Sabanci University - Global Governance Workshop

“As citizens of an interdependent world, we share a common destiny as our problems are globalized.”

1. Introduction

On October 5, 2011, we organized a global governance workshop at Sabancı University, with the participation of eight graduate students and three junior faculty. This report will first summarize the general issues discussed in our workshop, and then briefly review the discussions in three distinct areas: security, economy & financial stability, and climate change.

According to most of the participants, cooperation between multifarious actors -including NGOs, individuals as well as international organizations and governments; and building continuous interactions, networks and negotiations between all these actors is essential in order to achieve better outcomes in global governance. However, despite this belief in the necessity of cooperation, considerable skepticism prevailed among the participants regarding the possibility of cooperation within the current context of global governance. The participants emphasized the necessity of enhancing the capacities of global governance institutions, pointing out to the need for the most powerful states to invest in collective action.

• Representation & voice

Throughout the workshop, issues of representation in the context of global governance were discussed. A broad consensus emerged about the need to restructure the institutions of global governance in a manner that civil actors would be empowered. Participants also pointed out the problematic nature of overly-bureaucratic structures of most institutions, endangering the representativeness. A participant emphasized the connotation of “mutuality” attached to the Turkish word for governance (yönetişim), stating that in practice global governance lacked such mutuality, but, in fact, worked in a top-down fashion. In line with the ideas of deliberative democracy, a common suggestion was that “people” needed to be incorporated into global governance processes through mechanisms like “constitutive assemblies” in order to enhance representativeness in the institutions of global governance. Referring to the major institutions of global governance, a participant argued that:

“Although democracy has become a buzzword widely disseminated by the institutions of global governance, these institutions themselves do not operate democratically.”

• Clash of interests

Actual and potential clash of interests between various actors and nation-states in the context of global governance was raised frequently throught the workshop. Interestingly enough, most participants almost “naturally” inclined towards an interest-based analysis, but they also considered out the nation-state an obstacle, rather than a problem-solver assuming an inherent conflict between the national and global interests. Complex nature of the issues of global governance and conflict of interests between the rich and “the poor” at both international and domestic levels along with the trade-off between solutions generated for different dimensions of governance were underscored. Thus, the necessity of coordinated action not only between the actors, but also between various dimensions (such as security and human rights; climate change and economic development) was highlighted.

• Collective action problems

A question raised throughout the workshop was “who is going to invest in collective action in bringing about cooperation?” Ironically, most participants reacted against the use of power in global governance, yet they believed in the need for the “consent of major powers” to facilitate cooperation.

• Dilemma of urgent needs and gradual solutions

Complicated nature of the problems, inter-issue linkages and time discrepancy between the needs and the solutions were pointed out by many participants who touched upon a classical dilemma that the costs lie in the short-run while the benefits lie in the future.

• Norms

Participants approached norms and their actual/ potential influences in global governance rather doubtfully. Although they assert that norms about cooperation and creating a “better world” exist and are appropriated by many actors, they claimed that the norms themselves failed to influence policies unless “the mighty” would endorse them. A paradox is defined as “powerful nations want to introduce some norms, but they do not want to be restricted by those.”

• Poverty: the biggest link between all issues

One of the issues which frequently came up was poverty which was linked to security and several other issue areas in global governance.

• Institutionalized governance

A common expectation appears to be reforming the current institutions, rather than creating new ones. An interesting viewpoint was a widespread disbelief in private actors’ uninstitutionalized ways of action prevailed. Suggested reforms in order to make-over current global governance include re-structuring the institutions by enhancing their enforcement capacity, representativeness, democratic mechanisms and, thus, legitimacy. A remarkable feature revealed throughout the workshop was incredulity about the possibility of these reforms which were considered “utopic.”

II. Discussions on Security, Economy & Financial Stability, Climate Change

The following sections will summarize the discussions about notable achievements, major breakthroughs participants would like to see in the future, and key obstacles to development of cooperation and solidarity in three issue areas: security, economy & financial stability, and climate change.

