Global Governance and Recognising Need for New Vision

Marguerite A. Peeters FAITH Magazine March-April 2010

The below are extracts from last January's "Interactive Information Services (IIS) Report 287", entitled "On the State of Global Governance: Contradictory Trends", from the Brussels Institute for Intercultural Dialogue Dynamics.

[...] Twenty years have passed since the fall of the Berlin wall, when the UN undertook to build a "new global consensus" on the norms, values and priorities of international cooperation for the post-Cold War era and the 21st century. Global governance then took a Copernican turn, away from the paradigms of western modernity (such as national sovereignty and interest, the primacy of reason, growth, progress, representative democracy, the authority of government, western universal values, hierarchies), towards a new postmodern ethic. Five years separate us from 2015, the "target date" for the implementation of some of the goals of the new postmodern consensus - of the Millennium Development Goals and of the 1994 Cairo conference on population. [...]

1. What is "Global Governance"?

[...] Global governance can be "described" as the new global political regime which informally came about in the course of the post-Cold War conference process of the United Nations (1990-96), when a new "global consensus" was built, not primarily by governments themselves but through a historical and strategic partnership between the UN and so-called "non-state actors", mainly powerful western-based NGOs. […]

As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon put it: "Our times demand a new definition of leadership - global leadership. They demand a new constellation of international cooperation - governments, civil society and the private sector, working together for a collective global good" (speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on 29 January 2009).

[...] Global norms are, more often than not, forged by expert networks, informal partnerships, consultative processes, lobby groups, "retreats" of world leaders behind closed doors. Governments themselves too often just follow suit. Hence the "collective global good" radically differs from the traditional notion of "the common good". [...] "New multilateralism" is another name for global governance. [...]

2. Two Contradictory Trends: Success of Informal and Soft Processes vs. Failure of Formal and Hard Processes - But is "Soft" Turning "Hard"?

How effective and efficient is global governance today? IIS distinguishes two contradictory trends. Global governance's undeniable and historic success in leading global cultural change (language, global norms and policy direction...) since the fall of the Berlin wall sharply contrasts with global governance's inability to reform its institutions and/or create new institutions for itself and to reach legally binding agreements: [...]

Consensus, accords and other soft agreements (such as the 1994 Cairo consensus or the recent Copenhagen Accord), while not being "legally binding", do substantially determine the direction of global governance, establish a "global normative framework", are often "enforced" - effectively implemented, as if political and cultural agreements had become more "binding" than hard law. [...]

3. Global Governance's Success: Global "Soft" Change, Leading to "Hard" Juridical and Institutional Change in Some Instances

As an "informal global political regime", global governance has proven remarkably efficient in the last fifteen to twenty years in changing the language of governments, academia, the media, and NGOs, and in setting new political and cultural goals (such as "sustainability" and "good governance"), thereby creating a new global culture that quietly transforms all cultures from within (see IIS 279-81). The new language has spread horizontally to all parts of the world and is vertically sinking in the fabric of societies, operating irreversible cultural change. More and more "partners" have come aboard. In fact, which significant political force still resists or remains an outsider?

[...] In her remarks on the 15th anniversary of the Cairo conference, US Secretary of State Clinton announced that [...] the "centerpiece" of US foreign policy, "the Global Health Initiative", commits the US to "spending $63 billion over six years to improve global health by investing in efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality, prevent millions of unintended pregnancies, and avert millions of new HIV infections, among other goals." The Global Health Initiative will "employ a new approach": it will integrate family planning, maternal health services and HIV-AIDS screening and treatment. Clinton said paying attention to the needs of women and girls was "in America's national security interests". She views the task of the Obama administration and reproductive health advocates as notonly to "provide services to those who need them, but to change the minds and attitudes of those who can be responsible for delivering those services in countries around the world."

Decisive steps have been taken to reinforce the UN's gender architecture, {seeFaith, Sept 2009) [...]

4. Failure of Copenhagen

Not only did the Copenhagen Summit not usher in a binding pact, it failed even to take a decisive step towards a pact that would be adopted at the next meeting (COP-16) in Mexico at the end of 2010. [...]

5. Widening Cracks in the System: "Global" Does Not Work

IIS has identified major and widening cracks in the system of global governance:

1) Copenhagen demonstrated that global governance has overreached itself;
2) The crisis provokes a shift away from idealistic globalism, back to pragmatic concerns;
3) "Global consensus" established by "experts" is not and has never been genuine;
4) The institutions of global governance prove unable to resolve their identity crisis and to reform themselves; they are fragmented;
5) Global governance pays the bill for not taking into account non-western cultures and civilisations;
6) Displaying an incapacity to provide real leadership, produce a vision for the world, new ideas/ideologies, global governance opts for a survival approach.

