WEF’s diagnosis of the current ills in global governance and WEF’s prescriptions for treatment of these maladies are important contributions to the debate on the future of global governance.
WEF acknowledges that neither the US, nor the EU, nor any grouping of G7/G8 countries can still be counted on to make and implement crucial global economic decisions. In their view, the realities of globalization have eclipsed the post-WWII hierarchy of nation-states and the existing architecture of international organizations 1 . WEF sees that the OECD governments and the UN system are no longer “The Actors” in global economic governance. Some key formerly ‘developing’ countries have achieved a global economic and political stature that has made them into governing ‘Actors’ in their own right.
In WEF’s view, multinational corporations, international civil society organizations, and larger developing countries have entered the space formerly held by the major Northern nation-states and the UN system. This transformation has not occurred overnight. Rather, over the past decades all these Actors have in different ways built global or regional governance systems that exist in parallel to the existing formal system of international organizations and bilateral relations. In the case of the MNCs, their effective reach as de facto global governance institutions has long surpassed the functioning of the UN system. 2 International civil society organizations have a created a separate people-to-people sphere in governance with the other Actors in global governance. These three institutional governing forces sometime intersect tumultuously with each other, sometimes engage each other with a profound understanding of the independent role of the other governing system and sometimes join together on a common project. In WEF’s view this alignment has evolved into something new in governance history -- something that WEF seeks to capture in the phrase “geography of cooperation.”
The implication of this is four-fold. First, MNCs and international CSOs need to be recognized in their own right as full Actors in the global governance system, not just as lobbyists to nation-states or international proponents of specific positions or solutions. Second, governments of selected ‘emerging economies’ should also be formally acknowledged as significant players in global governance, not just one amongst equals in the developing world. Third, only by embracing these new Actors formally and in a constructive manner can one meaningfully attempt to manage globalization. And fourth, corporate executives and international CSO leaders need to be self-conscious of their new global Actor role and not try to pretend or minimize, as they have done in the past, their leadership role in global governance. WEF’s position is that a realignment of these three categories of Actors – MNCs, civil society leaders, and nation-states -- has the best shot at managing globalization.
In its view, the World Economic Forum is the body best suited to develop a new framework for a post-United Nations-based system of international governance. It has fifty years’ experience convening leading stakeholders from the political, economic, cultural, civil society, religious, and other communities to discuss the way forward in global affairs. It has built a reputation as an innovative thought center. It has played a role in global conflict resolution. WEF openly recognizes that economic inequalities and global governance failures are inhibiting the adaptability of the current economic system to continue to grow and prosper 3 . As the three co-chairs observed in their introduction to this report: “The time has come for a new stakeholder paradigm of international governance analogous to that embodied in the stakeholder theory of corporate governance on which the World Economic Forum itself was founded.” 4
The Readers' Guide welcomes comments with alternative examples or counter examples and commentary – critical or otherwise – of the above interpretation of GRI’s perspective.