1. Notable achievements in global governance and cooperation


Security is a field where the workshop participants acknowledged noteworthy achievements regarding global governance and cooperation. Majority of the participants emphasized the existence of a successful non-proliferation regime, arguing that the mere absence of nuclear wars, decrease in nuclear weapons and limited number of nuclear states show the “success” of cooperation.
Some other participants, however, believed that cooperation in security was a failure, exemplified by the recent emergence of wars even in Europe along with the presence of nuclear weapons. Skeptics also underlined that providing security came at the expense of limiting individual freedoms and generating cooperation in security was indeed an oxymoron. Optimists responded that “the achievements might seem limited but we do not know what would have emerged in the absence of cooperation at the global level.” In the absence of such regime, they claimed, the number of the nuclear states could have arisen from 9 to 30-40. The debate between the optimists and pessimists touched upon the recent wars in the Balkans. While the latter considers them as indicators of failure in cooperation regarding conflict prevention, the former put forward that the learning process undertaken since the 1990s helped establish the norm of early-prevention, so that we do not get to see any more of them.

BL: What about terrorism? Do you see cooperation in that realm?

Although some participants stated that they considered terror as a local problem with major implications at the global level, the rest underlined the global nature of terrorism. Participants also discussed the variation between terrorist movements and debated why some terrorist organizations stopped posing a major threat in certain regions like Latin America, and if this was an outcome of cooperation.

Economy & financial stability

Participants generally seemed pessimistic about notable achievements in global economic governance. They broadly expressed the inability of the “Bretton Woods trio” in coping with the ongoing financial crisis. They suggested that the mere emergence of the crisis indicated that there was so little learning in the institutions given that the IMF had dealt with various crises in different parts of the world. Interestingly, participants still assumed IMF’s leadership, even if they seemed highly skeptical about its “recipes” to recent crises in various countries.

The EU is considered much more successful than the global institutions in terms of coping with the financial crisis. A widespread perception was that the EU was more “successful” brought about by its well-defined objectives and clear incentive structures. The skeptics of the achievements at the global level also asserted that it was mostly the nation-states which came up with their own solutions to the global crisis.

Participants pointed out the achievements by the UNDP based on producing “tangible” results in case of poverty.

IÖ: Don’t you think the WTO has carried out achievements with respect to global governance and cooperation? It has had a very specific aim that is to abolish barriers to trade and facilitate a regime to sustain that and it has achieved this goal largely, with a broad membership.

Participants suggested that the WTO might be considered successful but the rewards and sanctions are not equally distributed among the members—unlike in the EU.

EH: What is our metric here? The more you are involved with free trade, the higher the life expectancy and less defective birth. Personally my best metric is defective birth.

Difficulty of assessing “success” was emphasized due to the intertwined nature of the processes. Participants were not as celebratory about decreasing defective birth. Public awareness was suggested as a “metric”, though whether public opinion would lead to tangible outcomes would be subject to question.

IÖ: What about civil society and transnational networks they form? Do you remember the Nike campaign which was quite effective with respect to child labor?

Although the participants mostly sounded incredulous about the role of civil society and transnational networks in global governance, they, then, came up with interesting examples of “effectiveness” of civil actors. Human Rights Watch and its activism about child labor; Turkish consumers’ campaign against the mal-treatment of workers at Burger King restaurants; the boomerang effect generated by the Chinese NGOs with regard to forcing women to wear metal shoes were pinpointed as examples of effective attempts. Generally, participants acknowledged civil actors’ role in shaping public opinion and affecting governance outcomes.

Climate Change

Increasing of awareness about climate change was demarcated as an achievement which was not undertaken by institutions, but emerged out of learning by “global community”. Cap-and-trade was also delineated as a successful instrument with tangible solutions. Interestingly, there was no awareness about most institutions & organizations dealing with climate change, including the UNEP. Accordingly, the discussion about climate change was rather limited.

