Global Governance

The Coming Revolutions in Global Governance: Pandemic Politics in Perspective

Fudan University Development Institute Book Project, Reflections on Governance: Security and Risks, Competition and Cooperation, July 2020

Our once celebrated advances toward global governance are really based on three distinct political processes—intertwined, but pulling in opposing directions as they serve irreconcilable interests. The centerpiece is the system of nation-states and their multilateral organizations, long dominated by the great powers but increasingly reflecting the demands of developing societies in the non-Western world. More recently, a parallel network has arisen around private business empires that can move between multiple countries, evading government authority or bending it to their own will. Alongside—and opposed to—both of these processes, is a radical challenger. A new generation of activists are trying to create a global civil society—a set of grass-roots movements that will allow ordinary citizens to gain greater control over their lives and working conditions.

What we call global governance is not a coherent system, but the interplay and rivalry between these three forces, tied to separate worlds and marching toward different futures.

Religion and International Relations

Mehr News Agency, November 5, 2018

“Human rights, environmental preservation, social justice, peaceful development—all of the key forces propelling current global political movements and treaty agreements derive from and express the higher authority of sacred values.”

Religion is as old as humanity. It predates the appearance of states and nations and has always influenced their ideals, behaviors, and self-images. In every civilization, people have sought to define proper relations with one another and the natural environment in terms they saw as universal and eternal. These efforts have yielded a rich and constantly evolving global conversation about virtue, justice, fairness, balance, harmony, the worthy life, and the good society. Religion creates an unseen authority above human power that all leaders must respect if they hope to claim legitimacy in the judgment of society and history. Rulers and regimes flourish or perish depending on whether they uphold or violate the principles of the great religions no matter how modern or secular they wish to be.

Leaders who rely on religion are constantly tempted to overplay their hand. Those who claim to rule in the name of religion lose legitimacy when they use power to suppress their opponents, to take advantage of the weak or to benefit the privileged. The political abuse of religion inspires a revival of popular determination to pursue the universal ideals of protecting all segments of society, including future generations. When a ruling elite or religious caste tries to monopolize religious authority, they destroy their own legitimacy and empower the defenders of tolerance who want to restore freedom of debate over the proper meaning and practice of religion.

Using religion to bolster human authority is self-defeating precisely because sacred values stem from a higher power that demands everyone’s respect no matter how strong or wealthy they are. If rulers place themselves too far above other men and women, they risk acting like gods and inviting rebellion instead of obedience.

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