Defining Global Governance

Global governance, as its name implies, is the way in which global affairs are managed.
Global governance is understood as “…the way in which global affairs are managed. As there is no global government, global governance typically involves a range of actors including states, as well as regional and international organizations. However, a single organization may nominally be given the lead role on an issue, for example the World Trade Organization in world trade affairs. Thus global governance is thought to be an international process of consensus-forming which generates guidelines and agreements that affect national governments and international corporations. Examples of such consensus would include WHO policies on health issues” (WHO, 2015).

Global governance, thus, aids in working through the myriad of issues within the international system.

Thakur & Weiss (2015) further explain that “There is no government for the world. Yet, on any given day, mail is delivered across borders; people travel from one country to another via a variety of transport modes; goods and services are freighted across land, air, sea, and cyberspace; and a whole range of other cross-border activities take place in reasonable expectation of safety and security for the people, groups, firms, and governments involved. Disruptions and threats are rare…This immediately raises a puzzle: How is the world governed even in the absence of a world government in order to produce norms, codes of conduct, and regulatory, surveillance, and compliance instruments? How are values allocated quasi-authoritatively for the world, and as accepted as such, without a government to rule the world?

The answer…lies in global governance. It is the sum of laws, norms, policies, and institutions that define, constitute, and mediate relations between citizens, societies, markets, and states in the international system–the wielders and objects of the exercise of international public power.”

However, there exist certain lacunae within the system, as identified by the World Health Organization (2015), such as:

  • “The jurisdictional gap, between the increasing need for global governance in many areas – such as health – and the lack of an authority with the power, or jurisdiction, to take action.
  • The incentive gap, between the need for international cooperation and the motivation to undertake it. The incentive gap is said to be closing as globalization provides increasing impetus for countries to cooperate. However, there are concerns that, as Africa lags further behind economically, its influence on global governance processes will diminish.
  • The participation gap, which refers to the fact that international cooperation remains primarily the affair of governments, leaving civil society groups on the fringes of policy-making. On the other hand, globalization of communication is facilitating the development of global civil society movements.”

Global governance, then, is aimed at negotiating responses to problems that affect more than one state or region. Global governance can be considered the response to issues arising from the world´s increasing interconnectivity, and the need for and importance of a process to designate laws, rules, or regulations governing political, economic, social and cultural issues, and which are to be used on a global scale.


Thakur, R. & Weiss, T.G. (2015) Chapter 2, Framing Global Governance, Five Gaps, pages 27-40, in Steger, M., The Global Studies Reader, New York, New York: Oxford University Press.

who.int. 2018. Global governance and governance of the global commons in the global partnership for development beyond 2015. Available at: http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/policy/untaskteam_undf/thinkpieces/24_thinkpiece_global_governance.pdf.

Council on Foreign Relations. 2012. The United Nations and the Future of Global Governance. Available at: https://www.cfr.org/expert-roundup/united-nations-and-future-global-governance.

Defining Global Governance was last modified: May 15th, 2019 by MIUC
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