A One Earth Future Discussion Paper by Thomas G. Weiss, D. Conor Seyle, Kelsey Coolidge

The second half of the twentieth century witnessed an unprecedented growth in the number of international actors and dramatic changes in the scope of international connectivity, with a corresponding boom in discussions among scholars and policy wonks about the pluses and minuses of globalization and how it could be governed. Wherever one stands on the globalization divide, everyone agrees that today the intensity, speed, and volume of global interactions reflect increasing interdependence. That recognition has nudged us toward examining international relations through the lens of global governance, which “has attained near-celebrity status” according to Michael Barnett and Raymond Duvall. The question of what global governance is (and how it has changed as the scope and number of actors have evolved, and whether the current global governance glass is half empty, half full, or something else entirely) remains contested.

This essay aims to contribute to that ongoing conversation by making three claims. First,we have witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of international organizations in the private and public sectors that are not only willing and able to participate in global governance, but have also on many occasions helped solve problems and improve lives. However this growth was not equally distributed among such organizations: nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and transnational corporations (TNCs) account for the lion’s share of the increase in absolute numbers, with intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) having attained a natural limit (although their budgets, activities, and networks have continued to increase).

About the Authors

Thomas G. Weiss is Presidential Professor of Political Science at The City University of New York’s Graduate Center and Director of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies and Research Professor at SOAS, University of London. This occasional paper draws upon his Governing the World? Addressing “Problems without Passports” (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2014 forthcoming) and Global Governance: Why? What? Whither? (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2013). While completing this book, he was non-resident fellow of the One Earth Future Foundation, whose support he gratefully acknowledges.

D. Conor Seyle is a political psychologist and holds a PhD in social psychology from the University of Texas. He plans and directs the activities of the research department along with conducting his own research, which focuses on questions of what predicts and what resolves political conflict, including the role of identity and self-concept in driving political conflict; the predictors of successful deliberative discussion of political issues; and predictors of successful interventions in communities affected by natural disasters or war.

Kelsey Coolidge is a research assistant at the One Earth Future Foundation. She works closely with research staff compiling research memos and assisting in communications and outreach. Kelsey received her bachelor’s degree in international relations and environmental studies from the Whitehead School of Diplomacy at Seton Hall University in 2012.


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Featured Photo Credit: “Mankind’s Struggle for a Lasting Peace” by José Vela-Zanetti – United Nations Photo