Center for Governance and Sustainability

at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Criteria and Objectives for a New Governance System

The Global Redesign project had two structural problems in mind when it set out to re-conceptualize the institutions of global governance -- there is a loss of legitimacy in the current global system and a lack of effectiveness in the overall system.

This Readers' Guide seeks both to clarify the scope of the concepts of “legitimacy” and “effectiveness” in international relations and to understand the implications of designing a new international governance system based principally on these two objectives. This criterion for appraisal includes an examination of the consistency between the various Steps, Building Blocks, Tools, and Special Mechanisms and an assessment of whether or not WEF’s explicit objectives are centrally relevant to the problems of globalization today.

In the back of one’s mind, it is helpful to reflect how proposals for a future international system of governance are related to democratic governance systems at the national level. A first blush test of a new proposal for international governance could be “How would this proposal work in a national context?” Would a governance principle or an institutional arrangement proposed at the international level fall within the acceptable bounds of national practice?

If it does not, there are two possible alternatives to explore as part of this thought-experiment. The proposal might well be a significant improvement over existing best national democratic practices but has not yet been introduced. Or there might be something about the international situation that excludes this idea from having a domestic correlate.

For example, the GRI proposes that there should be parallel governing sessions to the annual meetings of the WHO, UNESCO, and FAO 1 involving MNCs and CSOs. The stated purpose of this proposal is to increase efficiency and meaningfulness of intergovernmental outcomes. As a thought-experiment, one might imagine the equivalent concept for the national level. In this case, it would be roughly equivalent to recommending that, whenever parliamentary bodies meet, there should also be a standing meeting of business executives and civil society leaders to give them guidance, as this would improve their efficiency and the acceptability of their decisions.


The Readers' Guide welcomes comments – critical or otherwise – on the use of the domestic thought-experiment as an evaluation criteria. 

  • 1. ^ Global Agenda Councils on Food Security and on Nutrition, Global Food, Agriculture and Nutrition Redesign Initiative, GRI, pg 193
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