A Contemporary Analysis of Global Governance

Change in the international system and global order is inherent; thus, it is no wonder that since the advent of the cold war, a gradual shift can be witnessed in the face of intensifying globalization, with global governance at the heart of this transition. Based on the notions of cosmopolitism, utilitarianism, and egalitarianism, the phenomenon of global governance is centered around¬†Diogenes’¬†idea of “I am a citizen of the world.”¬†

The idea of global governance is an inclusive dynamic that brings together national governments and multilateral public agencies alongside civilian society from all across the globe, irrespective of sectorial or territorial boundaries, under one international platform of cooperative leadership to provide strategic direction toward global challenges to achieve commonly accepted goals. These goals span from being political, economic, and financial to being of security, ranging from health and environment to refugees. Global governance, in short, is one international platform of cooperative leadership, thereby aiming at the minimization of conflictual patterns in international politics ‚Äď an aim now dominated and steered by West and capitalist states of the Global North, thereby making the institutions of global governance merely the instruments of Western will, interests, and propaganda.¬†

This essay aims to highlight the concept of Global Governance based on how international governance regimes act in various spheres, followed by the limitations and challenges it faces.



From being defined as a cumulative or pooled effort to resolve problems and issues beyond the capacity of states’ by the Club of Rome to David Lake’s concept of ‘global governance as an authority composed of a set of actors comprising of states, NGOs and MNCs,’ the concept of global governance has had various interpretations. As per a very basic definition, the superintendence of collective global problems is called global governance.

Global governance is a phenomenon quite widespread and afloat upon the essential functions performed by many actors, including both state and non-state actors, i.e., states as the basic units of global governance modules and non-state actors acting as the pressure groups and steering forces, consisting of civil societies, market forces, MNCs and NGOs.



The concept of global governance is rooted in the idea of a Greek thinker Diogenes who presented the notion of ‘global citizenship, calling for the protection of people from war in the 14th century. Came following the ‘Council of peace model’ presented by Cynee in 1623. Immanuel Kant propagated this idea as the ‘construction of federation of free states in 1795. It was in the 20th century that Global governance as a practice emerged in the face of the vast spread scourge of war which promoted the idea of institutionalization to combat further world wars. League of Nations became the first face of Global governance in 1919, followed by United Nations in 1945.¬†

One major example of global governance in the contemporary world is that of UNO, which aims to maintain collective security, peace, and stability for all states and a steady trade flow. Even though it is subjected to various criticisms due to the unruly nature of its Security Council, but still, it is by far the most effective mechanism of global governance, imbricating patterns, and other institutions for essential governance in sectors such as security, health, environment, civil society, and economy. 

Following provided are several domains of global governance, under which multiple actors of multiple types, particularly UNO, play a part in constituting this typology.



In the aftermath of WW2 and the post-cold war era, a drop in high-intensity political violence at the global level can be witnessed. This is mainly due to the idea of global security which has taken a central place in global governance. The very idea of global security is one of the most pivotal points of international relations. Thus, the notion at the very notion of international security is the center of global governance, given that international and regional organizations and institutions largely orient their development as the prime security providers. At heart lies UN Security Council, which with its big five, is the first most global security actor. The aim is to safeguard the collective interests of states and avoid any conflictual situation which may hinder the security of the international system and the security of humans and society, including ecological and, water, food security. The concept, in theory, seems ideal, but in practice, it is much flawed, given that global security governance has repeatedly failed to live up to its name. Its criticism is based upon the notion that global security in the international system is mostly regarded as the security of the north, thus the hovering of NATO and the EU. In contrast, global governance actors constantly ignore the global south and its security perimeters. Another important dimension of global security governance is global nuclear security; as a result, NPT has been signed as an inter-governmental effort between various states. 

The global governance of security is readily used to understand the increasing complexities of policies made by the hegemonic state to contain the rouge states, i.e., to maintain a balance of power in this anarchic international system.



Today, numerous individuals and institutions are talking about climate and ecological security at the global level, as the environment has readily become an area inherently conducive to global governance. The initiation of conserving the environment globally began in the 1970s when environmentalism and green movements emerged. The idea was to protect the environment from further degradation, and thus, it was consented to safeguard it at a global level; hence the formation of a global governing body called as United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) followed by the Montreal Protocol of 1987 which is further extended recently through Nagoya Protocol. Global governance of the environment involves other state and non-state actors as well as regional and international actors as well, all maintaining the effort toward sustainable development and goals. Non-governmental institutions and actors have also increasingly played their part as moderating actors in international environmental governance. 



Global governance of human rights needs no introduction as Human rights is a concept held highly by the international community. It is regarded as the genesis of global governance, i.e., from the Universal declaration of human rights to the International Criminal Court. The global concept of human rights began with the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), formed based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. It was a collective, global effort by the members of the United Nations to uphold the security of humans and civil society. It was formulated to protect the basic, fundamental rights of humans irrespective of the border or territorial barriers. In the 1990s, there was witnessed a proliferation of human rights organizations as institutions quadrupled in advancing the principles of HR within governance setups. It involves state and non-state actors, providing teeth to human rights and humanitarian law. The criticism of its practical application, no doubt, is varying. 



