Two major recent happenings, in very different ways, have served to underscore the importance and the urgency of nascent global governance. One was the tragic disaster which visited millions in Asia in the wake of the tsunami; the other is the crisis brought on by the war on Iraq, where tens of thousands have perished. The earthquake off Sumatra, which sent huge tidal waves crashing on coastal townships from Thailand and Sri Lanka to Kenya and Somalia, brought into sharp relief the irrelevance of borders, and the deception of distance. It also brought to light, dramatically if too briefly, the strength of fellow-feeling of humans the world over.
Cognitive and emotive, this growing sense of “we-ness”, widespread across timezones, represents a hopeful sign particularly in light of the persisting strength of national exclusiveness, which surfaced with the war and the relative fragility of instrumental structures which seek to bring about or to reinforce de facto and de jure, market-led, technology-driven and state-sponsored cooperation and integration on a global and regional basis.
To the destructive forces and devastating blows unleashed by War and Nature, emerging global society opposed remedial action intended to contain the suffering and damage sustained by countless victims in West and Southeast Asia. The scale of the response is certainly heartwarming and augurs well for the future. Perseverence, however, is needed in order to secure long-term beneficent outcomes. To ensure that good intentions do not evaporate, but rather crystallize into constructive action and channeled to good purpose on a sustainable basis calls for coherent strategies and structures on the national, sub-national and international levels.
How to develop these strategies; how to build, restore, renew and reinforce these structures; how to refine those instruments in order to ensure that they promote the welfare of the many, not merely of the few; advance their long-term interest not short-term personal gains may well be the most difficult assignment of the century. It is a critical challenge confronting both the governments and global civil society for both have a stake in its outcome. What the superb response of governments and citizens confronted with the havoc of the tsunami showed was the beneficent hand of civilization which intervenes to harness the blind forces of nature and remedy the inequities of Man and Nature alike.
In nature, weaklings perish. Indeed, this was the fate of tens of thousands of children swept by the tidal waves or by man-made disasters in our own days. Humanity comes to the rescue. Thus, within a few hours of this December tragedy, organized civil society responded with alacrity and even, in some cases, had to force the hand of governments, which might have been inclined to look the other way. In so doing, civil society affirmed a set of principles – those of civilized humanity, the civitas humana, which has been in the making, almost throughout the world, for close to three millennia. Such principles in action not only seek to counter or neutralize the vagaries of nature, but also to spread the benefits and values of civilisation to all without distinction of race, religion, gender, ethnicity or social class.
Society, not nature has, for three thousand years, enjoined us to respect and to protect the “stranger among us, the fatherless and the widow.” Indeed, it could be argued that the quality and the progress of civilization is measured by the extent to which we have been prepared to come to the rescue of the victims of misfortune or injustice and our readiness to apply our basic values equally beyond the clan, the tribe, the sect or nation state. It has been a slow process. For centuries, humanity has grappled with the need to establish and to enforce certain shared rules of the game in order both to limit the excesses of armed conflict and to secure the peace among the world's empires and nation states.
After many serious trials and tribulations, including two world wars in barely four decades of the twentieth century, the peoples of the world
“We the peoples of the United Nations” are the opening words of the Charter. formed the United Nations “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of warldots”, but also to promote the social, economic and technical cooperation among its Member States, as a far-sighted strategy of building the conditions of progress and peace.
No less than the decades of relative world peace enjoyed since the foundation of the United Nations, it is the phenomenal growth of structured co-operation on almost every level and every field of activity which represents the hallmark of its success; arguably what distinguishes the record of the Charter and the United Nations from that of its predecessor, the League and its Covenant. In this year of its sixtieth birthday, it would be fair to argue that the United Nations has powerfully contributed to the incremental growth of a complex “international machinery” and a significant corpus of international law “for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples” in the words of the Charter.
Preamble of the Charter. The war on Iraq notwithstanding, it has also helped develop and nurture a culture of peace.
Considering the crises which attended the Cold War and the protracted process of decolonisation, the expansion and consolidation of multilateral activity through multifarious processes of complex, organized cross-border cooperation represent major accomplishments of the post-war decades. They gave concrete expression to the new global society in the making. An incipient sense of “we-ness”, which manifests itself more often and more forcefully at times of crises, cuts across linguistic barriers, races, religions and regions. In fact, it is giving rise to a global common weal, a sense of shared concerns transcending nation states and reaching out to embrace the entire human family. Still at a formative stage, this sense is drawing support from the close proximity of six and a half billion women and men inhabiting our crowded planet Earth and now acutely aware of the threats to its ecosystem.
