Why do we need global governance?

Global governance is necessary because humanity increasingly faces both problems and opportunities that are global in scale. Today, transnational problems such as violence and pandemics routinely reach across borders, affecting us all. At the same time, the increasingly integrated global system has also laid the necessary foundations for peace and spectacular prosperity. Effective global governance will allow us to end armed conflict, deal with new and emerging problems such as technological risks and automation, and to achieve levels of prosperity and progress never before seen. 1

The most important challenge for humanity to overcome is that of existential risks. One way to look at the danger of an existential risk is to quantify the level of global coordination needed to deal with it . While best-shot risks, at one end of the spectrum only require that a single nation, organization or even individual (i.e., superhero) has the means and the will to save everyone, weakest-link risks, at the other end of the spectrum, are dangers that might require literally every country to take appropriate action to prevent catastrophe, with no room for failure. 2 3

We’ve always been at risk of natural disaster , but with advances in our level of technology the risk we pose to ourselves as a species becomes ever greater. Nuclear weapons are a well-known risk that we still live with to this day. The progress of technological research exposes us to new dangers such as bioengineered superbugs, nanotechnological menaces, and the risk of an out-of-control artificial intelligence with ill-intent. Increased levels of global coordination are needed to combat many of these risks, as described in our article on the cooperation possibilities frontier.

There are other problems that don’t necessarily threaten the species or even civilization as we know it, but which are holding back the development of prosperity and progress. Armed conflict, around since the dawn of history, still haunts us today. Even though wars between great powers appear to be a thing of the past, regional conflicts still account for tremendous human suffering and loss of life in parts of the world without stable governance. 4

Other problems have emerged precisely because of our successes in the past. The unprecedented advancement of human wellbeing and prosperity over the past century has been based in large part on the use of fossil fuels, thus exposing us to climate change. Widespread automation, already a stressor on society, will put increased pressure on the social and economic fabric of our societies over the next few decades. Global governance can help alleviate these issues in various ways – we refer the interested reader to the very detailed work in Ruling Ourselves .

Finally, global governance will increasingly be judged not only by the extent to which it prevents harm, but also by its demonstrated ability to improve human wellbeing. 5 Progress has let us set our sights higher as a species, both for what we consider to be the right trajectory for humanity and for our own conduct. 6 Major advances in human wellbeing can be accomplished with existing technology and modest improvements in global coordination.

Effective global governance is global governance that tackles these issues better than the regional governments of the world can independently. Global governance is key to solving global problems. Without it, we may not be able to avoid weakest-link existential risks or regulate new and dangerous technologies. With it, we may be able to prosper as we never have before. The next step is to determine how effective global governance can be achieved.

  • For a good primer on the subject of Global Governance, we suggest Hale, T., Held, D. and Young, K., 2013. Gridlock: why global cooperation is failing when we need it most . Hale et. all frame global governance as the solution to the issue of major world power’s inability to coordinate [ ↩ ]
  • Hirshleifer, J., 1983. From Weakest-Link to Best-Shot: The Voluntary Provision of Public Goods. Public choice , 41[3], pp.371-386. [ ↩ ]
  • Barrett, S., 2005. The Problem of Averting Global Catastrophe. Chi. J. Int’l L. , 6 , p.527. [ ↩ ]
  • Pinker, S., 2012. The better angels of our nature: Why violence has declined . Penguin Books. [ ↩ ]
  • Harack, B., Laskowski, K., Bailey, R., Marcotte, J., Jaques, S., Datta, D., and Kuski, S., 2017. Ruling Ourselves: The deliberate evolution of global cooperation and governance . Available online: http://rulingourselves.com   [ ↩ ]
  • United Nations, 2000. Millennium development goals. Available online: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals [accessed on 21 July 2017]. [ ↩ ]

Related posts for further reading:

  • The cooperation possibility frontier
  • What is global governance?
  • A Very Long Peace: Potential solutions to armed conflict found in global governance?
  • Humanity must flourish to survive
  • How much do humans need to cooperate in order to survive?

2 thoughts to “Why do we need global governance?”

In case that you haven’t noticed, globalization is already lifting the standard of living for millions of people. There has been a dramatic improvement in people’s lives world wide. Well, world wide other than the developed nations who are loosing their middle class, as the middle classes sink into a level of low income. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extreme_poverty#/media/File:World-population-in-extreme-poverty-absolute.svg

Very true; thanks for the comment!

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Article contents

Global governance.

  • Roberto Domínguez Roberto Domínguez Department of Government, Suffolk University
  •  and  Rafael Velázquez Flores Rafael Velázquez Flores Faculty of Economics and International Relations (FEyRI), University of Baja California
  • https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190846626.013.508
  • Published online: 30 July 2018

The goal of this article is to provide an overview of the literature on global governance, key elements for understanding its conceptualization, and a gateway to capture its multidimensionality. From this perspective, global governance is conceived as a framework of analysis or intellectual device to study the complexity of global processes involving multiple actors that interact at different levels of interest aggregation. The article is divided into four parts. The first section describes the origins, definitions, and characteristics of global governance. The second categorizes global governance based on different thematic areas where there is a confluence of governance practices, on the one hand, and the inclusion of a global level of interaction, on the other. The third discusses the different conceptual inquiries and innovations that have been developed around the term. Finally, the last part maps the different academic institutions that have focused their research on global governance and offer programs on this subject.

  • global governance
  • globalization
  • international system
  • institutions
  • global actors
  • global civil society
  • international organizations
  • global security
  • global economic governance
  • global environment

This article aims at explaining the development of the literature on global governance by providing a guide to understanding the evolution of its definitions, thematic applications, conceptual debates, and institutional developments. As the primary audience is scholars wishing to familiarize themselves with debates surrounding the topic, the article offers a gateway to capturing the multidimensionality of global governance. From this perspective and following its discussions, global governance is conceived as a framework of analysis or intellectual device for studying the complexity of global processes involving multiple actors that interact at different levels of interest aggregation.

The primary challenge of this article is to review a term that is amorphous (Zurn, 2012 ) and ubiquitous (Bevir, 2011 ). Global governance emerged as a practice and disciplinary field of inquiry as a product of the end of the Cold War, even though some early debates can be traced back to the late 1970s. The subsequent literature review is organized under the rationale that global governance is an analytical hub helping researchers and policymakers to explain and suggest new avenues of action in an increasingly interconnected world. A defining characteristic is that such interconnection blurs the distinction between public authority and private initiative, and steadily transforms the role of state and nonstate actors operating at different levels of analysis. Understanding global governance as an analytical hub allows grouping its extensive literature and interpreting the various adjectives that have been added to global governance over the years to adapt it to specific areas of human activity at the global level.

The unstructured and pervasive nature of global governance provides the potential for adopting a variety of forms to study it. This article begins with the identification of the main definitions and characteristics of global governance. The second section categorizes global governance based on different thematic areas where there is a confluence of governance practices, on the one hand, and the inclusion of a global level of interaction, on the other. The thematic criteria permit including an interdisciplinary perspective that enriches international relations in light of the evidence that governance practices at the global level operate in a wide range of areas. Later, the paper follows with the identification of some of the conceptual debates and innovations around global governance. The final section presents a survey of the institutions promoting the study of global governance.

Definitions and Characteristics: A New Framework For a Complex World

Globalization, technological change, and transformations in the international order have produced a puzzle that policymakers and scholars have been trying to disentangle since the end of the Cold War. While change is an inherent characteristic of the global system, each historical period experiences a particular articulation of dominant actors and prevailing environment. The arrival of global governance to the debates in international relations is not an exception. While global governance is associated with the transformations of the international system at the end of the 20th century , its roots are traced back to the gradual transformation that has taken place since the early 1970s, which includes the development of the consciousness about global environment, the increasing number of nonstate actors, and the enhancement of the UN system.

Some of the earliest scholarly references to global governance appeared in the mid-1970s. The journal Social Sciences Quarterly included several articles related to the scarcity of global resources and the creation of mechanisms to manage them in 1976 . Nelson and Honnold ( 1976 ) studied the possibility of severe global resource scarcity. They argued that the aggregate individual sacrifice, long-term planning, and global governance are commonly the social responses, but they also require the systematic application of social sanctions to make them consistent with organizational regularities and reinforcement principles (Nelson & Honnold, 1976 ). By the end of the 1970s, Onuf ( 1979 ) made some references to the concept of global governance in his discussion of the absence of an international legal regime, noting the state of global anarchy while emphasizing the lack of scholarly explanation. In a semantic reflection on the nature of authority and order, and how it relates to sovereignty, Onuf asserted that such a dichotomy does not preclude the existence of some order in the global arena (Onuf, 1979 ).

During the 1980s and early 1990s, global governance was increasingly used to relate to a more complex international system, but it was not the central concept of analysis. Dator ( 1981 , 2009 ) developed forecasting methods about alternative futures, archetypes, or images (continued growth, transformation, collapse, conserver/disciplined society) to help scholars and policymakers to explore the drivers, identify the emerging issues, and deconstruct/reconstruct models of development and power in global governance. Branscomb ( 1983 ) focused his research on the growing unregulated flow of data across borders and framed global governance as a mechanism which would contribute to regulating these data flows. After explaining the role of data in liberal societies, he provided some ideas about the role of global governance to develop regulatory data bodies. Senghaas ( 1993 ) also contributed to the analysis of global governance by exploring globalized problems such as climate conventions, responses to epidemics such as HIV/AIDS, and development regimes; his research lead him to explore the concept of a “world domestic policy” capable of addressing the global issues that the “sum of uncoordinated national policies” was no longer adequate to manage and ameliorate.

Incentivized by the uncertainties derived from the end of the Cold War, the theoretical mainstream in international relations gradually shifted away from the study of intergovernmental organizations, law, and world studies, which was seen as top-down and static, toward global governance (Weiss & Wilkinson, 2014 ). Alerted by the mismatch between new international challenges and lack of consistent responses from state and state oriented actors, James Rosenau and Ernst-Otto Czempiel sparked the debate on global governance after the publication of their theoretical collection of essays Governance without Government in 1992 (Rosenau & Czempiel, 1992 ). Global governance debates and studies experienced significant progress in 1995 . The policy-oriented Commission on Global Governance, co-chaired by Swedish Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson and former Commonwealth Secretary-General Shridath Ramphal, published the report Our Global Neighborhood (Commission on Global Governance, 1995 ). Later, in the winter 1995–1996 , the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACNUS) and the United Nations University sponsored the launch of the journal Global Governance , which has pursued nonpartisan, intellectually challenging, and academically sound debates about global governance (Coate & Murphy, 1995 ).

The transformations of the international context sparked a vivid and active scholarly conversation about the definitions and characteristics of global governance. Like other complex phenomena, global governance has been defined in a variety of ways. Two of the definitions related in this article observe the role of international institutions. Thakur and Van Langenhove ( 2006 ) defined global governance as “The complex of formal and informal institutions, mechanisms, relationships, and processes between and among states, markets, citizens, and organizations—both intergovernmental and nongovernmental—through which collective interests are articulated, rights and obligations are established, and differences are mediated” ( 2006 , p. 233). Rittberger ( 2002 ) presents a shorter definition stating that global governance “is the output of a nonhierarchical network of international and transnational institutions: not only IGOs and international regimes but also transnational regimes are regulating actors’ behavior” ( 2002 , p. 2).

Definitions of global governance have also emphasized the role of collective goods. Risse defines governance as “the various institutionalized modes of social coordination to produce and implement collectively binding rules, or to provide collective goods” (Risse, 2012 , p. 700), arguing that while the debate about global governance is focusing on governance without government and the rise of private authority in world politics, it is also based on the assumption that functioning states are capable of implementing and enforcing global norms and rules (Risse, 2011 ). Building on this, Zurn ( 2012 ) incorporates the element of regulations for transnational common goods. He states: “Global governance refers to the entirety of regulations [substantial norms, rules, and programs, the process by which they are adapted, monitored, and enforced, as well as the structures/institutions that house them] put forward with reference to solving specific denationalized and deregionalized problems or providing transnational common goods” (Zurn, 2012 , p. 731).

Other definitions interoperate global governance as a mechanism for addressing and managing conflicts. Miller ( 2007 ) perceives global governance as “the resolution of conflicts over divergent interpretations of evidence constraining the exercise of power and authority” ( 2007 , p. 327), while Castells ( 2005 ) briefly defines it as “the ability to manage the problems and issues of a world in turmoil” ( 2005 , p. 12). From a different angle, Ikenberry’s definition considers the general orientation of global governance as a process: “It is the collective effort of people to facilitate the upside of openness and exchange in the global system, while working together to manage the downside. Thus global governance is, in effect, the management of liberal internationalism” (Ikenberry, 2014 , p.18).

The previous definitions contribute to understanding the plasticity of the complex phenomenon that is global governance. Turning attention towards the characteristics, expressions, and elements of global governance provides a different perspective of analysis, which unpacks the essence of definitions. For the Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance, the institutions of global governance are the “mechanisms for steering” states and societies toward the goals of global public policy, as expressed in the UN Charter and other key documents for global governance. These mechanisms of global governance encompass international, national, subnational and local actors, existing to provide public goods, which one can neither diminish availability to others through use, nor be excluded from using (Albright & Gambari, 2015 ).

Rittberger makes an important distinction between international and global governance. In his view, international governance is “the output of a non-hierarchical network of interlocking international (predominantly, but not exclusively, governmental) institutions which regulate the behavior of states and other international actors in different issue areas of world politics” (Rittberger, 2002 , p. 2). In contrast to international governance, global governance is characterized by the decreased salience of states as well as the increased involvement of nonstate actors in the processes of establishing norms and rules, including compliance, monitoring, and contributing at multiple levels of policymaking (Rittberger, 2002 ). Weiss and Wilkinson ( 2014 ) have also identified some significant elements that describe global governance:

It refers to collective efforts to identify, understand, or address worldwide problems that transcend the capacities of individual states.

It reflects the capacity of the international system at any moment in time to provide government-like services in the absence of world government.

It encompasses a wide variety of cooperative problem-solving arrangements that are visible but informal (practices or guidelines) or were temporary formations (coalitions of the willing).

It also entails more formalized problem-solving arrangements and mechanisms, such as hard rules (laws and treaties) or institutions with administrative structures and established practices to manage collective affairs by a variety of actors—including state authorities, intergovernmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations, private sector entities, and other civil society actors (Weiss & Wilkinson, 2014 ).

Krahmann ( 2005 ) has expanded the explanations about the characteristics of global governance. She indicates that the shift from “government” to “governance” denotes the increasing fragmentation and reintegration of political authority among state and nonstate actors across levels of analysis along seven dimensions: geographical scope, functional scope, the distribution of resources, interests, norms, decision-making, and policy implementation (Krahmann, 2003 ). Particularly interesting is the reorientation characterized geographical fragmentation and integration away from the state as the central unit, which takes three forms: “downward” to local bodies, “upward” to international organizations, and “sideways” to private and voluntary actors.

As Krahmann ( 2005 ) indicates, one of the main characteristics of global governance is that it operates at different levels of political activity. Zurn ( 2012 ) specifically advances the understanding of global governance as a form of multilevel governance. Gary Marks initially characterized Multilevel Governance as the result of a “centrifugal process in which decision-making is spun away from member states in two directions,” namely, subnational and supranational (Marks, 1993 , pp. 401–402). Reflecting on these different contexts within which the multilevel governance concept is discussed, Liesbet Hooghe and Gary Marks ( 2010 ) have proposed distinguishing different “types” of multilevel governance. The first type of governance conceives the dispersion of authority to jurisdictions at a limited number of levels (international, national, regional, meso, local). A second vision of governance is task-specific jurisdictions, intersecting memberships, and no limit to a number of jurisdictional levels (Hooghe & Marks, 2010 ).

