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Issue No. 39 (November 2002) -- Mark Satin, Editor

Forget Bush's cowboy unilateralism
global governance is busy being born

Last year President Bush met with European leaders and supposedly spent a whole week telling them what the U.S. was going to do in the world.

The news media took this very, very seriously. “Unilateralism!” cried Frank Bruni in the New York Times. “[Bush] won converts in Europe!” countered Michael Elliott in Time Magazine. “Did anyone think France’s Jacques Chirac would publicly endorse any American plan on any subject?” sniffed Robert Kagan in the Washington Post.

You’ve got to wonder if these guys ever leave the National Press Club.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice place -- I belonged for a couple of months once. But the dramatically more important story about foreign relations, in our time, is that national governments (GOs) are sharing more and more of their power with International Governmental Organizations (IGOs) such as the World Bank, Transnational Corporations (TNCs) such as Royal Dutch/Shell, and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) such as Human Rights Watch.

It’s an organic process, born of necessity, and there’s little Mr. Bush (or Tom Daschle or Ralph Nader) can do to stop it.

And now, in the winter of 2002 -- even as mainstream commentators waste our time speculating about Mr. Bush's access to Vladimir Putin’s “soul” -- it is probably fair to report that national governments, IGOs, TNCs, and CSOs have begun to dialogue, consult, collaborate, to such an extent that we’re on the verge of having something genuinely new on Earth, an increasingly transparent and accountable world system.

Yea, even as the media feeds us pap and circuses, an entire “global governance” system is snapping into place . . . somewhere equally far from bureaucratic World Government and the proverbial free-for-all among nations . . . somewhere in the radical middle. . . .

Two of the first political scientists to see this coming were Joseph Nye, Jr. at Harvard and Robert Keohane at Duke.

“[T]he nation-state is not about to be replaced,” they said in an important introduction to the anthology Governance in a Globalizing World (2000). “Instead, we believe that the nation-state is being supplemented by other actors -- private and third sector -- in a more complex geography.”

Nye and Keohane call their vision “networked minimalism” -- not much of an advance over the term “voluntary pluralism” that Keohane had suggested earlier (in Foreign Policy, Spring 1998). But though these authors’ ability to name the emerging world system is suspect, their ability to outline it is unsurpassed:

“The actors in world politics [today] cannot simply be conceived of as states. Private firms, CSOs, and subunits of governments [are all playing] independent or quasi-independent roles.”

Another analyst who’s moved beyond traditional Chirac-vs.-Bush-vs.-Putin political analysis is Wolfgang Reinicke, director of the U.N. Vision Project on Global Public Policy Networks.

“By concentrating on [nation-states], we may be missing a quiet revolution,” he says. “[L]oose alliances of government agencies, international organizations, corporations, and elements of civil society such as nongovernmental organizations, professional associations, or religious groups [are joining] together to achieve what none can accomplish on its own” (Foreign Policy, Winter 1999-2000).

Flesh-and-blood embodiment

If you doubt that Nye, Keohane and Reinicke are onto something, you should have accompanied me to the annual InterAction meeting held in the allegedly air-conditioned confines of the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C.

InterAction is the principal coalition of U.S.-based relief, development, environmental, and refugee agencies. About 160 of them pay the pricey membership fees and they’re at work in over 100 countries. All the big ones belong -- CARE, Oxfam, Red Cross, Save the Children, World Vision -- and most of the innovators as well: Bread for the World, Doctors Without Borders, RESULTS. . . .

After a couple of minutes, you wouldn’t have cared how airless and stuffy the rooms were. Over 500 people were there, mostly leaders of U.S., European and Southern CSOs, but also academics and IGO leaders and government civil servants and business types and -- not least! -- donors.

And they were BEAUTIFUL, each in their own way of course: Anuradha Vittachi, co-founder of OneWorld Online, with her flowing satin floor-length skirt . . . Ela Bhatt of the Self-Employed Women’s Association of India with her “third eye” and colorful cape . . . Sam Harris of the Microcredit Summit with his dark, tailored suit. . . .

It was the Nye-Keohane-Reinicke vision of the global future, writ immediate and human. And they knew it! Speaker after speaker called on the attendees to reach out to IGOs, TNCs, government agencies, other CSOs.

Peter Bell, president of CARE, called on CSOs to build “strategic partnerships” with TNCs . . . something he could never have gotten away with at most CSO conferences.

