Due to the numerous changes, dynamics and developments in our world in the recent decades, the discussion about the existence, forms, processes, dynamics, actors and the effectiveness of global governance, beyond inter-state cooperation, has continuously intensified. Although there is almost no debate about the simple existence of global governance, there are widespread academic discussions about how to understand the relations between the variety of involved actors and the dynamics they create amongst different issue areas within the global system. This paper discusses the questions if there actually is such a thing as global governance and if it can ever be effective? Therefore, I will first take a short look at some basic definitions, the involved actors and their possible roles within global governance arrangements before I examine different approaches towards the existence, functioning, effectiveness and limitations of global governance. The main idea in this context is to give a brief introduction to current issues, questions and solutions in the actual global governance debate.
If we want to understand what global governance is about, we will first have to define what global governance means and which actors are involved. Following O’Brien and Williams, global governance primarily evolved within the ongoing globalization and can be defined like this:
“By global governance, we mean the overarching system which regulates human affairs on a worldwide basis. […] The mechanisms and rules of global governance are created by the actions and agreements of key actors in the global system.” (O’Brien/Williams 2007: 385)
Another slightly different and broader perception has been suggested by Ruggie:
“Governance, at whatever level of social organization it may take place, refers to conducting the public’s business – to the constellation of authoritative rules, institutions, and practices by means of which any collectivity manages its affairs.” (Ruggie 2004: 504)
The fact that there is no single global authority, such as a world-state, regulating the global system by passing binding rules, makes it necessary for actors such as states, international organizations or transnational corporations to interact within given issue areas such as finance and trade, environmental issues, development or even security to achieve certain agreements, codes of conducts or other types of commonly accepted rules and norms. (O’Brien/Williams 2007: 385/386) In the academic field of international relations, agreements between nation-states are usually understood as regimes which have been of major interest in this field during the 80´s and which Krasner defines as following:
“Regimes are implicit or explicit principles, norms, rules and decision-making procedures around which actors´ expectations converge in a given area of international relations.” (Krasner 1983: 2; quoted in O’Brien/Williams 2007: 385)
Examples for this type of inter-state cooperation on a transnational or global level are the Kyoto protocol but also the creation of international organizations such as the WTO. Some of these Organizations, i.e. the UN, IMF or the World Bank, which have been created after World War II, can be seen as the starting point for what we today know as global governance. However, there have been severe changes within the global system driven by the process of globalization and the rising influence of other actors despite states. (Ruggie 2004: 505) Thus, we have to take a look at the range of involved actors and their role in current global governance arrangements.
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- University of Birmingham – Deprtament of Political Science and International Studies
- Global Governance Good Governance Spheres of authority global public domain states institutions international organization politics Ruggie Rosenau Keohane theory