Global Change in Governance and Sovereignty
by James L. Morrison

[Note: This is a re-formatted manuscript that was originally published in On the Horizon, 1992, 1(3), 10-12. It is posted here with permission from Jossey Bass Publishers.]

Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the UN Secretary General, writes, "A new chapter in the history of the UN has begun. With newfound appeal the world organization is being utilized with greater frequency and growing urgency." The new era has brought new credibility to the UN, along with rising expectations. The UN machinery, which had often been rendered inoperative by the dynamics of the Cold War, is suddenly at the center of many problems. The end of the Cold War has led to a dramatic expansion of UN peacekeeping services, along with a fourfold increase in costs in the first half of 1992. The UN needs immediately available cash, personnel, and equipment. The question of national sovereignty is a major intellectual question of our time. "Hope has been crucial; achievement is now required. Beyond declarations, beyond position-taking, the time is here to look at ideas as plans for action. Beyond restructuring, the culture of the UN must undergo a transformation." [Boutros-Ghali, B. (1992, Winter). Empowering the United Nations. Foreign Affairs, 71:5, Winter 1992-93, 89-102.]

Representative Lee Hamilton writes that the UN is experiencing the best of times and the worst of times. It is now within reach of attaining the ideals of its charter; yet it has never been more overburdened and underfunded. The end of the Cold War has vastly expanded UN responsibilities: it has launched 13 peace-keeping operations in the last five years, as many as in the past 40 years. But resources have not kept pace, and the UN must eliminate redundant, obsolete, and questionable programs. The US can help by:

  1. building consensus in support of reform;
  2. supporting an expansion of the Security Council to enhance legitimacy and to persuade wealthy countries to assume greater UN burdens;
  3. helping the UN respond better to crises by enabling member states to provide military units on short notice;
  4. paying our UN dues on time and in full;
  5. pushing for revision of UN dues assessments so that Japan, Germany, and the Persian Gulf states pay a larger share;
  6. exploring new sources of funding such as a "peace endowment" created by public and private donations and taxes on airline travel and arms sales. [Hamilton, L. H. (1992, 1 December). Reforming the post-cold-war UN. The Christian Science Monitor, p19.]

James Rosenau, Director, Institute For Transnational Studies, University of Southern California, writes that for more than three centuries, the overall structure of world politics has been founded on an anarchic system of sovereign nation-states that did not have to answer to any higher authority. This state-centric world is no longer predominant. A complex multi-centric world of diverse and relatively autonomous actors has emerged. The various transformations at work in world politics are enlarging, and will continue to enlarge, the UN's centrality in the emergent global order. As its roles expand, the opportunities for the UN to serve as an agent of change seem bound to multiply. What then can be done to maximize the UN's chances of functioning as an agent of positive rather than negative change? Rosenau offers these recommendations:

  1. reconsider the sovereignty principle so that it is subject to more than one interpretation;
  2. enhance UN authority by establishing a permanent UN mission in the capital of every UN member, which makes services available to individuals and organizations in the multi-centric world, as well as to host governments (services would include information about peacekeeping activities and the work of various technical agencies);
  3. consider addition of a people's assembly to the UN, in which representatives would be directly elected (but such a legislature might be counterproductive);
  4. create a global "Peace Corps" service of volunteers to cope with UN system overload;
  5. consider new procedures for selecting future Secretary Generals:
  6. enlarge the Bully pulpit by creating, say, five new Deputy Secretaries General (or UN Ambassadors-at-Large) who would visit national capitals and engage chiefs of state and other key elites in dialogue. [Rosenau, J. N. (1992, Fall). The United Nations in a turbulent world. International Peace Academy (NYC), Occasional Paper Series. Boulder CO: Lynne Rienner Publisher.]

