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The roots of dysfunction

While complex global processes, from the financial to the ecological, connect the fate of communities to each other across the world, global governance capacity is under pressure. Significant governance innovations have been made in recent decades, but the global-governance system remains too often weak and/or fragmented. Moreover, there has been a complex "unbundling" of sovereignty, territoriality and political forces. This unbundling involves a plurality of actors, a variety of political processes, and diverse levels of co-ordination and operation. Specifically, it includes:

▪ Different forms of intergovernmental arrangements embodying various levels of legalisation, types of instruments utilised and responsiveness to stakeholders

▪ An increasing number of public agencies - e.g . central bankers - maintaining links with similar agencies in other countries and, thus, forming transgovernmental networks for the management of various global issues

▪ Diverse business actors - i.e. firms, their associations and organisations such as international chambers of commerce - establishing their own transnational regulatory mechanisms to manage issues of common concern.

▪ Non-governmental organisations and transnational advocacy networks - i.e. leading actors in global civil society - playing a role in various domains of global governance and at various stages of the global public policy-making process

▪ Public bodies, business actors and NGOs collaborating in many areas in order to provide novel approaches to social problems through multi-stakeholder networks.

There is evidence that the politicisation, bureaucratisation and capacity limits of multilateral institutions have been important factors in driving the expansion of new forms of global governance, since powerful governments have sought to avoid either expanding the remit of existing multilateral agencies or creating new ones. Another factor that has been significant has been the socio-political shift towards "self-regulation", as the private sector has sought to pre-empt or prevent international public regulation while governments have sought to share the regulatory burden with non-state actors.


"Gordon Brown's foreign-policy challenges" (10 August 2007) - with David MephamProblem-solving capacities at the global and regional level are weak because of a number of structural difficulties, which compound the problems of generating and implementing urgent policy with respect to global goods and bads. These difficulties are rooted in the post-war settlement and the subsequent development of the multilateral order itself. Four deep-rooted problems need mentioning.

A first set of problems emerges as a result of the development of globalisation itself, which generates public policy problems which span the "domestic" and the "foreign", and the interstate order with its clear political boundaries and lines of responsibility. These policy problems are often insufficiently understood or acted upon. There is a fundamental lack of ownership of many of them at the global level.

A second set of difficulties relates to the inertia found in the system of international agencies, or the inability of these agencies to mount collective problem-solving solutions faced with uncertainty about lines of responsibility and frequent disagreement over objectives, means and costs. This often leads to the situation where the cost of inaction is greater than the cost of taking action.

A third set of problems arises because there is no clear division of labour among the myriad of international governmental agencies; functions often overlap, mandates frequently conflict, and aims and objectives too often get blurred.

A fourth set of difficulties relates to an accountability deficit, itself linked to two interrelated problems: the power imbalances among states and those between state and non-state actors in the shaping and making of global public policy. Multilateral bodies need to be fully representative of the states involved in them, and they rarely are.

Underlying these four difficulties is the breakdown of symmetry and congruence between decision-makers and decision-takers. The point has been well articulated recently by Inge Kaul and her associates in their work on global public goods. They speak about the "forgotten equivalence principle" (see Inge Kaul, et al., Providing Global Public Goods: Managing Globalization, Oxford University Press, 2003). At its simplest, the principle suggests that those who are significantly affected by a global good or bad should have a say in its provision or regulation, i.e ., the span of a good's benefits and costs should be matched with the span of the jurisdiction in which decisions are taken about that good. Yet, all too often, there is a breakdown of "equivalence" between decision-makers and decision-takers, between decision-makers and stakeholders, and between the inputs and outputs of the decision-making process. Among pressing examples are climate change, the impact of trade subsidies, HIV/Aids management and the question of intellectual property rights.

Date: 2015-12-11; view: 525

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