Another perspective from which to observe different forms of global governance is based on a combination of unidirectional and multidirectional flows of authority, in conjunction with formal, informal, and mixed structures, as Kacowicz ( 2012 ) suggests. The combination of both axes produces six types of governance. Under the axis of unidirectional flows of authority, Kacowicz ( 2012 ) suggests top-down or hierarchical, in which institutions contract and outsource activities; bottom-up governance, where civil society and networks of advocacy develop positive incentives and bargaining; and market-type governance, which is a public-private network/partnership. Under the axis of multidirectional flow of governance, the other three types of governance are the following: network governance, which is hierarchical with governments/nation states at the top and NGOs and businesses at the bottom; side-by-side governance, with all levels working in tandem together; and finally web-network governance, which is a public-private network/partnership that is nonhierarchical and combines efforts from all parts of society, including the people (Kacowicz, 2012 ).

The variety of definitions provided above conveys some of the dimensions of global governance. To enrich its understanding, Weiss and Wilkinson ( 2014 ) have framed three different angles of the challenging nature of global governance by arguing that it (a) is ubiquitous and omnipresent; (b) is used and abused by academics and policymakers (3.1 million hits in a Google search at the end of 2012 ); and (c) remains notoriously slippery. While the broadness of global governance may produce a lack of conceptual rigor, it also offers a wide avenue to bring a diversity of disciplines interested in improving the current transformations of the global system through more pluralist and comprehensive approaches.

Thematic Areas of Global Governance

The explanation of global governance is a daunting task, because there are multiples structures of interaction among different actors and processes. The word “governance” appears in diverse disciplines, each one acting sometimes within its own rationale and barely connecting with other disciplines. How to make sense to the multiple forms of global governance? Bevir suggests a starting point when he argues that “governance refers to theories and issues of social coordination and the nature of all patterns of rule” (Bevir, 2011 , p. 1). From the perspective of this article, global governance focuses on social coordination at the international level; in other words, global governance is based on different areas of human activity where there is a confluence of governance practices at the global level of interaction. This social coordination at the international level varies across the respective areas of human activity and hence sets different patterns of rule.

When attempting to systematically articulate and evaluate the concept of global governance, the mainstream thematic categorization for studying international relations offers a helpful starting point. Manuals and textbooks on international relations have been organized by either geographical or theoretical categories. The vast literature on international relations has produced several debates utilizing categories such as concepts, images, perspectives, understandings, and paradigms. From the theoretical perspective, images (realism, liberalism, economic structuralism, and English School) and interpretative understandings (constructivism, critical, postmodern, and gender studies) have shaped competing explanations about how the world works. However, the literature on global governance has emerged from several different areas, and hence a strict theoretical IR categorization would leave numerous contributions out of the analysis. From the thematic angle, however, the extensive literature in international relations is disaggregated in various topics such as politics (international law and organizations), security, international political economy, and more recently environment and civil society (Viotti & Kauppi, 2012 ). This approach allows broader inclusion of global governance contributions. Based on IR thematic traditions as well as the current literature on global governance, this section organizes the information in six main areas: politics, security, economic, environmental, civil society/human rights, and other emerging themes. The next section informs and completes the overview with a description of conceptual debates and global governance.

Global Governance and International Organizations

The United Nations has been one of the catalysts of global governance. While it has been subject to numerous criticisms due to the anachronism of the Security Council, the UN system is by far the most comprehensive global organization that has demonstrated the capacity to trigger and underpin mechanisms of cooperation on matters such as health, culture, refugees, and civil society, to name a few, for more than seven decades. Regardless of the positive or negative assessment of the performance of United Nations, the world after 1945 embarked on a journey of no return where global norms, laws, and customs matter more than in any other historical period. The contribution of global governance is indeed one of the multiple causes in the transformations of the behavior of international actors. Pierre ( 2013 ) has correctly argued that institutional changes in domestic governance over the past two decades are overwhelmingly driven by endogenous agents and changes related to international influences tend to be adaptations to globalization rather than globalization in itself.

The UN’s reform and performance have been at the center of the debates of global governance. Weiss and Thakur ( 2010 ) have identified five gaps between the nature of many current global challenges and the available inadequate solutions. The first is the knowledge gap, which contributes to developing a broad consensus on global problems such as climate change; the second is the normative gap, which can be defined as a pattern of behavior in international society; the third is the policy gap, which is the interlinked set of governing principles and goals in addition to the agreed programs of action to implement those principles and achieve those goals; the fourth is the institutional gap, including formal and informal institutions; the fifth and final is the compliance gap, which has three facets: implementation, monitoring, and enforcement. Another important dimension of global governance and international organizations is the regional level. While the global level of political aggregation is partially able to contribute to the amelioration of problems, it also requires the inclusion of regional organizations in order to galvanize the interest of regional actors in cooperating (Weiss & Thakur, 2010 ). All in all, the assumption is that regional organizations are more sensitive to cultural and political regional preferences and hence may contribute to implementing norms of good global governance (Rabe, 2007 ).

Global Security Governance

Explaining the mechanisms of provision of international security has been one of the essential driving forces in the discipline of international relations since the end of World War II and the rise of global governance following the Cold War. Concepts and debates produced within the umbrella of global security governance offer a variety of analytical schemes while revealing new avenues of research. The development of global security governance has been oriented to a large extent by the contributions, limitations, and performance of international and regional organizations as security providers, in addition to state and substate actors. As the number and scope of regional organizations have expanded since the end of the Cold War, the way regional organizations conceptualize security and practice their collective duties has become a focus of attention of scholars. The prolific literature on global governance and regional organizations has shed some light on the institutional mechanisms and autonomy (Acharya & Johnston, 2007 ; Tavares, 2010 ), the variety of security governance policies (Kirchner & Sperling, 2010 ; Kirchner & Dominguez, 2011 ), the conditions of becoming a significant actor in regional and global governance, and the capacity of member states to enable regional organizations to produce collective security goods, particularly in the cases of NATO and the EU.

While the research agenda of global security governance and regional organizations has produced significant contributions, some scholars, such as Christou and Croft ( 2011 ), rightly argue that it is still necessary to advance systematic comparisons and to strengthen the methodological foundations of security research in the analysis of security governance. Ceccorulli and Lucarelli ( 2014 ) have also argued that in order to make the concept of security governance more useful for assessing current security dynamics, four main challenges must be addressed. First, there is a need to expand the research agenda with regard to how security is understood and perceived by the actors involved in the governance system. Second, as the literature is divided into two main branches (one looking at governmental organizations and one dealing with nonstate actors), attempts should be made to impart a sense of coordination concerning efforts among different actors and layers of governance, even when focusing predominantly on one type of actor (e.g., regional state powers). Third, the literature (with notable exceptions) has predominantly focused on Europe and the transatlantic area, which is particularly limited in light of the emergence of new actors. Fourth, the literature on security governance has been too often detached from reflections on regionalism, limiting the understanding of the different dynamics and security arrangements around the world (Ceccorulli & Lucarelli, 2014 ).

Another dimension of global security governance is the case of nuclear security and US hegemony. Chung argues that given the increased threat of nuclear terrorism by nonstate actors, the current global mechanisms addressing nuclear security have revealed serious limitations, prompting a demand for developing new arrangements of global nuclear security governance (Chung, 2012 ). With regard to global security governance and US hegemony, Krahmann ( 2005 ) argues that the emergence of security governance appears to explain the changing strategies of America’s allies. Her argument suggests that major powers, including the United States, are increasingly collaborating through flexible coalitions of the willing. Crucially, these flexible coalitions do not constitute a new form of balance of power; they respond to differences in interests and capabilities within overlapping structures of regional and global security governance. The concept of security governance thus highlights and informs the complexities in the policies of the United States and these other states. It points to evidence showing that US imperialist strategy relies to a considerable degree on the cooperation of both state and nonstate actors and that its interests and reach may be more specific than frequently suggested in the current debate (Krahmann, 2005 ).

Due to the diversity of dimensions involving the area of security, the concept of global security governance has been used to understand more specific aspects of human activity capable of producing regional or global situations of instability such as food security and climate change. Following the 2007–2008 global food crisis, Margulis examined the Government of Canada’s efforts of promoting global food security governance behavior at meetings of the G-8 and the United Nations Committee on World Food Security (CFS). While the global influence of Canada is to some extent marginal, Margulis underscored that the CFS has emerged as a key institution for agenda-setting, norm-building, and rule-making in global food security governance (Margulis, 2015 ). In the area of climate change, Floyd has advanced the argument that while institutional fragmentation of global climate security governance is not automatically problematic, the phenomenon of ideational fragmentation that often goes with it is highly disadvantageous to achieving climate security for people, particularly in light of the diverse and competing preferences and agendas of states and international organizations (Floyd, 2015 ).

Global Economic Governance

Global economic governance has been defined as “governing, without sovereign authority, economic relationships that transcend national borders” (Madhur, 2012 , p. 18). While this definition encapsulates a large range of elements comprehended within economic relations, more challenging has been the implementation of global economic policy coordination. After the economic turmoil of the 1929 crisis and the interwar period, the Bretton Woods system was put in place, but it insufficiently addressed the financial instability of the 1970s. The disillusion with the neoliberal order continued to grow through the 1990s, paving the way for experimenting with alternative economic practices, particularly in Latin America. In addition, the 2008 financial crisis and the emergence of economic powerhouses such as India and China have also contributed to shaping the debates around global economic governance, which aims to “set formal and informal rules that regulate the global economy and the collection of authority relationships that promulgate, coordinate, monitor, or enforce said rules” (Drezner, 2014 , p. 124).

While the demands for producing global collective forms of action are increasing, the capacity of global economic arrangements to respond to secular stagnation, recession, or inequality has proven to be decidedly lacking. Nonetheless, the progress made in the construction of global economic governance should not be underestimated. Drezner argues that despite the failure of institutions of global governance to avert the 2008 crisis, international institutions and governance frameworks performed contrary to expectations, and on the whole “the system worked and the open global economy survived” (Drezner, 2014 , p. 124, 2012 ). This line of argument is predicated on the reforms in the US financial system, the coordination of the G-20, and the slow transformations of the triad of economic institutions. From a more skeptical position, Quinlan ( 2011 ) contends that globalization is in retreat after 2008 and the only solution is to find commonalities while subsuming national interest for the global good by expanding global governance, which will depend on how well the so-called G-2 (United States and China) gets along in conjunction with to what degree developing nations feel they are actual stakeholders in the global economy, among other factors.

The debate on global governance calls for revisiting the architecture of global economic institutions, with particular focus on the changes wrought in three major international institutions: the transformation of the IMF, the marginalization of the World Bank, and the creation of the Financial Stability Board. Woods ( 2014 ) identifies six core principles to be strengthened for producing good economic global governance: legitimacy, representation, responsiveness, flexibility, transparency and accountability, and effectiveness. The reform of the global economic architecture has also been studied from the angle of soft law, particularly through the study of the G-20, which strives to build a new economic and financial regime better suited to the global economy. The use of soft law is based on legal instruments such as G-20 communiqués and declarations (Filipovic & Buncic, 2015 ). The broader inclusiveness of emerging economies in shaping the global architecture has been largely advocated for as a way to strengthen global governance (Martin, 2007 ). From a more comprehensive perspective, Madhur ( 2012 ) advocates the concept of hybrid architecture, in which the rise of multilateralism in the past 20 years has produced a hybrid system with two interrelated yet distinct layers: a set of formal institutions (WTO, IMF, WB, and FSB) forming its four pillars, and the G-20 as an informal, yet prominently presiding, multilateral forum setting the overall agenda and guiding the formal institutions.

Global Environmental Governance

Environment is an area inherently conducive to global governance, because it involves numerous individuals and institutions operating at different levels of spatial activity. As there is no global government and environmental degradation is not confined to borders, the concept of global environmental governance has been helpful to explain this phenomenon that typically involves a broad range of actors, including states as well as regional and international organizations. John Vogler has defined global environmental governance as follows: “At a formal level it is virtually a synonym for international environmental cooperation; for the network of international environmental organizations and conventions and the spaces between them” (Vogler, 2005 , p. 835). While studies of global environmental regimes have allowed a better understanding of who, why, and how our ecosystems are affected, a more daunting analytical area is whether political actors are willing to adapt to sustainable practices. Nongovernmental actors, in concert with corporations, governments, and international organizations, have established new standard-setting bodies to guide and regulate behavior. Scholars have begun to document the rise of these new forms of private governance and hybridized public–private governance as a means of promoting environmental protection (OHCHR et al., 2013 ).

Another area that demands inclusive policies at different levels of government is sustainable development. Jeffrey Sachs ( 2012 ) has argued that the most effective way to reach the global goals of strengthening sustainable development is by focusing on three broad categories, economic development, environmental sustainability, and social inclusion, which will depend on a fourth condition: good governance at all levels, local, national, regional, and global. However, implementing the environmental regime is complex, because international agreements must operate at the domestic policy level, where there is often still a gap between broad international goals and local engagement for implementation (Busby, 2010 ).

Global Civil Society and Human Rights

The inclusion of the rights of individuals in international processes has been an inherent part of the genesis of global governance. From the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1949 as a nonbinding document to the creation of the International Criminal Court in 1998 , the governance of global human rights has been evolving as normative framework and as common practice. The UN-led proliferation of national human rights institutions, whose purported aims are to implement international norms domestically, has expanded considerably since the early 1990s; such institutions have quadrupled in number and exist in almost 100 countries (Cardenas, 2003 ). However, despite overall advancements in advancing rights, applying them consistently remains an outstanding governance issue (Thompson, 2010 ). These mechanisms are far from consistent. Generally, when they are effective, they change a state’s conduct by publicizing abuses rather than by providing technical advice or applying punitive measures (Kaye, 2011 ). The protection of human rights in the global agenda has also advanced the debate for more proactive mechanisms to enhance the rights of people (Ruggie, 2014 ). However, challenges to implement full-fledged human rights protections worldwide still surpass the capacity of global governance actors to provide them.

The development of networks has been an important element in incentivizing the creation of global civil societies protecting human rights. The roots of global civil society have been the subject of debate. Two approaches have been adopted. The first suggests that global civil society has been developing rationally over a long period of time, continuous and parallel with the development of domestic civil society in democracies. The second postulates global civil society to be a relatively new phenomenon, one that has emerged in response to unprecedented challenges to democracy as a result of globalization (Coleman & Wayland, 2005 ).

National civil societies embark on developing links with peers around the world in multiple ways, producing a myriad of forms of interaction. Following Mor’s analysis ( 2013 ) and based on the approaches to exerting leverage on global society, four clusters of GSC are emblematic of the complexity of the phenomena of this emerging global society from below. The first is the GCS that aims to some extent to replace statist features of the international system; several networks have been developed along these lines, from global student protests to social groups working against globalization. The second frames GCS as being in opposition to the state system; social movements in Latin America and Eastern Europe working to promote an active citizenship outside and beyond the national borders are emblematic of this group. Nongovernmental organization (NGO) activism concerning the arms trade is emblematic of the significant and emancipatory role attributed to civil society in post–Cold War international politics. A distinctively liberal understanding of civil society as an increasingly global sphere marks discussions of NGOs’ efforts separately from the state and market, promoting progressive and nonviolent social relations. The final strand of GCS is mostly focused on advancing the rights of religions and ethnic movements, which in recent years have encouraged a new agenda to develop the fourth world, which includes indigenous peoples, refugees, and migrants, mainly.

