I’ve always been partial to the phrase coined by John Kirton, the Director of the G8 Research group – “two great galaxies of global governance.” Now Kirton and colleagues were referencing, on the one hand the “hard law” treaty-based system of UN-Bretton Woods institutions. The other was the far more informal summit-based system of Gx institutions. I am drawn to the phrase in part because it focuses on the multiplicity of institutions that have been created in the two galaxies. Particularly in the case of the Gx system it draws attention away from the summit of leaders and toward a system built on leaders meetings but also a vast array of transgovernmental networks. And although there has been an effort to limit the variety of ministerial meetings in the G20 – limiting these to foreign affairs and finance – there remain many regular and ad hoc task forces and working groups that were created by the G7 and continue today.
The point is that these the informal global governance systems is exactly that – a system; yes a leaders summit but built on a large administrative structure of support that includes a variety of transgovernmental networks. And it seems even in the emergence of the G20 leaders summit that a number of the transgovernmental networks continue to be active and effective. Most notably the G7 finance ministers continues to play a significant role. In the intense negotiation over the rescue package for Europe – and largely ignored I suspect – the G7 finance ministers – were engaged in the bargaining among the key leaders from France and Germany and others. The longstanding G7 finance ministers have won continuing respect. This transgovernmental network remains involved in the global financial crisis and now in the European debt crisis. An effective global governance network for sure.