Center for Governance and Sustainability

at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Gaining Acceptance

The net effect of 60 years of private-sector rule-making within the international arena is a series of alliances between firms, trade associations, and states that have defined and maintained the rules. The private-sector-centric rule-making process varies by sector, by history, and by geographic market. Over time, governments have codified some of these informal rules in GATT and later in the WTO. For other de facto rules, the nation-states and the UN system has helped legitimize these ‘unofficial regulations’  by non-interference and silence. These informal rules determine more of the behavior of actors in  the international market than the all the collective actions by nation-states.

Governments have adopted formal plenary declarations and conference resolutions on specific aspects of international corporate practices. They and the concerned public have subsequently been frustrated by the non-responsiveness of the international business community to these actions. From the corporate side, the autonomy of the informal processes has reached a point, however, that traditional MNC interactions with governments are no longer seen by some sections of the international elite as sufficient to get meaningful governmental action when necessary or to secure public acceptability. 1

This section evaluates whether GRI’s proposals themselves have the potential to significantly enhance the legitimacy of globalization or whether they are likely to lead to greater difficulties with public respect for the institutions of global governance. 

WEF’s recommendations for the incorporation of the non-state Actors into the UN system raise a number of unique issues. Some of these issues are the appropriate constituent groups for each multi-stakeholder structure; the ‘selection/election’ system for the each group of stakeholders; the voting system between the groups; the asymmetries of power and resources of the different stakeholders; the responsibilities and obligations of each group of stakeholders; the arrangements for administrative support for PPPs; and financing of multi-stakeholder undertakings. Some of these topics are addressed more fully in Operational Matters below

A key constraint for the broad acceptability of WEF’s new system is the narrow band of experts they convened to develop their proposals. WEF did not call openly for proposals. It did not invite a number of key international constituencies to participate in the process. And it did not even establish a website for public comments. WEF selected its friends to work on its Global Redesign Initiative. Over 50% of WEF's experts were working in the US while advising World Economic Forum on this project, hardly an indication of a geographically well balanced team. Even though GRI's finances came heavily from non-OECD countries,  2  only 2% of its experts were working in developing countries at the time. Of WEF’s friends, only 17% were women. This narrow base has serious consequences. It undermines the WEF claims that it truly understands a multi-polar world and that it has the ability to pick the global leaders of today and tomorrow.


Related ideas: Sense of Ownership; Shift in Values; Global Business Oath; Public governance failures; Lacks built-in incentives

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. ^ The primary exception to this is that military and nuclear matters have remained in principally in state hands or under Security Council control
  • 2. ^ Financial support for the GRI project came from the Governments of Qatar, Singapore, Switzerland, and Tanzania.
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.