The third GCS has been studied as a subsidiary organ to international society, in which, under a neoliberal perspective, civil society organizations become institutionalized and professionalized so that they can fit into the global political framework as partners rather than as opponents. First, liberal accounts underplay the mutual interdependence between the state, the market, and civil society. NGO agency is constrained as well as enabled by its historical structural grounding. Second, a more ambivalent understanding of NGOs’ progressive political value is needed. While some NGOs may play a role in counter-hegemonic struggles, overall they are more likely to contribute to hegemonic social formations. Third, liberal accounts of a global civil society inadequately capture the reproduction of hierarchies in international relations, downplaying ongoing, systemic patterns of North-South asymmetry. Fourth, the emphasis on the nonviolent nature of global civil society sidelines the violence of capitalism and the state system while serving as a means of disciplining dissent and activism (Stavrianakis, 2012 ).

Other Emerging Areas of Global Governance

As global governance studies have reached a prominent role in the agenda of IR research, numerous intersections have been developed between global governance and other policy domains. These intersections are the results of specific areas of policy action that have elevated their sphere of action to the global level and experienced the phenomenon of being affected by multiple actors and various levels of analysis. These are the cases of global governance in labor, migration, health, sustainable development, and water.

Global governance has been used as a frame for studying labor relations. Based on the analysis of International Labor Organization (ILO) standards and the setup of the UN Global Compact, Hassel ( 2008 ) argues that there is a plethora of voluntarist initiatives that converge over time toward a shared understanding of labor standards, which is part of the transformation of global labor governance institutions. Nonetheless, there are several problems for a full-fledged convergence of global norms on labor standards, such as the lack of governmental commitment in implementing labor standards in some countries in addition to the lack of coordination and the existence of collective action problems pertaining to various decentralized activities. In this regard, the strongest incentives for monitoring compliance, mostly advocated by the victims of noncompliance, as well as the development of a cognitive frame of unacceptable corporate behavior are essentials steps toward actualizing a “harder” institutional setting (Hassel, 2008 ).

Barnett ( 2002 ) has linked global governance with migration and refugees. She argues that the recent influx of internally displaced peoples (IDPs) has caused the UNHCR to rethink its governance model even further, as it does not accommodate the needs of all displaced people, especially IDPs, who are not strictly defined by borders. The UNHCR has been pushed to adapt their current state-centered global governance model toward a democratic governance model whereby a possible solution would be for the UN General Assembly to expand UNHCR’s mandate to include IDPs. However, the UNHCR remains unresponsive to this proposal (Barnett, 2002 ).

In the case of global health governance, Lee ( 2010 ) argues that the bulk of scholarship on international organization and health continues to be produced from outside the formal disciplinary boundaries of international relations. This literature, primarily from the perspective of public health, is concerned with improving the contemporary institutional mechanisms for addressing collective health problems. From such analyses, the broader question of what international organizations and health tell us about emerging forms of global governance can be raised. For example, what do innovations in international health cooperation tell us about the shifting boundaries between the state, the market, and civil society? What is the quality of global governance as provided by these diverse institutional actors? While a recent shift in the literature explores how international organizations matter in addition to the role of delegation and agency, more analysis is required beyond the study of the World Health Organization (Lee, 2010 ).

Particularly as a result of the post- 2015 development framework, global sustainable development governance provides an opportunity to address these global economic, social, and environmental issues in a coordinated, coherent, and collaborative manner. In this context, the global partnership can promote a more effective, coherent, representative, and accountable global governance regime, which should ultimately translate into better national and regional governance, the realization of human rights, and sustainable development (Madhur, 2012 ). Within the umbrella of environment and development, global water governance remains in its initial stages in spite of increasing awareness of the scarcity of this vital resource. Pahl-Wostl, Gupta, and Petry ( 2008 ) have argued that although a global discourse about water issues has evolved over the last five decades, unlike governance of many other environmental and resource issues, a clear global governance framework has still not emerged. They have advanced their studies on global water governance by compiling 86 international river basin organizations and advocating the discussion of the vital importance of water as it relates to global governance.

Conceptual Debates on Global Governance

Thematic categorizations provide an overview of the main areas where the literature on global governance has proliferated. However, scholars have also embarked on conceptual, rather than thematic, debates or have derived interesting conceptual discussions from their thematic research. Social scientists have studied global governance from a variety of angles, producing numerous analytical innovations which improve its comprehension. While debates on global governance are perpetually evolving and the related conceptual list is extensive, this section incorporates some emblematic concepts that have paved the way for debates enriching the understanding of global governance. These include common goods, good governance, power, legitimacy, authority, global governors, governmentality, governance in areas of limited statehood, and policy-centric systems of governance. These concepts have triggered the need of adopting global governance as a framework for analysis.

The perception of sharing a common milieu has been crucial for understanding the interconnections that global governance aims to study and explain. One of the main concepts that explicitly and implicitly remain in the debates on global governance is related to the preservation and enhancement of global common goods and, more importantly, the need to develop mechanisms for collective actions. Keohane ( 2010 ) has explained the complexity of dealing with common-pool resources and collective action in the context that they are subject to the challenge of underprovision or overuse because no individual actor has an interest in unilaterally preserving them. The link between common-pool resources and collective action varies from sector to sector of political action, and hence the concept of global commons has advanced at different paces in distinct areas of international activity. While the rationale of international security is still rooted in various levels of security dilemmas, the perception of a global commons has found better conditions to flourish in areas such as global environmental policy, because the stewardship of the global commons cannot be executed without global governance. This is the case of those parts of the planet that fall outside national jurisdictions and to which all nations have access (the high seas, the atmosphere, Antarctica, and outer space), and these resource domains are guided by the principle of the common heritage of mankind (OHCHR et al., 2013 ).

The concern about the depletion of common goods leads to the conception of global governance not only as a heuristic device to understand multiple and complex relations but also as a mechanism to suggest policy prescriptions to manage and ameliorate global problems. Central to this assumption is the concept of good governance. While postmodern critical theories and Gramscian cultural hegemony scholars contest the intentions of global good governance as conventional mechanism of domination, a substantial share of scholars working with the concept of global governance to some degree acknowledge the need for global good governance. Weiss’ definition of good governance entails the following elements: participation and empowerment with respect to public policies, choices, and offices; rule of law secured by an independent judiciary to which the executive and legislative branches of government are subject, along with citizens as well as other actors and entities; and standards of probity and incorruptibility, transparency, accountability, and responsibility (Weiss, 2013 ).

The fact that good global governance advocates a more comprehensive and inclusive agenda is not dissociated from the debates surrounding power and international relations. Barnett and Duvall ( 2005 ) argue that scholarly literature surrounding global governance largely dismisses the role of power. As power remains one of the most significant concepts in most international relations theories, from its relevance in realism to its relative contestation in social constructivism, two different lines of reasoning provide some elements acknowledging the pertinence of linking global governance and power.

The first is the understanding that power has been disaggregated in the past few decades. Based on IR debates on hard (military and economic) and soft (cultural) power and from the perspective of global governance, power has been embedded in two types of global governance, hard and soft. The former refers to formal rules, norms, and institutions that have been established to regulate the behavior of states and other actors in the international system. In this context, international law, treaties, conventions, and other juridical tools are capable of providing governance. But it also means that legitimate power can be used to produce world order in the absence of a global government. In this line of thought, the balance of power plays a significant role in reducing global anarchy. Soft governance includes informal rules, norms, and institutions that can also provide governance. In this perspective, persuasion and influence are key elements in the search for world stability (Kröger, 2008 ). From a different angle, Weiss ( 2013 ) rightly contends that it is often forgotten that power is not confined to states and that nonstate actors play an increasingly significant role in international relations. Along the same lines, while the increasing role of civil societies and political parties have underpinned the process of democratization around the world, some other subversive and opportunistic forces, such as criminal organizations, have taken control of areas where the state is fragile or absent, resulting in the weakening of the rule of law and the negative fragmentation of state power (Naím, 2013 ).

The second dimension of power that affects the architecture of global governance is its polarization. From the bipolar order that prevailed in the Cold War to the current multipolar system, global collective action assumes different forms. While hegemonic transition theories have been largely studied in international relations, some scholars have linked the US decline and global governance. Chase-Dunn, Kwon, Lawrence, and Inoue ( 2011 ) have argued that while the rise of another hegemon that could replace the United States is unlikely, there are clearly challenges to be addressed. Newly emergent national economies such as India and China need to be fitted into the global structure of power, while the unilateral use of military force by the declining hegemon (the United States) has further delegitimized the institutions of global governance and has provoked resistance and challenges (Chase-Dunn et al., 2011 ).

Barnett and Duval broaden the definition of power from the perspective of global governance, stating that power is “the production, in and through social relations, of effects on actors that shape their capacity to control their fate” (Barnett & Duvall, 2005 , p. 45). In other words, power is a means to govern people’s lives, or even international orders. The authors develop a taxonomy of power based on two analytical dimensions: the kinds of social relations through which power is exerted, and the specificity of social relations through which effects on actors’ capacities are produced. These two dimensions generate a fourfold taxonomy of power: compulsory, institutional, structural, and productive. But when it comes to the international system, it is structural power that specifically and directly affects global governance and its varying capacities. However, it is productive power, defined as the socially diffuse production of subjectivity in systems of meaning and signification, which will combat the negative view of power and will contribute to effectively analyzing global governance (Barnett & Duvall, 2005 ).

Associated with power, the concept of legitimacy has also been included in the debates on global governance. The main challenge, as Castells ( 2005 ) indicates, is that there is a credibility crisis as a result of the nation-state’s inability to adequately represent its citizens in the global governance era, where local and national governance has caved in and given way to global issues resolution, serving as a platform for the emergence of a global civil society. Another dimension of legitimacy in global governance is the case of compliance with international norms. The internationalization of norms leads to legitimized forms of behavior in which there is less need of coercion and calculation of interests. In other words, as Weiss has pointed out, “legitimacy is driven by the logic of appropriateness, whereby compliance can result from self-imposed obligation to do what is perceived as right” (Weiss, 2013 , p. 38). Despite the silver lining logic of appropriateness, three major global governance gaps still undermine legitimacy. The first is the jurisdictional gap, in which public policymaking is by nature predominantly national in both focus as well as scope. The second is the operational gap, wherein public institutions lack the policy-relevant information and policy instruments necessary to respond to the daunting complexity of global policy issues. The third is the incentive gap, in which the compliance problem makes it difficult for international governance systems to contribute effectively to the attainment of governance goals, since that remains contingent on the willingness of individual states to implement international regulations (Brüh & Rittberger, 2003 ).

The discussion on power and legitimacy in global governance has also provided the background for the discussion on global authority. Finnemore ( 2014 ) has underscored the challenges that global governance is facing with regard to global authority because while power can be an attribute of an actor in isolation, “authority is always conferred by others in some form, however distant. . . this conferral is central to the legitimation of many aspects of global governance” (Finnemore, 2014 , p. 221). For example, while the UN is authorized to exert power through established institutional procedures, its authority can increase or decrease based on performance and the response by others to UN actions. Based on this premise on global authority, Finnemore ( 2014 ) has pointed out the benefits of shifting the focus of global governance from actors to the relationships among actors involved in the making of global processes. From that perspective, Finnemore ( 2014 ) argues that it is hard to think of a policy area where a single “global governor” is acting alone and suggests that the nature of relationships among these potential governors can vary greatly, which in turn has diverse effects on policies and outcomes: “Global governors compete, conflict, cooperate, delegate, and divide labor in a host of ways we have not always examined systematically, but should” (Finnemore, 2014 , p. 223). Her emphasis on relationships rather than on single actors contributes to the understanding that the interactions among global governors vary enormously, shaping dynamics and outcomes of global governance (Finnemore, 2014 ).

Alexandria Jayne Innes and Brent Steele have developed the analysis of global governance through the lens of governmentality. They argue that practices and tactics of actors (such as states, individuals, NGOs, and for-profit agencies) produce a field of power where influences strategically oppose/coincide with one another to produce governmentality. In essence, their view is that governance is too narrow and, more specifically, “governmentality. . . offers insight into a concept of global governance that does not prioritize the state. Rather, it situates the state within a network of governance, representing an actor that governs itself and others” (Jayne Innes & Steele, 2012 , p. 717). Moreover, governmentality serves broadly as a regulatory factor/mechanism that promotes self-governance. In this case, sovereignty and governmentality coexist, with the latter allowing states to have sovereignty and control over disciplinary power over their people as well as the capacity to act as a “unitary cohesive agent in the global system” (Jayne Innes & Steele, 2012 , p. 724). Overall, the authors proclaim that global actors will be compelled to act a certain way because the chaos can be avoided in a nonhierarchical world where each state/actor works together under the wide-spread efforts of global governance and tactics of governmentality (Jayne Innes & Steele, 2012 ).

One of the conceptual innovations that has put in perspective the Western roots of global governance and the implementation limits of good governance is the debate around governance in areas of limited statehood (Risse, 2011 ). Risse argues that the governance discourse remains centered on an ideal type of modern statehood, with full internal and external sovereignty, a legitimate monopoly on the use of force, and checks and balances that constrain political rule and authority. This approach is very state-centric and mainly western-driven and is utilized in state building and development strategies. However, from the global as well as historical perspective, “the modern nation-state is the exception rather than the rule. . . areas of limited statehood lack the capacity to implement and enforce central decisions and the monopoly on the use of force” (Risse, 2011 , p. 2). In other words, in areas of limited statehood, from developing and transitioning countries to failing states, international sovereignty remains intact, while domestic sovereignty is lacking. Risse argues that governance in areas of limited statehood rests on the systematic involvement of nonstate actors and on nonhierarchical modes of political steering, yet these “modes of governance do not complement hierarchical steering by a well-functioning state but have to provide functional equivalents to develop statehood. . . in a multilevel governance which links local, national, regional and global” (Risse, 2011 , p. 3).

Along the same lines of observing the limits of global governance, Ostrom and Janssen analyze the differences between “high modernism” and “polycentric” systems of governance with regard to development and natural resource management. High modernism is characterized by situations where governments attempt to suppress complexity through the design of unitary governments, which rely on experts to dictate or optimize preferred desirable goals. These systems tend to fail due to their separation from local accountability. Polycentric systems, on the other hand, are those where many actors are capable of making mutual adjustments for ordering their relationships with one another within a general system of rules where each element acts with independence of other elements (Ostrom & Janssen, 2002 ).

Mapping Institutional Sources

Institutions play a significant role in supporting, deepening, and widening research on global governance. For decades, education and policymaking institutions prioritized IR studies focused on Cold War tensions and Soviet studies; later, in the 1990s, globalization became not only a buzzword of politicians to justify decisions, but also a priority in the research agenda of IR departments. By the early 2000s, governance and global governance were incorporated into the IR intellectual debate and institutions started supporting its study. The relationship and correlations between transformations in the international system and how IR departments, universities, and think tanks allocate resources to study the leading topics of a generation is quite straightforward. This section identifies the leading institutional sources for studying global governance, particularly from regional and national perspectives. While a detailed survey of institutions surpasses the limits of this article, this section examines two types of institutions that have led the debate and intellectual production regarding global governance: centers or programs focusing on conducting studies on global governance, and education programs at the graduate level where global governance plays a central role.

