One year ago, OEF and the editorial team that we assembled were chosen by the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS) and Lynne Rienner Publishers to guest host the journal, Global Governance from 2014-2018. We are very pleased to announce that our first issue is now available. Our intention is to promote conversations and cross-fertilization among academics and practitioners concerned with practical solutions to global problems. We hope to build on the success of the previous team to expand the journal’s global reach, and we encourage submissions from groups and scholars who have not yet been visible in the journal.
The pieces in this first issue cover a broad range of topics including human rights, the responsibility to protect, and climate change but all have a common theme: How do we advance our understanding of collective action in support of real world problems?
Our first issue starts out with an opinion piece by John Gerard Ruggie in the section we call “The Global Forum.” In Global Governance and “New Governance Theory”: Lessons from Business and Human Rights he applies lessons learned from his work developing the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to what he calls “New Governance Theory.” Although as he writes that the General Principles do not quite constitute a “comprehensive and integrated global regime,” they do show that it is possible, “to achieve a significant degree of convergence of norms, policies, and practices even in a highly controversial issue area.” According to Ruggie, most “New Governance” scholars agree that the, “hierarchical old governance model has limited utility in dealing with many of today’s most significant global challenges. He cites the Kyoto Protocol as an example of this sort of comprehensive, legally-binding treaty that no longer works. Rather, the literature emphasizes, “ responsive regulation,’ informal cooperation, public-private partnerships, and multistakeholder processes.”
We then move into the full-length manuscript section starting off with a piece that was also translated into Spanish and simultaneously published by Foro Internacional, a journal of El Colegio de México. Written by Thomas G. Weiss and Rorden Wilkinson, it is meant to “provoke and promote.” In Global Governance to the Rescue: Saving International Relations? The authors build a case that that the international relations field “teeters on the edge of an abyss of irrelevance.” They admonish IR scholars for “failing as agents of change; that is, as purveyors of opinion and proposals about a better and fairer world.” They point a finger at what they believe are several key failings of IR:
- the fragmentation into niche silos, each with its own jargon-laden language, which makes collaboration not only difficult but often undesirable
- the inability to bridge the gap between quantitative and qualitative methodologies
- a lack of a standardized curriculum to train the next generation
New York Times columnist, Nicolas Kristof would seem to agree. He writes: “In the late 1930s and early 1940s, one-fifth of articles in The American Political Science Review focused on policy prescriptions; at last count, the share was down to 0.3 percent.”
But Weiss and Wilkinson have a solution: go back to the “table of grand disciplinary debate—by applying the not yet fully utilized concept of global governance.” Because the field of global governance is concerned with the major problems of today, the authors claim it can provide an opportunity for IR to re-focus on what really matters.
And while Foro Internacional published Weiss and Wilkinson, Global Governance translated to English and published a Foro’s Internacional manuscript: Mexico and Climate Change: Was the Country a Multilateral Leader? by Blanca Torres. In this article, Torres explores Mexico’s self-described role, “to rebuilt the capacity of the multilateral system to confront this problem” and to serve as a bridge between the entrenched positions of emerging and developing countries. The allocation of responsibility proved to be one of the stumbling blocks in collective action solutions, yet Mexico mounted an ambitious campaign to renew multilateral action after failures at the Copenhagen conference. To that end Mexican diplomats traveled globally to hold “regional, bilateral, and multilateral” meetings in preparation for the Cancún conference. The results of the Cancun conference were modest but did have positive outcomes. According to one high level UN official, “Faith that the multilateral process on climate change will give results has been restored.” However, the lack of real movement on climate change since Cancún, highlights the dilemma of an attempt to establish global collective action in the face of “polarization over burdens and responsibilities,” “fundamental economic fears”, and the perceived and conflicting self-interest of the different actors.
We turn next to Kirsten Haack’s Breaking Barriers? Women's Representation and Leadership at the United Nations. In this paper, Haack argues that although the UN is deeply concerned with women’s issues, it focuses on “the role of women as aid recipients or subjects in the attainment of UN goals, not as leaders in global governance.” And although she concedes that “women have increasingly gained a foothold in international organizations” she tempers these findings by acknowledging that “women’s issues continue to be seen as soft issues, leading to the creation of glass walls that channel women into specific portfolios.” As an example, she lists 14 UN agencies that “remain gentlemen’s clubs, never having had a woman leader.” Some of these include:
- UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
- International Labour Organization (ILO)
- Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
- World Bank
- International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
- International Maritime Organization (IMO)
- UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
Haack writes that her focus on women is “not based on…unique female characteristics such as an emphasis on nurturing or mothering that has influenced discourses on the role of women in development or peace and conflict resolution.” Nevertheless she sees several benefits in having women lead UN agencies including:
- changing people’s understanding of politics as a man’s domain
- enhancing perception of “good governance” because “women are seen as less corrupt and more focused on societal welfare”
- sending empowering messages to women in zones of conflict, signaling that the plight of women and hunger are understood,
- potentially sending signal to “male leaders, especially those of strongly male-dominated societies, that women’s participation and women’s issues cannot be ignored”
- potentially encouraging women to pursue international careers
We hope you enjoyed this sampling of the articles in our first issue of Global Governance. For access to the complete articles, consider becoming a member of ACUNS or subscribing to the journal. Stay tuned for an overview of our next issue, which includes Global Forum pieces by Louise Arbour and Paul Meyer, due out on May 15. In the meantime, we welcome your thoughts on the content of this issue.