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Why do we need global governance?

The term global governance became popular in the political and international academic arena in late 1990s. (Biermann, Pattberg, 2012) In their book Biermann and Pattberg introduce the concept of global governance: the notion of the term, the scope of its usage and three core elements that differentiates the new term from traditional intergovernmental relations. Global governance means different thing to different authors or it’s accepted in a different way in different countries. For example, some people see global governance as efforts of international and transnational regimes. In more precise way, for instance UN sees global governance as a new solution that world politicians and academics use it as a tool to solve problems of globalization, etc.  (Biermann, Pattberg, 2012) There are bunch of various ideas on the notion of global governance. However, it’s clear that Biermann and Pattberg states that, wide array of new actors create new mechanisms to use them through new fragmentations and interlinkages in global environmental governance. In general, they state that global governance is there to solve and do what previous generations, leaders, academics couldn’t do.

Garrett Hardin already once stated that people had to live their tragedy of commons. “Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit – in a world that is limited.” (Hardin, 1968) As every individual in one society is doing to increase his or her herd, thus each country is compelled to this system. Hardin’s statement refers not only individuals in a society but also to whole country in the world today we are living. Humans from different countries do business in different places, they migrate, export, import, cross their borders and interact new cultures, new lives. This was the result of globalization that we already don’t consume what we have but consume each other’s. Of course, Ken Conca highlights the problems that came out with globalization, but the problem is that who should be responsible to deal with the global environmental problem from now on. (Conca, 2006) All countries share one common air, one common land, even I would say that, their water and forest resources are common considering that environmental impact is quite wide. Nevertheless, countries can put borders to water, forest, land resources, but they cannot put border to climate change impacts. I would call that tragedy of commons, but in that moment, countries not individuals.

There is no government for the world. However, considering that globalization brought huge change to the world: international transactions, cross-border activities, etc. Tragedy of commons makes the establishment of world governance indispensable.  Some countries, populations in the world even don’t have access of these commons, such as water and food. There is imbalance of consumption, which causes environmental changes. (UN, 2009) Thus, countries need “invisible hand” to direct them to a right way. Therefore, different world organizations, international organizations established. Actors, such as private businesses, NGOs, non-profit organizations also contribute to this system, not only national governments. They come together in different international organizations, treaties, regimes and sit to table to help each other. Global governance is help to countries to determine where the planetary boundaries end, when they should stop limitless consumption rates and how to balance environmental changes around the globe.

I personally think that, there were many things that stakeholders of this global governance were able to resolve in environment. However, there are also gaps in global governance that still seek to be solved. As usual, there are many agreements behind tables, but there are also many contradictions in this system. While seeking their profit maximization, many countries become part of organizations dealing with environment issues. (UN, 2009) The story of global governance remains unfinished. It is messy, untidy and incoherent with many different cultures, new actors, and contradictory mechanisms often moving different places to different directions. (UN, 2009) The essential challenge remains that whom central authority belongs to, who is central actor, who should be commander in this new way. Probably, we need decades to answer or to know answers to these questions. However, we are definitely sure that as global governance is inevitable tool in century of globalization.

By: Zeynab Abdullayeva


  1. Biermann, F., & Pattberg, P. H. (2012). Global environmental governance reconsidered. MIT Press.
  1. Hardin, G. (1968). The tragedy of the commons. science, 162(3859), 1243-1248.
  1. Conca, K. (2006). Governing water: Contentious transnational politics and global institution building. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  1. UN’s role in Global Governance. (2009). UN Intellectual History Project.

About Zeyneb Abdullayeva