Centers For the Study of Global Governance

The United States and Europe remain the predominant places where the debates and allocation of resources for the study of international relations are taking place. The creation of centers for the study of global governance does not deviate from this general trend. In New York, Columbia University opened the Global Governance Center at the Columbia Law School in 2003 . The center addresses globalization’s legal dimensions through diverse interdisciplinary research and scholarship in addition to supporting public policy-oriented projects with other Columbia University centers and programs, including the Earth Institute, the Initiative for Policy Dialogue, and the Institute for Human Rights, as well as maintaining joint programs with international organizations such as the United Nations (Columbia University, 2015 ).

Also in New York, the Lublin School of Business at Pace University sponsors the Center for Global Governance, Reporting, and Regulation (Pace University, 2015 ). In New Jersey, the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance (CGG) at Princeton University started operations in 2004 . As part of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, the Niehaus Center is one of the few centers that combines globalization and governance under its research program (Princeton University, 2015 ). In North Carolina, the Global Value Chains Center at Duke University is built around the use of global value chains methodology to study the effects of globalization worldwide (Duke University, 2015 ).

In Europe, centers for studying global governance have also been created since the early 2000s, particularly in Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Belgium. The Hertie School of Governance together with the Freie Universität Berlin and the Social Science Centre Berlin (WZB) established the Berlin School of Transnational Studies in 2008 , which includes a cluster on European Global Governance in its PhD program. This research cluster focuses on the analysis of the postnational constellation in its multiple dimensions and studies the implications of the increasingly blurred boundaries of the political space for communities and forms of belonging as it relates to the rise of global civil society, and especially for the structures of governance beyond the state (Hertie School of Governance, 2015 ).

In the United Kingdom, the London School of Economics (LSE) opened the Global Governance program in 2003 with a grant from the Ford Foundation. The program aimed to establish a rigorous conception and typology of global governance as well as construct an account of emergent international and transnational authority structures. While the LSE Global Governance closed as a formal research center in July 2011 as a result of a shift in research priorities, global governance has remained in the agenda of its scholars in other parts of LSE (London School of Economics, 2011 ). Also in London, the Global Governance Institute at University College of London undertakes cross-disciplinary study of crucial governance “deficits” in order to explore the nature of the problem and the processes, structures, and institutions involved, as well as identifying and postulating potential solutions. The Institute’s research activities coalesce around the following five thematic tracks: global governance, global security, global environmental sustainability, global justice and equity, and global economy (University College of London, 2015 ).

In Italy, the European University Institute in Florence launched the Global Governance Program (GGP) in 2010 , which is one of the flagship programs of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies. It aims to build a community of outstanding professors and scholars, produce high-quality research, engage with the world of practice through policy dialogue, and contribute to the fostering of present and future generations of policy- and decision-makers through its executive training. With its three dimensions (Research, Policy, and Training), the GGP aims to serve as a bridge between research and policymaking (European University Institute, 2015 ). In Belgium, the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies was set up in 2007 , linking governance processes and multilateralism with a particular focus on the European Union’s role in global governance. With more than 60 senior and junior members, the Centre hosts a seven-year research program ( 2010–2017 ) on Global Governance and Democratic Government (Leuven University, 2015 ).

Global governance centers worldwide have followed the American and European trends, with the added value of focusing on their own specific regional agenda priorities. In East Asia, Waseda University Organization for Japan-US Studies (WOJUSS) was established in Japan in 2007 as a new type of research institution providing a platform for collaborative, interdisciplinary research on Japan-US relations. Later, in 2012 , WOJUSS renewed research programs and teams to further promote policy-oriented research on the current state of global governance studies (Waseda University, 2015 ). In Korea, the Hills Governance Center at Yonsei University in Seoul became the second Hills Governance Center worldwide when it opened in 2003 . The Center focuses on analysis, research, and dissemination of findings on governance-related issues and pursues specific projects such as regionally relevant case studies, the development of methodologies to measure the cost of poor governance, and identifying the best practices of successful firms in the country. Also in Korea, the Asian Institute for Policy Studies hosts the Center for Global Governance in order to offer policy recommendations which improve international relations and politics by making them more effective. With an office in Washington, DC, the center itself tries to bring forth traditional ways of thinking that focus on state actors and national security as well as recommending policies that account for nontraditional security factors such as human security (Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2015 ).

In South Asia, Jindal University created the Centre for Global Governance and Policy (CGGP) in the late 2000s in Delhi, India. The distinctive feature of the CGGP is that it emphasizes a Global South perspective and probes the possibility for more a balanced and even-handed structure for global governance. It also focuses on an agenda that goes beyond India’s regional priorities (Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, etc.) or relations with Europe and the United States, incorporating multidisciplinary and non-state-driven debates taking place in Latin America, Africa, and the rest of Asia. Emblematic of this approach is the CGGP report entitled Rethinking International Institutions: A Global South Agenda released in 2011 (Jindal University, 2015 ). In Africa, the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation (GovInn) is the first research institution in Africa dedicated entirely to governance innovation. With a strong orientation on African topics in the context of global governance, GovInn prioritizes producing cutting-edge research capable of generating new thinking about governance and development as well as attracting innovators from all over the world. GovInn focuses on new economic governance, governance of the commons, transboundary governance, and security governance (University of Pretoria, 2015 ).

Education Programs on Global Governance

Education programs underpin developing a better understanding of global governance. At the doctoral level, three programs on Global Governance are salient. University of Massachusetts in Boston offers a PhD program in Global Governance and Human Security which aims to develop skills in topics such as emerging nonstate actors, norms, conflict resolution, and geopolitical competence (University of Massachusetts Boston, 2015 ). In Canada, a PhD in Global Governance, offered jointly by Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo, examines power and authority in the global arena and aims to examine and re-evaluate concepts, tools, and assumptions that have served scholars in the past and assesses new approaches for addressing contemporary and future challenges in six areas: global political economy, global environment, conflict and security, global justice and human rights, multilateral institutions and diplomacy, and global social governance (Balsillie School of International Studies, 2015 ). In Germany, the University of Bremen and Jacobs University Bremen founded the Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences (BIGSSS), which offers a PhD program focused on three thematic fields, one of which is Global Governance and Regional Integration (Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences, 2015 ).

More focused on training and specialization than on research, a variety of Masters programs are offered in several parts of the world. Florida International University offers an MA program in Global Governance featuring two tracks: globalization and security, and corporate citizenship (Florida International University, 2015 ). In Canada, the University of Waterloo opened an MA in Global Governance that goes beyond the rigidities and formalities of established academic boundaries by drawing on a variety of disciplines (Balsillie School of International Studies, 2015 ). In Europe, among other institutions, Sussex University offers an MA in Global Governance and the University of Kent offers an MA in European and Global Governance in the United Kingdom. In Italy, the University of Siena opened an MA in Global Governance Studies and Cultural Diplomacy. One example in South Asia is Jindal University, which has offered an MA in Global Governance since 2012 , in which students are encouraged to raise awareness and analytical depth in India about academically neglected regions such as Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean (Jindal University, 2015 ).

Future Directions of Global Governance

This article has provided an extensive review of the literature on global governance. However, the significant scholarly development of the concept in the last decades still demands further analytical tools to explain the permanent transformations of international relations and the problems derived from the lack of global governance. In this regard, the current literature on global governance offers a platform where theories and concepts are adaptable and versatile, providing the research agenda of global governance with conditions conducive to expand its explanation about an increasingly more complex reality.

Some future areas of research around the global governance agenda include the exploration of areas conducive to reducing anarchy in the international system through several policy instruments. Cooperation and multilateral approaches are pillars for the creation of more effective global public policies considering the limited capacity of states to resolve simultaneously every local or international problem. As a consequence of globalization, the nature of problems is increasingly defined by multiple domestic and international factors. Therefore, governments have to resort to creating schemes of coordination with other actors to confront contemporary challenges, and more research is required to decipher and better understand how to create and protect collective global goods. International organizations, private actors, civil society, and even individuals are necessary to promoting global governance. Since there is not a central global government to cope with international conflicts and problems, norms and institutions are needed to provide legitimacy for—and protect the stability of—the international system.

Global governance is also an important framework of analysis that incentivizes ontological and epistemological approaches to study how the international system works. Not only governmental officials but also scholars and nonstate actors are deeply concerned with understanding the mechanisms to promote global governance, which include legitimate authority to solve international conflict and enhance mutual cooperation. The recent emergence of academic institutions and programs to address such topics is integral to this process. It is probable that in the near future more think tanks and universities will facilitate further research on global governance.

A current and future challenge pending in the global governance agenda is to develop further interconnections between different areas of human activity which also percolate at the global level. Economic interactions need a framework of rules, norms, and institutions to avoid financial crisis, facilitate cooperation, and promote global development. Global economic disparities will not be reduced if states, transnational companies, international organizations, and civil society do not establish cooperative schemes. For a more secure world, the international community must seek the creation of instruments to promote global security governance. These kinds of institutions will be necessary to diminish international terrorism, wars, organized crime, and other global threats. Global governance is also a key element for reducing ecological degradation, climate change, and other environmental challenges the world is facing today. States and international organization are not able to solve those problems without the participation of civil society and individuals. For the conservation of natural resources and the creation of new energy sources, global public policy will be required as well. Health and food issues are also a primary concern of global governance studies. As this article has illustrated, the future of international relations will benefit from developing the concept of global governance, debating better practices, and implementing effective global policies.

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  • Published: 19 January 2016

Global governance: present and future

  • Jinseop Jang 1 ,
  • Jason McSparren 1 &
  • Yuliya Rashchupkina 1  

Palgrave Communications volume  2 , Article number:  15045 ( 2016 ) Cite this article

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  • Politics and international relations

Globalization, the end of the Cold War and increased involvement of non-state actors in global affairs represent fundamentally shifting relations of power, speeding up national economies’ integration and contributing to the convergence of policies in different issue domains. This review considers the state of global governance by presenting a variety of global governance arrangements, key challenges facing governance in an increasingly globalized context and possibilities for the future governance. Current global governance arrangements favour flexibility over rigidity, prefer voluntary measures to binding rules and privilege partnerships over individual actions. This synopsis of the state of global governance examines the evolving role that sovereignty and the enduring human struggles for power and equity are playing in shaping international relations and governance. This contribution argues that individual empowerment, increasing awareness of human security, institutional complexity, international power shifts and the liberal world political paradigm will define the future of global governance. This article is published as part of a thematic collection dedicated to global governance.


Global governance is a product of neo-liberal paradigm shifts in international political and economic relations. The privileging of capital and market mechanisms over state authority created governance gaps that have encouraged actors from private and civil society sectors to assume authoritative roles previously considered the purview of the State. This reinforces the divergence of views about how to define the concept of global governance, issues that are of the utmost importance and priority. Some scholars argue that global governance as it is practiced is not working ( Coen and Pegram, 2015 : 417), while others believe that global governance is constantly adapting by readjusting strategies and approaches to solutions and developing new tools and measures to deal with issues that impact communities throughout the world ( Held and Hale, 2011 ). Rather than judging current global governance, this contribution seeks to provide an overview of the current state of global governance by discussing its present state vis à vis the challenges that it faces and its future.

The perspective employed here presents global governance as a tool to identify solutions to problems created by neo-liberal globalization ( Biermann and Pattberg, 2008 : 279). As such, the concept of global governance relates to the interaction of myriad collective or individual entities emanating from various societal and professional orientations, which form networks that engage to address issues that threaten local and global communities. Global governance is concerned with issues that have become too complex for a single state to address alone. Humanitarian crises, military conflicts between and within states, climate change and economic volatility pose serious threats to human security in all societies; therefore, a variety of actors and expertise is necessary to properly frame threats, devise pertinent policy, implement effectively and evaluate results accurately to alleviate such threats.

Structure and actors: stakeholders of global governance

The proliferation of networked global markets, revolution in global communications technologies, the end of the Cold War and increased involvement of non-state actors in global affairs all contribute to “globalization”. Increased interconnection among nations has advanced the exchange of knowledge by bringing peoples, cultures, communities and states closer in an era in which issues call for increased international collaboration ( Bhagwati, 2004 ; McGrew, 2008 ). The scope of modern issues has become “global”, beyond the capacity for state governments alone to address such issues. The former United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Kofi Annan acknowledged that “no State, however powerful, can protect itself on its own” ( Annan, 2005 : 7) and that “the threats we face are interconnected” ( Annan, 2005 : 25). As a result, we witness broad strands of cooperative and competitive interdependency among sovereign nations, transnational corporations (TNCs), networks of experts and civil societies.

The current phenomenon of global governance is well captured by Biermann and Pattberg in their overview of global environmental governance for the Annual Review of Environmental Resources of 2008. They describe contemporary governance through the following features: (1) the emergence of new types of agency and of actors in addition to national governments; (2) the emergence of new mechanisms and institutions of global governance that go beyond traditional forms of state-led, treaty-based regimes; and (3) increasing segmentation and fragmentation of the overall governance system across levels and functional spheres ( Biermann and Pattberg, 2008 : 280).

A multitude of actors define and shape the current structure of global governance. States, international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), multinational corporations, scientific experts, civil society groups, networks, partnerships, private military and security companies, as well as transnational criminal and drug-trafficking networks provide world politics with multi-actor perspectives and take part in steering the political system ( Dingwerth and Pattberg, 2006 ; Biermann and Pattberg, 2012 ; Karns and Mingst, 2015 ). Global governance actors broaden the scope of activities in which they are involved and they also change the patterns of interaction and cooperation in tackling current issues on a global level. Current global governance arrangements favour flexibility over rigidity, prefer voluntary measures to binding rules, choose partnerships over individual actions, and give rise to new initiatives and ideas.

While the modes of global governance vary widely, four general structures can be identified: International Governmental Organizations (IGOs), Public–Private Partnerships (PPPs), Private governance and tripartite governance mechanisms. IGOs such as the World Trade Organization and the UN system are examples of existing state-centered governance mechanisms. IGOs, however, utilize partnerships with non-state actors that have expertise and resources concentrated in service sectors and environments that IGOs may lack. Such arrangements maximize efficiency. Abbott and Snidal (2010) use the term “Transnational New Governance” to recognize the way IGOs expand capacity and access to resources by including private and non-governmental actors and institutions. This formulates global collaborative networks in which IGOs shape and support the operations of NGOs and certain private enterprises. Such governance structures are considered to be PPPs. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) utilize the PPP strategy across all aspects of implementation of the SDGs.

The UN Global Compact is another example of an international PPP. The UN Global Compact is a forum that encourages TNCs to share case studies that illustrate the ways a firm is implementing the SDGs in host communities where they operate. The objective is to formulate a digital record of best practices in Corporate Social Responsibility for public, private and civil society stakeholders located at all levels of governance—the local, state and transnational—to engage in discourse and form collaborative efforts for the purpose of accomplishing what the SDGs identify as expected outcomes. In addition, an increasing trend of private governance exists that sets sector-specific standards; and, there are alternative forms of governance that are considered as tripartite arrangements among state, private and civil society actors. Tripartite arrangements among state, private and civil society actors exemplify alternative, public–private or private governance arrangements. Tripartite governance such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, Publish What You Pay and the African Peer Review Mechanism, while categorized as PPPs, “are located in the policy space between states and markets” ( Carbonnier et al., 2011 : 250). PPP-type arrangements empower civil society actors to not only coordinate with state and corporate entities, but also to monitor state–corporate activities. Often such mechanisms are “voluntary, horizontal, multi-actor and participatory, and address global issues” (Ibid.).

