Networks replace nation-states in new world order

By Karin Dienst

Princeton NJ -- Imagine a world where global problems are tackled collectively by government networks, rather than confronted individually by nation-states. According to Anne-Marie Slaughter, an authority on international law and foreign affairs, that new world order already is upon us, and now is the time to support the notion and practice of global governance.

Anne-Marie Slaughter

Anne-Marie Slaughter will speak and sign copies of "A New World Order" at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 4, at the Princeton University Store.


In her latest book, "A New World Order," published in March by Princeton University Press, Slaughter explains why it is necessary to rethink today's political world and provides a blueprint for achieving new levels of international collaboration. The principal arguments of the book evolve out of an article she wrote in 1997 for the 75th anniversary issue of the journal Foreign Affairs. Since then, events such as Sept. 11 and the war in Iraq underscore the timeliness of Slaughter's arguments for a networked world order.

The dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs since 2002, Slaughter recently was named the Bert G. Kerstetter '66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs. She writes and lectures widely on subjects such as the effectiveness of international courts and tribunals, the legal dimensions of the war on terrorism, building global democracy and international relations theory.

Discussing "A New World Order" with the Princeton Weekly Bulletin, she described the benefits of and challenges in creating effective transgovernmental links.

What global problems do you think can best be tackled by transnational networking?

Virtually all global problems, including security problems. The best weapons we have for fighting terrorism are the networks of police officials, intelligence officers, justice ministers and lower-level officials, financial regulators and military officers. But other issues like global health; the environment; global financial regulation; migration; and global crimes such as money laundering, drug trafficking, arms trafficking, trafficking in women and children, intellectual piracy -- all are ripe for a networked government response.

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As these networks develop, how can we ensure democratic accountability?

There are a host of mechanisms that national polities can adopt to ensure that the transgovernmental activities of their various government officials are subjected to the same degree of scrutiny as their domestic activities. One way to think about this is to assume now that all government officials have a dual domestic and international function: they do their domestic job, often in cooperation with their counterparts in other countries; and they also work with those counterparts to address problems that spill beyond borders. Whereas once we had a government largely composed of "domestic" officials, with specialized entities like the U.S. State Department to handle foreign affairs, now virtually all officials have some domestic and some international components to their job. Our mechanisms for holding them accountable in a democracy must adjust accordingly.

You point to the European Union as a model for a new networked world order. How far can this model be applied globally?

The E.U. is in some ways a sui generis entity; it is founded on a treaty that commits all members of the E.U. to move "toward an ever closer Union." That is an underlying political commitment to economic, political and social integration that does not exist in the world at large, except perhaps in other regional organizations. On the other hand, what the E.U. has demonstrated is that it is possible to cap-ture the benefits of collective action among a group of sover-eign states through the coordinated workings of networks of national officials -- transport ministers, agricultural ministers, labor ministers, finance ministers, justice ministers -- with quite a small supranational bureaucracy. This is not the popular conception of the E.U., which imagines a huge Brussels bureaucracy reaching into the national affairs of every state. But it is the fact of how E.U. governance works, as I explain in the book, and large parts of this system can be transferred to the global level.

You emphasize that global networks must include weak as well as strong countries. How can weaker countries be encouraged to participate, and how can stronger countries be encouraged to listen to them?

One of the major points of the book is that once we see these networks and understand that they are important actual and prospective tools of global governance, we can begin to shape them to pursue the ends "we" -- the voters of the world -- want. That includes insisting on a minimum degree of representativeness for all affected countries in specific issue areas. The best example is the finance area. After the East Asian financial crisis, the G-7 leaders (U.S., Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan) created the G-20 group of finance ministers, which included these countries plus Russia (now a member of the G-8), China, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey, India, Australia, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, as well as representatives of the E.U., the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The premise was that it is really impossible to try to regulate the global economy without some of the biggest global and regional financial powers (Nigeria and Egypt should arguably also have been included). If we imagine a global group of environmental ministers, a different group of countries would probably be deemed representative; or still a different group for health issues, terrorism issues, etc. But the principle of regional or global representation will become functionally necessary and can be politically mandated.

What part would the United Nations play in the new world order?

The U.N. remains very important for the functions that only the U.N. can provide -- a forum for all countries to come together and hence an organization that can confer legitimacy on operations undertaken by a smaller number of countries. We are seeing this critical function today in Iraq. In my vision, however, the U.N. could make much greater use of government networks -- for instance by convening networks of legislators in particular issue areas, or by tasking the leaders of the countries that are part of the G-20 network of finance mini-sters with brainstorming solutions to a particular global problem. The U.N. or its specialized agencies could both host some new networks and work more closely with existing networks.

Turning to a specific current concern, how might the rebuilding of Iraq be best served through multilateralism?

This is a great example. In a world in which national leaders recognized the existence of government networks in virtually every sector of government as important tools of global governance, they could task these different networks with state-building functions. For instance, the global judicial network could take on the function of rebuilding the Iraqi judiciary, training new judges, socializing all Iraqi judges into globally recognized norms of judicial independence and supporting individual judges in resisting the pressures of corruption or an overly intrusive executive branch. The global network of utilities regulators could take on the task of helping to rebuild the utilities system; the financial regulators could take on the task of rebuilding the banking and securities regulation system. Military networks, which are very strong indeed, could take on the task of retraining and socializing the Iraqi army. Legislative networks could train and offer regular assistance to fledgling Iraqi parliamentarians. And on and on.

These networks would not offer one-time assistance, either. They would hold out the prospect of full-fledged membership in the network, conditioned on adherence to the professional norms of the network; they would offer ongoing support and advice. They would effectively reintegrate every sector of a new Iraqi government into a larger global society. We have a global state-building capacity, composed of the knowledge, experience and skills of the officials of well-functioning governments worldwide.

Can you suggest a "time frame" for attaining this new world order?

The time frame depends on the imagination, vision and will of our political leaders. But we face a time of ferment, if not crisis, in the existing global order. It is clear to national leaders around the world, as well as global leaders such as U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, that our current international institutions are not well designed to face a new generation of global threats and problems, from the global inequality gap between the haves and the have-nots to terrorism and the terrifying destructive power of small groups of individuals to global disease and environmental degradation. These institutions must be adapted, reformed and even redesigned.

In all of these cases we face what political scientist Robert Keohane has called a global "governance dilemma": We want the ability or the capacity to govern at the global level, but we are unwilling to cede power to a global authority to actually make and implement decisions. A world of government networks, working with reformed existing international institutions, offers the way out of that dilemma by giving us global governance capacity exercised largely by national government officials.


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