From Traditional Governance to Global Governance through the Eyes of GRI

Current diplomatic practitioners have a state-centric view of global governance. This is not so surprising given that a good number of these practitioners are employed by governments or by international organizations which are themselves governed by nation-states.  Most other practitioners in the intergovernmental world are employed by civil society organisations, business associations, think tanks, and development-related bodies. These non-state practitioners tend to focus their attention on one specific intergovernmental organization or one specific category of global problems, each of which tends to keep them with a state-centric frame of reference.    

Similarly, those who study international relations have traditionally taken a fundamentally state-centric approach, looking at bilateral and multilateral relations and international organizations as the prime institutional components of the international system. 

WEF’s approach is different. It sees the existing global governance system as a combination of the formal international state-centric system, with its treaties and international organizations, with a complex of less formal decision-making alliances that are largely operated by international firms. Growing out of this different perspective, WEF identifies a different set of challenges for the governance of globalization.

This section of the Readers' Guide looks at how the current international system addresses core functions of the global governance systems using GRI’s analytic framework. For each area of traditional governance, there is a summary of the major features of the current formal intergovernmental system and the allied processes of the informal global governance system. There is then an overview of WEF’s recommendations for combining parts of the formal system with the largely corporate-led, unofficial system.

Each section concludes with a list of global issues, processes, and concerns that are not explicitly addressed by the GRI’s proposals. These omissions can be illustrative of the strengths and weakness of GRI’s global governance approach. They can also provide an opportunity to explore a different take on the fundamental design principles and the selection of issues. 

Important global governance debates are occurring in all international institutions and in all global problem areas. These governance debates raise important issues in their own right. All of these governance conflicts have a direct relevance to the effective delivery of services on a global scale. Many of them relate to the particular history of the leading international organization in a given sector. These sector governance debates tend to address how the leadership is selected, how the governing bodies make decisions, and how the organization relates to civil society and the international business community. Some of these sector governance challenges might appropriately be re-examined in light of wider global governance debates, particularly those raised by the World Economic Forum’s Global Redesign Initiative.

Any new global governance system is going to be built out of the existing order. The recommendations in Everyone’s Business are just one conceptual and practical plan to make significant changes. There are other possible approaches. Some argue that the traditional state-centric model may only appear to be weak now, but that it can be recuperated by acts of political will or a crisis and once again lead effectively a globalized world. Some may share GRI’s analysis of the ills of the current system but arrive at different institutional conclusions; others may not share GRI’s premises but arrive at quite similar institutional recommendations; and some may differ fundamentally with GRI’s analysis and its redesign plan and consequently propose quite different principles and arrangements for global governance.

The purpose of this Readers' Guide classification of international governance structures is to facilitate a way of seeing the separate components of the international system as part of a larger system of global governance. There are other ways to categorize the existing components of international governance. Some readers may well prefer an alternative approach. 


The Readers' Guide welcomes commentary – critical or otherwise – of the classification system used as well as the identification of relevant governance papers and case studies from on-going thematic governance debates.

Ronald J. Glossop

Posted: 11-15-2012 16:35

I would like to know about what kind of political structures are being recommended and the ideas that are being advanced concerning how we get from the existing political system to the one being recommended.


Posted: 11-01-2012 10:09

I would like to get a well-developed article on the state centric view of international relations.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.