In some areas of business, private governance has supplanted state authority to regulate industry, showcasing the work of private governance. Examples of private governance include international accounting standards; the private bond-rating agencies (for example, Moody’s Investors Service and Standard and Poor’s Rating Groups); International Chamber of Commerce rules and actions; private industry governance such as the Worldwide Responsible Apparel Manufacturing Principles and the Forest Stewardship Council ( Karns and Mingst, 2015 : 34); Equator Principles ( Wright and Rwabizambuga, 2006 ). Global corporations also actively develop, promote and implement their own codes of conduct that concern issues of labour, environment and health. Those voluntary codes are usually adopted as a response to NGO campaigns, and primarily target developed country consumers, rather than tackle the problems faced by a diverse set of vulnerable worker groups. However, the processes through which codes have been developed enables better representation of hitherto excluded groups of workers (women export workers, homeworkers, casual workers) in social policy and labour regulation debates ( Pearson and Seyfang, 2001 ).

Multi-actor configurations in global governance broaden the scope of policy solutions that, combined with current capacities for information sharing and learning, advance policy changes. Yet this also increases fragmentation and segmentation of different layers and clusters of rule-making and rule-implementing ( Biermann and Pattberg, 2008 : 289). The result is increased competition over resources that may lead to paralysis in cooperative efforts. On the other hand, this competition may produce innovative solutions. In the subsequent sections, we offer an overview of the current challenges to global governance concluding with a discussion on the role that it may play in the future.

Present challenges of global governance

A growing number of emerging global governance actors aim to contribute to the solution of interdependent issues supplementing, and sometimes clashing, with already established regimes designed to address certain international problems separately from other issues. Hale et al. (2013) define the situation when current international institutions fail to provide a coordinated response to current agendas challenges as “gridlock”. Through the examples of sovereignty, and by discussing the questions of power and equality we will show how new developments in international relations affect and reshape collaborative responses to the most pressing issues.

Various global governance actors coalesce around the ideas and norms of human rights and human security; however, the principle of sovereignty continues to challenge the practical application of those ideas internationally. Huge and severe violations of peoples’ rights and freedoms during inter- or intra-state wars or conflicts continue to erode human security in different parts of the world. However, governance actors working for the maintenance of peace, security, justice and the protection of human rights have limited capacity to improve situations because of complicated approval procedures of humanitarian intervention or authorization of peacekeeping operations. For example, political divisions and partisan interests within the Security Council (particularly the use of veto power by some of its permanent members) blocked any international response to the mass atrocities committed in Syria, thus strengthening impunity and encouraging the expansion of war crimes and crimes against humanity ( Adams, 2015 ). A rise of nationalist sentiments and movements in Russia and some European countries also continues to erode international cooperation in response to challenges such as the huge influx of refugees, and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. All of these threaten the international security, and order in general, that was created during the post-Cold War period. Yet, even as the principle of the responsibility to protect has gained political support and international legitimacy since it was introduced about a decade ago, its contribution to preventing mass atrocities and protection population remains low. As Luck (2015) points out, policy practitioners and scholars need to think in a more nuanced way about sovereignty. Both decision-making sovereignty, when governments choose to independently determine whether a particular course of action for the cause of human rights protection is in their national interest and erosion of sovereignty open the door to more atrocities within and across states’ boundaries. This scholar, for instance, argues that the ineffective exercise of sovereignty by a number of states over their own territory becomes a significant barrier to exercising protection responsibilities in other places ( Luck, 2015 : 504).

Power in the current system of global governance has become more diffused. The power shift accompanying the rise of Brazil, Russia, India, China (the BRICs) and other so-called “rising powers” pose questions about the possible reordering or shifts in the current state of global governance. While advocating for better representation in institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the UN Security Council, the governments of China, India, Brazil and other emerging economies have started to develop and maintain alternative institutions for economic and political collaboration. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the New Development Bank are products of these efforts. While rising powers’ behaviours are shaped by the structural features of global capitalism, “the differing contours of BRICs’ state-society relations provide the foundations for conflicts with Western powers over the most liberal aspects of global governance” ( Stephen, 2014 ). The Western ideas of privatization, autonomous markets and open capital accounts are challenged by state-controlled approaches to development in the countries of so-called Global South. The proliferation of Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs), and national development banks in BRICs challenge an autonomous status of private capital in current global economic affairs. Those developments have led to the conclusion, by some scholars, that the most liberal features of global governance order are being contested by rising powers ( Stephen, 2014 ). In addition, a small group of big and influential countries such as India and China gain more negotiating power ( Barkin, 2013 ), as their non-participation in international treaties and policies (for example, climate change) might substantially diminish the effects of other countries’ efforts to solve these global issues. The shifting global power configuration challenges each type of multilateral setting whether it concerns international institutions that have a selective Western-based membership (for example, OECD, NATO, G7/G8); international institutions that shape the state of international policies but do not provide rising powers with equal membership and power in their governing bodies (the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the UN Security Council); or multilateral settings in which rising and established powers interact more or less on an equal footing (the World Trade Organization, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) ( Lesage and Van De Graaf, 2015 ).

Economic and political inequality have long-lasting implications for governance both within and between states. Inequality in either form contributes to a rise in extremism and social unrest, and it also raises the questions of what responsibility the international community should bear for human development beyond just satisfying basic needs, that is, security, food and shelter. While the SDGs agenda of 2015 prioritizes the goal to “(e)nd poverty in all its forms everywhere” (United Nations, 2015), questions still remain about exactly who will fund this eradication of poverty and which actions are best suited to this fight. Global governance actors, for example, focus more on intervention measures in poor countries, as they are primarily guided by a “narrow” understanding of security rather than thinking of more long-term development issues, or the “everyday” insecurities experienced by individuals in different parts of the world. A huge diversification of financial sources of development aid complicates the task of applying a common framework, based on individuals’ needs and development interests approach. In addition, the supply of development resources including official development assistance is also moving away from the old North towards the BRICs and other new official donors such as South Korea and Turkey, plus private foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, faith-based organizations, remittances from diasporas, heterogeneous SWFs and a plethora of Exchange-Traded Funds as well as novel sources of finance such as taxes on carbon, emissions, financial transactions and so forth ( Shaw, 2015 ).

Thus, the observed changes in socio-economic and political aspects of the current world pose new questions and create new challenges for previously active participants of global policy processes, as well as for new actors of global governance. Global governance actors will need to critically reflect on the relevance of earlier policy tools to rapidly changing conditions in the current world.

The future of global governance

Global governance is arguably inevitable for the survival of the human race in present and future generations. Although global governance sometimes appears fragile and ineffective in response to current challenges, the trend of globalization and the demand for global governance approaches have already passed the point of no return. The future of global governance will be mainly shaped by the following five factors: individual empowerment, increasing awareness of human security, institutional complexity, international power shift and liberal world political paradigm. We draw this conclusion by applying the findings and observations from different field of studies including security studies, international political economy, global governance field and communications studies.

First, because of information technology and mass/social media, individual citizens—especially in developed countries—have acquired much more information power than a half century ago. Individuals can attain higher awareness of situations related to national and international affairs. Compared with humans in the twentieth century, a majority of those in the twenty-first century can more easily access international security information, thanks to the Internet and media exposure. Therefore, individual citizens of the world are more likely to understand the importance and the impact of international security on their personal lives. Digital media played a major role in the Arab Spring of 2011 in Egypt and Tunisia: social networks allowed communities to unite around shared grievances and nurture transportable strategies for mobilizing against dictators ( Howard and Hussain, 2011 ). Globalization of the new media illustrates how communities throughout the world can be mobilized for collaborative response as well signals a new trend in the intersection of new media and conventional media such as television, radio and mobile phone ( Khondker, 2011 ). The US National Intelligence Council also identified individual issues and the decreasing influence of the state as one of the main global trends for the twenty-first century, arguing that the potential political power of individuals has significantly increased since the end of the Cold War because of the proliferation of information and transportation technologies ( National Intelligence Council, 2012 ). This trend will strengthen the convergence between domestic and international politics, constraining state behavior ( Putnam, 1988 ) and continue to produce many transnational actors. Considering the dramatic increase of individuals’ capabilities in information gathering, analysis and political projection, the trend of individual empowerment is logically supposed to pave a wider road towards cooperative global governance, because peace is generally preferred over war by individual humans.

Second, as the trend towards “individual empowerment” continues, global society through global governance architecture will need to pay high attention to human security, which protects individual humans from fatal threats to physical safety, and human dignity, whether human-made or of natural origin. Human security is an innovative concept for security in response to horizontal (such as military, economic and political) and vertical (such as individual, state and global) threats, which traditional security concepts cannot effectively control ( Grayson, 2008 ). The focal point of state security is too narrow to encompass the myriad threats that challenge societies today. The threat of sovereign states engaging in large-scale war is less probable today than at any time in modern history. War has not been eliminated, rather its form has shifted from sovereign versus sovereign to substate wars between differing identity groups or insurgencies against the state. Beyond war, the concept of human security is concerned with varieties of security: economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community and political security ( UNDP 1994 ). Human security provides an excellent compatible conceptual paradigm to global governance regimes in the future, which must respond to transnational, multi-dimensional threats that a single country cannot manage. For example, a number of national security analysts have already begun to recognize environmental degradation and natural disasters such as epidemics, floods, earthquakes, poverty and droughts as national security threats similar to military disasters ( King and Murray, 2001–2002 ).

Third, we must additionally consider “institutional complexity” ( Held and Hale, 2011 ) as another direction for future global governance development. As the trend of individual empowerment gains more momentum, the influence of civil society is expected to grow in terms of authority and resources. Various non-state actors will not only affect their national governments’ behavior more significantly, but will also engage in networks of transnational relations more actively. International institutions in global governance will likely keep expanding to “regime complex”, a concept defined as “an array of partially overlapping and nonhierarchical institutions governing a particular issue area” ( Raustiala and Victor, 2004 ).

Fourth, global governance in the future will be also be shaped by power shifts in international relations. Almost all the traditional institutions of global governance were initiated by Western countries, and their pluralistic political culture and influential civil societies have shaped the political context of global governance. States of the Global South, especially China, have improved their relative power in relation to the Global North. As a result, the voice of actors originating from the Global South is expected to become more prominent in global governance regimes and institutions traditionally dominated by a small number of the Global North states. Therefore, an increase in multilateralism will further complicate the face of global governance.

Fifth, the future of global governance is also rooted in liberal paradigms of world politics. States and non-state or transnational actors tend to be more cooperative with global governance when a liberal world order is maintained. Global governance regimes to date have evolved with liberal paradigms such as democracy, bottom-up orientations and human rights promotion. While the advancement of democratic practices in the states without strong traditions of following liberal values remain a challenge, democracy has near-universal appeal among people of every ethnic group, every religion, and every region of the world and democracy is embraced as an international norm by more states, transnational organizations and international networks ( McFaul, 2004 ). Liberal approaches challenge the traditional concept of the state as a unified unitary actor that lacks adverse interpretation of national interest. Accordingly, even in traditional security areas, there are more spaces for international cooperation. Global security governance through intergovernmental institutions such as the UN, International Atomic Energy Agency and International Criminal Court has made considerable progresses and gained more influence. If the realist paradigm dominates national security, however, the world would have to overcome deep uncertainty and doubt about the effectiveness of global governance. As a result, global governance today and in the future will be in the face of such serious threats as US–China hegemony rivalry, US–Russia military confrontation and Middle East conflicts. Nevertheless, as long as global society retains liberal paradigms powerful enough to offset the negative effects of mutually suspicious realist paradigms, global governance will continue to generate into effective hybrid regimes that hold the potential of creating a future world that is more cooperative, sustainable and secure.

Data availability

Data sharing not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated or analysed during the current study.

Additional information

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importance of global governance essay

Global Governance for the 21st Century

Subscribe to global connection, colin i. bradford colin i. bradford nonresident senior fellow - global economy and development.

October 24, 2005

Summit reform, expanding the G-8 to a larger grouping of countries, is a sin qua non for creating more representativeness and performance legitimacy, filling the void at the apex of the international system and addressing the mismatch between 21st century global challenges and the current international institutional framework. Process, aspirational and political legitimacy based on the role of nation states in forging the Millennium Agenda buttress an expanded summit mechanism. Practical issues of safeguards for current and potential new members of the summit group, rotational membership and provision for revisiting the membership issue in the future provide enhanced prospects for moving forward on summit reform. Global governance based on national leaders is critical to addressing the interlinkages among major issues on the global agenda and shaping the new inter-institutional relationships necessary to deal with them.

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Emily Gustafsson-Wright, Elyse Painter

February 16, 2024

Witney Schneidman

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Eswar Prasad

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The Oxford Handbook of Governance

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48 Global Governance, International Order, and World Order

Arie M. Kacowicz is professor in the Department of International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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This article explores the concept of global governance by looking at its analytical, theoretical, and normative implications. It argues for the importance of global governance in an age of globalization and contends that global governance should be understood alongside a possible continuum of governance ranging from international order to world government. The article also discusses the concept of a global governance complex that embraces states, international institutions, transnational networks, and agencies which function with variable effect and effectiveness to promote, regulate, and manage the common affairs of humanity.

Introduction: assessing global governance

This chapter explores the concept of global governance by looking at its analytical, theoretical, and normative implications. I present two major arguments. First, in an age of globalization there is an increasing need for global governance, as, in the previous period of “complex independence,” as depicted by Keohane and Nye ( 1977 ), there was a functional need for international regimes and other international institutions to manage complex independence. Second, global governance should be understood alongside a possible continuum of governance ranging from international order (Bull's “anarchical society”) to world government. Along that continuum, there are different ways of assessing and examining global governance, so it might take several institutional forms and denominations, including world order, “new medievalism,” and cosmopolitanism. Moreover, these theoretical and social constructs can coexist simultaneously since they do not necessarily contradict, but rather complement, each other.

The first argument refers to the fact that economic globalization and global problems demand the establishment or creation of new political mechanisms that transcend the state system in order to cope with the complexities of our world. Thus, global governance mechanisms are necessary in order to manage the new world order of economic and environmental globalization and global challenges. As James Rosenau pointed out cogently, “Reinforced by the collapse of time and distance, the weaknesses of states, the vast movements of people and the ever greater complexities of modern life, the question of how to infuse a modicum of order, a measure of effective authority and a potential for improving the human condition into the course of events looms as increasingly urgent” (Rosenau 2002 : 70–71). Hence, we should address questions such as: What do we mean by governance on a global scale (“global governance”)? How is the world governed, in the absence of a world government, to produce norms, codes of conduct, and regulatory, surveillance, and compliance mechanisms? How is that different, if at all, from “international regimes” (see Rosenau 1992 : 1; Duggett 2005 : xi; Weiss and Thakur 2010 : 1; and Hurrell 2007 : 1)? The section on “Defining global governance” spells out the first argument and attempts to answer those questions.

