What do proponents aim to achieve in promoting various forms of ”œglobal governance”? There is no single answer to this question, and the vari- ety of answers should make us wary. Proponents have vast- ly different visions and incommensurable purposes. For some of a classically liberal bent, the primary object is to develop effective means of coordination and cooperation, around goals established by a dominant West, or even by a hegemonic United States. For other ”œprogressive” globalists, the main object is to create more inclusive structures of information-sharing and decision-making, structures that allow for the participation of a wider range of societies, usu- ally represented by states, in influencing the evolution of international politics and economics. Oxford University political scientist Andrew Hurrell describes these two dis- tinct visions provocatively. The latter vision is ”œpluralist,” meaning that international society must coordinate from a diversity of legitimate aims. The other is ”œcoercive soli- darist,” where the desire is to build shared goals and to co- operate in their achievement. The coercive aspect is that states and societies that do not conceive of themselves as part of the consensus are treated as ”œrogue.” Means must be found to enmesh them in the consensus, often through threats of exclusion from increasingly important formal and informal institutions, such as security alliances, political partnerships and free trade areas.

Increasingly the coercive solidarist vision is taking hold, and being pushed further than Hurrell imagined, especially in the United States. There are now hard and soft versions of coercive solidarism. The hard version is associated with neo- conservatives such as Paul Wolfowitz, the US deputy secretary of defence. Insisting upon the immediate achievement of democracy in Iraq and in the wider Arab world, or asserting the universal primacy of civil and political rights ”” these proj- ects depend upon an assumed set of shared goals, and shared values, in international society. Although it may seem ironic to treat some neo-conservatives as proponents of global gov- ernance, the idea is not far-fetched. One must simply recog- nize that global does not necessarily mean ”œinter-national” or ”œinter-societal” governance. Global can mean simply the dominance of one vision, strongly and effectively promoted by one state, or by a collection of like-minded states. A softer version of coercive solidarism is found in the work of many American neo-liberals, especially in influential scholars such as Princeton’s University’s Bob Keohane and Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton. It is said that these scholars have shaped the thinking of Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin. Martin did write a comment to include as publicity materi- al for Slaughter’s most recent book.

For these coercive solidarists, the cre- ation of international institutions, both formal and informal, is a means to draw states into an increasingly dense set of obligations. The obligations are defined and promoted by a small group of Western states, lead by an increasing- ly powerful US. The ultimate aims are not very different from those of the neo- conservatives: the promotion of a partic- ular construction of human rights and the expansion of liberalized trade. The difference is that neo-liberals see these goals as a way to build a more stable peace, whereas neo-conservatives see them as a way to guarantee US pre- eminence. In any event, even for neo- liberals, if institutional enmeshment does not work to draw difficult political actors, such as rogue states, into a global consensus, then military force may have to be employed more widely as a correc- tive. The choice to go to war to protect human rights or to prevent terrifying threats from weapons of mass destruc- tion must be left to individual states, and in practice to the United States, when international institutions do not act.

For either the neo-conservative or the neo-liberal coercive solidarist vision of ”œglobal governance” to be viable, it is likely that some form of community is required. But how uni- fied must that community be in terms of values and aspirations? In the post- modern era, where pluralism is said to be a defining feature of many national societies, epitomized by Canada’s, can one expect that global society will be marked by a unity approaching any meaningful understanding of commu- nity? In the absence of unity, how often will force have to be employed to maintain the global political ”œconsen- sus”? The influential German philoso- pher Jurgen Habermas recently argued against the integration of Turkey into the European Union, stating that Europe and Turkey do not share what Habermas calls a ”œlifeworld,” a set of shared values, aspirations and social expectations. Habermas may be wrong in evaluating the possible coalescence of European and Turkish lifeworlds, but his central point remains valid: when core values are not shared, it is simply not possible to speak of a fully integrated political community. It may not be possible even to imagine truly global governance, if by that term one posits a unified set of political purpos- es leading to deeply and broadly inte- grated policies around the world.

In the absence of any plausible glob- al governance based upon shared uni- versal values, two options present themselves. One is the pluralist version of global governance, where the modest hope is to coordinate amongst admittedly diverse perspectives on an important range of issues. This approach may lead to greater shared understandings but will not produce a global political communi- ty. The other option is the building up of more and more coercive means to enforce an imposed consensus. Our gen- eration faces exactly this choice.

One test case is an idea strongly promoted by the current Canadian government. Should the G20 finance ministers serve as a model for the creation of a wider political grouping, an alternative forum to the G8 or even to the United Nations? The evolu- tion of this idea will speak volumes about Canada’s self-understanding as a global player in the 21st cen- tury. The G20 idea makes a great deal of sense if it remains modest. Pulling together important states of Asia, Africa and Latin America, and linking them with leading industrialized nations and international financial institutions in a formal dialogue, could open up useful channels of communication. It could also lead to shared understandings that break through blockages on complex issues such as climate change, trade in agricultural products and the sharing of freshwater resources. But to succeed, Canadian proponents of this version of the political G20 will have to recognize that diverse viewpoints are inevitable and that complete dominance of Western perspectives will not be possi- ble. To be useful, a political G20 will have to acknowledge areas of disagree- ment, and be accountable for its deci- sions. Moreover, proponents must recognize that there are certain issues that a political G20 is not suitable to address. Principal among them is the decision whether or not to use military force in specific situations.

