Global governance in 21st century

Kundan Kumar Jha


Governance refers to the governing procedures and standards with political authority which is aimed at controlling certain institution and organization. It is generally defined as an instance of governance in the absence of government. Global governance can be thus understood as the sum of laws, norms, policies, and institutions that define, constitute, and mediate trans-border relations between states, cultures, citizens, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations, and the market. It has broader dimension where global governance interconnects the entire globe as a single entity.

Over the last decade, the concept of global governance has not only become more widespread and popular, but confusion about its meaning has increased. The cross border governing mechanism has broader dimensions and governing principles. Global governance is not a mechanism of global government controlling different nations across the world. It is in fact a process which allows interconnectivity across different borders and sovereign territories. Global governance is governing, without sovereign authority, relationships that transcend national frontiers.

The concept of global governance is often misunderstood. It is important for us to understand and use the term carefully to overcome the current confusion spawned by the variation in uses of the concept. We argue that the concept of global governance can help us make sense of interactions and transformations we observe in world politics only if it is used in a more careful way. Global governance governs internationally in the way local government governs at home without affecting its political and territorial interests.

The concept of governance evolved over a period of time. Before the devastating world war, governance was merely a subject to particular nation and state which targeted national government. A second burst of international institution-building, capped by the League of Nations, occurred in the wake of World War I. Those institutions failed to secure deteriorating economic conditions and failed to promote security concerns which resulted in Second World War. A third shift in governance that emerged after 1945 continues to shape our thinking about global governance and its institutional architecture. After 1945 the essence of global governance was realised which resulted in economic ties, formation of regional organisation, acceptance of global trade, development of global organisation like IMF, World Bank and General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade(GATT) and many more.

Global governance has evolved as one of the most influencing tool for globalisation which has led to the foundation of sustainable development projects around the globe. Global governance can be considered a tool which leads to the process of globalisation. Globalisation thus describes a process in which the world moves towards an integrated global society and the significance of national borders decreases.

This phenomenon of globalisation is product of global governance which allows free flow of global investment which leads to sustainable development. However, this concept of globalisation does not necessarily affect political development because it aims at measurable process of social change in any nation. Regionalisation is another important phenomenon that is closely interlinked with global governance. The rise of regional organization like ASEAN, EU, NAFTA, BRICS, NATO, SAARC, and BIMSTEC further adds to the essence of global governance controlling institutions and defining new pattern of governance beyond national frontier.

Today the rise of global south is transforming global governance. The shift in global power towards emerging economy has contributed to the transformation in global governance. The rise of China in particular has played a key role in development of powerful collective interests among developing nations. The rapid expansion of their market and overall production has increased new challenges for global governance. As they rely more on global market access, they will increasingly require global rules to protect that access.

The rise of global South is injecting a new urgency into reforming international institutions, as is most clear in global finance. The greater shift in finance, health, migration and security is contributing equally to changing context of global governance. The group of 7 (G7) including emerging economies into group of 20 (G20) is great example of how rising economy is contributing to the change in global governing ideology. This will not only change the dominance of American hegemony but will also bring forward a new trend to global governing principles.

Global Governance

Image credit:

However, we cannot completely keep western influence out from global governing body. The greater demographic diversity, socio-economic transition, institutionalism, and social dynamism are contributing to the transformation of global governance. In this sense, each of the four trends that seem likely to propel social diversity over the next decades is also likely to pose different types of opportunities and risks for governance.

China’s ambitious development project Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and unprecedented rise of Indian economy suggests major change in the format of global governance in next few decades but for now United States and Russia equally play a central role in geopolitical balance that contributes to global governance. The impact of terrorism is definitely one of the biggest challenges to global governance and in this regard even the greatest of power in international system has failed to deliver and assure peace. The multipolar world order has to be credited for success in format of global governance but unilateral actions of powerful states have time and again questioned the essence of such governance.

The failure of UN in Syria and recent humanitarian crisis needs to be addressed in order to prevent power conflict which ultimately poses threat to global governance. Global governance today demands collective interest of all powerful blocs to be under one roof so that it can ensure peace, security, and importantly prosperity all around the world.

The writer is a student of international relations.

Published on March 11, 2018