David Valenzuela, V.P. of the Inter-American Foundation (one of the U.S. government’s few genuinely grassroots aid agencies), exhorted his listeners to “learn to connect -- with governments, with civil society organizations, perhaps even with local businesses. . . .”

Revolving door

InterAction’s attendees embodied the new global governance in their collective identity and in their ideas, but even more persuasive -- for me -- were their personal histories.

So many of the best of them had had careers in more than just one realm.

Half a century ago, describing the U.S. as an emerging world power, C. Wright Mills wrote about the “revolving door” among government, business, and the military. So it makes sense that, in the emerging new “global governance” system, we’d have a revolving door among governments, IGOs, TNCs, and CSOs.

I mentioned that Peter Bell is president of CARE. But he’s also been president of a foundation, senior associate at a think tank, and deputy under-secretary at HUD!

Ela Bhatt, she of the third eye, is not only founder of a CSO. She’s been a member of the Indian parliament, serves on the board of the Rockefeller Foundation, and serves as chair of a TNC (Women’s World Banking).

I became so fascinated by the notion of the “revolving door” as the way the new Global Governance is being knit together in practice, beneath the radar, beneath even the highfalutin’ political science rhetoric, that I got hold of the media guide to the Brookings Institution. I wanted to see if some of the “fellows” at that immensely influential think tank had had experiences in several of the sectors pinpointed by Nye, Keohane, and Reinicke (i.e., not just in academia and other think tanks).

What I found was exactly what I’d hoped for. Some quick examples:

-- Catharin E. Dalpino: former deputy assistant secretary, U.S. Department of State (government); former policy analyst, World Bank (IGO); former career officer, Asia Foundation (CSO);

-- Francis M. Deng: former foreign affairs minister, Sudan (government #1); former human rights officer, U.N. Secretariat (IGO); former distinguished fellow, Rockefeller Brothers Fund (CSO); former fellow, U.S. Institute of Peace (government #2).

If “global governance” is a web of connections across sectoral boundaries, then that web is being woven with the most sturdy fabric possible -- the lives of some of our most accomplished people.

Web of institutions

The web is also, of course, being woven by organizations -- now coming together in dazzling new “tri-sectoral” and even “quad-sectoral” formations.

“Transnational corporations and CSOs sometimes work together and sometimes with IGOs to provide services,” say Nye and Keohane. “Citibank [a TNC] uses local CSOs to provide micro-finance in Bangladesh. . . .

“[I]n the governance of Internet domain names, the U.S. government [a GO] helped create ICANN, a CSO that supplements but also works with private companies [TNCs]. The government turned to the CSO form because it feared that a formal IGO would be too slow and cumbersome in dealing with rapidly developing issues.”

Reinicke spotlights many cross-sectoral groups, among them the admirable World Commission on Dams (WCD): “An informal workshop in 1997 brought champions and critics of large dams together for an initial dialogue. A year later, the WCD was [launched] to spur the development of new standards for dam construction worldwide. . . .

“All significant aspects of the WCD (membership, structure, and finance) are tri-sectoral in nature -- that is, they involve governments, international organizations, and private groups.”

You can find great examples of cross-sectoral web-making in our best newspapers now. On June 21, 2001, the New York Times reported that Coca-Cola (a TNC) would be joining U.N.-AIDS (an IGO) to help the Kenyan government (a GO) design anti-AIDS advertisements.

Two days earlier a page one story in the Wall Street Journal archly observed, “As a condition for assistance from the IMF [IGO], the World Bank [IGO] and individual donor nations [GOs], Cambodia [GO] agreed in late 1999 to allow environmentalists [principally from Global Witness, a CSO] to turn it into a global experiment in wildlife and forest protection.”

No one can stop it

Neither President Bush, nor any other politician, can stop the movement toward global governance. The politicians can spout unilateralist or nationalist rhetoric all they want, but our institutions will continue along their merry globalizing, hybridizing way.

There are just too many reasons why GOs, IGOs, TNCs and CSOs need to collaborate now. And each reason appeals to different constituencies:

1. Market failure. “Tri-sectoral networks [remedy] the weaknesses and failures of existing [market] arrangements,” says Reinicke. “Microlending networks, for example, help correct credit market failures by [making it possible to lend] to the poor. . . .

“Similarly, the Global Reporting Initiative -- a network connecting environmental CSOs, private firms, governments, and professional associations -- is helping develop uniform standards for assessing the environmental impact of corporations.”