The 2003 Iraq War opened up a chasm of disagreement amongst Western allies. It exposed as naïve the idea that world politics could be characterized as a ”œclash of civiliza- tions” between a unified West and a radicalized Islam. US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld’s attempt to divide Europe into its ”œOld” and ”œNew” variants revealed deep differences of viewpoint even amongst longstanding NATO partners. Deciding when military force is an appropriate response to threats ”” however imminent or distant ”” is one of the most controversial top- ics on the global political agenda. Canada has placed itself firmly on one side of a debate opened up by the release of the 2002 US National Security strategy. In that Strategy, the US admin- istration claimed a right to use military force to prevent even remote threats to US national security. So-called ”œpreven- tive” war was said to be legal and justi- fiable. This doctrine went much further than the ”œpre-emptive” war authorized by customary international law. Pre- emption is legal when a threat is instant and overwhelming, when failing to act could result in great injury imminently. In choosing not to participate in the coalition of the willing against Iraq, Canada rejected the concept of preven- tive war. Ironically, when the US finally offered its legal justification for the invasion, it too failed to invoke a clear doctrine of prevention, relying instead on a prior authorization of the UN Security Council, dating back to the Gulf War of 1990.

Canada has invested political capi- tal and financial resources in other efforts to provide criteria for the legitimate and lawful use of military force. It convened the international panel that promoted the concept of a ”œresponsibility to protect” vulnerable populations. Instead of continuing the wrangling over whether there was a right of ”œhumanitarian intervention” on the part of foreign countries in the face of grave humanitarian crises that a state was incapable or unwilling to address, or which may have been caused by the state itself, the panel turned the concept on its head. It declared a duty to act, with military intervention being a last, worst option, when other efforts to address an humanitarian emergency had failed. In late 2004, Prime Minister Martin trav- elled the world to promote this idea, receiving important if belated support from UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

When UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan asked states to support his efforts to convene a high-level panel to look at reform of the United Nations, and in particular to address the role of the Security Council in authorizing the use of military force for collective secu- rity, Canada responded actively. It pro- vided both financial and intellectual resources to the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, which reported in November 2004. The panel firmly rejected the concept of preventive war, reaffirmed the role of a re-structured Security Council to deal with collective security and strongly endorsed the responsibility to protect.

In the face of these commitments and of its traditional support for the United Nations, it would be a monu- mental and ill-judged change of course for the Canadian government to allow the idea of the G20 to be stretched beyond its useful limits. As difficult as UN institutional reform may prove to be, there is no plausible alternative to the collective legitimization of the use of force through the Security Council. Ad hoc ”œcoalitions of the willing” lack neu- trality and therefore have no legitimacy. Suggestions that a more permanent ”œcoalition of liberal democratic states” might serve as a supplementary deci- sion-making authority to authorize the use of force when the Security Council is paralyzed are deeply flawed. Developing states have been fighting for years to destroy the outmoded notion that there is a core group of ”œcivilized states” that provides the sole model to emulate if a state seeks international credibility. Were the idea to be implemented through the banding together of a coalition of liberal democratic states, it would only serve to further poison international relations.

Even an attempt to build a wider coalition through the G20 would yield only cynicism and anger. Membership in the G20 would inevitably be arbitrary: neither self-selection nor anointment can lend political legitimacy. Indeed, if a political G20 overreached rea- sonable bounds to deal with decisions on the use of force, it would actually under- mine the very spirit in which it is being promoted, that is inclusion and the building up of widely shared understand- ings on particular issues.

The point needs to be made as plainly and directly as possible: in supporting the idea of a responsibility to protect, and in resisting US attempts to justify unilateral preventive war, Canada must continue to work through the United Nations and its Security Council. No seemingly ”œcre- ative” substitute will be viewed as legitimate by large swaths of world opinion or by a majority of states. So no substitute will be effective.

A political G20 may have a useful role to play in building greater consen- sus on diverse issues such as trade liber- alization, resource sharing and environmental protection. It cannot serve as an alternative venue for the authorization of the use of military force, be it to protect human rights or to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction. In debates over the deploy- ment of military force, Canada’s creative diplomacy should be directed to pro- moting reforms of the Security Council, building upon ideas put forward by the high-level panel, not to constructing alternative venues for dialogue. In par- ticular, Canada should work hard to build consensus around the guidelines for decision-making on the use of force proposed by the panel. In promoting a pluralist vision of global governance, Canada must be careful not to allow its policies to slide into coercive solidarist models that fail to reflect Canadian val- ues or Canadian political culture.


The views expressed here are personal and should not be attributed to the Trudeau Foundation.

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