How the World is actually (not) governed

Blood Diamonds.PNG

Interview by LYNN FRIES of HARRIS GLECKMAN, senior fellow at the Center for Governance and Sustainability at the University of Massachusetts Boston. / May 23, 2019 / The Real News Network


We individuals are pawns on the bottom board of a 3-dimensional game of chess.  We organize into Nation-States so that we as law-abiding individuals are not in a war-prone “state of nature” vis a vis each other.  We’ve created and empowered Companies that cooperate/compete and produce wealth on the middle level of the game.  On the top level, Nation-States, who are in a “state of nature”, relate to each other…first to secure themselves with armies and alliances, second to prosper from their security. 

So, people and companies organized into countries; countries that make war and/or cooperate with each other in whatever ultimately non-binding yet lawful “international system” they can devise and maintain.

In the interview “There Are no Nation-States, Only Corporate Global Governors” Harris Gleckman describes the players and the state of play in this space between nations at the top of our world.  He focuses on how, during the recent decades of “globalization”, corporate players from the middle level have begun to play independently not only in the “international” space between Nation-States but also inside combinations of Nation-States who, until now, enclosed both their populations and their companies.  

So, people organized into countries with domestic companies; “post citizens” and transnational corporations; sovereign countries; and a non-sovereign “international system”.]

It’s a long 2-part interview.  I am going to quote some descriptions and definitions, then I’m going to follow the author by relaying the example he used to best explain his point.



 “One of the things which prompted the World Economic Forum to... eel the need for a new system of global governance was an anxiety that the whole globalization project of the last 30 years… …they could see that the aspirational benefits collapsed with the impact of the start of the 2008-’09 financial crisis. And so, they said if we’re not going to be able to maintain the dreams of people, their anger will come to the fore. And so, we need to come up with a new system of governance which keeps the corporate role central, but now involves civil society and governments and other actors to be participants in this process…”


“Previous to this initiative on multistakeholderism , we had formal global governors in nation-states and de facto governors in the corporate world.

Under multistakeholderism, the formal global governors now become a combination of corporate executives, government representatives, civil society representatives, academics, media figures, whatever combination is seen as useful for providing a new buffer space in global governance, but that remains unenforceable, remains a voluntary system.”


Volunteerism is another principle in back of multi-stakeholder governance. When volunteerism says we will declare this is what we would like to do. Those who would like to join this process might be welcome to do so. When they find that it’s not what they like, they can say goodbye. And if they find that the voluntary principles that are articulated are not to their short-term or medium-term sense of power, they can ignore it, because there’s no statutory penalty for not doing it.”

[Example: Blood Diamonds]

“A number of major civil society organizations correctly brought to the world’s attention that diamonds were being taken from central war zones in Africa, sold on the international markets and then the money that was from those sales was being used to buy arms to continue the wars in those areas. They brilliantly created the public image that these diamonds, which the industry had spent decades saying these are love objects, you provided one to someone that you really loved. But these were really, really blood diamonds. They were tied up in death and destruction.

This was a shock to the world diamond industry. This was a shock to some of the diamond exporting countries who saw some of their income go down. And so, the diamond industry said to the civil society organizations, “let’s join forces. We can solve this problem in conjunction with some of the African exporting countries. And we will set up a voluntary certification system.” That voluntary certification system was that the countries were to say that any given group of diamonds were extracted from areas which were not war zones.

What happened at the United Nations is that those African countries and the European countries went to the United Nations and said don’t deal with this issue. It is being handled by this multi-stakeholder group. Let’s give them time to do it by themselves. And in fact, let’s give them the United Nations blessing for their efforts. The blood diamond called the Kimberley Process tried to set out, wrote some rules defining areas in conflict, defining how the certificate should work. But then it didn’t really work that way when diamonds were being presented to the diamond industry to purchase. Funny thing, there were no arrests made if the diamonds didn’t have the right certificates. Funny thing, every once in a while some of these diamonds were being certified by countries as if they came from non-war areas. Civil societies raised their voices, saying, wait a minute, we’ve got to fix our certificates. We have to punish those countries who are falsely certifying diamonds. We have to issue sanctions against firms who are buying uncertified diamonds. The diamond industry and the countries involved said no, no, no. Eventually the civil society organizations, one by one, withdrew.

And so you end up having a situation where even the public pressure of those three key organizations that brought to the world’s attention the issue of blood diamonds had to withdraw, because the process was so voluntary it did not work. However, it did manage to prevent the international system from actually having formal intergovernmental rules about the process or establishing global sanctions that could, through a multilateral system, been much more effective.”



There Are no Nation-States, Only Corporate Global Governors (Pt 1/2)

Three Ways To Discipline Corporate Global Governors (Pt 2/2)

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