The 2008 crisis is special in that it will soon be renamed the 2008-2014 crisis. We know crises as emerging sharply and fading rapidly – this one is taking its time. We are experiencing a longue durée crisis. In terms of global governance, things seem to be going differently. Traditional bilateralism is currently of little relevance, just like out-dated multilateralism. In reality, the global governance game is about to change. The view from our window is evolving each passing day.
Of course, old leaders still use old behind-the-scenes ingredients: high doses of disingenuous discussion, dirty electoral tricks grounded in national politics that spread into global debates and endless pressure exercised with the upmost politeness to hush their neighbor or competitor. Nothing has changed here. What is new, however, are those who plot outside of the old drinking-well. By playing with vocabulary – citizenship, accountability, corporate responsibility, sustainability, transparency and multi-stakeholderism – we see that it ultimately ends up provoking an outbreak of new ideas. So much so that the G20, BRICs, World Economic Forum, ICANN and other ‘groupings’ should worry about when the pressure of global public opinion will catch up with them. Legitimacy, representativeness and justice are still the core words that a real democracy cannot ignore. This transformation of global governance has the public, private and non-profit sectors in its sights. Masters of advocacy are confronted with the limits of their impact; partisans of compromise with the energy industry on climate change have lost their battle and will soon be replaced with more radical peers. The way in which Kumi Naidoo, boss and fundraiser-in-chief of Greenpeace, was criticized heavily via a tweet from a British Telecom CSR nerd encountering him in Davos is a sign that an icon of ‘good’ is now ‘touchable.’ What should we think about the new species of NGOs deciding to capitalize in order to carry on? Or the Red Cross, which trades in clothes or hotels to fi nance itself? The lines move around inexorably. In the private sector, even though we believe the Taliban of the Internet forbid us from discussing the need for regulation, we are now seeing the voice of Susan Crawford abruptly moving the debate towards the notion of public interest – a perception which if applied to the global discussion held in Dubai on this subject, would have facilitated agreement rather than an unproductive uproar.
Just as we witnessed the Arab Spring, we will soon see another type of Western Spring: more intense and more enduring. To believe this intensifying transformation will be possible outside of a democratic setting is a lie – an illusion that leads us straight back to our old despotic demons. Let us be cautious to not forget, but also not deny ourselves the pleasure of seeing global governance slowly but surely revising many concepts and unleashing new ideas.
In this edition, we remain loyal to the idea of observing and surveying the underlying movements and processes of this transformation. John Ruggie points out the increasing gaps in a globalized world and the need for new global regulations. Other countries like India reinvent their feminism – see the excellent report by Amana Fontanella-Khan on the Pink Gang. Equally a must-read is our interview with Philippe Van Parijs, whose intellectual clarity gives his ideas a quality lacking in our old continent. Our European politicians should draw inspiration from him without delay if they want to save the European Central Bank and all that goes with it. Just as they should also note our investigation into the ‘future of food’ to get back to some inner-convictions.
Lots to read over the coming weeks to remind us that it is not only German elections that will count this year for the future of Europe. And if somehow those European politicians are fed up with all of this, they should turn to Ping Fu and her ‘geomagical’ life. It will make them spin the earth more quickly.