New World Order? New World Government?



The post-Cold War gloom that dominates the mood of people throughout the world is not shared by one group of global thinkers and doers.

Bullish on the future, they believe the current turbulence marks the birth pangs of a new global civilization in which entirely new forms of governing are appearing.

The end of the Cold War has created an "open moment" in which fundamental rethinking is going on and historic changes are necessary, argues Harlan Cleveland, a former Carter administration assistant secretary of state.

The core insight of this group is that the era of governments, with their hierarchical structures and minutely detailed spheres of responsibility, is at an end. In their place, a new form of governing without government -- which these thinkers call "global governance" -- is coming into being.

Mr. Cleveland has recently written a book on the subject, "Birth of a New World," and the organization which he heads, the Minneapolis-based World Academy of Art and Science, aims at getting the idea of global governance into the public dialogue.

Other organizations that have launched similar projects include the Geneva-based International Commission for Global Governance, the Club of Rome and the World Management Council.

The current momentum towards a new global political order is similar to that after World War I, which led to the creation of the League of Nations, and after World War II, which led to the United Nations. Yet the differences between the earlier periods and today are fundamental.

At the world level there are more national governments and inter-governmental organizations now than ever before, as well as a United Nations that works quite well despite its many shortcomings. But as impressive as these institutions may be, they seem increasingly incapable of responding to the dangers and challenges the world confronts.

On the other hand, myriad non-governmental organizations -- from environmental groups to churches to multinational corporations -- are addressing these issues, often far more effectively and at all levels.

"The emergent post-Cold War world," says political scientist James Rosenau, "is a world in which governance is increasingly pervasive and governments decreasingly effective."

Given the skepticism about the rigidity of national governments and the strong interest in alternative systems, it is not surprising that most of the global governance rethinking is taking place outside the formal structures of government.

The Geneva-based International Commission on Global Governance has its origins in a 1991 conference convened by the late Willy Brandt. Now co-chaired by Ingvar Carlsson of Sweden and Shridath Ramphal of Guyana, the commission is made up of men and women from all over the world with backgrounds in diplomacy, political activism and finance.

The Club of Rome -- which produced the controversial study on global resources entitled "Limits to Growth" -- is sponsoring its own inquiry. Under the direction of Yehezkel Dror, professor of political science at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the Club has commissioned a study on "governability" -- how much governance is needed in today's world, and how and where to implement it.

The World Management Council -- whose current president is a Venezuelan businessman, Alberto Krygier -- is just beginning to study corporate governance and how international business can make money while assuming responsibility for meeting social and environmental needs.

Despite the spreading consensus that there is more to governance than formal structures, the worldwide demand for some sort of world governing is so great that much of the current action focuses on expanding the UN's functions. Already there is talk of a United Nations standing army, of adding new permanent members to the Security Council.

But much more than tinkering with organizational hierarchy and authority is going on.

"Nobody is going to be in general charge," says Mr. Cleveland. "The problem is not to build structures of authority and privilege designed to be rest stops on the highway to world government."

Instead it is to put in place real governing processes that are diverse and flexible enough to deal with today's pluralism.

Although the work is being done by groups of intellectuals and diplomats -- people at the top -- there is a demand force at work in the global governance dialogue, a cry for better governing coming from increasing numbers of people who are falling through the cracks in the current institutions.

The world is changing at a headlong pace, and the threats to its security and future are literally everybody's problems. We are soon going to see something that has never happened before -- a truly global dialogue about the nature of humankind's governance.

Walter Truett Anderson, a political scientist, is the author of several books, including "Rethinking Liberalism" and "Reality Isn't What It Used To Be." He wrote this article for Pacific News Service.

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