Face with a map of the world overlaid on top
With more and more issues – human rights, arms control, economic development – outside the purview of any one nation, it’s important to understand the dynamics of the state and non-state entities that have become global governors, says UCI’s Deborah Avant. iStockphoto

As last week’s meetings between President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao demonstrated, issues such as human rights, arms control and economic development don’t fit neatly within national boundaries.

In Who Governs the Globe?, UC Irvine political science professor and international studies director Deborah Avant and co-editors suggest a framework for analyzing the international courts, organizations, corporations, bureaucrats, advocacy groups and governments that have become key players in these and other global issues. They argue that studying the interactions among these state and non-state entities is the key to understanding global governance.

Below, Avant discusses this concept and how it has guided her policy advice on regulating the international private military and security industry.

Q: What is global governance, and why is understanding its dynamics important?
A: “Global governance” refers to the regulation and management of issues that are not within the purview of any one government alone. It involves a number of tasks – from agenda setting to rule making to implementation and monitoring to enforcement and adjudication. As more and more issues are not within the power of any one government to solve, knowing how global governance works is crucial to understanding and addressing these issues.

Q: What defines success in global governance?
A: Governors garner deference from their constituents because of their expertise, the principles they represent or their institutional position, among other reasons. Their success depends on continued deference, and they must, therefore, convince constituents that they’re operating in a way that’s consistent with their basis of authority. Also, governors are judged on their ability to get things done. In the contemporary context, this almost inevitably means working with other governors, and those who can “play well with others” have an advantage. But if cooperating with others challenges one’s basis of authority, a governor can also choose to mobilize constituents against other governors to stop what is seen as a bad course of action. The key to governors’ success is, ultimately, how they manage these two relationships: with their constituents and with other governors.

Q: What factors need to be taken into account to better understand the actions of global governors in world politics?
A: Their basis of authority. Knowing why anyone listens to a governor in the first place tells one a lot about what that governor needs to do to retain power.

Q: Your research has focused on civil-military relations and the privatization of international security. What role does this play in global governance?
A: My interest in global governors grew out of my work on the private financing of security, an issue I explored at length in The Market for Force: The Consequences of Privatizing Security. When I looked at how conservation NGOs, humanitarian NGOs and corporations were affecting security in conflict-ridden territories, it was clear to me that they were, in fact, governing. The framework we develop in Who Governs the Globe? has been very helpful in assessing trends in the regulation of the private military and security industry. In the last five years, there has been a convergence of language, beliefs and action about this industry among the various governors important to it: the U.S. government, multi-stakeholder initiatives, human rights groups, corporations and the industry itself. This bodes well for regulatory efforts, and I’m currently working on a project that compares this convergence with a divergence in the regulation of small arms. I’m also working with others to facilitate continued convergence on the regulation of private military and security contractors. The UCI Center for International Studies is co-hosting a conference Thursday through Saturday, Jan. 27-29, that will focus on information required to push these regulatory endeavors forward. We hope to lay the groundwork for a collaborative effort to share information on the private security industry with those who need it to play their role in governance effectively.