The Globally Governed--Everyday Global Governance.

Author:Weiss, Thomas G.
Position::Essay
 
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GLOBAL GOVERNANCE EVOKES IMAGES OF WELL-PAID AND WELL-FED INTERNAtional bureaucrats in New York and Geneva, world conferences in glamorous cities on issues of planetary significance, and geopolitical wrangles about appointees to visible positions in the public and private sectors. It does not evoke images of refugees in Breidjing, Chad; grain traders in Khanna, India; or sex workers in Tijuana, Mexico. Yet the lives of the latter are at least as dramatically shaped--sometimes intimately so--by global governance as by the former.

Remarkably, scholarly and policy literature says little about how refugees, grain traders, and sex workers--among many others--receive and encounter global governance, which for us constitutes a genuine puzzle. The life experiences of those living in refugee camps are shaped in large measure by the actions and presence (or lack thereof) of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and UN relief agencies as well as by the interference from gangs, human traffickers, paramilitaries, and insurgency forces. The same can be said for the well-being of grain traders in Khanna whose fortunes are intimately linked to the performance of national, regional, and global markets as well as to the policies and programs of myriad financial and aid institutions. Likewise, flows of cross-border trade are affected by the actions and activities of firms large and small, numerous international agreements, commercial and otherwise, and fluctuations in global currency markets. These in turn have an effect on economic and other activities in border towns, including on the health and welfare of sex workers--members of the "global precariat" (1) whose lives are also affected, positively and negatively, by the contributions and omissions of numerous international agencies.

Along with countless others--including the disgruntled supporters of Brexit, Donald Trump, and far-right populist parties--these three groups are part of the globally governed: populations whose past, present, and future behavior is directly influenced by the actions and activities of actors and institutions that we commonly consider part of contemporary global governance. What is striking, however, is that few inquiries deal with the globally governed as primary objects of study despite a glut of recent work that has sought to expand the range of global governance investigations. (2) The result is that the field remains firmly focused on understanding who governs and how they do it rather than who is governed and how that governance is experienced. Not surprisingly, the top of the food chain gets more attention than the bottom.

Our aim is to bring the globally governed squarely into the analytical crosshairs of inquiries into global governance. What is the impact of examining world order from the bottom up rather than the top down? This approach is stimulated by recent scholarship that probes the implications of reversing perspectives in examining normative advances. One of the more consequential normative movements in this century, for instance, was away from humanitarian intervention and toward the Responsibility to Protect; the central rationale was shifting from the rights of interveners to those of victims. (3) Similarly, a past special section of this journal pointed to the overlooked or ignored Southern origins of several key global norms, (4) but even those contributors did not sufficiently reflect the point of view of the consumers of global governance.

We begin by situating our endeavor within diverse and emerging, but as yet incomplete, conceptual developments in global governance scholarship. We show how the process of making global governance more analytically robust--a long overdue and until recently much-neglected task--requires that not only complexity, time, and space as well as issues of continuity and change be taken into account but also that the analytical net be cast wide enough so that global governance is viewed from the ground up and its receipt, as well as the life experiences of those that receive it, understood. We then explore why reversing the analytical optic in this way is so essential, in analytical and policy terms, by examining how our examples of three types of individuals experience everyday global governance to suggest the true significance on the lives of the globally governed.

Global Governance, the State of the Art

There are reasons why the globally governed are absent from our purview. (5) Conceptually, the close association between the term global governance and what international organizations do has overly determined the extent to which this field has proceeded along an evolutionary path wherein the words "global" and "governance" have become descriptors for the collective action of intergovernmental institutions. It may also be that the scholarly tendency to read global governance--its history, content, and drivers of change--from the vantage point of Washington, London, Brussels, or Geneva has compounded matters and concentrated minds on the art of governance rather than its consequences, on the governors rather than the governed. Moreover, this perspective may reflect the fact that many scholars who study global governance come from countries at the core of global decisionmaking and have analytical radars insufficiently tuned to looking at both sides of the governance equation. In addition, studying those on the receiving end of global governance requires the kind of fieldwork and investigation into primary sources for which few international relations scholars are equipped. Here we have a great deal to learn from our colleagues in anthropology. (6)

Much global governance scholarship tends to focus on the visible institutions at the center of global problem solving and policymaking and their "gridlock," (7) but it stops short of how their power and influence flow outward to recipients. The result has been to restrict global governance to questions of institutional design and construction and to policy development and delivery. Absent is how global governance is experienced--that is, the way it is encountered. To be comprehensive, or even make sense, global governance must address such shortcomings.

There are other reasons why we should correct this gaping oversight in our analytical industry. In the current era, much of the practice of governing globally originates in the Global North. This is--to paraphrase Deborah Avant, Martha Finnemore, and Susan Sell--where most of the global governors reside, work, and play. (8) In contrast, many of the recipients of global governance are in the Global South, and its most acute effects are often experienced there by the most vulnerable citizens (women, children, the elderly, and indigenous peoples). This reality does not mean that the effects of, and strong perceptions about, global governance are absent in the North, as disgruntled voters demonstrated amply in the 2016 referendum on the UK's departure from the European Union (EU) and the election of the forty-fifth US president. However, it does mean that many of the world's most precarious communities have a more intimate relationship with global governance than do citizens of states where the global governors reside. The intimacy comes via, among many others, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the World Health Organization (WHO), Oxfam, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFCRC), and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) as some of the most recognizable players in contemporary global governance. It comes as well through connections with less commonly associated and often such less visible elements as transnational criminal networks, faith groups, and financial markets.

It is also the case that those populations on the receiving end of global governance seldom have access to, or a say in, the decisionmaking to which they are subjected. This imbalance, and the vantage points from which we customarily view global governance, is more pronounced when we concentrate on the design and consequences of such institutions. Indeed, because we have studied the successes, failures, and impacts of global governance narrowly, we may have been complicit in perpetuating outmoded and ineffectual systems as well as perspectives that ignore recipients and their plights and restrict and constrain their agency.

Our aim is to begin attenuating these conceptual shortcomings by bringing the globally governed to the fore. This appeal is akin to previous clarion calls for international relations, international political economy, and peace studies to bring the "everyday" front and center. (9) It is also part of a broader movement in global governance scholarship that seeks to continue the task of lending greater analytical precision to global governance, which has--since the first volume of this journal--been derided for its woolliness. (10)

Global Governance, New Frontiers

In spite of contemporary appearances, a body of literature treating global governance as more than the sum of its intergovernmental parts was present when the term first entered scholarly discourse at the outset of the 1990s. (11) However, this insightful academic work was overshadowed by the gusto with which the term was captured in the global public policy debate--including, for example, the Commission on Global Governance. (12) The most visible and enduring use of global governance was as a blanket marketing and descriptive term for dealing with all aspects of international institutionalization. We should not underestimate how pervasive the term and the commonsense meaning associated with it has become. While two decades ago it was almost unknown, Michael Barnett and Raymond Duvall quipped that ten years later it had "attained near-celebrity status... [having] gone from the ranks of the unknown to one of the central orienting themes in the...

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