6. Worrisome Inability of Governments, Citizens and Cultures to Declare Independence from Global Governance's Normative Frameworks

What is the root cause of the current drifting? Would it not be that the West and the institutions of global governance, having closed themselves to transcendence, have stopped searching for what is real, true and good for humanity as a whole and for each individual person, and therefore prove unable to forge any genuine consensus? Indeed, doesn't the current drifting reveal the fakeness and ideological character of the post-Cold War consensus?

As IIS often highlighted it, the UN consensus-building exercise of the 1990s, which set the framework in which global governance operates today, hijacked humanity's universal aspirations at the end of the Cold War.

What is worrisome about the current situation is that governments and global governance, confronted with drifting, do not draw appropriate conclusions and do not declare independence from the ideological normative framework which has led to the implosion of the system. Postmodern experts continue to rule the show, with further drifting as a consequence. [...]

IIS also believes that de-hijacking is the key to unblocking the global governance situation. The more manifest it becomes that the "global consensus" built after the end of the Cold War was hijacked and is therefore fake, the more de-hijacking becomes a real possibility.

[...] What is new about the current situation, IIS underlines, is the fact that global governance actors are starting to recognise the need for clarification and more political realism. They haven't yet, though, identified clear and consensual solutions to the problems of conceptual fuzziness and impracticality.

7. Whatever the State of Global Governance, Cultural Globalisation Continues to Gain Ground

[...] the process of cultural globalisation inexorably moves forward, picking up speed. The culture of the "freedom to choose", channeled by the Internet, movies, television, music, fashion, slogans, publicity, education programmes, NGOs, seduces ever more young people in all cultures, mainly in urban areas, but it manages to filter down to the local country areas. This produces a fast and irreversible transformation of all cultures from within, globalising the western cultural revolution and its primary consequence, secularisation. Young people in non-western cultures want to "free themselves" from traditions, moral norms, the political oppression of certain regimes, constraints due to poverty, obligations and responsibilities. Unlike what happened in the West in the 60s, most of theseyoung people do not need to launch a revolution: they just need to follow suit, jump on the band wagon of cultural globalisation.

Today the people of all nations, races and cultures have to deal with the crisis of the family, the decline of marriage as an institution, the exponential rise of the rate of divorce and abortion, the fast relinquishment of traditions such as respect for the elderly. Doesn't the Chinese government advocate a return to Confucianism and traditional Chinese values to deal with the moral crisis of Chinese society?

8. A Positive Outlook on the Current State of Global Governance: Cracks in the System Render De-hijacking Politically and Culturally Possible

The current implosion and drifting of global governance, combined with the accelerating forward movement of the globalisation of the West's new postmodern culture, generates a malaise and creates a global political, cultural, anthropological and spiritual vacuum. This vacuum is becoming perceptible by a majority of citizens. In the absence of political and moral leadership, people are left to themselves, so to speak. The times are favourable to self-determination, a return to reality, de-hijacking the "global normative consensus" built not by real people, but by the enlightened despots of our global age. The task ahead of us is to help disentangle from ideology the issues that make up the themes of this consensus - inter alia, man's relationship to creation, the role of woman in society,people's participation in governance, a global ethic, North-South solidarity, the role of business, cultural identity, holism. Open to transcendence, searching for what is true and good, consensus-building could become genuine and lead humanity to a civilisation of love that no longer has anything to do with the "top-down" and doctrinaire paradigms of modernity.

The World Economic Forum's report, Faith and the Global Agenda: values for the post-crisis economy, states that "over two-thirds of people believe the current economic crisis is also a crisis of ethics and values. But only 50\% think universal values exist". Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, said the report underlines "the need for a set of values around which our global economic institutions and mechanisms of international cooperation must be built". He said world leaders meet in Davos "to rethink values underpinning the global system of cooperation". In other words, the "global consensus" of the 1990s failed to do just that and leaders admit it has already become irrelevant. [...]

(See the last entry in our Road from Regensburg column.)

[1].  US State Department press release. Copenhagen Accord Politically Significant but Not Legally Binding December 23, 2009.
[2]. Latest Development, Issue #331 — "Friends of Human Security" Call for GA Debate. December 23, 2009.
[3].  UN News. 'UN Assembly President hopeful next year's Mexico meeting will forge climate pact" New York, Dec 22 2009.
[4].  UN News. "Ban calls on leaders to attend millennium development goals summit next September" New York, Dec 21 2009.
[5]. Latest Development, Issue #327. GA makes progress on system-wide coherence, establishes new women's entity. December 4, 2009.
[6].  Hillary Rodham Clinton. Remarks on the 15th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development. Washington, January 8, 2010.
[7].  Suzanne Goldenberg UN should be sidelined in future climate talks, says Obama official. The Guardian, January 14, 2010.
[8]. World Economic Forum. Global Risks 2010.
[9]. World Economic Forum. Faith and the Global Agenda: values for the post-crisis economy. January 2010.

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