Beyond Territorial Boundaries

Globalization in conjunction with the geographic definition of the nation-state has brought to the fore new challenging problems, ones that a new global governance system ought to be able to handle.

One category of new problems is those for which the fundamental solution to the issue lays outside the territorial boundaries of all nation-states or outside the atmospheric territory of nation-states.

For example, roughly sixty percent of the globe falls outside land-based boundaries. The Law of the Sea extended land-based boundaries into the ocean with the new category of “exclusive economic zones.” However, as the name implies, land-based nation-states cannot assert general state authority over these sections of the ocean. They can only assert economic development claims. 1  As the GRI taskforces on the ocean 2  recognized, the protection of highly migratory fish stocks, 3 the increase in ocean waste accumulation, and the loss of marine biodiversity are now urgent matters for the international community to address.  

They proposed a collection of multi-stakeholder arrangements to work around the territorial boundaries issue. This constraint has its origins in the Westphalian concept that land boundaries are an inherent part of the definition of nation-state sovereignty and earlier claims that navies and commercial shipping should have unhindered transit rights in the open sea. In a globalized 21st century, this no longer makes sense. 4 GRI’s framework for multi-stakeholder arrangements and a  ‘geometry of cooperation’ provides no effective way to address this limitation.

In this context, a careful review of key structural issues that extend in new ways beyond the traditional boundaries of nation-state is needed. Other examples of policy gaps that appear in the spaces beyond the boundaries of nations-states include the control of the transmission of mobile viruses, 5  and the control of the climate.

  As summarized by the Helsinki Process:

. . . globalization has effectively shortened the distances between people and places all over the world, offering a multitude of new opportunities through truly global exchanges of ideas and goods, it has also revealed a number of global problems and challenges which can be very different in nature, ranging from those which are replicated across societies and states (such as fiscal crises) to those which can be properly understood only at the global level (such as global warming), but which nevertheless cannot be effectively tackled by individual states or even groups of states alone.…  6


Related Ideas: Fisheries; Law of the Sea; Nuclear terrorism; Ocean monitors; Three Facets; The Judicial System

The Readers' Guide welcomes comments with alternative examples or counter examples and commentary – critical or otherwise – of the above interpretation of GRI’s perspective.

  1. ^ An indirect exemption is if some activity in the EEZ is likely to adversely effect national territorial waters, the coastal state take some preventative actions.
  2. ^ Global Agenda Council on Ocean Governance  and Young Global Leader Restoring Ocean Health Task Force
  3. ^ “As a governance challenge, the problem of fisheries subsidies is an exemplar of the wider problem of how to link trade and environmental sustainability issues – current governance mechanisms have so far failed to achieve coherence between economic and natural resource management policies and policy-making processes. Fisheries offer an ideal context in which to make progress on this issue. No other topic more clearly illustrates the potential for the WTO to play an enhanced global governance role as the world’s economy becomes ever more subject to environmental limits and demands for equitable development.” Ocean Governance Initiative: Global Agenda Council on Ocean Governance and YGL Restoring Ocean Health Task Force, pg 103
  4. ^ The Helsinki report presents this in a gentler way, “Indeed there is growing agreement that governments cannot be the sole agencies of governance because of their incomplete transnational capabilities and outright partiality in some areas.” Helsinki, pg 6
  5. ^ “International cooperation is becoming increasingly important in health because of growing transborder epidemics and major population movements. Like prevention, health-related research, which is being conducted increasingly across countries, is a global public good. , , , International health-related governance is no longer adapted to the new ecosystem, as it largely excludes non-state actors (be they NGOs or businesses), is disconnected from financial, trade and economic decision-making, and lacks the power to broker binding accords promoting global health." Ensuring Health for All : Towards a New Paradigm for Health for All By Peter Piot, Professor and Director, Institute of Global Health, Imperial College London, United Kingdom, David E. Bloom, Clarence James Gamble Professor of Economics and Demography, Harvard School of Public Health, USA, and Peter C. Smith, Professor, Health Policy, Imperial College London, United Kingdom, pg 411
  6. ^ Helsinki, pg 6
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