Environment: The Path of Global Environmental Governance – Form and Function in Historical Perspective
Global governance has emerged as a term as intensely contested and ill understood as globalization. The concept of governance and especially global governance is regarded by some as a euphemism for world government1 or even as a conspiracy by the North to impose its rules on the South.2 And while some analysts deny the very existence of global governance, maintaining that state sovereignty is firmly implanted in contemporary political life and the primary driver of world affairs (Gilpin, 2002), others criticize the concept of global governance as too complacent about what is at stake and a deterrent of progress towards a higher form of international organization (Latham, 1999; Yunker, 2004). No world government is in sight; but sovereignty has been voluntarily curtailed when the issues at hand have demanded collaborative, collective solutions. Peace and security, communicable diseases, financial stability, trade, knowledge and the global commons are all areas where the complexity and multidimensionality of problems require coherent policies at the global level. States have empowered ‘anchor institutions’ within these domains, including the United Nations (UN) Security Council, the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Intellectual Property Organization, and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), to ensure effective collective action (International Task Force on Global Public Goods, 2004). However, this multilateralism now appears under threat as the world’s democracies are at odds over the economic, environmental and social agenda; the North-South conflict threatens to undermine the stability of the trading system; and the Western
alliance on which much of the current institutional order was built is compromised (Bernstein and Ivanova, forthcoming).