The second argument implies that in order to make sense of global governance we should pay attention to the larger context of both the discipline of international relations (IR) and especially of its real-world context. In the absence of world government, the concept of global governance provides us with a proper theoretical terminology to describe and analyze the complex of systems of rule-making, political coordination, and problem-solving that transcends states and societies, constructing new political realities and reconstructing old ones. Global governance does that by describing the structures and processes of governing beyond the state where there is no single supreme supranational political authority (Held and McGrew 2002 : 8). Yet, as the phenomena and processes of globalization still remain ambiguous and ill-defined, there is a great confusion in the IR literature regarding the possible meanings, dynamics, and scope of global governance. In this context, the possible relationships among global governance and different types of international and world order might clarify the relevance, and limitations, of the concept of “global governance.” Thus, we should address questions such as: What is the relationship among global governance, international order, and world order? How is the world organized politically? How should it be organized? What forms of political organizations are required to meet the challenges faced by humankind in the twenty-first century? The section on “The continuum of global governance” illustrates this second argument. Finally, in the section on “The limitations of global government” I wrap up the two main arguments of this chapter.

Any discussion of global governance in the context of IR should start with an understanding of the significant changes that have taken place in the international society and system. Three major developments are relevant: first, the end of the Cold War; second, the complex processes of economic, political, and cultural globalization; and third, the possible relocation of political authority away from the nation-state and international organizations (IGOs) in the direction of private, non-state actors, including multinational corporations (MNCs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as participants and components of an emerging transnational civil society (see Yunker 2005 : 202; Hewson and Sinclair 1999 : 3–4; and Ruggie 2010 : xvii).

Economic and environmental globalization has not occurred in a political vacuum. There has also been a concomitant shift in the nature and form of political organizations, with a re-articulation of political authority occurring in many and multiple possible directions through a dense web of networks and linkages: supranational, international (through the enhancement of international organizations and institutions), transnational, and subnational; as well as public, private, and public–private partnerships. Thus, the idea of global governance is of growing concern among scholars and practitioners alike, with regard to the political dimensions of globalization and of global change (although one can question cause and effect relations in this context). This global governance complex embraces states, international institutions, transnational networks, and agencies (both public and private) that function, with variable effect and effectiveness, to promote, regulate, and manage the common affairs of humanity (see Held and McGrew 2002 : 1, 5; Selby 2003 : 4; Wilkinson 2005 : 6; and Duffield 2001 : 44).

Defining global governance

Global governance in the international relations literature: old wine in new bottles.

The term “global governance” was apparently introduced in the late 1980s, in the context of the international regimes literature, which had a significant impact on scholarly thinking. At the time of the emergence of the neoliberal institutional paradigm, the emphasis was upon the possibility of nation-states cooperating under anarchy, by establishing international institutions. A related theme in the literature dealt with enhancing the capacity of international governance to address problems of global concern (“global problems”), first and foremost through the action of international institutions such as the United Nations (UN). The concept of global governance came into wide public usage in the early 1990s with the establishment of the United Nations Commission on Global Governance (UNCGG) in 1992 and the publication of such seminal works as Governance without Government: Order and Change in World Politics (1992) edited by James N. Rosenau and Ernst-Otto Czempiel (see Wilkinson 2005 : 4–5; Hewson and Sinclair 1999 : 11–12; Weiss and Thakur 2010 : 30; and Yunker 2005 : 202).

The concept of “global governance” initially overlapped with that of “international regimes,” “international institutions,” “multilateralism,” and “international governance.” Yet contemporary usage in the early twenty-first century refers, in the literature of IR, to a qualitative change embedded in the demand of political globalization to cope with the challenges of economic globalization and global problems (such as environmental degradation or nuclear proliferation). The result has been a movement from government to “governance,” and a concomitant transformation from IR to “global politics.”

As for the concept of “governance,” as suggested by Rhodes and by Zürn in their respective chapters in this book (Chapters 3 and 51, respectively), the reference is to the rise of political authority in the framework of institutions different from the nation-state, which help in the process of governing. Adding “governance” to the “global” we can then spell out alternative definitions, as follows.

Alternative definitions of global governance in international relations literature

James Rosenau, a pioneer intellectual in the field of global governance, refers to the concept as the need for a new ontology to make sense of world politics (Rosenau 1999 : 288–289). This “new ontology” is built on the premise that the world is nowadays comprised of spheres of authority that are not necessarily consistent with the division of territorial space that is the traditional international order of sovereign states. Rosenau, who coined the original term of fragmengration to point out the simultaneous forces of integration and disintegration that shape our world, defines global governance as “a summary term for a highly complex and widely disparate activities that may culminate in a modicum of worldwide coherence or that may collapse into pervasive disarray. In the event of either outcome, it would still be global governance in the sense that the sum of efforts by widely disaggregated goal-seeking entities will have supplemented, perhaps even supplanted, states as the primary sources of governance on a global scale” (Rosenau 1999 : 294; see also Rosenau 2005 : 45–46). The mechanisms and rules of global governance are then created by the actions and agreements of key actors and institutions involved in the global system, including state and non-state entities (see O’Brien et al. 2000 : 125).

According to the UNCGG (1995), governance “is the sum of the many ways individuals and institutions, public and private, manage their common affairs. It is a continuing process through which conflicting or diverse interests may be accommodated and co-operative action may be taken. It includes formal institutions and regimes empowered to enforce compliance, as well as informal arrangements that people and institutions either have agreed to or perceive to be in their interest” (CGG 1995 : 2). At the global level , “governance has been viewed primarily as intergovernmental relationships, but it must now be understood as also involving non-governmental organizations (NGOs), citizens’ movements, MNCs, and the global capital market” (CGG 1995 : 3). In this encompassing definition, the process of global governance includes a broad range of actors, both public and private. Private firms, associations of firms, non-governmental organizations and associations of NGOs all engage in it, often in association and unison with governmental bodies, to create (global) governance without government (Keohane and Nye 2000 : 12).

Similarly, according to Weiss and Thakur, global governance is “the sum of laws, norms, policies, and institutions that define, constitute, and mediate trans-border relations among citizens, society, markets, and the state in the international arena—the wielders and objects of international public power. Even in the absence of an overarching central authority, existing collective arrangements bring more predictability, stability, and order to trans-boundary problems than we might expect” (Weiss and Thakur 2010 : 6). In this sense, global governance is conceived as a system of rules and norms that ensures order on a voluntary, purposive way. Unlike the first definition by Rosenau, this definition, like the UNCGG's one, still emphasizes the paramount role of the states and international institutions composed of states, such as the UN.

For John Ruggie, governance “refers to the workings of the system of authoritative rules, norms, institutions, and practices by means of which any collectivity manages its common affairs” (Ruggie 2010 : xv). In the specific case of global governance, Ruggie follows Rosenau by referring to “global governance as an instance of governance in the absence of government.” Furthermore, Ruggie draws the important distinction between “politics” and “governance” (despite their close relationship); whereas politics always refers to the competition in the pursuit of particular interests, governance is always about producing public goods (Ruggie 2010 : xv; see also Zürn, Chapter 51 , this volume).

To sum up, all those definitions share the concern of global governance with the possible (or potential) regulation of the global sphere, the multiplicity of spheres of authority, and the nature of actors and institutions, both public and private, involved in the regulative process and the production of public global goods. We view the concept as under the slogan of “governance without government” or as a kind of intermediary stage between the management of global problems through traditional interstate politics and the operation of a world government (see Hakovirta 2004a : 14). In other words, as I specify below, global governance can be located in a continuum ranging from international order to world government.

Dynamics and types of global governance

To describe and analyze the dynamics of global governance is a daunting task, since there is no single model or form of global governance, nor is there a single structure or set of structures. In fact, global governance is a broad, dynamic, and complex process of interactive decision-making that is constantly in flux. The emerging complex of global governance encompasses a rich mixture of actors, institutions, and processes that take place on at least at three different levels: supranational (MNCs, IGOs, and NGOs); national (firms, central governments of nation-states, and civil society); and subnational (local firms, local governments, and local civil society) (see Keohane and Nye 2000 : 12–13; see also CGG 1995 : 4; Woods 2002 : 26; and Rosenau 2002 : 76–77).

A number of dynamics of global governance have contributed to the erosion and diminution of state capabilities. At the same time, one can argue the other way around; namely, that the erosion of state capacities contributed to the enhancement of global governance. In any case, one of the most relevant dynamics of global governance has been the shifting balance between hierarchical and network forms of organization, and between vertical and horizontal flows of authority. Associated with this relocation of authority from the public to the private we can discern an important shift in the principal modalities of global rule-making and implementation. Thus, although much of the formal modalities of global governance are still dominated by the interaction among states (traditional IR) and by international institutions such as the UN, we can trace the formulation and implementation of global public policy within an expanding web of political networks that involve non-state actors as well, as in the Global Compact agreement that involves MNCs, or the Kimberley Process that involves both states and non-state actors (see Held and McGrew 2002 : 11; and Risse 2009 ).

Following Rosenau ( 2002 ) and Risse ( 2009 ), for analytical purpose we can establish a typology of six forms of global governance, according to three categories: formal structures (hierarchical); informal structures (nonhierarchical); and mixed formal and informal structures (such as public–private networks and partnerships). The directional flows of authority may be unidirectional (either vertical, top-down or bottom-up; or horizontal, nonhierarchical). Alternatively, the direction can follow multiple flows of authority transmission, both vertical and horizontal. The actors involved might include governments, transnational corporations (TNCs), IGOs, NGOs, business alliances, and public–private, and private–private partnerships. While traditional IR are best typified in Table 48.1 by cell # 1, global governance is best typified in the hybrid of mixed formal and informal structures and multidirectional flows of authority in cell # 6. We should add that all the six cells in Table 48.1 represent different forms and ways of global governance. This typology is summarized in the table (adapted from Rosenau 2002 and Risse 2009 ).

From the reading of the table we can get a better understanding of the multi-level character of global governance as well as the multiplicity of the relevant political actors and institutions. Furthermore, we should locate the complex processes of global governance within an imaginary continuum running from the traditional form of inter national order (the Westphalian system of sovereign states) all the way to the utopian ideal of a world government. This leads to the discussion of the second main argument in this chapter.

The different phases (and faces) of global governance: from international order to world government

There is a long tradition in the discipline of IR of studying the future of international politics by imagining alternative “institutional designs” of alternative world orders as objects of interest in themselves (see Hakovirta 2004b : 47). In this sense, global governance should be located along a continuum of the changing architecture of world politics in terms of governance, as the newest, most sophisticated, but also ambiguous, classification of “world order.” Since global governance aims at providing public goods in the global realm, “governance is order plus intentionality” (Rosenau 1992 : 5).

The continuum offered in this chapter is an analytical prism. Within the two extremes of “international order” and “world government” we might find the different phases (and faces) of global governance. Thus, in reality, we might find hybrid modes of global orders, as is reflected in Table 48.1 , above, which describe the typology of global governance. In other words, as the concept and reality of global governance are ambiguous and encompassing, they might include different typologies, configurations, and forms. Consequently, all six cells depicted in Table 48.1 can be accommodated in these different phases.

In this continuum, we start discussing the idea of a pluralist and limited society of sovereign states, as formulated by Bull in his seminal work on the international society as an anarchical society as a form of international order . This international society might evolve into a world or global society , due to the impact of globalization . Moreover, we no longer refer to an international order, but rather to world order , encompassing a larger number and character of actors, not just nation-states, but first and foremost human beings themselves embedded in a global society . Furthermore, the world order under globalization leads us to the metaphor (again coined by Bull back in 1977) of new medievalism . Finally, at the right end of the continuum, and propelled by a cosmopolitan ideology, we might approximate the liberal ideal of a world government . As we learned previously in the chapter, the concept of global governance might correspond to any of those phases. This argument is summarized in Figure 48.1.

There is an interesting parallel between the stages of Figure 48.1 and the typologies of global governance of Table 48.1 above. Thus, cells # 1 and # 2 roughly correspond to the definition of “international order.” Similarly, cells # 3 and # 4 parallel the concepts of “world society” and “world order,” while “new medievalism” is best reflected in cells # 5 and # 6. We do not have a good example of “world government,” which ideally might reflect a diagonal direction from cell # 1 to cell # 6.

At the first phase of the continuum, the initial form of global governance takes the form of a pluralist and limited society of sovereign states, which embodies the idea of international order within an anarchical international society (see Bull 1977 ). There is an interesting parallel or analogy between the idea of an “anarchical international society” and the concept of “global governance.” Both concepts suggest the feasibility of a peaceful, progressive, benign, and well-ordered international regime in the absence of a unifying governmental, supranational entity (despite the connotation of the society being “anarchic”). Similarly, both ideas are imperfect, voluntaristic, lacking a real government, and aiming at the regulation of norms and the creation of common expectations (see Hurrell 2007 : 3; and Yunker 2005 : 213).

 The continuum of global governance.

The continuum of global governance.

At a second phase in the continuum, with the impact of globalization, international society might evolve into a world or global society . As a result of the dynamics of globalization, which imply more than just increased interstate interdependence but rather the de-territorialization of IR, world entities other than states are, nowadays, crucial components of contemporary society, which is global rather than international, though it is far from being universal (see Keohane 2005 : 123).

Moreover, moving into the direction of world government, it is obvious that globalization implies that we cannot still refer to an international order, but rather to a world order . By “world order” Bull meant “those patterns or dispositions of human activity that sustain the elementary or primary goals of social life among mankind [humankind] as a whole.” Thus, world order is a wider category of order than the international order. It takes as its units of order not just nation-states, but rather individual human beings, and assesses the degree of order on the basis of the delivery of certain kinds of public goods (such as security, human rights, basic needs, or justice) for humanity as a whole (Bull 1977 : 20; Clark 2005 : 730; see also Whitman 2005 : 27; Hakovirta 2004a : 15; and Rosenau 1992 : 5).

World order can mean alternative “architectural” designs that include the international order itself (such as the ephemeral unipolar structure of the international system), but since they include humanity as a whole they might as well refer to processes of globalization, transcending the traditional structure of the state system. For instance, there are several scenarios of world order that have been discussed in the IR literature and for policy purposes, such as (1) neo-medievalism and the overlapping of authority and identity; (2) the North–South divide; (3) Huntington's “clash of civilizations”; and (4) Kaplan's “coming anarchy” (see Huntington 1996 ; Kaplan 2006 ; and Clark 2005 ).

It is important to notice that the concern with “global governance” since the 1990s, following the end of the Cold War and the advent of the contemporary age of globalization, has replaced an earlier exploration of what was called “world order studies,” which several scholars criticized as too static and top-down (Weiss and Thakur 2010 : 29). In the early 1960s, the utopian World Order Models Project (WOMP) initiated by Richard Falk and others, adapted the world federalist idea to suit a postcolonial setting, and toward the direction of a potential world government (see Falk 1999 : 7). While not directly critical of world order studies, many contemporary scholars (including Falk himself) prefer to use the term “global governance” and “global democracy” in a conscious effort to expand the epistemic community of academics and practitioners who embrace the key assumptions and principles of world order (see Tehranian and Reed 1999 : 62). As a matter of fact, global governance incorporates the same problématique of world order, heading in the direction of distancing or deviance from world anarchy and chaos (see Hakovirta 2004a : 14). Thus, the concept here becomes more normative than analytic, or at least it carries a strong normative bias.

One possible manifestation of world order, as epitomized by global governance in still another phase (and face) is the idea of new medievalism . In 1977, Bull coined the term to refer to a “modern and secular equivalent of the kind of universal political organization that existed in Western Christendom in the Middle Ages. In that system no ruler or state was sovereign in the sense of being supreme over a given territory and a given segment of the Christian population; each had to share authority with vassals beneath, and with the Pope and (in Germany and Italy) the Holy Roman Emperor above” (Bull 1977 : 254).