The formal and informal norms, institutions, and processes formulated to govern and administer a direct influence on global health policy for collective and collaborated health priorities constitute under Global governance of health. It includes actors such as World Health Organization (WHO), which influence and supervise global health institutions and policies to promote collective global health, which is substantial for global human security. Some essential functions underpinned by global health governance include identifying stakeholders, defining shared values, and ensuring coherence and deriving standards for medical science and public health regulatory frameworks. Global health governance has also established new regimes to deal with international emergencies such as pandemics and epidemics. Incorporating health policies as a part of foreign policies is also underway for more excellent global health. 



Global governance of finance or global governance in the economic domain emerged with the advent of¬†the Bretton Woods¬†system and GATT in the aftermath of WW2. It was largely categorized as cooperation for the global economic venture, the cooperation carried through regional and international institutions such as¬†IMF¬†and the¬†World Bank Group, and the GATT, later converted to¬†WTO.¬†These institutions stand at the heart of global financial governance, given that these are the three most influential global financial institutions, regulating, governing, and administering the flow of finance, capital, and trade within the international arena. They are a central part of international order and maintain the main architecture of global economic governance. However, in the face of an economic crisis, first in the 1970s and later with the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008, a fourth pillar was called the ‘Financial Stability Board, under the radar of which the G-X series was established. Recently, the G-8 has transitioned to¬†G-20,¬†working within the pretext of global economic governance. G-x is the first international institutional innovation within global economic governance. It is often proclaimed as an informal structure, given that the G-x process is limited in its approach to member countries only, making it less universal and ultimately failing to represent the ‘global’ in global governance. Critics claim this transformation with equanimity.¬†



Contemporary analysis of today’s global governance shows that there have been considerable developments in global governance cooperation. But despite all, upon discussing Global Governance, it is its failures that immediately come to mind rather than its achievements. The endless wars in the Middle East, the humanitarian interventions turning into humanitarian catastrophes, the wide gap between the global North and global South, the Financial Crisis, and the increasing climate change all are the failures of global governance, maintaining the notion that even a system quite as ideal as global governance, to has challenges and failures. In its existence, global governance is a concept that, in its essence, advocates for global aims under the highly institutionalized system. Within this system, the international community faces challenges of global nature, and thus, global governance aims to search for global solutions to these international challenges. But in doing so, it faces certain limitations and various challenges, comprehensively addressed below.¬†

Climate Change: One most pressing challenges that global governance institutions face is climate change. In 2012 certain negotiations were carried out as a part of the Johannesburg Protocol. Still, since then, the earth has experienced a deteriorating impact on the environment and ecology, evident in the face of climate change and wildfires. It is estimated that the temperatures will rise to 4.5 degrees by 2100; thus, global governance is a big challenge, ultimately determining its success or failure. 

Health challenges:¬†The other most urgent challenge in the face of global governance is global health, which is deteriorating each day due to unaffordable medications. Six million people die annually due to infectious diseases that can be treated but aren’t due to price monopolies devoted by global public health experts. Covid-19 has only amplified this challenge through its re-emerging variants.¬†

Economic challenges:¬†The widespread activation of covid-19 has resulted in health challenges and economic and financial challenges to the global governance structures, given that trade and the economy have suffered greatly under the tenure of this pandemic. Moreover, the North-South gap is one very evident challenge to global financial governance which hasn’t been solved.¬†

Security Challenges: Security challenges in the global south and the face of conflicts waging in the Middle East have rendered global security governance somewhat ineffective and unreliable, given that the global security spectrum has gone downhill. In contrast, humanitarian interventions have elevated humanitarian crises rather than solved them, making way for human rights violations rather than human rights protection. 


The retreat of multi-paternalism amid the growth in complex and interconnected global provocations has generated a crisis of global governance. Global governance provides an impetus for regulating international relations under the umbrella of institutions and international regimes. Its main aim is to achieve collective, integrated goals. This aim seems far from being achieved, given that global governance today is often criticized for steering the agenda of the Western World and Global North. It is often claimed as the mess of multilateralism. In the wake of prevalent conflicts worldwide, it is evident that there are immense challenges in the face of global governance, which showcases and highlights its limitations in varying dimensions. These tasks include not only environmental challenges such as climate change and global health burden but also global security challenges in addition to economic instability and social developmental challenges, and all pave the way for security problems in the face of global governance.

Nonetheless, recent developments have been taking place, and new initiatives are being undertaken for greater global governance. With the inability of the global governance institutions to tackle the unprecedented challenges, faith in the institutions is diminishing. With alternative theaters of power being created with hyper-globalization, new challenges are being faced by institutions to ensure legitimacy. Global governance institutions are now becoming theaters of power politics where states use their status to exert pressure on rival states diplomatically. The international scholarship also argues that these institutions have caused an unprecedented challenge to the world government whereby the ‘us vs them’ divides are more prevalent.

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