Pascal Lamy on Globalization and Governance

Governance at a crossroad? 

A really interesting article by Pascal Lamy on The Globalist, which I am reproducing extracts of it below, explores the meaning of global governance. Pascal Lamy has served as Director-General of the World Trade Organization since September 2005 and was Peter Mandelson’s predecessor as EU Trade Commissioner:

[…] Governance is a decision-making process that — through consultation, dialogue, exchange and mutual respect — seeks to ensure coexistence and, in some cases, coherence between different and sometimes divergent points of view. This involves seeking some common ground and extending it to the point where joint action can be envisaged. Globalization, for its part, reveals a new sphere of common interests that transcends states, cultures and national histories. We need to go beyond the classical inter-nations system. Indeed, the disproportion between the enforcement role of states and their actual capacity to handle issues calls for new forms of governance.

[…] What then are the specific challenges of global governance as opposed to the classical systems of national governance ? In my view, elements of legitimacy must be based on institutions and procedures. Classical legitimacy entails citizens choosing their representatives collectively by voting for them. But it also relies on the political capacity of the system to bring forward public discourse and proposals that produce coherent majorities and provide citizens with the feeling that they can debate the issues. In other words, the political system must represent the society, and allow it to see itself as a whole, with all its members using the same language and experiencing the same feelings. Since legitimacy depends on the closeness of the relationship between the individual and the decision-making process, the first challenge of global governance is distance.The other legitimacy challenge refers to the so-called democratic deficit and the accountability deficit, which arise when there are no means for individuals to challenge international decision-making. Although transparency remains crucial to ensure that governments are both accountable and challengeable at home, classical definitions of domestic accountability and democracy cannot be simply transposed and applied in the international institutions context.

We have to explore how to ensure that citizens have the feeling that they belong, that they can influence the choices made by their society — and that they can recognize themselves in their representatives. The specific challenge of legitimacy in global governance is therefore to deal with the perceived too distant, non-accountable and non-directly challengeable decision-making at the international level. The second element in the validation of power is efficiency. Citizens expect governments to be able to identify the problems and expect results from institutions with political responsibilities. But quantifying efficiency in concrete terms is not easy. When power is remote and when there are multiple levels of government, the task becomes even more complicated.

[…] Handling global problems in relying on classical models of domestic democracy has important limitations. Yet, we need to ensure feelings of legitimacy and efficiency otherwise citizens will lose trust in their local/national government if transnational issues that affect them daily cannot be adequately dealt with. In this sense, there is a continuum between the credibility of domestic democracies, which is at risk if global governance does not find its own democratic credentials.

[Editor’s note: Adapted from the Malcolm Wiener Lecture presented at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University on November 1, 2006].

To read the full article, click here.

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3 responses to “Pascal Lamy on Globalization and Governance

  1. About a year ago, at an international trade law conference in Edinburgh, at a time Doha has already passed its climax (ministerial declaration to exempt LDC from intellectual property obligations with respect to generic drugs for 10? more years etc. and Europe’s enhancement of its GSP programme), I seem to remember (I’m not an expert of this issue) that academics in WTO law were weary of the resurgence of bilateral trade agreements at the expense of the WTO’s multilateral approach.

    It is possible that WTO has reached to a point where its return is start to diminish and large countries now put preference on bilateral trade agreements. However, once these bilateral agreements reached to a point where its own return is diminishing with growing complexity and high transaction cost, countries will come back to favour the multilateral platform.

    This point is probably irrelevant but seeing Lamy reminds me of it.

    A more relevant point is on Lamy’s call for legitimacy, accountability and democracy in globalisation.

    While it is understandable that framing the concept of government as a top down authoritarian approach may provide an good contrast to the alternative method, I would like to point out that every government in history had to rely juggle vested interests, rent seekers more or less any highly democratic government or global system aspire to do. No man is an island, and no dictator is can be a pure dictator either.

    Peter Sutherland’s (Lamy’s predecessor at the WTO (GATT) and EC) recent speech at the LSE however does call for more democracy. While everyone talks about the democratic deficit, the European Commission and other like minded liberal in fact prefer to have an aristocracy.

    One can always point to Gaza & Syria to show that democracies do not always produce the kind of people who would happily go to Davos and attend annual ministerial conferences in various places to enhance global governance and adopt best practices.

    An cliché criticism of globalisation is that it confers benefit only to this “global class” of people who’s education and employment is international in nature. My answer is that globalisation, at the very least, has expanded this class of people when compared to say a few decades ago. This inclusion is democratising.

    However, does this mean we have more ways to enable people share the benefit of globasation (this sounds like an exanpanding EU) or does it mean more people now have incentives to protect their exclusive status of being an high value-added jet-set worker?

    Who’s to say a more democratic governance will further promote liberal values and globalisation which has done so well for people now under a governMENT framework?

    My feeling is that we talk about democracy but still prefers a aristocracy, albeit its membership is democratised.

  2. can i edit my comment? i meant to say that Sutherland does not mention democracy.

  3. Pingback: Random thoughts on globalisation « Our Playground

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