Center for Governance and Sustainability

at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Four Building Blocks: Introduction

In addition to the Five Steps, Four Tools, and Three Special Mechanisms, WEF has identified Four Building Blocks. These four elements are seen as cornerstones on which to push along the transition to a new system of global governance. According to GRI, these Building Blocks “can be applied in partial and different combinations ... to strengthen progress on any given issue.” 1

Despite the implied importance for a solid foundation starting with the GRI Building Blocks, three of the four are not dramatic departures from existing and longstanding suggestions. Building Block One, “high-level political commitments and objectives,” is essentially a repetition of WEF’s earlier endorsement of the leadership role for the G20. Such an appeal to high level political will has been part of the call for every international campaign and program.

Building Block Two, “multilateral legal frameworks and institutions,” is the same appeal for coherence and cooperation at the international level which has been made by nation-states and intergovernmental Actors for years. Almost every international effort to address a global policy matter has been accompanied by calls for supplemental legal frameworks and conventions. What is noteworthy in the GRI is that it repeats this call, and then proposes very limited new legal institutions or agreements.

Building Block Four is simply a call for “information metrics [that can] assist with anticipating risks, shaping priorities and benchmarking performance.” At the moment there are more than enough data, benchmarks, and priorities on globally significant problems. This information  has not significantly changed the behavior of firms or governments. Therefore repackaging this information as a separate building block within the GRI program is not particularly noteworthy.

It is the Third Building Block that is significant. It calls for “plurilateral, often multi-stakeholder, coalitions of the willing and able” as a means to getting an agenda item moving. This Building Block implies that diverse institutional arrangements for dealing with a specific global problem, irrespective of formal organizational arrangements and mandates, should be a regular part of the global system. WEF is arguing that one can legitimately build a coalition and get results from a loose coalition of governments, self-interested MNCs, NGOs, and, if necessary, an international organization. In short, WEF is proposing opt-in-opt-outism as a practical solution.

Building Block One

High-level political commitments and objectives

Building Block Two

Multilateral legal framework and institutions

Building Block Three

Plurilateral, often multi-stakeholder, coalitions of the willing and able

Building Block Four

Information metrics to assist with anticipating risks, shaping priorities
and benchmarking performance


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.

  • 1. ^ GRI, pg 18.

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