Question 9

Global governance or world governance

Global governance or world governance  is a movement towards political cooperation among transnational actors, aimed at negotiating responses to problems that affect more than one state or region. Institutions of global governance—the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, the World Bank etc..—tend to have limited or demarcated power to enforce compliance.

The modern question of world governance exists in the context of globalisation and globalizing regimes of power: politically, economically and culturally. In response to the acceleration of interdependence on a worldwide scale, both between human societies and between humankind and the biosphere, the term “global governance” may also be used to name the process of designating laws, rules, or regulations intended for a global scale.

Global governance is not a singular system. There is no “world government” but the many different regimes of global governance do have commonalities:

While the contemporary system of global political relations is not integrated, the relation between the various regimes of global governance is not insignificant, and the system does have a common dominant organizational form. The dominant mode of organization today is bureaucratic rational – regularized, codified and rational. It is common to all modern regimes of political power and frames the transition from classical sovereignty to what David Held describes as the second regime of sovereignty – liberal international sovereignty.



In a simple and broad-based definition of world governance, the term is used to designate all regulations intended for organization and centralization of human societies on a global scale.


Traditionally, government has been associated with “governing,” or with political authority, institutions, and, ultimately, control. Governance however denotes formal political institutions that aim to coordinate and control independent social relations, and that have the ability to enforce, by force, their decisions.

According to James Rosenau, “governance” denotes the regulation of interdependent relations in the absence of an overarching political authority, such as in the international system. Some now speak of the development of “global public policy”.

According to Adil Najam, “global governance simply as “the management of global processes in the absence of global government.”

According to Thomas G Weiss “‘Global governance’—which can be good, bad, or indifferent—refers to concrete cooperative problem-solving arrangements, many of which increasingly involve not only the United Nations of states but also ‘other UNs,’ namely international secretariats and other non-state actors.”

In other words, global governance refers to the way in which global affairs are managed.


The definition is flexible in scope;

it applies whether the subject is general (e.g. global security and order) or

specific (e.g. the WHO Code on the Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes).

It is flexible enough in reach; it applies whether the participation is bilateral (e.g. an agreement to regulate usage of a river flowing in two countries),

function-specific (e.g. a commodity agreement), regional (e.g. the Treaty of Tlatelolco), or

global (e.g. the NPT).

These “cooperative problem-solving arrangements” may be formal, taking the shape of laws or formally constituted institutions for a variety of actors (such as state authorities, intergovernment organisation (IGOs), non-government organisation (NGOs), privte sector entities, other civil society actors, and individuals) to manage collective affairs.[

They may also be informal (as in the case of practices or guidelines) or ad hoc entities (as in the case of coalitions).[

However, a single organization may nominally be given the lead role on an issue, for example the World Trade Organization(WTO) in world trade affairs.

Therefore, global governance is thought to be an international process of consensus-forming which generates guidelines and agreements that affect national governments and international corporations.

Examples of such consensus would include WHO policies on health issues.

In short, global governance may be defined as “the complex of formal and informal institutions, mechanisms, relationships, and processes between and among states, markets, citizens and organizations, both inter- and non-governmental, through which collective interests on the global plane are articulated, Duties, obligations and privileges are established, and differences are mediated through educated professionals.”

Titus Alexander, has described the current institutions of global governance as a system of global apartheid, with numerous parallels with minority rule in the formal and informal structures of South Africa before 1991.


Governance of the global economy

Critics of globalization state that economic integration drains political authority from states –

transferring authority to newly empowered regions, delegating it to supranational organizations, and

transferring it to multinational firms and non-governmental organizations.

Globalization is also criticised for forcing convergence of state institutions and policies and threatening the ability of societies to decide their own democratically determined courses.

In a book compilation in “Governance in a Global Economy”, Miles Kahler and David Lake assemble the contributions of seventeen leading scholars who have systematically investigated how global economic integration produces changes of governance.

These authores conclude that globalisation has created a new and intricate fabric of governance, but which fails to match the stark portrait of belea guered states.

Exploring changes in governance across several policy areas ie tourism, trade, finance, and fiscal and monetary policies, the authorizes try to show that globalization changes the policy preferences of some actors, increases the bargaining power of others, and opens new institutional options for yet others.

By reintroducing agency and choice into our understanding of globalisation, the above mentioned book provides important new insights into the complex and contingent effects of globalisation on political authority and governance.


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