“As our lives and our societies are disrupted by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis, some weaknesses of our global governance systems and existing ways of organizing our societies are glaringly exposed.”
Global governance has increasingly become common sense within the political-economic sphere in the context of preaching for accountability and transparency. There is, however, a grey space that claims questions of what the end goal of such coherence is called for and who it seeks to serve. This paper shall descriptively delve into the need for Global Governance in today’s world while enumerating its corresponding challenges and criticisms.
The international arena in the 21st century requires a catalyst to unify the world beyond borders and to build global institutions that can combat disparagement of the idea of globalization. The resolution to this conundrum is the dilation and legitimization of global governance. Global Governance is essentially a framework that proposes global relationship and a knit playing field integrating all spheres of a society including social, economic, political, cultural, and environmental sectors to revolve issues with a collective consciousness as liberalists would preach.
Moreover, it is exactly in times of crisis that we tend to find a basis for cooperation in the realization that “we are all in this together”. A crisis like climate change or COVID-19 makes us aware of our common interests, the importance of cooperation and the value of the common good, and a basic ontological feature of our world. We are related to one another and dependent upon one another, and everything is related to everything. Never before was it so clear how the wings of the butterfly can influence the weather at the other side of the world: your virus today will be my virus tomorrow, wherever you live and wherever you are from.
Transnational policy challenges influencing nation states on an individual level see the need for cooperative global approaches within the contemporary world. This would require re-building of the mechanisms of global governance and its constant expansion to address global issues that are on the rise. Globalization, being the epicenter of the framework, is array of opportunities alongside challenges. While the debate on pollution persists, issues such as terrorism, drugs abuse, arms proliferation, climate change, and data security have crossed national borders in search of global solutions. These while picked up within the domestic affairs of individual states within their political agendas, require integrated policy change in the international arena to be dealt with in an effective and constructive manner.
As our lives and our societies are disrupted by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis, some weaknesses of our global governance systems and existing ways of organizing our societies are glaringly exposed. Consider for example the lack of universal healthcare in some countries, which now becomes very problematic, or the vulnerabilities created by the huge amount of air travel in the service of economic globalization. This situation is sad but at the same time also increases the hope for change: maybe we learn from this. Maybe this is the beginning of a transformation. Maybe we should take this as an opportunity to change things. The issue I want to address here concerns the lack of effective cooperation and coordination at a global level, or stronger: the lack of adequate global governance and the political institutions that can do this. It has become clear that faced with a pandemic of global proportions, it is highly ineffective and dangerous to leave policy to nation states. Viruses know no borders, and even if there is an understandable reaction of closing borders and retreating into one’s own territory, it does not make sense if only some countries do this and others don’t – or react much later, too late.
While viewed as transnational, the effects of global governance have a direct influence within the domestic there of each individual state. As Halabi (2004:23) stated, that the framework of global governance is best suited to manipulate globalization’s forces, control its detrimental negative effects and recognizes that globalization cannot lead to global governance like cooperation correspondingly may not be facilitated by the anarchy that prevails in the international system. In the anarchic system, the challenge stands as states seek authority, power and control. While this collective consciousness is important for change, the thirst for power breaks down the cooperation and leads to violations in search for a state of hegemony. While offensive realists would argue that this is natural, this state of neutrality is least beneficial for the scale of change that meets the eye. A multilateral approach is therefore the only possible explanation which not only levels the playing field for all but also doesn’t compromising on valuing the voices of each of its stake holders from time to time.
First, people always bring up the issue of the danger of authoritarianism. This danger is real. But today it is mainly caused by nationalism. We see how right wing populism glides slowly into the direction of authoritarianism in countries such as Brazil, the US, and Hungary. Moreover, by itself the danger of authoritarianism is not a good argument against global governance as such, since it also exists at the level of the nation state. The challenge then, at national and supranational level, is to make sure that the political institutions are democratic and protect freedom. But it is hardly an argument against global governance as such.
Second, related to this objection is the idea that global governance means a world government. The worry is then that this will be a powerful and centralist government, which apart from posing the danger of authoritarianism, also pulls all the power towards itself at the expense of the power of nation states and other political levels. This worry is also genuine and legitimate, but can be defused by reminding ourselves that the model of the centralist nation state is not the only model for government, and that the state is not the only model for governance. For example, countries such as the US and Germany offer relatively successful federalist models of organizing the nation state. And I invite everyone to be creative and find an alternative for the state as the main political institution.
Third, some people may worry that global governance is difficult because of cultural difference, or that world governance would wipe out cultural difference, identity, and a sense of belonging. This concern is understandable but is again not very potent as an objection. The challenge to respect cultural difference and feelings of belonging and to find a common value basis for governance also exists at the level of the nation state, and if we look at international practice there are reasons to be optimistic: people have been able to gather around ideas such as human rights and other principles and values. The philosophical problems with regard to the idea of a global ethics should not be confused with the pragmatic challenges of bringing people together and the political reality of a world that already found ground for cooperation.
While Global Governance seeks to benefit all, it is over ambitious and idealistic. There are several reforms that are imperative to its efficient implementation. Firstly, it is important to modify how states perceive state sovereignty and dismiss the threat that global governance poses to it. It is crucial to sustain he representation of state governments to retain the democratization of global institutions. With that said, the international community has a heavy reliance on national governments as opposed to weakening them. Weak states carrying a contrasting perception are not only a threat to themselves but also to the framework of Global governance. Weak legitimacy in nations that may categorized as rogue states, fake democracies or quasi authoritarian states have a high degree of threat on their efficiency and potential. This is however enhanced in states that exercise more liberty and freedom, where the civil society representation is high.
Secondly, global governance requires an accountable and moral structure. These two elements must be universally recognized as backbones of the framework that are essential and uncontested. Subsequently, regional governance and domestic affairs must be trusted and respected to maintain development and management of state infrastructure and the preservation of natural resources. Emerging regional powers must refrain from dominating the playing field and facilitate trade and regional agreements to foster global governance by mobilizing people, boosting imports and exports, and effectively managing resources.
Correspondingly, the needs to be an urgent democratization of international economic institutions such as the UN, World Bank, WTO and IMF to filter and check the viability of proposals and measures taken. There needs to be a reiterated call for conformity of these revolutionary and policy making bodies with the cause of strengthening global governance, enabling them to efficiently respond to current and emerging global challenges. There needs to be an expansion of the Security Council that restricts the veto power in the hand of a few elitist nations and a reformation of the mandate of the UN enabling it to target short term goals making it more effective.
Lastly, the legal structure require reform. The international judiciary and legal system need to be strengthened adhering to the globalized relationships between states that supersede domestic dynamics of legal frameworks within states. International courts such as the ICJ and the ICC must take cognizance of the changing world that the seek to serve.