Better global governance is the key to managing both globalization and the global environment. More importantly, it is also the key to managing the relationship between the two. The processes of environment and globalization are sweepingly broad, sometimes overwhelming, but they are not immune to policy influence. Indeed, the processes as we know them have been shaped by the policies that we have—or have not—put in place in the past. Equally, the direction that globalization, the global environment and the interaction of the two will take in the years to come will be shaped by the policy decisions of the future. Governance, therefore, is the key avenue for action by decision-makers today.
However, it is also quite clear that both globalization and environment challenge the current architecture of the international system as it now exists. Both dynamics limit a state’s ability to decide on and control key issues affecting it. Globalization does it largely by design as states commit to liberalize trade and embrace new technologies. The environment challenges the system by default as ecosystem boundaries rarely overlap with national boundaries and ecological systems are nearly always supra-state. The role of the state in the management of the international system has to evolve to respond to the evolution of the challenges facing it.
This evolution is already happening, but often in painful, even contorted, ways. Having outgrown its old structure, the international system is designing a new, more inclusive one. Many problems have been identified in the current system of global governance: it is too large; it is chronically short of money and yet also wasteful of the resources it has; it has expanded in an ad hoc fashion; it lacks coordination and a sense of direction; it is often duplicative and sometimes different organizations within the system work at cross-purposes to each other, etc. In terms of environment and globalization, we see three important goals for the global governance system as it exists today.
Managing institutional fragmentation: Although there already exist organs within the system to address most problems thrown up by environment and globalization, the efforts of these institutions are fragmented and lack coordination or coherence. The efforts and the instruments for making the “system” work as a whole either do not exist or are under-utilized. The institutional architecture that we have remains focused on precise issues even though the pressing challenges of our times—particularly those related to environment and globalization—relate to the connections between issues (e.g., labour and trade; environment and investment; food and health; etc.). There is a pressing need, therefore, for meaningful global governance reform that creates viable and workable mechanisms for making existing institutions work together more efficiently and effectively than they have so far.
Broadening the base of our state-centric system: Despite some headway over the last two decades, the essential architecture of the international governance system remains state-centric, even though neither the problems nor the solutions are any longer so. In terms of environment and globalization dynamics, one now finds civil society and market actors playing defining roles in establishing the direction and sequence of events. Whether it is companies creating new global norms and standards through their procurement and supply chains, or NGOs establishing voluntary standards in areas such as forestry or organic products, we see that policy in practice is no longer the sole domain of the inter-state system. It should be acknowledged that both civil society and business are beginning to be integrated into global governance mechanisms—for example, through their presence and participation in global negotiations and summits and through closer interactions with environmentally progressive businesses. This process needs to be deepened and accelerated, and meaningful ways need to be found to incorporate them as real partners in the global governance enterprise.
Establishing sustainable development as a common goal: The post-World War II international organizational architecture was originally designed to avoid another Great War. In terms of what the system does and in terms of the types of goals that it has set for itself (e.g., the Millennium Development Goals; stabilization of atmospheric concentrations of CO2; eradication of diseases such as Malaria; control of HIV/AIDS; etc.), the system has evolved to a broader understanding of what we mean by “security” as well as of what its own role is. Yet, it is not always clear that the entire system of global governance is moving towards a common goal. This creates undue friction between the organizations that make up the system and results in disjointed policies.
To the extent that a new common global goal has emerged, it is sustainable development. Not only is sustainable development quintessentially about the linkages between environment and globalization, it is also a goal that has increasingly been adopted by various elements of the global system. For example, it is not only the overarching goal of all environmental organizations and instruments, it is also now a stated goal of the World Trade Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization and many others.
Laying out a detailed plan for achieving this shared goal is beyond the scope and mandate of this document. To a more limited extent, an earlier related report, Global Environmental Governance: A Reform Agenda, begins doing so for the process of environmental governance only. While recommendations from that work are valid here, the challenge of environment and globalization lays out an even bigger agenda for us to think about. By way of prodding such thinking, a sampling of the types of initiatives that could be considered is presented here.
- The last few years have seen a number of different initiatives on international institutional reform, and the next few will invariably see more. Many of these have been focused on organizational reform relating to management, operations, financing, etc. Some have been focused more precisely on strengthening key institutions in specific issue areas (e.g., UNEP for global environmental governance). The success of such initiatives is important in making the system efficient and these processes should be supported and strengthened. Bringing more coherence and coordination between sub-systems should also be a major priority: e.g., the global environmental governance system; the global financial governance system; the global economic development support system; etc.
- The challenge, however, is larger than efficiency alone. It is also about making the various components of the system work together and towards a shared vision. As an initial step, one could envisage choosing just one area with which to begin and establishing modalities for deep and permanent links between institutions that are dealing with clearly related issues. The obvious candidate is the area of trade and environment. Given our earlier discussion and the steps that have already been taken in improving coherence between these intertwined areas, one could envisage an agreement between the two institutions that clearly defines the role of each and the “services” that each can provide to the other and the expertise that can be shared across the two domains. Such coordination at the global level could also serve to instill greater interaction between environmental and trade decision-making at the domestic level.
