What is Global Policy?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 3/02/2010 12:19:00 AM
I thought I'd make an entry on this deceptively simple question for future reference as part of my series of "IPE 101" posts that are a cornerstone of this blog not only for newbies but even those needing a refresher every once in a while. A few weeks ago, I brought you good news announcing the latest and greatest global governance journal coming your way from the friendly academics here at the LSE. Lo and behold, in that maiden issue can be found a fine article by David Held, Patrick Dunleavy, and Eva-Maria Nag exploring this titular query. Without further ado, here are their thoughts on what Global Policy constitutes:

The field of global policy focuses on the global as a process (or set of processes) that creates transcontinental or interregional flows and networks of activity and interaction, and the new framework of multilevel policy making by public and private actors, which involves and transcends national, international and transnational policy regimes. We define global policy as having six main foci, whose interconnections are shown in Figure 1.

1. Globally relevant risks and collective action problems of different kinds (such as common-pool resource problems) have become increasingly important as a result of the intensification of globalisation over the last five decades. In a densely interconnected world, the fortunes of multiple countries and sometimes all countries are linked and interdependent. Effective policy solutions, whether in areas of global financial markets, intellectual property rights or climate change, often require concerted and coordinated action by governments and nation states to tackle common problems. For academic research to engage effectively with these policy issues and problems, it needs to increase the scale, ambition and purposefulness of its analyses and comparisons.

2. International policy coordination is also proceeding in a wide range of areas, which do not fit into the first category above. For instance, action to promote equal rights and international standards is developing in many different kinds of policy spheres for a number of reasons, including the increasing interconnectedness of public opinion and economic forces – as when companies and western consumers seek assurance that child labour or workers' health are being appropriately regulated in newly industrialising economies. This kind of global pooling of policy regimes has little to do with conventional international relations and requires innovative research to address it.

3. Normative theories of global governance are undergoing rapid development and change, for instance in thinking about the interplay between democracies, markets, networks and hierarchies. The institutions, informational politics and processes of modern policy making in the first decades of the 21st century will be influenced by the evolution of these ethical and imaginative debates. In addition, the emerging powers on the global stage (for instance India, China, Russia and Brazil) have often different and competing conceptions of what constitutes global order and relevant policies, and thus an opening has been created for new concepts, themes and theories in the consideration of global governance.

The current policy environment has also seen a series of strong changes in conventional 'domestic' policy making, frequently going beyond a single country focus in three main ways:

4. A change from national-level to 'bloc'-level policy making is taking place in two main areas. First, in the European Union a great experiment in 'joining up' national policy approaches is under way, which has already introduced important changes in how the Union's 25 component member states make public policies across many sectors. Second, we have seen the development of complex patterns of regionalism, often involving greater economic policy integration, in North and South America, the Asia-Pacific area and sub-Saharan Africa. These patterns have emerged partly as responses to globalisation, and partly as attempts to shape it.

5. A transition from single-polar to multipolar governance
is under way. Innovative ideas in public policy for the past two decades have been dominated by relatively similar advanced industrial economies, with decision making largely restricted to small clubs, the G5, the G7 and G8. But the next half-century will see several regional blocs emerging, based around the EU, the USA, China, India and Latin America, and along with them multiple poles of advanced policy innovation. Each of the different regional blocs will evolve different policy approaches and styles, some of which are hard to anticipate but which are likely to have important effects. Global Policy will be a key forum for understanding and capturing the new variations quickly as they emerge.

6. Innovations in global governance in recent decades have sought to address emerging global risks and challenges. They often mark attempts to overcome weak or fragmented forms of bilateral and multilateral cooperation. Specifically, these include: different forms of intergovernmental arrangements – for example the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the Financial Stability Forum – embodying various levels of legislation, types of instrument utilised and responsiveness to stakeholders; an increasing number of public agencies – for example central bankers – maintaining links with similar agencies in other countries and, thus, forming transgovernmental networks for the management of various global issues; diverse business actors – for example firms, their associations and organisations such as international chambers of commerce – establishing their own transnational regulatory mechanisms to manage issues of common concern; and public bodies, business actors and NGOs collaborating on a range of developmental issues, in order to provide novel approaches to social problems through multi-stakeholders' networks.

In sum, modern policy making is shaped in far broader ways than in previous eras by a wider range of actors. In addition to formal governmental bodies, private corporations, media companies and networks, nongovernmental organisations, international and regional bloc organisations, professions and interest groups are all involved in various ways. The pluralism of actors does not imply an equivalence of power. On the contrary, contemporary interactions, and attempts at governance, take place in the context of asymmetrical interdependence, with large discrepancies in wealth, other material and nonmaterial resources, and status among countries. Asymmetrical interdependence implies unequal power. How different actors engage, interrelate and impact upon one another will also be a focus of Global Policy.