In an era of globalization, issues such as human rights, arms control and economic development don’t fit neatly within national boundaries and instead require a more global perspective.  In Who Governs the Globe?, UC Irvine political science professor and international studies director Deborah Avant and co-editors develop a framework for analyzing the international courts, organizations, corporations, bureaucrats, advocacy groups and states that have become key players in governing these and other global issues.  They argue that studying the interactions of these state and non-state actors holds the key to understanding global governance. Below, Avant discusses the tenets of global governance and how understanding its dynamics has guided her policy advice on regulations for the global private military and security industry.

Q: What is global governance and why is understanding its dynamics important?

A: Global governance refers to the regulation and management of global issues and problems – those issues and problems that are not within the purview of any one government alone.  It was originally a term used to describe the regulation that occurred without the input of states - or governments - but we are using it to mean regulation and management more generally by states and non-state actors.  Governance involves a number of tasks – from agenda setting to rule making to implementation and monitoring to enforcement and adjudication.  As more and more issues and problems are not within the power of any one government to solve, understanding global governance is crucial to understanding and affecting global issues and problems.  

Q: What characteristics define success in global governance?

A: Governors garner deference from their constituents because of their expertise, the principles they represent, their institutional position or because it has been delegated to them by others, among other reasons.  Governors’ successes depend on continued deference and thus they must convince their constituents that they are operating in a way that is consistent with their basis of authority.  Also, governors are judged on their ability to get things done.  In the contemporary context this almost inevitably means working with other governors.  Those governors who can play well with others are often advantaged in getting things done.  But if cooperating with others challenges a governor’s basis of authority, they can also choose to mobilize constituents against other governors to stop what they see to be a bad course of action.  The key to their success is ultimately how they manage these two relationships: with their constituents and with other governors. 

Q: What factors need to be taken into account when trying to better understand the actions and operations of global governors in world politics?

A: Their basis of authority.  Understanding why anyone listens to a governor in the first place tells one a lot about what they need to do to retain power.

Q: Your own research has focused on civil-military relations and the privatization of international security.  What role does this play in global governance?

A: My interest in global governors grew out of my work on the private financing of security, an issue I explored at length in The Market for Force: The Consequences of Privatizing Security.  When I looked at how conservation NGOs, humanitarian NGOs and corporations were affecting security in conflict ridden territories, it was clear to me that they were, in fact, governing.  The framework we develop in Who Governs the Globe? has been very helpful in assessing trends in the regulation of the private military and security industry.  In the last five years there has been  a convergence of language, beliefs, and action about this industry among the various governors important to it: the U.S. government, multi-stakeholder initiatives, human rights groups, corporations and the industry itself.  This bodes well for regulatory efforts, and I’m currently working on a project which compares this convergence with a divergence in the regulation of small arms.  I am also working with others to facilitate continued convergence on the regulation of private military and security contractors.  This month, the UCI Center for International Studies is co-hosting a three-day conference January 27-29 that will focus on information required to push these regulatory efforts forward.  We hope to lay the ground work for a collaborative effort to share information on the private security industry to those who need it to play their role in governance effectively.

-Heather Wuebker, Social Sciences Communications
-image courtesy of iStock

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