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globe logo     Caravan: Newsletter of the Alliance for a Responsible and United World
Number 6 August 2000

bulletFrom Readers
bulletMohawk people
bulletASSEMBLY 2000-2001
bulletAlliance in Motion
bulletViews on the Alliance
 · What kind?
 · Discussion Paper (Revised)
 · Brainstorming
 · Extra-nationality
 · Security
 · Crime Industry
 · Water management
 · No longer source of life
 · Water famine in India
 · African framework
 · Future of Nation-State
 · Social movements
 · World Social Forum
 · Political renewal
 · Partners
bulletThe Artist
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What kind of global governance for the 21st century?
Report coordinated by Pierre Johnson (France)

drawing of circle of hands around a babyAre people currently concerned with global governance, or is it a concept reserved only for "decision makers"? It is sometimes seen as an alibi, specially in the South of the planet, or as an imposed exercise that has very little to do with concrete problems and which serves as a mask to ambiguous relations and power relations between principal actors of international life (States, multi-lateral institutions, multinational firms). Yet, there are an increasing number of questions at the dawn of the 21st century, which cannot be resolved only at the local, national or even regional level. Climatic changes, rise of sea levels, massive deforestation, loss of genetic resources, spread of Aids, general decline in health, submission of many countries and regions to violence, outbreak of bloody wars that serve the interest of those who provoke them, threats to economic and social rights or cultural diversity of people: so many examples that call for global responses and concerted solutions. But old strategies are no longer operational.

Old strategies are no longer operational

Why think of these questions in terms of governance? Because present crises makes us reconsider not only the existing forms of government but also relations that are instituted between those who govern and those who are governed. During the last few decades, under the influence of economic, technological and social changes, frontiers that existed between the public and the private domains and their respective responsibilities have radically changed. Governance is therefore not just a discourse in vogue. It can give direction to draw up recommendations so that we may find solutions to concrete problems faced by our societies.

The crisis of the multilateral system that was set up after the Second World War is one of the most obvious examples of the need for a better global governance. In this domain, simple recommendations prove to be insufficient, and the formal conditions of democracy - "government of the people, by the people and for the people" - are yet to be put together.

Formal conditions of world democracy are yet to be put together

The debates that took place at New York at the Millennium Forum (22-26 May 2000) in preparation for the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations (September 2000), unfortunately illustrate the difficulty of some actors to come out of past solutions (see the reports from two participants, Claire Sabourin (Quebec) and Edith Sizoo (Netherlands)).

At around the same time, an informal meeting of allies concerned with global governance at Villarceaux (France) also underlined the present vacuum on this question (see "Brainstorming on Global Governance"). This vacuum offers an opportunity because it opens the possibility of a larger collective participation; it is also a risk if this possibility does not materialise in the coming years. In the absence of a good global governance, super powers, multinationals, military and scientific lobbies and mafias are dictating conditions and benefiting from internationalisation at the expense of a large majority.

Rebuilding a coherent and legitimate international system

The need of the hour is not only to trace the plan of new institutions but to engage in a true reform in order to rebuild international relations on new principles, a clear contract between countries, institutions, civil society and private players that prove to be equal to issues at stake. The workshop of the Alliance on "Global Governance" has taken on this complex task by suggesting a text that has matured for a long time. Here three basic principles are dealt with: coherence of reforms to be included, rules pertaining to legitimising different actors and some concrete steps towards governance (see revised discussion draft).

In some areas (water, financial system, security etc.) deliberation on the conditions of a good governance at the international level is put forward but they need to be drawn up collectively and widely disseminated. Many workshops of the Alliance have been working in this direction. Some of the thematic contributions are reproduced in this section (see articles on Extra-nationality, Security, Crime Industry and Water). Often responses are contrary to a simplistic mode. They stress the need to involve people at the grassroots level and the sense of responsibility and respect for plurality. Unfortunately they often clash with powers and established interests of technostructures or lobbies.

The world will be reconfigured from the bottom upwards

How to go ahead and go beyond inertia? The participants of the Beirut meeting on "Resurgence of political thought" (November 99) who came from five continents professed that questions of governance must be closely liked to the dynamism of civil society; and many partners of the Alliance are keen to valorise and favour articulation of different social movements. In these places, where citizenship is exercised, proposals and alternative practices for a better governance must also be thought out and planned. (See Social movements, World Social Forum and Political renewal).

Marcos Arruda (Brazil) defends a similar thesis by pointing out that the world will be reconfigured from the bottom upwards after we conceive a governance system that is truly democratic, which recognises and valorises human diversity, and the subjective and unique potential of each individual, community or social group of every nation. (See What future for the Nation-State?)

The search for a genuine and participatory governance assumes that social dynamics are taken into account. At the international level, it goes hand in hand with the recognition and respect for the cultural and historic context of each region. The African historian Joseph Ki-Zerbo (Burkina Faso) shows that the question of a good governance is not unknown to Africa, but we need to understand how history played a peculiar game in this continent (see The historical framework of governance in Africa).

To conclude, can we dare to answer the question that set off this section on governance? "The global governance in the 21st century has to be popular" It will be legitimate if people recognise a fair representation of their concerns and interests in the system. It will be sustainable if people notice that it offers fair solutions to global problems of our time. It will be effective if people identify with its ways because they would have been associated with it from the very start.

P.J & Ph.G

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© 2000 Alliance for a Responsible and United World. All rights reserved. Last updated October 22, 2000.