Reports and papers

How legitimate are new forms of governance?

01 Aug 2014 - 16:25

New and innovative forms of governance, in which non-state actors play a key role, increasingly complement traditional UN-based entities. This so-called transnational governance' is needed in order to effectively address transboundary policy problems.

The democratic legitimacy of transnational governance is still a matter of significant debate, however. A major contribution to this debate are the findings of a long term research project jointly carried out by Clingendael and The Hague Institute for Global Justice in 2012-2014. In separate papers, five specialists develop a framework for assessing the legitimacy of new forms of governance, and apply this framework to the fields of climate change, global health, international finance (G20) and non-proliferation.  

All papers were discussed in an international expert meeting organised by The Hague Institute on 16 April 2014, attended by 25 specialists in the field.

Conceptual framework
The conceptual framework paper by Peter van Ham lays out the major challenges to the democratic legitimacy of current transnational governance initiatives. It does so through five prisms: representation, accountability, transparency, effectiveness and deliberation. The most pressing challenge in the coming years is the ability to set new norms and to operate in a transparent way in the transnational governance arrangements.

Climate change
In her paper on climate change, Louise van Schaik identifies ‘climate fatigue’, or declining public interest in the phenomenon of climate change as a major concern. The representativeness and effectiveness of transnational governance arrangements are most contested when it comes to climate change, not least due to the proliferation of initiatives and the resulting lack of global overview.

Global health
In the field of global health governance, financing mechanisms bypassing states are on the rise with the World Health Organization as both an operational actor and incubator of norms increasingly being under pressure. As Louise van Schaik and Remco van de Pas point out, the rise of philanthropic donors, notably The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation leads to interesting effects on the legitimacy of transnational governance.

International finance
The paper on international finance, written by Jan Rood, focuses on transnational cooperation in the sectors of finance and economics, with an emphasis on the G20 and related forms of governance. This major forum of international economic cooperation has placed itself alongside the longer existing Bretton Woods institutions. It argues that the G20 can very well be an effective forum, as evidenced in recent financial crisis management, yet it has received credible criticism regarding democratic legitimacy, not least due to the self-appointment of its members as "systemically significant".

The paper on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) provides an overview of current WMD regulations around the world and addresses a number of problems stemming from the lack of democratic legitimacy in related transnational governance processes. One of the key issues is the secrecy surrounding WMD regulation, which remains in large part a matter for the political elite. This paper by Peter van Ham also details the transnational governance innovations made by non-state actors in this field.