- Effectively responding to the challenges of environment and globalization requires a concerted effort to find new and meaningful ways to engage non-state actors from business and civil society. A first generation of attempts towards public-private partnerships is already underway with efforts such as the UN Secretary General’s Global Compact Initiative, the Type 2 partnerships devised during WSSD in 2002, and increasing interaction between state and non-state actors at various global fora. There is a need to elevate this notion of partnerships to a new and higher level. One which seeks to establish not only shared goals and priorities, but to also devise a course of shared responsibility and joint action. Until now, for the most part, partnerships between state and non-state parties have meant seeking synergies in what they are already doing. In order to meet the challenges of environment and globalization, we need to move to deeper—possibly contractual—bargains that bring business and civil society as full partners into the enterprise of global governance. The type of partnerships that was discussed above in terms of e-waste may be one example of what this might look like.
- The existing instruments that do relate to environment and globalization tend to come either from the direction of environmental policy (e.g., the climate convention) or from the direction of economic policy (e.g., WTO rules). As a first step, and as elaborated above, the cross-cutting elements within these instruments need to be better understood, and actors from various domains need to be engaged in these discussions. However, we will soon also need to start creating new instruments that emerge not from one of the two dynamics—environment or globalization—but from the interaction of the two. For example, there is already an advanced body of interesting work done on “green accounting” and various forms of ecological accounting and ecological tax reform. There is both a need and an opportunity to begin thinking of integrating this work into our national and global accounting mechanisms. One option might be to promote systems of payment for ecological services (domestically, internationally and possibly globally). Or, at a minimum, to account for the value of such services in national accounts so that more reasoned and reasonable decision-analysis can be done for and by policy-makers. Another option, at a more extreme end of the spectrum of possibilities, may be to consider new legal instruments: a possible “Global Compact on Poverty Reduction” or a “Global Treaty on Consumption.” The merits of particular instruments may be debatable, but the point to be made here is that if global opportunities are to be maximized while adhering to principles of global responsibility, then new and innovative mechanisms of understanding, measuring and managing economic and ecological values will be needed.
- Another area of global governance that needs attention in terms of environment and globalization is that of security—and insecurity. An acknowledgment and appreciation of the importance of human insecurity and of the multiple drivers of societal as well as international conflict has begun to grow. However, our governance mechanisms for discussing security remain fixated on a much narrower conception of security. Institutions responsible for dealing with issues of security are slowly—but, again, too slowly—beginning to accommodate broader notions of the term. The UN Security Council, for example, held a special hearing on conflict diamonds. The U.S. military, as another example, has had for a number of years an Assistant Secretary for environmental security, and has been seriously studying the implications of global climate change on U.S. security. There is a need to even more explicitly broaden the mandate of global security organizations to include non-traditional security mandates, including those related to environmental security.
- Although discussions of environment and globalization may take place at the global level, the implications of these dynamics are invariably national and local. It is evident that the ability to manage these processes, to benefit from the potential of globalization and to minimize the threats of environmental degradation are all functions of preparedness, information and capacity. Investments in these areas—and particularly in developing countries—can have immediate as well as long-term benefits vis-à-vis sustainable development. As has been suggested, globalization has great potential to bring economic prosperity to the poor. But this potential cannot be realized without the capacity to do so and a readiness within those communities and societies to actualize these benefits. The role of international assistance in creating such readiness and enhancing such capacities is critical. Addressing domestic capacity constraints—including, for example, in early warning; technology choice and innovation; decision analysis; long-term investment analysis; etc.—should, therefore, be a key area of international cooperation.
- Finally, we do need better assessments of the full potential as well as the full costs of environment and globalization interactions. If any of the ideas presented here are to be adopted, we will need far more robust information and analysis than we now have. What is the full value of global ecological services? What are the best available instruments for ecological accounting? How are the costs and benefits of globalization currently distributed? What are the economic costs of various environmental stresses? What are the long-term impacts of alternative technology decisions? What is the potential for de-materialization and de-linking growth from consumption? These, and many others, are some of the many important questions that we need to think about. It may not be possible to get answers to all of the questions. But it is possible to get answers to many. In other cases, even if exact answers are not available, indicative assessments may be possible. A first step, therefore, would be to conduct a large-scale global assessment of the state of knowledge on environment and globalization. As we found with the global assessments on climate change and, more recently, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the act of conducting such systematic studies is important not only for the answers that they bring out but also because they raise new and more important questions, they identify new and otherwise unexplored options, and they help create the policy space for new discussions.
- ^ Najam, A., M. Papa and N. Taiyab, 2006. Global Environmental Governance: A Reform Agenda. Winnipeg: IISD.
- ^ Najam, A., M. Papa and N. Taiyab, 2006. Global Environmental Governance: A Reform Agenda. Winnipeg: IISD.
- ^ White, M., C. Streck and T. Benner, 2003. “The Road from Johannesburg: What Future for Partnerships in Global Environmental Governance?” In Progress or Peril? Partnerships and Networks in Global Environmental Governance, edited by Witte et al. Berlin: Global Public Policy Institute.
– Najam, A., 2005. “A Tale of Three Cities: Developing Countries in Global Environmental Negotiations.” In Global Challenges: Furthering the Multilateral Process for Sustainable Development edited by Angela Churie Kallhauge, Gunnar Sjöstedt and Elisabeth Correll. Pp. 124–143. London: Greanleaf.
- ^ See The Kimberley Process Website.
- ^ Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Synthesis Reports. Washington DC: MA, WRI and Island Press.
This is a chapter from Environment and Globalization: Five Propositions (e-book).
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