Center for Governance and Sustainability

at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Strengthen UN with Non-State Resources

pg. 24: Strengthen the state-based part of the system . . .  while expanding the geometry of cooperation to capitalize on the wider availability of non-state expertise and resources

Readers' Guide Comment on “geometry of cooperation”

One of the key elements of the ‘new geometry of cooperation’ is the plan to move some components of the de facto global governance system into the official system. This incorporation of part of the corporate-centered system into the UN system should, from a GRI perspective, strengthen both the legitimacy of the particular de facto practice and enhance the legitimacy of the UN system.

For WEF, this often means identifying those ad hoc multi-stakeholder arrangements currently operating outside the formal system and conceiving ways to formalize them within the official system. There are two distinct pathways for this transformation. In the first instance, GRI identifies some policy areas that are currently inside the formal system and recommends that it would be more effective for the ‘new geometry of cooperation’ to take over the task. For example, it recommends that, as the formal UN system has proved incapable of managing failed states, a multi-stakeholder donor-state partnership be put in charge. Also it proposes to move arrangements that are primarily governed now in the ad hoc governance system under the UN umbrella. 

The expectation is that through a public-private partnership, the legitimacy of the current corporate-led governance program will be enhanced. 

Readers' Guide' Comment on "non-state expertise and resources”

‘Non-state’ is used in Everybody’s Business to refer to both multinational corporations (MNCs) and civil society organizations (CSOs). Sometimes the ‘non-state’ terminology is used where the meaning is clearly one category of organization and not the other. Here, the phrase is most clearly referring to the use of “wider availability of non-state [MNC] expertise and resources.” For the most part, civil society organizations cannot ‘donate’ staff or resources to the UN system. As much as they might like to, they simply do have financial backbone to loan out professional expertise or resources for extended period of time. However, MNCs, if they perceive a good business opportunity, can opt to work with and through UN system bodies to address matters of ‘common interest'.

Most tasks assigned to UN system bodies are seriously underfunded and understaffed. Missing from the GRI analysis is what happens to the delivery of international governance services that do not attract interest from private firms or align with the priorities of CSOs. One possibility is that nation-states, private foundations and donors increase their contributions to make up the short fall. Another possibility is that some form of international taxation is put in place to fund global public needs and goods. As both of these options are not likely at the moment, the GRI proposal to use non-state (principally MNC) expertise and resources and its non-support for an international taxation system would act to force the UN system into more public-private partnerships to meet obligations assigned to the international system.

At the national level, one expects that the ‘neutral’ state agencies will balance in some fashion the demands between the commercial sector and wider public concerns. If the strengthening of the organizational capacities of the UN system is predicated on part-time efforts by MNCs and CSOs, then it cannot be expected to provide an analogous balancing function at the international level.

Related Ideas: Step One and Two; New governing actors; constituencies; Opt-in-Opt-outism; United Nationsfix for UN

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

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.