The US Element in the Global Governance Equation

A number of us were fortunate enough to join host Steve Paikin in his public affairs program, The Agenda with Steve Paikin discussing the ‘heady’ topic of international order. Steve by-the-way, for any of you conversant with the world of public intellectual inquiry is Canada’s answer to Charlie Rose (And I might add, just as cute). Anyway, with producer Daniel Kitts leading the charge, three of the chapter authors from Can the World be Governed? Possibilities for Effective Multilateralism joined Steve for an hour of discussion and debate on this topic. The group included Dick Rosecrance, Harvard University, Dan Drezner, The Fletcher School, Tufts University, Patricia Goff from CIGI and Wilfrid University and ‘yours truly,’ the editor of said volume. In addition Janice Stein, the Director of the Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto and David Rothkopf recent of Super Class book fame joined the rest of us and Steve. The discussion remained wide-ranging throughout the hour. It began with the original post World War II architecture of the international system, examing its adequacies and current limitations and moved to a debate over the future direction of global governance reform. In that latter inquiry, of course, much was raised over the possible roles and interests of the BRICSAM especially China and India.

I won’t try to summarize the entire debate (for that you can click on the URL above and view the video or download the podcast of the entire hour) but I think there were two key issues that the entire group engaged in at one moment or another in the hour show. First, there was the discussion over the future character of global governanace organizations and institutions (on another post I shall inquire into the distinctions of these two terms. You can’t keep an old international relations type from dwelling on defintions, can you.). There was a lively discussion of whether, and how BRICSAM countries might become more fully involved in global governance institutions. How would global governance institutions, particularly, global governance security organizations look and act were a China or an India to become a rule maker as opposed to just a rule taker? Probably the most contentious discussion arose over the question of whether a ’security club’ might arise where the democratic character of the Great powers would be a prerequisite for membership. Such a group would by definition exclude China and probably Russia. There was a strong voice in the group for Great power inclusiveness and the desire to avoid such a split but a number of us suggested that the growing desire to exercise the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and contemplate humanitarian intervention where individuals were threatened by government violence or the negligent inaction of government, would lead to continuing friction with China’s and Russia’s assertion of national sovereignty and non-intereference in the domestic affairs of member states of the international system.

The second key issue raised was over American leadership of global governance. The key actor in the creation of the Post War global governance system, the evident ambivalence and recent unilateral behavior raises questions over US leadership. Both from the discussion and the book it is evident that US ambivalence is not just at the Administration level but extends to Congress and the American public. Notwithstanding that the US is the most advatnged by the open and secure system there remains a strong undercurrent of hostility to multilateral action and the limitations that such multilateral behvior places on American action. Further, discussion ranged over continued US leadership. Was such leadership devalued in the face of the emergence of the BRICSAM? Put simply is the US hegemony following the end of the Cold War but a brief moment and multilateralism especially including the BRICSAM the architecture for future global governance. And if it is the latter how do we get there and how will it look and act? Lastly, though possibly most importantly, will multilateralism be effective? While legitimacy is an important debate, in some regards an overwhelming debate in global governance, in the end legitimacy without effectiveness is tragic conclusion to the efforts to reform global governance.

The opinions expressed in this article/multimedia are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI or its Board of Directors.