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Global Governance: The Problematic Legitimacy Relationship between Global Civil Society and the United Nations


Kenneth Anderson


American University - Washington College of Law; Stanford University - The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace; Brookings Institution - Governance Studies

October 14, 2008

American University, WCL Research Paper Series No. 2008-71

Abstract:     
This essay, intended as a chapter in a book on ethical issues in global philanthropy, analyzes the problematic relationship between the United Nations and global civil society. Offering a brief history of the ideological transformation of international NGOs into 'global civil society', it critiques the idea of global civil society as representing the world's peoples to international organizations. It notes, however, that the idea of global civil society is considered somewhat passe today as a vehicle of legitimacy for global governance - likewise, for that matter, the UN, also somewhat passe in leading intellectual circles as the chosen vehicle for the platonic ideal of global governance. Leading intellectuals of global governance today lean instead toward such ideas as global government networks and other forms of governance that look to technocratic expertise in particular, indeed narrow, areas as their source of (deliberately limited) legitimacy, rather than seeking broad-based political legitimacy for governance. The debate over the legitimacy of the UN via legitimation from global civil society, while of great importance, perhaps, to the UN and to global civil society, appears in important respects to have been by-passed by theorists of the technocracy that has no more 'global' ambition than to ensure that the internet arrives on time. (The essay proceeds through stylized, highly notional time periods as a means to offer a convenient way of characterizing different phases of conceptualization of global governance, global civil society, the UN, and legitimacy.)

Number of Pages in PDF File: 38

Keywords: United Nations, global governance, international NGOs, nongovernmental organizations, NGOs, UN, global civil society, transnational advocacy, social movements, legitimacy, global government networks, transnational government networks

JEL Classification: K33

working papers series


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Date posted: November 13, 2008 ; Last revised: November 17, 2013

Suggested Citation

Anderson, Kenneth, Global Governance: The Problematic Legitimacy Relationship between Global Civil Society and the United Nations (October 14, 2008). American University, WCL Research Paper Series No. 2008-71. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1265839 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1265839

Contact Information

Kenneth Anderson (Contact Author)
American University - Washington College of Law ( email )
4801 Massachusetts Avenue N.W.
Washington, DC 20016
United States
Stanford University - The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace
Stanford, CA 94305-6010
United States
Brookings Institution - Governance Studies
1775 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States
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