Global Governance Study Group

In the fall of 2008, the CIPS will hold a series of workshops on the changing nature of global governance.  The workshops will provide University of Ottawa scholars of global governance with a structured forum to share their insights and their works-in-progress, and to explore opportunities for new projects and partnerships.  Leading scholars from around the world will also be invited to participate and present their work in the workshops, thereby reinforcing intellectual and professional networks, and establishing the University as a centre for global governance research.

Why “Global Governance”?

One of the defining features of the last two decades has been the rapid globalization of commerce, investment, production, technology, communities, criminal networks, pollution, and infectious diseases.  These changes have given rise to a growing array of transnational problems that cannot be resolved by individual states acting alone.  However, many of today’s major international organizations were created during a different era – immediately after World War II – and they are now struggling to adjust to these challenges of globalization and to the rise of powerful new actors, from the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) to nongovernmental actors including major corporations and advocacy groups.

According to some observers, there is a growing gap between the need for, and the supply of, transnational cooperation to respond to the mounting challenges of globalization – a gap that has resulted in a so-called “crisis of global governance.”  But other observers point to a diverse array of global governance structures which has emerged in recent years, and which is partly filling this gap.  Many of these new structures bear little resemblance to the formal international organizations created after World War II:  they are tremendously varied in organizational form and membership, they include different combinations of public and private actors, and they often operate at multiple “scales” simultaneously – from the global to the local.

Key Questions and Themes

The workshops will investigate the extent, character, significance, and implications of the changing structures and practices of global governance.  Each workshop will feature research by a different scholar or group of scholars.  Some will focus on particular policy domains (e.g., global environmental governance) while others will address issues cutting across several policy domains (e.g., the sources of “legitimacy” in global governance).  To facilitate structured and cumulative discussion from one workshop to the next, each presenter will be asked to address the following question: What does your research reveal about the extent and nature of change taking place in global governance? More specifically, we will investigate such change along the following three dimensions:

  1. Public-private. Claims are variously made that we are witnessing a privatisation of governance, governance through public-private partnerships, a hybridisation of public-private relationships in global governance, or that the conceptual boundary between public and private is being reconstituted through novel forms of global governance. How is this boundary, central to social and political categories, being reorganised within global governance?
  2. Novel “spatialities” of governance. Some claim that global governance is increasingly “multilevel” or “multi-scalar”. Others argue that we are witnessing a “deterritorialisation” of governance, or often rather a simultaneous deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation. Others argue that we have novel forms of implication of everyday life in global governance structures and practices. How extensive are these new spatial forms and how do they relate to the traditional accounts of governance operating between sovereign states?
  3. Formal-informal. Traditionally, governance is understood through the articulation of formal rules – public international law, multilateral or bilateral treaties. Many suggest that contemporary forms of governance are organised less through such formal enunciation of rules and more through a variety of informal processes – development of norms, “soft law”, governance by disclosure or transparency, moral suasion, for example. For some, the very term governance implies such a shift to informal practices of governing. How far has such a shift occurred?

If these changes are as extensive as many claim, then they have a number of important implications. Participants in the workshop series are particularly interested in three such implications, specifically around questions of power, legitimacy and effectiveness:

  1. Power.  Which actors have the power to shape forms of governance in their interests? What forms of power are involved in these novel governance practices?
  2. Legitimacy.  How legitimate are these new structures and practices of governance, given that they are rarely based on the sovereign status of states that underpins the legitimacy of “traditional” interstate governance?  How do the actors involved legitimise their governance practices?
  3. Effectiveness.  How effective are these novel forms in responding to the problems they ostensibly exist to resolve?

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