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A broad range of significant institutions have an increasing power over and
impact on the lives of each of us in this global era. The power to effect
change continues to shift in important ways from the public to the private
sphere. There is a slow shift away from the State as the dominant actor in
world politics toward a more complex structure in which states, regional
federations, networks of cities, global diasporas, global value
communities, large corporations, and social movements interact.
To gain some perspective on global trends and rising global tensions, we
look at the major political, economic and social actors.
The United Nations has been responsible for world peace and security as
well as for the common concerns of humanity since 1945 with an annual
budget of only $1.2 billion in contrast to the billions that are spent
worldwide for war and defense. Kofi Annan warns us that global security is
broken, the UN is in crisis, and radical change is necessary. The United
Nations no longer reflects the world, as it exists today, especially the
Security Council where only 5 nations carry real global power. We await
further developments to see what role the United Nations will play in the
future. Some are already talking about not merely UN reforms but the
creation of a new global institution, which better meets the needs of the
Problems cross borders today. As such, cooperation between states is
essential for survival. We need planetary minds that can deal with the
consequences of three emerging kinds of states that the international
community must deal with:
Author Robert Kaplan is hoping for “a kind of world governance that’s
loose, informal, undeclared, and allows for a number of organizational
powers – regional, global and great powers – to work together toward the
larger good. I don’t think we’re there yet.” Ideally a new or reformed
global institution of nations would reconcile international law and global
human moral intuition. But meanwhile many strands of a web are being woven.
Of the world’s largest 100 economies, 49 are multinational corporations
that are unaccountable to any global system of rules. Global trade is
rigged in favor of industrialized countries limiting competition. Klaus
Schwab, President of the World Economic Forum, warns that the market-driven
system is under attack, with businesses no longer aligned with societal
interests. Increasing economic tensions are twofold: the growing gap
between the rich and poor, and the devastation to the environment.
Environmental concerns already are beyond sustainability. Reconstruction is
necessary, as the demands we make on the earth exceed its ability to
regenerate. Lester Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute tells us
that we do know what to do and that a few countries are already engaged in
these new efforts. We now need to expand these successful efforts.
What is new about the emerging economy is that it is global, it favors
information, ideas and relationships rather than tangibles, and it is
intensely interlinked. This creates a global divide between those with
access to communications technology and those without. Given these
challenges can Transnational Corporations become a positive force? Peter
Senge gives us his answer in Spirituality & Reality, Fall/Winter 2003.
Civil Society Organizations are now demanding a role in setting the global
agenda. They exist as more than 26,000 international entities, about 2500
of which are affiliated with the United Nations. Empowered by information
in an environment of increased identification with global citizenship,
these CSOs became internationally empowered during the UN Conferences in
the 1990s, when lasting links were made across borders.
The mobilized will of the people to shape a better future is the most
potent force for change today. Jonathan Schell documents the power of
people to change history through the ages in the Fall/Winter Issue of
Spirituality & Reality. We honor individuals who make a global difference
through their own creativity and collective movements that are changing
We will continue to follow the fundamental challenges of global governance.
Among the most important are: 1) the issues of sovereignty and 2) the
legitimate use of force. In the light of the deaths and abuse of millions
inside state boundaries, the international community must grapple with
these issues as a matter of highest priority. If the UN defends sovereignty
it may be defending terrorism and tyranny, on the one hand, or the
unaccountability of unilateral policies on the other.
A second emerging issue is the legitimate use of force. The US has now set
a precedent for the use of pre-emptive force, which radically challenges
the principles of world peace and stability documented in the UN Charter in
1945. In response Kofi Annan has invited an international panel to assess
current security threats to determine under what circumstances force is
justified in a world where tyranny, radical fundamentalism and nuclear
proliferation live side by side.
The United Nations still serves as the body of legitimacy in world affairs.
“And power without legitimacy, without support, without the world’s respect
and attachment, cannot endure,” says Michael Ignatieff.
Fall | Winter 2016