Thus, neo-medievalism encompasses an ideal political order in which individuals are governed by a number of overlapping authorities and identities. Bull spoke of a “new medievalism” to connote the fragmentation of authority reminiscent of the pre-Westphalian era, although he did not believe that other political actors were yet strong enough to offer a serious challenge to the nation-state in global politics. More than thirty years later, the image of “neo-medievalism” and the overlapping of political authority and identities have become more and more relevant to make sense of our current world order and as a depiction of global governance. Thus, the relocation and delegation of political authority among the several layers of global governance, as depicted in Table 48.1 above, resembles the complexity of competing and overlapping jurisdictions and spheres of political action and responsibility that characterized medieval Europe (see Held and McGrew 2002 : 10; and Linklater 2005 ).

If new medievalism is a form of global governance, the logical end of the continuum should lead us into the cosmopolitan ideal of world government. In (political) theory, we could imagine a world government that would arise “as the consequence of a social contract among states, and thus it would be a universal republic or cosmopolis founded upon some form of consent or consensus” (Bull 1977 : 253). And yet, since we do not really have a universal global society, cosmopolitan democracy is very unlikely, if not impossible to fulfill on a global scale. Thus, the concept of global governance implicitly assumes that a world government, while idyllic in theory, might be disastrous in practice, as well as morally wrong, by infringing the self-determination and freedom of both the nation-states, and the liberties of individuals (see Keohane 2005 : 124; Yunker 2005 : 203; and Bull 1977 : 253).

Conclusions: the limitations of global governance

Global governance is a fascinating and useful concept to make sense of our complex world, the challenges we face, and the various institutions that can deal with globalization, given the impracticality and/or undesirability of a world government. Yet, it is far from being perfect, and there are several problems and limitations that should be pointed out in the concluding section of this chapter, at the theoretical, practical, and ethical levels.

On theoretical grounds , there are at least two embedded biases in the mainstream literature and analysis of global governance. First, in general terms, the concept of global governance starts with several neoliberal institutionalist premises, similarly to the previous literature on international regimes, although it somehow transcends them. Those premises refer to the possibility of cooperation under anarchy, and the feasibility of international institutions (mainly IGOs). Second, many of the approaches toward global governance tend to be mainstream, and state-centric, and downplay the possibilities of conflict and resistance to globalization and to political governance (see Selby 2003 : 4–7; Gilpin 2002 : 238; Duffield 2001 ; and Tehranian and Reed 1999 : 76). At the same time, some critical writers reject the basic premises of the state as the main political unit, downgrading its relevance in the discourse of global governance, in opposition to IR theory (see Mitrani 2010 ; Held and McGrew 2002 ).

On practical grounds , realist critics like Robert Gilpin, following in Bull's footsteps, point out the political limitations inherent in the translation of global governance from theory to praxis: How can change and peaceful change be achieved? What are the goals of global governance? How can the provision of public (global) goods in the world arena be reconciled with the lingering realities of power politics? Who are “we the people” among the myriad of actors involved in the dynamic process? (see Gilpin 2002 : 247; Keohane and Nye 2000 : 32–33; and Ruggie 2010 : xix).

Conversely, advocates of world government criticize the realities of global governance as being inefficient, insufficient, and anemic. They object the “benign” recommendations of the UNGG (1995) and ask themselves, “Within the present world structure, how can ‘citizens’ movements’ or NGOs possibly participate with superpower nation-states or multinational corporations in something called ‘consensual democratic global governance?’ ” (Martin 1999 : 14). From this standpoint, the idea and reality of global governance is a strained compromise that is subservient to the realities of traditional power politics (see also Held and McGrew 2002 : 13). Hence, attempts to impose policy features on it are anchored in an explicit normative bias.

Finally, on ethical grounds , the concept of global governance does not pay enough attention to the ethical and moral connotations of world order and of globalization (see Murphy 2005 : 90; and Franceschet 2009 ). There are several paradigmatic moral visions of the politics of global governance, including an ethics of reform , which attempt to “civilize globalization” and suggest a social-democratic compromise (see Sandbrook 2003 ); an ethics of responsible governance , geared toward the provision of adequate governance on a global basis; an ethics of cosmopolitan community , which crowns a logic of world order for humanity as a whole as trumping any particular interests of given actors or groups; and an ethics of critique , that follows a Foucauldian premise of referring to global governance as another site of politics, power, and domination (see Franceschet 2009 ).

There are two major normative themes concerned with the dynamics and realities of global governance. First, there is the issue of democratizing global governance and overcoming the inherent problem of “democratic deficit,” making global governance accountable (to whom?) Second, there is the issue of promoting global distributive justice and overcoming poverty and inequality, while keeping a modicum of order in world politics (see Held and McGrew 2002 : 14; Falk 2005 : 106, 118; and Dower 2004 : 116).

With all the imperfections and limitations of both the theoretical concept and the realities it should reflect, global governance remains an essential and indispensable ingredient to make sense of our world. If world government is an unfeasible ideal, while the anarchy (or laissez-faire) of the markets is a recipe for financial global crises, then we have to compromise on an intermediate solution, ranging between international order and world government. Thirty years ago the realities (not the theory!) of complex interdependence demanded the creation of functional international institutions (including international regimes) to cope with it. Nowadays and similarly, in our post-Cold War age of economic globalization and global issues we have to explain and understand that set of political practices, actors, and institutions, both public and private, which improve coordination, provide global public goods, and compete and coexist with the still vibrant and vivid nation-states (themselves major agents of global governance) in providing a political equivalent and response to the functional demands of globalization. It is not just a “new world order” as proclaimed by George Bush twenty years ago; it is actually a new world of actors, networks, alliances, and overlapping authorities and identities, messy but vital, under the umbrella concept of “global governance.” And our job remains to make sense of it, both in analytical and in normative terms.

I would like to thank David Levi-Faur, Claudia Kedar, Mor Mitrani, and Nilgun Onder for their comments on and insights into previous versions of this chapter.

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Wilkinson, R.   2005 . Introduction: Concepts and issues in global governance. In R. Wilkinson (ed.), The Global Governance Reader . London: Routledge, 1–22.

Woods, N.   2002 . Global governance and the role of institutions. In D. Held and A. McGrew (eds.), Governing Globalization: Power, Authority, and Global Governance . Cambridge: Polity, 25–45.

Yunker, J. A.   2005 . Rethinking World Government: A New Approach . Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

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The Nature of Global Governance

The need for global governance.

  • They are often transnational and have direct domestic impacts.
  • No one can successfully control them.
  • Solutions therefore require a multilateral approach which accounts for, and where possible incorporates the interests and inputs of key stake holders.
  • Decisions have an effect and it is impossible to isolate policy options and outcomes from each other.
  • Policy development must be holistic to the maximum possible.
  • Multilateral institutions must adapt to accommodate these challenges. States must therefore work to strengthen and where necessary create the processes needed for effective global governance.

Governance and Power

Global governance and ethics.

  • Reform of the UN.
  • Distribution of financial aid - to whom, by whom and what conditions.
  • Environmental standards.
  • International Monetary Fund (IMF) - To be or not to be.
  • Land reform in developing countries.
  • Labour reform in developing countries etc.

Global Governance and Accountability

  • Authority: Hobbes and many others have emphasized the process by which one entity authorizes certain actions or confers rights to agents.
  • Assistance: Those who provide financial, logistical or political assistance are also to be held accountable.
  • Affect: those who are choice determining for others have to be fully accountable for their actions as they clearly affect others.

Limits of Global Governance

  • The demonstrated need for international rules (e.g., on trade and protecting the environment
  • Transparency regarding compliance with international rules;
  • The ability of global organizations to create win-win outcomes in disputes between states;
  • The ability of global organizations to deliver needed international public goods and services.

Some Illustrations of the limits of Global Governance:

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importance of global governance essay

“The Turn of the Screw”: The Impact of Globalisation on Global Governance

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In 2017, Professor Wang Wen of the Chongyang Institute of Financial Studies produced an article for the Financial Times, in which he acknowledged a link between globalisation and increased demands on the process of global governance.  Wen argued that “the engine of globalisation has shifted from developed to emerging economies” (Wen, 2017, online).  Citing Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speech at Davos in January 2017, which charted the path of ‘new globalisation’, he stated that two major issues would need to be tackled going forward.  Firstly, he argued that in order to secure the path to new globalisation, there would be a requirement “to challenge backward global governance concepts”  (Wen, 2017, online).  Wen highlighted the breadth of challenges faced by the current global governance system, which he argued is “incompatible and fragmented” with “rampant terrorism, energy and food security crises and the spread of infectious diseases” (Wen, 2017, online).  Secondly, Wen looked at structural issues.  He stated that “existing global security, trade and financial mechanisms, such as the UN, the WTO and the IMF, are struggling to respond to the ongoing crises around the world” (Wen, 2017, online).  Wen asserted that as a result of a changing global power structure, stemming from the effects of new globalisation, there would be a need to “reshape global governance rules in accordance with the latest international structure,” (Wen, 2017, online) specifically, the better inclusion of developing countries and emerging economies.

Thus, this essay aims to use Wen’s argument as a framework for demonstrating how globalisation has created increasing demands on the process of global governance.  Firstly, it will discuss how globalisation has increased demands on the governance of the “global commons”, in the form of range of challenge, which cannot be addressed by a single state actor alone.  Secondly, it will discuss how new globalisation is accelerating change in the global power structure, so that the institutions and state groupings developed in the immediate aftermath of World War II are neither effective nor legitimate enough to deal with the challenges globalisation brings.  Increasing demands are placed on the very structure and organisation of global governance, thus placing increased demands on the process of global governance.

However, in presenting this argument, it is firstly important to define “globalisation”, “new globalisation”, and “global governance”. Globalisation is viewed by many theorists as a compression of space and time, so that distant communities can, through heightened interconnectedness, interact more rapidly, thus bringing a sense of greater proximity.  According to Karns, Stiles and Mingst, globalisation is “a historical process involving a fundamental shift…in the spatial scale of human social organisation that links distant communities and expands the reach of power relations across regions and continents” (Karns, Stiles, Mingst, 2009, p.4).  These links, or this interconnectedness, has “over the last three decades…become increasingly evident in every sphere, from the economic to the cultural” (McGrew, 2014, p.16).  Importantly, as Karns highlights, globalisation is a process and thus will continue to evolve.  Despite popular sentiment that “globalisation is…in retreat” (Bhattacharya, Khanna, Schweizer, Bijapurkar, online), it could be argued that it is instead developing into a new form of globalisation.  “New globalisation” is defined economically by its “multipolar and fragmented growth” as opposed to being driven by a single country operating as an economic pole.  Politically, it is defined by its limited “convergence on the agendas of the world’s biggest economies”  (Bhattacharya, Khanna, Schweizer, Bijapurkar, online).

Thus, in an increasingly connected world which lacks any central actor, there develops a need for “ordered rule and collective action” (Higgott, 2002, p.20).  Global governance, provides this through “institutions and processes which seek to manage global problems.  Global implies they transcend national and regional borders and involve many countries” (Goldin, 2013, p.4).  Importantly, “it is not a global government; it is not a single world order; there is no top-down, hierarchical structure of authority…” (Karns, Mingst, Stiles, 2009, p.2).  Instead, it involves a number of players who adhere to the “Rules of the Game”, most notably including Non Governmental Organisations, Inter Governmental Organisations and Multi-National Firms.  In this context, “Rules of the Game” can be defined as “basic norms of political legitimacy, war and peace, and commerce” (Paris, R., online).  In other words, the process of global governance including international summits, decision making, and decision application, should adhere to these basic norms.

Having defined globalisation and global governance, the essay will now look to demonstrate in line with Wen’s argument, how globalisation is increasing demands on the “global commons”, and in turn, on the process of global governance.  Goldin defines the “global commons” as “natural assets that are outside national jurisdiction, such as the oceans, outerspace, and the Antarctic” (Goldin, 2013, p.48).  In this respect, “the internet and cyberspace are…a global commons, as is peace and security” (Goldin, 2013, p.48).  These commons place increasing demands on global governance due to the fact the problems that they bring “increasingly render domestic solutions inadequate” (Goldin, 2013, p.48).  There are two commons that the essay shall focus on to demonstrate this: the global environment and cyberspace.

“In the course of modern rapid globalisation, a complex network of world-spanning supply…chains has emerged” (Wenz, online).  Increased industry, production, and travel associated with this, are amongst the results of globalisation that have led to detrimental effects to the global environment, a product of increased emissions.  Goldin argues that globalisation and its resultant effect on the climate has led to a situation which “urgently require[s] global interventions.  No one country can possibly deal with climate change – it requires concerted action at the global level” (Goldin, 2013, p.45).  He states that “in the area of climate change, the gap between challenge and action on global governance is particularly stark” with emissions in “virtually all countries…[continuing] on an upward trend” (Goldin, 2013, p.41).  Thus, the challenge faced is that identified by Goldin, and supported by the Global Carbon Capture Storage Institution, that “the level of carbon dioxide…released into the atmosphere has increased significantly since the beginning of the industrial era” and as a result “the world will experience the effects of climate change” (Global CCS Institute, online).

However, whilst it is undoubtable that reduction of emission in a bid to protect the global environment presents the main challenge, and thus the main increased demand on the process of global governance, there also exists an additional demand.  The leading economies developed at a time of limited or no regulation on their emissions and environmental impact, enabling them to enhance their economies without the requirement to consider any broader impact.  Thus, global governance in respect of environmental regulation now faces the increasing demand of balancing the development and industrialisation of emerging economies with the requirement to manage global emissions.

These two challenges are best illustrated using the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC), and specifically the Kyoto Protocol which fell under this.  The UNFCCC has been at the core of efforts to reduce global emissions.  Ratified by 195 countries, the Convention is a means by which for “countries to work together to limit global temperature increases and climate change, and cope with their impacts” (European Council, online).  Under this Convention, the Kyoto Protocol was developed.  In brief, the Kyoto Protocol “introduced legally binding emission reduction targets for developed countries” (European Council, online).  Thus, it can be seen that this particular process of global governance attempted to both meet emission reduction targets, and balance this with allowing for the fair development of emerging economies.

However, arguably the demand on global governance to achieve this balance was too great.  In 2007, 15 years after the development of the UNFCCC, global emissions actually increased by 38%.  Within this global increase, the emissions of developing economies, particularly China, increased sharply (Clark, online).  One of the key failures of this process was that the United States, one of the globe’s largest contributors to the emissions total, refused to ratify the Protocol, a result of its lack of binding targets on developing nations.  As demonstrated, this allowed nations such as China and India to produce emissions without recourse.  It should also be noted that the Kyoto Protocol was only finalised “halfway through its ten year life” in 1997.  The demands on global governance had been to act quickly, to limit global emissions within specific targets, and to allow for the development of emerging economies.  Arguably, the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol had only achieved one of these, demonstrating that these increased demands were too great.

The next area that will be focused on to demonstrate the increasing demands globalisation places on the process of global governance, is the internet and cyberspace.  Goldin states that cybersecurity is a “key challenge for local and global governance in the twenty first century” (Goldin, 2013, p.27), but this can be extended to cover the internet and cyberspace in its entirety.  When the internet was initially developed for public use, it was assumed that due to its decentralised nature, the technology would be extremely difficult for governments to regulate (Deibert and Crete-Nishihata, 2012, p.341).  It is this lack of certainty and understanding that has ld to a range of increasing demands on the processes of global governance, which shall be discussed in this section.