To be sure, the very forces which highlight the inter-dependence and call for solidarity among individuals and nations may also be the source of powerful counter-pressures pushing in other directions. New identities are forged in this process giving rise to rival claims often on behalf of groups which may have been excluded or were poorly represented in decision making processes when the multilateral system, currently in force, took shape.
There can be little doubt that the United Nations structures and the international order which they represent have been largely the creation of the victorious powers, at the end of the Second World War. They reflect the preponderant influence of northwestern leaders, values, interest and ideas. As will be argued elsewhere in this report, most of the formative structures in the emerging global village still bear the indelible mark of the forces and traditions which shaped them over time. In six decades, however, partly as a sequel to decolonization and partly as a result of the robust performance of emerging large economies in Asia and Latin America, new clusters and new powers have seen the light of the day. They now begin to challenge a design for global governance which took shape more than half a century ago, and takes too little cognizance of the wishes and concerns of newcomers and new players.
The ways of global governance are certainly in need of review. The Secretary-General of the United Nations expressed this very thought in the following challenging words:
[…] While the post-war multilateral system made it possible for the new globalization to emerge and flourish, globalisation, in turn, has progressively rendered its designs antiquated. Simply put, our post-war institutions were built for an international world, but we now live in a global world. Responding effectively to this shift is the core institutional challenge for world leaders today.
Kofi Annan “We the Peoples: The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century” New York, United Nations, 2000.
It is a pressing challenge. The world which our forefathers fashioned in their own image in the early twentieth century is becoming out of date, replaced by new realities. Transformed in many ways by technological progress and economic development, life in the “global village” is bringing out more starkly not merely the diversity of cultures, points of view, interests and beliefs, but also the disparities of living conditions and prospects and the degree of inequity which this entails. Addressing and resolving these troubling global issues in ways that take account of the significant differences in needs, conditions, interests and deeply held beliefs provide the rationale for giving serious thought to the design, the structures and modus operandi of the administration of global governance.
It has been rightly argued, elsewhere in this report, that “global governance is not a synonym for multilateralism” (Higgott). The case for a global imperium is still made in some quarters. However, both the prospects for global hegemony and the prohibitive costs of the enterprise in human, economic and moral terms make it unrealistic, as well as most unpalatable. To say that multilateralism, indeed multipolarity, is the only sensible way may be true, but begs the question. We need to “flesh it out” and to define it clearly in operational terms. Far more important still, we need to make it work in manners that are seen to be effective, as well as democratic, participative and equitable.
We may be past the stage where a “top-down” approach on any level of governance, domestic or international, would make sense and be accepted. The alternative, however, the “bottom-up” approach, though infinitely better, also comes up with some problems. In a world of great diversity, the quality and effectiveness of all consensual forms of governance, on any level, depend to a large extent on structures and a culture which favour a meaningful dialogue, constructive problem-solving and voluntary compliance. This, in essence, is the challenge of what this report is about, namely “administering global governance”.
Administering means servicing. It means facilitating and causing things to happen. “Enabling” and “empowering” convey the same idea. In the case of global governance, at this early stage of its development, “administering global governance” sheds light on the importance of an iterative approach exemplifying the virtues of broad participation, painstaking consultation and consensus-building, where process and outcome merge.
Designing, choreographing and managing the processes of global governance arguably represent some of those critical needs whose urgency and importance are measurable in terms of the high costs of crises with which the world is confronted: from war to HIV/AIDS; from abject destitution for 50% of humanity to threats from global warming. It calls for institutions, technologies and people; competent people especially. “Administering” reminds us of the critical requirements for sound design and planning; for vision, guidance, leadership, coordination and consultation in all complex operations. It is the essential antidote to the specialization which has become a feature of every field of activity. Excessive specialization easily breeds contempt for other spheres of knowledge and varying points of view, a type of fundamentalism, the dangers of which we have witnessed on all too many occasions in recent years and months.
Awareness of these perils has been one of the prompters of this report. A keen sense of the role of public administration, its civilizing mission, its knowledge base and ethos underpinning its potential to service and facilitate the ongoing quest for answers on pressing controversies and major global challenges is another. Hopefully, this report offers a useful framework and helps to reconfigure the issues and the challenges in contemporary terms. Produced by representatives of many varying cultures, background and points of view, it represents an effort to accommodate a broad diversity of perspectives, both thematic and geographical. This report is just the beginning of a long exploratory process. It extends an invitation to scholars and practitioners, all the world over, to join in the debate and, more than anything else, to keep an open mind. Our world, the world of our children, is still in the making.
Minister of Public Service and Administration, Republic of South Africa, Chair of the Working Group.