Rosenau and colleague, Ermst-Otto Czempiel, maintain that a world government capable of controlling nation-states has never evolved. But governance is not synonymous with government, and considerable governance underlies the current order among states and gives direction to the challenges posed by various problems. Indeed, governance without government is in some ways preferable to governments that are capable of governance. During the present period of rapid and extensive global change, the constitutions of national governments and their treaties have been undermined by the demands and greater coherence of ethnic and other subgroups, the globalization of economies, the advent of broad social movements, the shrinking of distance by information technology, and the "mushrooming of global interdependencies" fostered by AIDS, pollution, drugs, and terrorism. Much depends on how the characteristics of the global system are perceived: either as the continuing dominance of states or states as a part of a larger new order. There is no clear-cut evidence to support or reject either of these perspectives, and "a new or reconstituted global order may take decades to mature." Rosenau concludes that "the proliferation of governance without government, of access points in a polyarchal world, poses huge new challenges to citizenship in the emergent global order." Increasingly people will have to choose between channeling their loyalties to systemic order or subsystemic autonomy. But tendencies toward a pluralist order may be substantially offset by the centralizing tendencies inherent in worsening environmental conditions, which would encourage a cooperative global order. [Rosenau, J. N and Czempiel, E. (Eds.) (1992, March). Governance without government: Order and change in world politics. Cambridge & NY: Cambridge U Press.]

Kenichi Ohmae writes that we are seeing the disappearance of national borders and the emergence of regional states. In Europe, regions such as Baden-Wurttemberg, Alsace-Lorraine, Catalonia, and Wales are emerging. The same borderless phenomenon is taking place in North America: as national borders disappear between Canada and the US, the regions around the five Great Lakes will become very important. Vancouver and Seattle will form an economic region-state to serve as a northwestern gate of North America to Asia. The advantage of forming a southern California region state is quite obvious, and discussion is going on for sharing a San Diego-Tijuana international airport. In Asia, region state formation is a lot slower and is far behind that observed in Europe and North America. Still, Singapore has become the capital of ASEAN and its industrial base has expanded into parts of Malaysia and Indonesia. Hong Kong is in effect the capital of Gwangdong State, and Fuzhou and Taiwan are now forming a region state. If these regions are left to prosper, there will be "20 Singapores" in "Pink China." [Ohmae, K. (1992, 1 June). The emergence of regional states: The disappearance of borders. Vital Speeches of the Day, 58:16, 487-490.]

Finally, Walter B. Wriston, former chairman of Citicorp, writes that the information revolution is profoundly threatening to power structures of the world, because the nature and powers of the sovereign state are being altered and compromised in fundamental ways. The dissemination of once closely held information to huge numbers of people who didn't have it before often upsets existing power structures. Pressures on repressive governments for freedom and human rights will grow. As power increasingly resides in the people, the world will become more complex, and we will live "in a kind of international democracy."

Information technology is driving nation-states toward cooperation with each other. It has created a new world monetary standard, an "information standard," which has replaced the gold standard and the Bretton Woods agreements. "There is no way for any nation to opt out of the Information Standard."

"The electronic global market has produced what amounts to a giant vote-counting machine that conducts a running tally on what the world thinks of a government's diplomatic, fiscal, and monetary policies. That opinion is immediately reflected in the value the market places on a country's currency." Information is the preeminent form of capital; the information economy is "intractably global" (which requires compromises of national sovereignty that seemed impossible a few years ago). Global conversations enabled by telephone linkages are expected to triple in the 1990s. [Wriston, W. B. (1992, September). The twilight of sovereignty: How the information revolution is transforming the world. NY: Charles Scribner's Sons.]


We are increasingly becoming a global, interdependent society. Do our curricular programs reflect these changes? Do they give attention to these changes with concomitant implications for what it takes for our graduates to function effectively in this changing world?

We cannot depend upon public schools to prepare entering students for this world. A recent Congressional Institute for the Future report, International Education for a Global Society (no date), states that young (aged 18-24) American adults' knowledge of geography rank behind those in Sweden, West Germany, Japan, France, Canada, and Great Britain. Students in teacher preparation programs take fewer international education-related courses, including courses teaching foreign languages, than any other college majors. There is a shortage of foreign language teachers at either the elementary or secondary level in half the states, and 33 states will soon face a shortage of language teachers. In elementary schools, only 17% offer any form of language instruction. In secondary schools, only 10% of the students take four years of language training (one to two years are required). In contrast, Japanese high schools require six years of foreign language study.

What should we be doing? With respect to curricular programs, increasing language requirements is a natural. But how do you stimulate professors to revise their courses to reflect international concerns? What about workshops/seminars sponsored by the chief academic officer and offered through campus centers for teaching and learning? What about establishing "sister" institutions on various continents, and, via satellite communications, have students and faculty discuss world problems, issues, and the future with their counterparts in these sister institutions?

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