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December 8, 2015

Responding To: Reflections on the Future of Global Governance

The Future of Global Governance: Beyond the Invisible Hand

François Pazisnewende Kaboré

In this reflection we argue that global governance is a coordination issue whose outcome depends on individual behavior. As such, the classical equilibrium of the prisoner’s dilemma developed by Merril Flood and Melvin Dresher (1950), suggests that the future of global governance depends on whether every stakeholder at the most micro level chooses to commit to a better world. This also implies that an “invisible hand” type of approach to global governance might not necessarily the right way to go. An “invisible hand approach” assumes that good global governance will result from individual rational uncoordinated behaviors.

Against the background of a more complex and interconnected world, the powerful speech of the UN Secretary General on the future of global governance highlights four common themes: first, the need for greater focus on prevention and resilience; second, the need to strengthen partnerships; third, the importance of getting the financing right; and fourth, the critical need for greater participation of women and girls.

Although global governance constitutes a major challenge in international relations, are states the primary stakeholders? Doesn’t individual behavior (not state behavior) constitute the micro foundation of global governance?

On February 15th, 2015 during his Wednesday catechesis on family, Pope Francis said in substance that the bond of brotherhood that is formed between the children in the family, if it takes place in a climate of an education open to others, is the great school of freedom and peace. He then concluded: today more than ever it is necessary to bring brotherhood back to the heart of our technocratic and bureaucratic society: “Only then will freedom and equality take on the correct intonation.”

Around the very same time in February 2015, thousands of miles from Rome, at Georgetown University, Dr Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank highlighted the need to shift “mental models” to address the world pressing development issues. Dr Kim also quoted Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit philosopher and paleontologist who wrote “the age of nations is past, it remains for us now, if we do not wish to perish, to set aside the ancient prejudices and build the earth”. 

Therefore, what is at stake is everyone’s ability to act beyond what the invisible hand would imply. Are we ready to behave as our “brother’s keeper”, to respond individually first then together to the moral imperative for a more just world, for our “common house”?

François Pazisnewende Kaboré, S.J. is a Jesuit priest from Burkina Faso and is the deputy director and academic secretary of the Jesuit University Institute.  

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