimes have been established to address specific problems, especially HIV/AIDS, international public health emergencies and the pandemic in tobacco-related diseases. Moreover, policy-makers, activists and philanthropists increasingly regard global health as a foreign policy issue of utmost importance and funding for global health has been increased in unprecedented ways, for example though the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Yet, crucial challenges remain – above all in terms of global environment and health questions. One of the most pressing issues on the list of central tasks on the global governance agenda is climate change. If the negotiations for a post-2012 climate agreement fail, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would steadily increase and, by 2100, average temperatures would rise by up to 4.5°C such that the face of our planet would change so drastically as to make it almost unrecognizable.

Is it possible to find a new framework that can help to overcome this dead-lock and provide the basis for global cooperation before it is too late? One promising option is Flexible Global Carbon Pricing (FGCP), which requires that every country must put a price on carbon. Like caps, the FGCP approach is cost-efficient. But FGCP has several additional advantages over caps: Instead of focusing mechanically on emission targets, countries can achieve the carbon price flexibly – with a cap, a tax or an emissions trading scheme. Allowing this choice can help accommodate national political realities, which in turn enables broad coverage and fosters real commitment. Moreover, a global carbon price treats nations equitably in the sense that a poorer country automatically pays less, roughly in proportion to its income. Consequently a global carbon price automatically provides “common but differentiated responsibilities”.

The second urgent challenge for future global governance is providing better access to affordable medicines. Every year, six million people die worldwide from communicable diseases, most of them in the less developed countries of the world. One major source of this immense problem is the current set-up of the existing intellectual property system. The system provides incentives that encourage the pharmaceutical companies to invest very little in research on diseases endemic to developing nations, because there is no commercial market from which they can recover R&D costs though patent-based monopoly pricing. Malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea and tuberculosis, which together account for around 20 percent of the global burden of disease, receive less than 1 percent of all public and private funds devoted to public health research.

The Health Impact Fund, proposed by Thomas Pogge, Aidan Hollis and their colleagues, envisages a new mechanism that challenges the existing intellectual property system as the exclusive instrument to incentivize and reward research and innovation. The main idea of the Fund is not to reward innovators of pharmaceuticals via monopoly prices, but based on the health impact of their products, if they consent to sell them at affordable prices. Innovators would give up the freedom to price at monopoly prices, in exchange for payments from the Fund, based on health impact. Products would be rewarded strictly in proportion to their health impact and consumers would benefit from the availability of new drugs at low prices. Low prices would be further encouraged, because rewards will hinge on the actual health effect of the medicines, and so innovators will have incentives to ensure their medicines are extensively accessible to those who need them.

The number of tasks that can be solved only jointly by the international community is continually increasing. These tasks do not only include tackling climate change and addressing the global disease burden but strengthening human security, reforming the regulation of international financial markets and fostering economic and social development. These tasks are global – yet, politics is not. There should be better equivalence between decision-makers and those whose interests are affected in relevant ways by these global tasks. One way to address this challenge is to increase citizen’s representation beyond borders, for example at the UN.

A United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) would provide citizen representatives, rather than just states, the opportunity to play a direct role in global policy-making. Supporters of the UNPA proposal envision the participation of national and possibly regional parliamentarians and, ultimately, direct election of parliamentarians by citizens worldwide. These parliamentarians would promote a reform of the current system of global governance and put forward novel and innovative policy suggestions for assessment by UN bodies and the Bretton Woods institutions. In the longer run, the UNPA could be transformed from an advisory body to a world parliament with rights of information, participation and control. Over time, direct citizen representation could foster a better sense of solidarity as a global community.

One of the major obstacles to strengthening multilateral cooperation is the lack of trust in the international community. Fostering cooperation can therefore best be achieved by newly created and consolidated mutual trust and by a attaining a better understanding of the reasons behind disagreement. In essence, this requires us to work towards approaches to global governance that are not only effective but also inclusive and equitable. The key task ahead is thus to address climate change, the global disease burden and other global challenges such as security, trade, finance and energy issues in light of these three dimensions. The progress made to date shows, as with the International Criminal Court, that if a few countries go ahead, considerable modifications at the international level are in fact achievable. As Al Gore puts it, “we have all we need to get started, save perhaps political will, but political will is a renewable resource”.

Dr Clara Brandi, German Development Institute, Germany