New global governance proposals

26 October 2000

Three new books and reports set out proposals for reorienting and improving global governance arrangements. These interesting analyses from independent civil society analysts are sure to spark much discussion among officials, journalists and campaigners.

All three agree that the world suffers from too little governance as well as the wrong type of governance. The authors of Reimagining the Future: Towards Democratic Governance argue that “the current world order is dangerously unbalanced, favouring the most powerful states and TNCs. Both will have to relinquish some power to bring about a more just world order. The establishment of democratic checks and balances through a form of global democracy is a sine qua non of world survival.”

Because of issues such as climate change, offshore banking, arms and drugs trafficking, the report argues that global regulatory institutions are essential. This report, based on three years of meetings and exchanges led by La Trobe University, Focus on the Global South and the Toda Institute foresees three possible scenarios: continuity, collapse and transformation.

Global governance should, the report stresses, not be considered similar to a global government but as a complex of interlocking, intergovernmental regimes and institutions that regulate at local, national, regional and global levels.

Recommendations for new institutional arrangements include creating a UN Peoples’ Assembly, and establishing a World Human Development Trust, a Women’s Development Bank and a Global Commons Bank. The latter would be charged with “encouraging and diffusing scientific, technological and artistic innovations beneficial to humanity and protecting the natural environment for the use of future generations.” It could be split into two arms, a Global Knowledge Bank, linked to a new intellectual property regime, and a Global Ecology Bank. Further recommendations are made on regulating capital flows and on global security.

New Economics Foundation’s report It’s democracy, stupid: the trouble with the global economy covers similar ground. Laced with punchy quotes from political leaders, researchers and campaigners it also proposes means to overcome the concentration of world power and wealth. Looking at models such as citizens’ juries, the report advocates a major, open discussion of how to revolutionize decision-making to put people, not elites, at the centre.

The third book, by Michael Edwards, a civil society analyst who has worked at Save the Children, and the World Bank and is now at the Ford Foundation, looks in detail at the role of NGOs in international decision-making. He also starts from the premise that while there are many more global policy issues, global institutions are losing their legitimacy. Among these global institutions, however, he also counts NGOs and argues that NGOs must do more to demonstrate adherence to the values of accountability and transparency that they propose for other institutions, or suffer a backlash and a loss of legitimacy and access. He proposes that:

  • NGOs should have a voice, but not a vote in international decisions;
  • NGOs should participate in international fora on the basis of set standards monitored by self-regulation institutions;
  • Southern NGOs should be prioritized for resources and training.

Reimagining the Future. Towards Democratic Governance, Global Governance Reform Project/La Trobe University

“It’s democracy, stupid” The trouble with the global economy – the United Nations Role and democratic reform of the IMF, World Bank and WTO, New Economics Foundation

NGO Rights and Responsibilities, A New Deal for Global Governance, Michael Edwards, Foreign Policy Centre and NCVO.