Why Govern Conference

The Strategic, Functional and Normative Logics of Global Governance

Why Govern Conference Group Photo

American University
October 3-5, 2013

Global governance today is one of the most critical subjects for international relations scholarship and policy making. With intensified globalization and the proliferation of collective action problems the world is facing in diverse areas such as security, climate, and economic relations, the need for the creation and sustenance of legitimate global governance structures is more than ever present.  Unlike a good deal of existing studies on global governance, which focus on the supply-side, i.e. how existing international and regional institutions can be made more responsive to global governance (and hence find new rationale for their continued existence and funding), this project focuses on the demand side of global governance. To meet the aim of this project, a conference was organized (October 3-5, 2013).  The next step will be to develop an edited volume, and/or special issue of a journal in the field, and a policy report by bringing together diverse theoretical perspectives and issue areas of global governance, including security, trade and finance, climate change, human rights, intervention, pandemics etc., with a view to draw relevant conceptual and policy implications for the demand-side of global governance.  This initative is jointly organized by TRANSCEND and the One Earth Future Foundation (OEF). Major General Muniruzzman of Bangladesh attended the Welcome Reception.

I. Theoretical Understandings and Approaches

Panel 3 Human Rights

What is global governance and what are the key elements of it? How is global governance attained? This segment looked at the existing concepts and theoretical approaches to Global Governance, including Realist, Liberal, Constructivist and Critical approaches. Is there a common ground? Although a good deal has been written on the concept of global governance, there is still no shared understanding about why global governance is needed.  Among the academic specialists, Realists dismiss the notion of global governance as impractical and unnecessary, whereas Liberals see it as an essential component for achieving peace and prosperity because of the growing complexity of transnational challenges that confront the international community today. To Realists, stability in the anarchic order is created by hegemonic powers through balance of power and deterrence, and it is likely to be contested as new powers emerge. Liberals view global governance as feasible and necessary through institutions, while democratic and economically interdependent states can help develop a separate peace eventually evolving into pluralistic security communities. Constructivists stress the need for global governance in normative terms, and give a special place to the role of norm entrepreneurs and transnational social movements as agents of global change as well as governance. Critical, including neo-Marxist, feminist and postcolonial perspectives take a more transformative and bottom-up view of global governance, stressing the perspective of the victims, rather than the providers of global governance.  They advocate radical changes to the existing world order in order it to be more attuned to the requirements of different societal groups, especially the marginalized ones.

Our theoretical approach in this project is eclectic. We do not impose any particular framework on the paper writers. Policy prescriptions from these perspectives vary and they depend heavily on their diverse and sometimes conflicting assumptions and positions on feasibility, goals and mechanisms. Policymakers implicitly draw from these perspectives even when they do not recognize the source of their ideas. We believe that an eclectic approach can offer the best policy prescriptions as an issue-specific understanding will reveal that all IR perspectives may have something to offer to global governance. Global leadership on many security issues need to come from leading powers who cannot rely on brute power alone. For instance, for legitimate interventions and subsequent nation-building of failed states, international institutional involvement is increasingly necessary. Norms and principles are crucial to create sustainable orders as otherwise, states will disregard them at their will. Further, if marginalized groups are not given a role in order building, the purpose of international society will become narrow and limited. . By not privileging any particular international relations approach we hope to identify synergies and common positions and build a dialogue among them.

II. Case Studies

Panel 6

This section covered the specific issue areas in global governance. Using the introduction and the theoretical chapters as frameworks, individual papers examined a specific area, and assessed (1) what are the demands of actors, (2) who are the actors and institutions that drive the global governance approach and what are the decision-making processes and outcomes of global governance approaches, and (3) what are the challenges and constraints on global governance and how they can  be addressed most effectively.

a.       The key issue areas covered included: climate change, health and pandemics, armed violence, trade, global civics, finance, refugees, human rights, humanitarian intervention, and information technology/social media.

b.      Each paper giver was asked to examine the dominant reasons which have led to the growing demand for global governance or absence of it in the particular issue area. Some of these include: states (both weak and strong) lacking capacity to address issues on a national basis, crisis-management,  growth of civil society demanding space in decision-making, the voice of rising powers and new norms and institutions legitimizing cooperation.

c.       Among the actors and institutions, the paper writers were asked to look at the role of national governments, including great and middle powers, as well as the United Nations and its agencies, regional institutions, the private sector and the transnational civil society.

d.      In identifying the challenges to global governance, the papers focused on the persisting Westphalian mindset (sovereignty and non-intervention), the distribution of power (the role of global and regional powers who may be opposed to multilateralism, and the challenges in accommodating rising powers, especially in terms of the gap between their status/power ambitions and political will and resource capacity and domestic political constraints.

e.      The questions of global reform covered developing new norms, reforming existing institutions and their decision-making structures/processes, the role of emerging institutions with a North-South synergy, such as the G-20, proposed and new institutions that are needed to address gaps in global governance in new areas, better ways to incorporate the role of diverse actors, such as the civil society and the private sector, into global governance structures, and development of new compliance and enforcement mechanisms.

The chapters are framed within an elaborate introduction and conclusion. The introduction lays out the analytic framework and the key themes of the book. The conclusion draws in the implications of the case studies for the theory and practice of global governance.

More information is available for presenters and participants here

The Conference Agenda can be viewed here

Participant bios can be viewed here

Paper abstracts can be viewed here