2. Aspired breakthroughs in the next 5-10 years


Some participants suggested that the security needed to be redefined with a particular focus on human security--rather than national security. A few participants emphasized the trade-off between security and freedom arguing that “they wanted to see the world safer without increased surveillance,” while acknowledging the difficulty of resolving this dilemma.

Skeptics insisted that the security as a global concern did not make sense because of the conflict between national interests. They suggested that the role of the nation-state needed to be diminished, while civil society was empowered. In general, participants agreed on the need for facilitating cooperation between different groups, individuals and organizations; and granting more power for the civil actors in the decision-making processes within the institutions of global governance. Participants emphasized that “there should be space for the representation of different ideas in the context of global governance.” Then, competing perspectives were raised as to which levels (local, national, regional or international) representation needs to be maintained. Some promoted local governance linked with the global level, particularly drawing from the constituent assemblies in South America.

Reforming the UN, particularly the Security Council, was also brought up as a breakthrough. It should be emphasized that most participants considered the incorporation of these new priorities into the institutions of governance rather “utopic,” exemplifying a pessimistic gaze.

Economy & financial stability

Most participants emphasized the need for reforming the current institutions of global governance, rather than establishing new ones. Such reform would include a more comprehensive and representative structure with a greater capacity to generate solutions for the ongoing financial crisis. Underscoring the necessity of incorporating new priorities into the job definitions of these institutions as a “must,” participants pointed out the importance of monitoring and enforcement capacity. They agreed on the need for fighting against poverty that it should be a central objective of the global governance--suggesting a more comprehensive approach which would entail conditionalities attached to aid & investment through anti-corruption and redistribution. Some also emphasized the need to address the problems of small producers in poor countries (particularly referring to WTO’s seed policy), while some others pointed out the need for providing food for the poorest nations and helping build new institutions to redistribute income.

IÖ: Do you think the emergence of new power axes, such as the G20 and the BRICs would change the structure of global governance institutions?

Most participants suggested that the structure of global governance institutions would not change even if new groupings such as the G20 gained more power. Regional cooperation and the vital need for coordination were highlighted.

Climate Change

Ratification of the Kyoto Agreement was emphasized as a major breakthrough for the near future. Besides institutional channels, the importance of the “global community” and increasing public awareness were raised as future expectations. Participants generally agreed on the need for empowering the civil actors in global cooperation, notwithstanding their-almost ingrained-disbelief in the possibility of incorporating them.

Key obstacles to global governance, cooperation and solidarity


A major obstacle for cooperation and solidarity in the field of security appears in relation to the definition of national interests. According to the participants, if you define threats based on nation-states, then global security cooperation is doomed to fail. But, if security is defined based on the security of people, we might anticipate achievements in global arrangements.

Economy & Financial Stability

The nation-states themselves are considered the main obstacles to global cooperation and solidarity, due to the inherent clash of interests between the nation-states (particularly between advanced and developing nations) and amongst their own constituencies. For instance, TRIPs protect property rights while endangering health in poor countries. A few participants suggested that the MNCs were obstacles to global governance since their interests contradicted with various norms that global governance institutions would supposedly disperse. They also raised concerns about the mismatch between the urgent needs (like in the case of poverty) and the solutions based on suggested conditionality.

Climate Change

A classical problem of public good & free riding comes into play more evidently in the issue of climate change: Who is going to invest in slowing down the climate change? Besides the costly nature of action for nation-states, it is also materially costly to be a conscious consumer who needs to play important roles.

Organized by : Işık Özel


Faculty members : Emre Hatipoğlu (EH), Brooke Luetgert (BL) and Işık Özel (IÖ)

Graduate students : Aylin Aydın, Hasret Dikici Bilgin, Canan Bolel, Aybars Görgülü, Güneş Özlem Öztürk, Duygu Sonat, Ezgi Uzun, Gözde Yavuz