Collaboration Between Networks of Nation-states and New Transnational Institutions of Governance

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Lucie Edwards:

"Adam Blakester asks whether there are examples where the two systems of governance—the network of nation-states and their transnational institutions vs. the new institutions of governance have “effectively collaborated to create shared decision-making, priority setting, investment and implementation.” Yes, there are, and they do provide interesting examples of global governance. Most of these can be found in the intersection of science and international development, where there is clear state interest and a requirement for expert technical advice.

To cite just a few: The Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), set up in 1971 to promote the use of new technologies in international development. Its membership consisted of foundations (Ford, Rockefeller), donor states, 15 agricultural research agencies generally located in the South, and development banks. The only requirement for membership was to meet minimum levels of investment in agricultural research. Many developing countries now belong, having met the investment requirement. It operates by consensus which avoids tricky issues of authority, and each member is free to invest as they wish within the system. The Gates Foundation is now the largest single donor.

Another example is the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which also consists of member states, national conservation organizations and supranational conservation agencies. Again they are focused on very clear and distinctive objectives, such as the publication of the Red List on endangered species, and training in conservation.

A third would be the Global Fund to combat Malaria, Tuberculosis and AIDS; here again, the objective is to mobilize resources around a given problem, and membership consists of states, foundations (Gates is a leader here, too) and international agencies such as the WHO.

A much older, and effective, organization of this type is the Assembly of the International Federation of Red Cross Societies. The IFRC is itself by definition a non-governmental organization, a federation of 190 national societies, but every four years, the different members of the Movement hold talks with representatives of all the states party to the Geneva Conventions at the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. The Conference is the Movement's highest deliberative body and offers an opportunity to examine cross-cutting priorities and challenges in international humanitarian law.

Another category of state/network collaboration is represented by the Intergovernmental Panels, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). These Panels consist of both state representatives and of expert scientists. The scientists, who lead, coordinate and write the Reviews, are selected through a double process: they pass a peer review selection process AND they are endorsed by their home governments. While the scientists write the reports, the senior scientists (generally coordinating lead authors) and government delegates come together to write the executive summaries, negotiating the text line by line.

Last but not least, an intriguing organization is the Arctic Council, bringing together all the states with territory in the Arctic, plus a number of states with special interest in the North. The Council's mandate includes environmental conservation, development, and cultural and social issues. In addition to the states, however, they have admitted to full membership the organizations representing the interests of indigenous people in the far north, who sit behind their own name plates and speak for their own communities rather than as part of national delegations. It has proven to be a useful forum to rehearse some of the more tricky issues of climate change in the High Arctic, such as marine conservation and the opening of the Northwest and Northeast Passage." (Great Transition, September 2017)