Center for Governance and Sustainability

at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Dysfunctional Governance Today

Clearly, the current system of global governance is not working properly. At the very least the financial crisis exposed a troubling problem: the current governance structures could not contain the transmission of the financial crisis from one sector of the US economy to the rest of the world. And the failure of the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009 highlighted global difficulties with fashioning meaningful responses to transboundary ecological issues. The combination of these gaps has exposed a level of disillusionment within the international elite regarding the legitimacy and effectiveness of the current macro governance system.

The elite disillusionment is matched by wide-spread anxiety and frustration by billions of other citizens. 

For decades, people around the world have been told that globalization and the international market would in one way or another rescue them from poverty. The “Great Recession” demonstrated that the existing international infrastructure is seriously flawed, undermining in many situations the social and economic advances of the past twenty-five years. It neither produced solutions for truly global problems nor established meaningful and ethical rules for the global marketplace. In addition, the on-going Iraq and Afghanistan wars remind people that there are still no effective constraints on NATO or other powerful militaries. As a result, the World Social Forum, born in opposition to the World Economic Forum, galvanized participants in their annual meetings to develop their own people-focused governance systems.

The lack of response to the climate crisis, seen by many as an ecological tripping point in waiting, has spurned thoughtful leaders to look for a new form of ecological governance. The financial crisis opened a door for even traditional political and economic leaders to say, for the first time since the Bretton Wood Institutions 1 were founded,  that a new global economic governance system is needed.


Related Ideas: Arrangements out of step; Historic error to revert to complacency

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

  • 1. ^ The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank group are collectively called the BWIs (Bretton Woods Institutions) after the New Hampshire town where their founding documents were agreed upon.
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