2. Accountability failure. Nations and corporations are having a harder and harder time justifying their decisions, says Keohane, because they’re no longer able to dominate transnational communications. And thank God for that!

In the future, if all goes well, we’ll subject all important GO and TNC decisions to highly publicized “scrutiny by transnational networks . . . loose groupings of scientists or other professionals, or . . . issue advocacy networks such as Amnesty International and Greenpeace.”

3. Talent failure. Government bureaucracies are no longer able to attract the “best and the brightest,” says Paul Light of the Brookings Institution -- and it has nothing to do with money. Studies have shown that most top people are drawn to businesses and nonprofits because of the more “challenging work” they offer and the greater “opportunity for [personal, professional and intellectual] growth” you can find there (Brookings Review, Winter 2000).

Someday, government bureaucracies may change their stripes. But in the meantime, our most serious problems can only be seriously addressed if GOs reach out to TNCs and CSOs.

Trouble spots

Although the emerging global governance system can’t be stopped by demagogic politicians, it CAN be stopped -- or at least perverted -- if civil society organizations and transnational corporations fail to rise to the fantastic opportunity that’s before them.

Narcissistic CSOs? Many CSOs get their identities from being “against” things, from thumbing their noses at the mainstream, from angrily demanding the impossible.

To some extent, that’s inevitable, even desirable. The relevant question about CSOs and global governance was posed by P.J. Simmons of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace when he asked, Can most CSOs work with mainstream institutions? Can most of them engage in the nuanced, rational give-and-take that makes for good working relationships? (Foreign Policy, Fall 1998).

On the basis of what I saw at InterAction (as opposed to what I saw in Philadelphia outside the Republican National Convention; see RAM #12), the answer is a resounding YES. And besides, from Kofi Annan on down, many global leaders are virtually getting on their hands and knees and begging CSOs to drop their alienated rhetoric and join with TNCs and IGOs to build a better world.

In its marvelous recent manifesto, the Commission on Global Governance -- a collection of global wise men and women led by Ingvar Carlsson (former prime minister of Sweden) and Shridath Ramphal (former justice minister of Guyana and former member of the Brandt, Brundtland, and South commissions) -- had this to say:

“Those CSOs that have taken a consistently harsh stance toward the private sector should reconsider their attitude in the light of changing circumstances and the prospects for the constructive involvement of the private sector in the work of the U.N.” (www.cgg.ch).

Greedy TNCs? While some wonder whether CSOs are too self-righteous to participate in the nitty-gritty of global governance, others wonder whether TNCs are too greedy.

According to Harvard business professor Debora Spar, TNCs not only can be pushed in the right direction, they’re being pushed now. Just look at all the “codes of conduct” they’re being asked to adopt! (Twelve of the most prominent corporate codes can be found at www.radicalmiddle.com, under the heading “21st Century Manifestos,” sect. 2.)

Because the codes are not only immensely sophisticated now, but have found favor among “U.S. based activist groups” and the “international media,” they’ve begun to affect the “basic calculus” of business decisions: “Suddenly, the advantages of lower-cost labor or lower-cost inputs . . . must be weighed against the crush of negative publicity, the cost of public relations, and the possibility of consumer protests.”

Spar calls this the “Spotlight Phenomenon,” and she thinks it’s going to end up precipitating a “race to the top” (rather than the “much-heralded race to the bottom”): “What changes the direction of this race is the combined force of codes and publicity. Firms adhere to the higher standard because public attention forces them to do so.

“And the more companies adhere, the easier it is for even the low-profile or sluggish to join” (Foreign Affairs, March/ April 1998).

One way for companies to cement their adherence to the “higher standard” is, of course, for them to work closely with CSOs and IGOs.

Neither Big Brother nor Ann Arkie

“[W]orld government is unfeasible and laissez-faire a recipe for a backlash,” say Nye and Keohane. “[What’s emerging now is] a heterogeneous array of agents -- from the private sector and the third sector as well as from governments.

“And the [influence] of these agents will depend on the networks in which they are embedded and their positions in those networks. And no [permanent] hierarchy is likely to be acceptable or effective in governing networks.”

Could anything be more timely, or more important, than the emergence of this new system of global governance? Memo to the mainstream media: Even President Bush’s assessment of Vladimir Putin’s soul may pale by comparison.


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