Jason J. McSparren 12.12.2019

Quincy, MA

Global governance and human security are contested terms. Definitions for these terms are debated. I will explain my working conceptualization of them here. Global governance is a liberal democratic concept that theorizes civil society as empowered to take part in the decision-making and agenda setting processes along with the state representatives and business operators.

Early conceptualizations of global governance and human security are responses to negative socio-economic effects of neoliberal globalization.

Early literature about globalization in the first decade of the 2000s mentioned a rise in economic power of emerging states. I was a lecturer in the Texas Rio Grande Valley, USA at a time when major American Corporate Brands were leaving the US for Mexico. I was there to see Levi’s and Fruit-of-the-loom jump the border, Leaving behind employees making $15-$25 dollars an hour and shipping their equipment over the Rio Grande River to employ workers in Mexico to do the same work for $2-$5 USD per hour. This contributes to what Nederveen Pieterse (2011) described as a ‘global rebalancing.’ – [I’ll write more about this in the future.]

The capitalist system is a structured hierarchy. There is competition built into the system. [More later].

The 1994 United Nations Human Development Report stated that human security is conceptualized as “freedom from fear and freedom from want” and further identified seven sectors of security from which individuals and communities need to be protected: economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community and political security  (UNDP 1994). The concept of human security is a developmental step beyond the traditional conceptualization of state security in which state governments are responsible to protect national sovereignty from external state actors. The geopolitical reality in the new millennium makes it less likely that states will engage one another in war. Rather, a proliferation of conflict in the post-Cold War era has been threats to societies and governments from domestic militant forces. Human security positions individuals and communities as the referent of security and identifies the seven sectors susceptible to threats to individuals and communities. This framework is useful for analyzing local level dynamics in the mining regions.

Human security supports progress toward sustainable development because it contextualizes the forces of insecurity that threaten social progress toward health, prosperity and peace in both developing and industrialized societies.

The concept of sustainable development emerged in the 1980s out of the Brundtland Commission, representing 22 nations from five continents. In 1983, the United Nations General Assembly charged the Commission with devising a conceptual and practical “global agenda for change.” The Brundtland Commission conceptualized sustainable development as, “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The report argued that it is not economic growth per se but the environmentally destructive character of many current activities and incentives. Economic development remains vital citing the negative ecological impacts that poverty inflicts. However, current forms of production and exchange need ‘greening’ for sustainability to take hold (Conca and Dabelko 1998, 224).

The pursuit of sustainable development pathways is intricately connected to the natural resource extractive industries (Lockwood et al. 2010; Ovadia 2014; Russell, Frame, and Lennox 2011; Elbadawi and Mohammed 2015).

The nature of natural resource extraction is disruptive to local communities and the environment. We must also consider the finite nature of non-renewable sub-soil minerals. Therefore, it is prudent to extract conservatively and develop a plan for a future when the deposits are depleted.

Unfortunately, market forces drive levels of production; supply and demand, price fluctuation, and the pursuit of efficiency has more bearing on extractive activity than concerns about quality of life in the future. [Example deleted].

Global governance, like human security, is a response to the spread of neoliberal socio-economic forces globally. Global governance is conceived as a means to fill gaps created by states’ diminished ability to regulate markets and protect society from emerging patterns of economic inequality.

In 1995, the United Nations Commission on Global governance released a report, Our Global Neighborhood, to explain emerging realities of our increasingly globalized and interdependent world. The report pointed out that poverty is not isolated in the global south, but also threatens societies in industrialized states in the global north. The Commission recommended that the “benefits of economic growth have to be more evenly spread throughout the ‘whole neighborhood’ and that “the lack of any framework for developing and implementing social and economic policy at the international level has consequences for every region” (Pronk 1995).

The Commission discussed the supra-national avenues by which states could address global structural challenges related to economic inequality and access for development. An outcome of the Commission was an early definition of global governance:

[t]he sum of the many ways individuals and institutions, public and private, manage their common affairs. It is a continuing process through which conflicting or diverse interests may be accommodated and cooperative action may be taken. It includes formal regimes empowered to enforce compliance, as well as informal arrangements that people and institutions have agreed to or perceive to be in their interest (Commision on Global Governance 1995, 2–3).

This definition is important for several reasons. First, the recognition of both public and private participation in governance acknowledges a paradigm shift away from state regulation into an era of Transnational governance (TNG) which refers to processes in which nonstate actors adopt rules that seek to move behavior toward a shared, public goal in at least two states. These rules are different from intergovernmental institutions because TNG rules by contrast aim to steer the choices and actions of nonstate actors. TNG is one dimension of global governance in which Transnational rules have been multiplying over last two decades (Roger and Dauvergne 2016). Other alternative forms of governance include private governance when corporations dominate decision-making processes (Elbra 2014; Hall and Biersteker 2002; Flohr et al. 2010; Pattberg 2005; Auld 2014), public-private partnerships (PPPs) when firms and governments cooperate (Brinkerhoff and Brinkerhoff 2011; Perks 2012; Carbonnier, Brugger, and Krause 2011; Abbott and Snidal 2010; Andonova 2017, 2010) and other perspectives on hybrid multistakeholder governance initiatives (Utting 2012; Alorse and Grant 2016; Jang, McSparren, and Rashchupkina 2016; Weiss and Wilkinson 2014).

Within the broader global governance literature, state-led initiative may be termed “International Old Governance,” when considering inter-governmental organizations (IOs) as state-based mechanisms. “Transnational New Governance,” encompasses  “[the] full range of ways in which IOs can and do operate – reaching out to private actors and institutions, collaborating with them, and supporting and shaping their activities… develop[ing] a global network of public, private and mixed institutions and norms” (Abbott and Snidal 2010). Within a global governance purview, Abbott and Snidal (2010) re-orientate the state in the central position of the transnational new governance because the state is the arena in which global governors enact and implement policy.  

In the era of globalization, corporate operations have expanded their reach globally as well, they have expanded and diversified networks of subsidiaries, thus increasing their power in relation to state governments through private and hybrid forms of governance. The implication is that market mechanisms have become the dominant framework for formulating governance structures. Certainly, states and corporations have complimentary overlapping economic interests, yet strict adherence to the logic of market mechanisms privileges efficiency and commodities of scale over social and even political considerations. It can be argued that the veneration of liberal market principles has contributed to the resource curse that inhibits development and facilitates insecurity across economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community and political aspects of life. Therefore, cooperation demands formal and informal ‘give and take’ arrangements. In a capital-driven world order, conflict among stakeholders is inevitable; therefore, global governance attempts to draw stakeholders into cooperative arrangements.

There are tensions within the structures of authority due to the conflicting interests of the various stakeholders creating a need for “new criteria’ of legitimacy that will contribute to an improved understanding of the evolving “pluralism of authority” (Rosenau 2003, 280–81). The governance system is made complex due to the many components of the natural resource value chain, multiple stakeholder groups – government, multinational extractive corporations and civil society interests. This is further complicated by the levels of governance which span the local community, state, national and international.


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