Global governance as a multilayered process.

Author:Cooper, Andrew F.
Position:The Chronicle Library Shelf

In my book, Tests of Global Governance: Canadian Diplomacy and United Nations World Conferences (United Nations University (UNU) Press, Tokyo, 2004), I provide a detailed examination of the interface between diplomatic method and new forms of global governance at world conferences sponsored by the United Nations. Cast as a series of tests highlighting key concepts and issues central to the operation of international relations, this work demonstrates that global governance has become a multilayered process within which States and non-State actors play vital, if often conflicting, roles. Canada's and Canadians' role in these conferences is explored as a unique and representative sample of how statecraft and new society-crafts have taken shape over the past decade. The picture that emerges suggests a deepening network of institutions, actors and organizations that are animating the complex regimes which govern the major arenas of world politics.

As a test of transition with regard to diplomatic machinery. UN world conferences provide an impressive and intriguing canvas. Chronologically, a massive leap can be traced from the important, although still quite restricted, presence of non-governmental organizations in the 1960s and 1970s to the high watermark of participation featured at the 1992 Rio UN Conference on Environment and Development and beyond. Substantively, this trend opened up the possibility of a fuller and deeper integration of the "two worlds" between State and societal forces.

A second test is wrapped up with the tensions between fragmentation and consolidation in diplomatic practice. The commonplace way of looking at UN world conferences is as the exemplar of the model of multiplicity of activity. Still, if one face of this test came via bureaucratic adaptation, another is through the ongoing hold of leadership at the apex of power. Diplomatic practice has been thoroughly penetrated by highly personalized political considerations.

A third test relates to what purpose diplomacy serves. UN conferences can be interpreted as part of a compensatory strategy to deflect and offset the momentum towards neo-liberal/market tendencies. To detractors, however, this mode of multilateralism has become a tool of coercive discipline in the international system. The book cuts more concretely into these questions by examining two specific case studies: the Global Forestry Convention and the 1995 Copenhagen World Summit for Social Development.


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