Reading Thinking Uncategorized

Multilateralism 2.0 – UN University prof ponders open, networked international relations

It’s not just me! Luk Van Langenhove of UNU Bruges and other important places believes that the 2.0 metaphor can be applied usefully for global governance. Sort of. He’s talking about multilateral decision making in the UN, and how it might change if the UN didn’t only involve states.

Read the article here (it’s not long) or there’s a fuller paper in Global Policy (academic login reqd)

Here’s my quick précis:

  • We’re facing growing multipolarity in international relations (more and more powerful states who can’t be rolled over by the US, i.e. BRICs) 
  • The state-based system is a problem, since the truly serious global problems aren’t neatly divided like state boundaries. They’re global, like climate change or weapons proliferation.
  • The 2.0 metaphor recognises power of networks and openess: international relations 2.0 can include players other than states. For example, regional and sub-regional institutions. 
  • So it’s a problem that the UN is based on ‘one state, one vote’ style decision making. 2.0 might allow for more flexibility.
  • Happily, there are signs of change. The UNSC resolution on Libya is an example of how the UN referred to the Arab League and Organisation of Islamic States [presumably to gain increased legitimacy for the decision].
  • And, the EU now has speaking rights in the UN, which will lead to similar institutions getting the same thing. And these big regional institutions will be key to tackling modern problems – so let’s see more of this.

My thoughts:

  • Sovereign states are still what Langenhove calls the ‘star players’ in international relations. Unlikely to see them giving up (or effectively watering down) their UN voting rights any time soon. Just increasing the number of seats on the Security Council is proving impossible. We’re certainly not going to see an EU seat replace those of UK/France at the Security Council. Which is why…
  • Global governance 2.0 matters as it’s about transcending the nation state (or superseding, or subseding – take your pick of latin spatial references). Van Langenhove is still thinking in a very state-based system of governance. That’s fair: it accurately reflects the state we’re in. To claim that regional institutions might give a more 2.0 approach is a bit far, however. Ultimately those regional institutions are filled with state representatives and take their orders from national capitals. 
  • Instead, get a bit more creative with the 2.0 metaphor and we might find ways to bypass state-to-state deadlock. For example, perhaps it’s not states that will solve climate change with top-down regulation, but horizontal (peer-to-peer) collaborative networks, such as cities, towns or industries.

More on this sort of stuff to follow..


Flickr credit: Blog de Planalto


Thinking Uncategorized

Do It Yourself Foreign Policy: notes on @SlaughterAM’s talk at the Personal Democracy Forum 2011

Much of what this blog’s going to be about is not actually technology.

The technology isn’t the important bit – it’s what the tech allows us to do. And right now, that’s about social networks. And connections. And everything Anne Marie Slaughter talks about in her Personal Democracy Forum 2011 talk below.

I liked it so much it’s this blog’s first post. Here’s a very quick precis of Anne’s talk:

  • until now it’s essentially been a small clicque of men who drive foreign policy, each representing one nation and fighting for its own separate interests
  • today we don’t start from separation, we can start from connection. Now you define who you are in relation to others.
  • the world of nation states still exists, but there are growing number of charities, social action groups, civil society groups, religious groups, private corporations, trying to get involved at the global level. At the big institutions, these are called non-state actors. As Clay Shirky says: ‘calling these things non-state actors is like calling an automobile a horseless carriage.’
  • women get this better than men. Women have often been defined by their relationships, or define themselves that way, see feminist Carol Gilligan – today there is also a generational gap in this way we perceive ourselves.
  • so now we have governments and a growing set of social actors, connected in ever-changing ways and ever changing identities.
  • Christakis and Fowler showed that you can join up individuals in different ways: connect in a linear fashion = bucket chain, telephone tree = efficient dissemination of information, etc
  • the Mr Y article (full pdf) written by two senior members of the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, essentially says the world has moved from a closed system to an open system, and in an open system, having power means having credible influence. We can no longer control by force. The US has to (again) be the most connected and influential nation.

So here’s what we do to address global problems

  • with any global issue the goal is to map the space and connect enough people to mobilise to create the solutions to address those problems. 
  • this happens in these case studies [Ed: not sure these are the big global problems] AirBnB (expensive couchsurfing), Zinch (all US scholarships in one place), Interaction (network of 190 US NGOs), Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves [that’s a global issue], Partners for a New Beginning (US State Dept attempt to encourage public/private partnerships that deepen links between US and ‘local communities abroad’). [Ed: I’d look at things like Ushahidi, Avaaz, maybe charity:water – but more blog posts to follow on these, esp. Avaaz)

“Here’s the bottom line:”

we imagined that we lived in a world of closed opaque orbs – states that pursued national interest – now we live in a world of ‘open system’ foreign policy with infinite possibilities of connecting. Global problems are open problems – we as a world have to grapple with these. By mapping, linking and creating we can create the coalitions to address them.


build local, go global, and change the world

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