The internet has presented a variety of opportunities for criminals and individual or state-backed hackers to operate in ways which could “cause the breakdown of essential infrastructure systems or [cause] significant financial damage” (Goldin, 2013, p.31).  In February 2015, for example, the Russian cybersecurity firm, Kapersky Lab, reported that a single hacking ring had stolen up to $1 billion from over 100 banks in 30 different countries since the end of 2013 (Los Angeles Times, online).  In the absence of a centrally managed global governance institution to address this issue, which clearly lacked geographical boundaries, there existed a governance responsibility gap.  As a result, the banks themselves, coupled with information from the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Centre, were forced to develop further security measures themselves.  As Deibert argues, in instances such as this, “the private sector actors who own and operate the vast majority of cyberspace infrastructure are being compelled or coerced to implement controls on behalf of states” (Deibert and Crete-Nishihata, p.343).  Thus, globalisation has in this area placed increased demands on global governance by arguably forcing different actors, in this case the Banks or multinational firms, to develop processes to address a global governance issue that cannot be met by single state actors or other public organisations.

This leads us to a further demand that globalisation has placed on global governance.  That is, by forcing the development of institutions that can deal with issues than have never previously been faced, prior to globalisation.  Deibert argued in 2012 that “global mechanisms and dynamics of growing cyberspace controls” were “missing” (Deibert and Crete-Nishihata, p.346).  Institutions had indeed been developed for the purpose of internet governance, notably, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Internet Governance Forum (IFG) amongst others, but early on in their development, these organisations faced outside pressures, particularly political, to develop their process of global governance in a very particular way, emulating the regulations emplaced by certain states.  For example, Russia and some of the former-Soviet States “have adopted a wide-ranging engagement with these forums to promote policies that synchronise with national-level laws” (Deibert and Crete-Nishihata, p.346), reinforcing its sovereign control over national information space.  China has recently highlighted its belief that “global cyberspace should be governed by international institutions operating under the United Nations” (Deibert and Crete-Nishihata, p.346).  Thus, it is apparent that one of the increasing demands globalisation places on global governance in the sphere of the internet and cyberspace, is one of developing institutions that can meet the security need, and satisfy single states across the globe without becoming too heavily subjected to political pressure in an unfamiliar, uncharted environment.

Referring back to Wen’s argument, the second area of global governance that he felt faced increasing demands as a result of the impact of globalisation, was its institutional structure and the processes it followed as a result of adhering to the aforementioned “rules of the game”.  Wen argued that globalisation, particularly “new globalisation”, has precipitated change to the global structure.  Specifically, globalisation has enabled a number of previously underdeveloped states to experience rapid economic growth.  Most notably, an “increased flow of trade, capital, money, direct investment, technology, people, information and ideas across national boundaries” has assisted in the rapid development of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS).  Representing over 3.6 billion people with their combined populations, the five nations’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) represents 22 percent of the world’s GDP (School of Economics, online).  Additionally, “the past two decades have seen the doubling of incomes every eight years in China and robust growth in the other BRICS” (Goldin, 2013, p.167).  The five nations, minus South Africa, formed a grouping in 2006, adding South Africa in 2010 in order to add more weight to their political agendas.  Thus, as a result of globalisation, a rapidly growing economic force has demonstrably become a developing political force.  This structural change has reached such a point that institutions of global governance and the process of global governance face increasing demands.

The first increased demand on the process of global governance is that existing institutions face overt demands from emerging economies against specific policies which those economies view as unfair or detrimental.  There are numerous examples of the BRICS nations, for example, acting overtly against the established western order, but the essay will focus on the establishment of the New Development Bank (NDB) and the impact that this has had on the established process of global governance.  The NDB was established in order to mobilise “resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other developing countries to “supplement” the role of the World Bank and other regional financial institutions” (Bhadrakumar, online).  Furthermore, it was established as a means by which to reduce “the continued dominance of the developed countries over…[global] financial institutions” (Bhadrakumar, online), a situation which stemmed from the post-World War II settlement, during which “allied countries gathered at Bretton Woods to create a new international financial order” (Wang, 2016, p.1) upon which today’s order remains largely  built.

There are a number of demands that the creation of the NDB places on the existing process of global governance.  Firstly, it places pressure on the current system to be more inclusive of emerging economies.  It could be argued that “ideally, what the World Bank and the whole network of existing regional development banks would prefer is to continue to use BRICS money and keep the existing pattern of western hegemony” (Bhadrakumar, online), but the development of the NDB threatens this pattern.  Arguably, it creates a situation in which the established institutions of global governance can no longer “use the international finance institutions to prescribe and impose economic policies on the developing countries” (Bhadrakumar, online) in a bid to promote their own economic and political interests.

Secondly, the development of the NDB places increasing demands on the current process of global governance by potentially undermining its exacting standards.  There exists concern from International Development organisations and the United States Government that new institutions such as the NDB “will play by rules different than those of the World Bank” which could in turn “undermine the existing standards, goals, and values of these institutions” (Wang, 2016, p.8).  Ultimately, in a highly competitive globalised economy, there is concern from some analysts that the development of the NDB “could undermine the ability of…the World Bank to uphold their standards” (Wang, 2016, p.9).  The World Bank’s development of standards “aimed at minimising the harm of projects to vulnerable people and the environment” (Wang, 2016, p.9) serves as an example of this imbalance of standards between existing global governance organisations and the NDB.  Whilst the NDB has stated its intention to “follow high standards in social and environmental protection” it has proved reluctant to publish details of the safeguards it is applying (Wang, 2016, p.9).  Thus, the increasing demand on the process of global governance is one of continuing to adhere to the “rules of the game”, despite the lack of willingness of emerging players to do so.

Aside from direct challenges from emerging economies, the process of global governance faces increasing pressure to justify its legitimacy, in light of the shift in global power and the introduction onto the global stage of a broader range of states, groupings and organisations that wish to have influence.  Guriev argues that the “leading role of the Group of Seven (G7) and, more broadly, of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is no longer undisputed” (Guriev, online).  He highlights that structurally, there is western over-representation in the IMF and World Bank, with the US, Europe and Japan having most influence.  Given the aforementioned economic and political changes that have enabled the growth of the BRICS as an independent force, it could be argued that this western over-dominance represents a failure to ensure representational legitimacy and effectiveness in global governance.  Thus, one of the increasing demands that globalisation has placed on global governance in this respect, is that of ensuring maximum participation and representation of emerging economies, thus ensuring legitimacy and results that positively benefit all states in the global system.

That global governance institutions recognised this increasing demand on their processes is best evidenced by the events surrounding the 2008 financial crisis.  In the early to mid-2000s, the over-extension of lending in the United States in the form of subprime mortgages, coupled with the bundling of these mortgages into Collateralised Debt Obligations (CDOs) which were summarily overrated by United States financial institutions as “AAA”, caused a financial shock around the globe.  “Exponential growth in computing processing power…[had been] exploited to extend the use of derivatives and swaps…into new…territories” (Goldin, 2013, p.15) and as such, banks across the globe were involved in CDOs structured on subprime lending.  When interest rates rose and thousands of individuals defaulted on their multiple mortgages, it was not only the US-lenders who felt the effects (Goldin, 2013, p.13).

With the global reach of the crisis came a requirement for a global response, which had to include states outside of the G7 grouping, not only for legitimacy in decision-making, but also in order to successfully stabilise the global economy.  Thus, globalisation placed the demand of rapid reform on the process of global governance, which in this instance, institutions responded to.  The Group of 20 (G20) was revived, and there followed “proposals to redistribute voting rights in international financial institutions” (Guriev, online) to include the emerging BRICS economies.  This translated into what Drezner terms a “thicker institutional environment”, addressing both the increasing demand of representational legitimacy, but also enabling the process of global governance to “supply needed services during a time of global economic crisis” (Drezner, 2012, p.14).  Thus, the process of global governance at this specific time changed, allowing non-western states to become central players in global decision-making, as a result of increased pressure caused by globalisation.

Thus, to conclude, in line with Wen’s view it is apparent the globalisation indeed places increasing demands on the process of global governance in a range of ways.  Firstly, it creates broad and varying global governance challenges in relation to the “global commons”, that must be carefully balanced with development and advancement.  Additionally, globalisation has allowed for the creation of new “global commons”, such as the internet and cyberspace, with ambiguous and undefined global governance parameters.  This had led to increased demands on certain sectors of the variety of global governance institutions, most notably in the instance of cyberspace, the banking sector and private firms.  However, these ambiguous governance spaces have also opened global governance up to political debate and pressure, all of which have increased demands on the process of global governance to address these legitimately and effectively.  If conducting further study, better understanding of the depth and range of these demands could be achieved by gaining further perspective on the broad variety of global commons that bring challenges to the process of global governance, as a result of globalisation.

Finally, Wen’s “new globalisation” has brought increasing demands of its own.  New globalisation and the fragmentation of the western or centralised global governance system has led to a situation in which emerging economies have the ability to place overt and direct pressure on particular aspects of the process of global governance, but also to highlight the lack of legitimacy surrounding the post-World War II global governance system, and force change.  Thus, globalisation has placed, and continues to place increasing demands on the process of global governance.  


Goldin, I. (2013) Divided Nations: Why global governance is failing, and what we can do about it, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Karns, M. P., Mingst, K. A., Stiles, K. W. (2009) International Organisations: The Politics and Processes of Global Governance, Second Edition, Lynne Rienner Publishers, United States.

McGrew, A. (2014) ‘Globalisation in World Politics’ in Baylis, J. and Smith, S. (eds.) Globalisation in Global Politics , seventh edition, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Higgott, R. (2002) ‘The Political Economy of Globalisation: Can Past Inform the Present,’ From Colonialism to Global Governance: A Brief Genealogy of Extra-Territorial Politics (accessed online:  https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/pais/research/researchcentres/csgr/research/keytopic/other/higgott_nov02.pdf on 07/01/18)

Figueres, C. and Ivanova, M. H. (2002) ‘Climate Change: National Interests or a Global Regime?’ in Etsy, D. C., Ivanova M. H., (eds.) Global Environmental Governance: Options and Opportunities, Yale School of Forestry, United States (pp.1-21).

Drezner, D. W. (2012) ‘The Irony of Global Economic Governance: The System Worked’ Council on Foreign Relations International Institutions and Global Governance Programme (accessed through www.cfr.org/content/publications/attachments/IIGG_WorkingPaper9.pdf 07/01/18).

Wang, H. (2016) ‘New Multilateral Development Banks: Opportunities and Challenges for Global Governance’ Council on Foreign Relations Global and Regional Governance Programme (accessed through /www.cfr.org/content/publications/…/Discussion_Paper_Wang_MDBs_OR.pdf 10/01/18).

Cooper, A. F. & Thakur, R. (2014) ‘The BRICS in the New Global Economic Geography’ in Weiss, T. & Wilkinson, R. (eds.) International Organisation and Global Governance, Routeldge, London and New York (pp.265-278).

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Wen, W (online), ‘Emerging Markets are Set to Lead Globalisation’, in the Financial times, www.ft.com/content/f60d77a4-1ded-11e7-b7d3-163f5a7f229c (accessed 07/01/18)

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Written by: Victoria Garrad Written at: Staffordshire University Written for: Anthony Mckeown Date written: January 2018

Further Reading on E-International Relations

  • The Impact of Globalisation on Poverty and Inequality in the Global South
  • Global Cybersecurity Governance Is Fragmented – Get over It
  • When It Comes to Global Governance, Should NGOs Be Inside or Outside the Tent?
  • China’s Take on Changing Global Space Governance: A Moral Realist Argument
  • The Role of Global Governance in Curtailing Mexican Cartel Violence
  • Reform of the Global Financial Architecture: The Role of BRICS and the G20

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importance of global governance essay

EU AI Act: first regulation on artificial intelligence

The use of artificial intelligence in the EU will be regulated by the AI Act, the world’s first comprehensive AI law. Find out how it will protect you.

A man faces a computer generated figure with programming language in the background

As part of its digital strategy , the EU wants to regulate artificial intelligence (AI) to ensure better conditions for the development and use of this innovative technology. AI can create many benefits , such as better healthcare; safer and cleaner transport; more efficient manufacturing; and cheaper and more sustainable energy.

In April 2021, the European Commission proposed the first EU regulatory framework for AI. It says that AI systems that can be used in different applications are analysed and classified according to the risk they pose to users. The different risk levels will mean more or less regulation. Once approved, these will be the world’s first rules on AI.

Learn more about what artificial intelligence is and how it is used

What Parliament wants in AI legislation

Parliament’s priority is to make sure that AI systems used in the EU are safe, transparent, traceable, non-discriminatory and environmentally friendly. AI systems should be overseen by people, rather than by automation, to prevent harmful outcomes.

Parliament also wants to establish a technology-neutral, uniform definition for AI that could be applied to future AI systems.

Learn more about Parliament’s work on AI and its vision for AI’s future

AI Act: different rules for different risk levels

The new rules establish obligations for providers and users depending on the level of risk from artificial intelligence. While many AI systems pose minimal risk, they need to be assessed.

Unacceptable risk

Unacceptable risk AI systems are systems considered a threat to people and will be banned. They include:

  • Cognitive behavioural manipulation of people or specific vulnerable groups: for example voice-activated toys that encourage dangerous behaviour in children
  • Social scoring: classifying people based on behaviour, socio-economic status or personal characteristics
  • Biometric identification and categorisation of people
  • Real-time and remote biometric identification systems, such as facial recognition

Some exceptions may be allowed for law enforcement purposes. “Real-time” remote biometric identification systems will be allowed in a limited number of serious cases, while “post” remote biometric identification systems, where identification occurs after a significant delay, will be allowed to prosecute serious crimes and only after court approval.

AI systems that negatively affect safety or fundamental rights will be considered high risk and will be divided into two categories:

1) AI systems that are used in products falling under the EU’s product safety legislation . This includes toys, aviation, cars, medical devices and lifts.

2) AI systems falling into specific areas that will have to be registered in an EU database:

  • Management and operation of critical infrastructure
  • Education and vocational training
  • Employment, worker management and access to self-employment
  • Access to and enjoyment of essential private services and public services and benefits
  • Law enforcement
  • Migration, asylum and border control management
  • Assistance in legal interpretation and application of the law.

All high-risk AI systems will be assessed before being put on the market and also throughout their lifecycle.

General purpose and generative AI

Generative AI, like ChatGPT, would have to comply with transparency requirements:

  • Disclosing that the content was generated by AI
  • Designing the model to prevent it from generating illegal content
  • Publishing summaries of copyrighted data used for training

High-impact general-purpose AI models that might pose systemic risk, such as the more advanced AI model GPT-4, would have to undergo thorough evaluations and any serious incidents would have to be reported to the European Commission.

Limited risk

Limited risk AI systems should comply with minimal transparency requirements that would allow users to make informed decisions. After interacting with the applications, the user can then decide whether they want to continue using it. Users should be made aware when they are interacting with AI. This includes AI systems that generate or manipulate image, audio or video content, for example deepfakes.

On December 9 2023, Parliament reached a provisional agreement with the Council on the AI act . The agreed text will now have to be formally adopted by both Parliament and Council to become EU law. Before all MEPs have their say on the agreement, Parliament’s internal market and civil liberties committees will vote on it.

More on the EU’s digital measures

  • Cryptocurrency dangers and the benefits of EU legislation
  • Fighting cybercrime: new EU cybersecurity laws explained
  • Boosting data sharing in the EU: what are the benefits?
  • EU Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act
  • Five ways the European Parliament wants to protect online gamers
  • Artificial Intelligence Act

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