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September 7, 2015

Responding To: The Global Future of Governance

A Crisis in Global Governance

John Monahan

Ebola explodes in West Africa.  Refugees stream from the Middle East into Europe.  China’s economic slowdown shakes world markets.  The effects of global warming continue unabated.

We are in an age when many of our most challenging and critical problems inescapably transcend national borders, including climate change, migration, pandemics, financial instability, and trade.  These global issues raise profound strategic, political, humanitarian, and ethical questions as their differential impact upon various regions, communities, populations, families, and individuals is predictable, long-term, and substantial.

At the same time, potential solutions to these problems seem beyond the reach, imagination, and competence of the current architecture of global institutions established over the past century.  To complicate matters further, viable answers appear to require not only new forms of international cooperation between national governments but also unprecedented engagement of private sector, civil society, and sub-national leaders in devising sustainable paths forward.  

This situation suggests a crisis of governance that cuts across a broad range of vexing global issues.  It also suggests an opportunity for public, private, and non-profit thought leaders to explore alternative  different “futures” for “governing” the ways in which governments, businesses, NGOs, religious groups, and others engage, interact with, and address pressing transnational problems that clearly demand concerted action and response.  As part of its two-year Global Futures initiative, Georgetown University is inviting a diverse group of leaders and thinkers in fall 2015 to participate in a series of dialogues relating to the global future of governance of such key issues that demand global attention and response.

Georgetown will kick off its fall semester devoted to "The Global Future of Governance” with a lecture by Dr. Joel Hellman, new dean of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, on September 9, 2015.  Dr. Hellman is a distinguished scholar and practitioner who will examine practical governance challenges in today’s world, particularly for post-conflict and fragile states, and explore their implications for today’s students.

On September 30, Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, will address the global future of governance in health.  The challenges of addressing issues ranging from emerging disease outbreaks such as Ebola and pandemic threats like influenza to the exploding burden of non-communicable diseases including diabetes and the spread of environmental health hazards stemming from climate change powerfully illustrate the need for new and better governance approaches in global health.

On October 28, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres will be joining us to consider migration and humanitarian crises.  There are more refugees in the world today than at any point since the end of World War II, and the number and complexity of humanitarian crises of both natural and man-made origins has escalated dramatically in recent years.  High Commissioner Guterres will examine these broad trends and suggest options for developing sustainable approaches that protect and support vulnerable populations around the world.

In addition to these dialogues with senior leaders, Georgetown faculty and students will be organizing seminars and discussions that explore challenges of governance for global issues that include digital technologies, food and drug regulation, refugees, climate change, religious freedom, and many more.  We hope these academic conversations will enrich understanding for faculty, students, and those working on issues that require more effective governance.

Georgetown University is fortunate to be home to a number of distinguished faculty whose scholarship examines critical elements of “global governance” – the full sum of laws, norms, rule, policies, and institutions of a wide range of actors working across multiple sectors to provide “governance in a world without government” (Rosenau, 1993). Their research and wisdom inform this fall’s exploration of "The Global Future of Governance” and enable us to situate key global issues within a larger intellectual framework for students and outside audiences.

The governance challenges facing the global community are enormous – and immediate.  We have little time to waste. We at Georgetown hope that this semester’s dialogue and surrounding conversations will help connect members of our community together in examining these pressing issues critically and spur the collective attention and action urgently needed to improve governance  around the globe. 

John Monahan is the senior advisor for global health to President John J. DeGioia; senior fellow, McCourt School of Public Policy; and senior scholar, O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law.