In discussing the ‘New Foundations of Global Governance’ (see my earlier blog post on the Princeton Conference, “Exploring the New Foundations of Global Governance”) at Princeton, experts could, and did, identify a series of new structural aspects relevant to global governance.  The experts differed, however, when it came to assessing how these evolving structural aspects will likely impact on global governance.  These evolving structural aspects at the 'cutting edge' of New Foundations included, among others, the emergence of new informal structures particularly from the Gx process, the emergence of Rising Powers - especially China but also India and Brazil - the growing constraint of domestic politics - in the US for sure but also in China and India - the reenergizing of US multilateral policy – described as multi-partner policy by Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and the growing diversity in the character of global governance leadership with the enlargement of the Gx process from the G7/8 to the G20. Much of the debate at Princeton revolved around whether these structural changes do, and will enable greater collaboration - or not.

I think it’s fair to say that all the experts agreed that there were a series of growing challenges to global governance.  Two in particular, climate change and nuclear proliferation, are recognized as existential - they  challenge international stability and prosperity and could challenge continued human existence.  How then to deal with global governance?  How will it be possible to meet and resolve these global challenges?

The experts acknowledge that the dynamic global governance organizations are increasingly informal and unstructured. But they disagree on the contribution that the Gx process institutions can make.  As Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations wrote recently, these organizations are, “invariably less inclusive, less comprehensive and less predictable than formal global accords” (see the earlier blog post, “New Foundations of Global Governance, ‘What’s in a Name’ and in the Form”). Now in fact many of us that examine and evaluate the Gx process see far less difference between the Gx process institutions and the UN and Bretton Woods institutions – the formal treaty created and legally binding institutions.  The different assessments arise in part by a failure by some to see the long evolution, the complex process and deeper institutional form generated first by the G7/8 and now by the G20.  But let’s me put this analysis aside for the moment – though I shall try and come back to it - while I look at underlying motivation for collaborative action by the great powers today.

In the later Bush years, as the Administration, began to rehabilitate multilateralism, and as that Administration sought to grapple with the place of the rising states, particularly China, Robert Zoellick, then Deputy Secretary of State, called on China to become a “responsible stakeholder.” What exactly that is never was exactly clear (see “China as a Responsible Stakeholder” part of the Carnegie Debates 2006-2008 Series on Reframing China Policy) but that language has been used extensively since then in examining the global governance enlargement.  The concept appears to have a quality that extends beyond national interest to responsibility for the working of the international system and a stake in the global order, or a willingness, perhaps, to contribute to international public goods – to maintain the international system. 

The Brookings Managing Global Insecurity (MGI) Project, originally co-directed by Carlos Pascual, now the United States Ambassador to Mexico, Stanford’s Steve Stedman and New York University’s Bruce Jones (who by the way attended Princeton), was a major initiative that looked into the building of a new international order in, as they called it, “an era of transnational threats.” The principal investigators focused on the concept of “responsible sovereignty” as the prime motivator for leadership and cooperation. This concept, originally articulated by African statesman and scholar, Francis Deng, was built on the idea that sovereignty entails obligations and duties to one’s own citizens and to other sovereign states – a balancing as they saw it of national interest with global responsibility. 

Stewart Patrick (another Princeton participant), and the Director of CFR’s Program on, “International Institutions and Global Governance,” raises a similar view in his concept, “Sovereignty as Responsibility.” Like the MGI Project, Stewart sees that sovereignty today creates rights but also imposes obligations on the government with respect to its citizens (national interest) and to the wider international community.

This ‘pitch’ of global leadership beyond national interest and toward a more 'idealist' collective responsibility is interesting but in the end uncalled for.  In examining enlarged great power leadership, I think it unnecessary – and possibly unwise – to infer that such leadership calls on some collective responsibility or obligation.  Instead it seems evident that contemporary great power leadership exists in a very different context than we saw in earlier periods.  Thus in the contemporary international system the degree of interdependence - even economic integration – places leadership in a very different environment from earlier eras.  And while not attracted to the language of responsible stakeholder – the terminology was never used to evaluate the US – though possibly it should have been – David Shorr another colleague and program officer for the Stanley Foundation (another Princeton participant) has argued that the reality of interdependence and stark challenges will spur a sense of “stakeholdership.”  What is critical, then, is that great powers need not extend beyond national interest to establish the basis for collaboration and cooperation in global governance.

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