Public Power and Private Stakeholders
25 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2017 Last revised: 3 Sep 2017
Date Written: August 21, 2017
The guiding principle of postwar global governance was multilateralism. From the grandest multilateral project -- the United Nations -- to the many organizations created in the years after the Second World War, global governance followed a familiar state-centric template. 21st century global governance continues to reflect multilateral principles. But it is increasingly characterized by flexible structures, greater informality, and, most strikingly, an increasingly active role for non-state actors. In short, multilateral governance is increasingly supplemented, and at times even supplanted, by multistakeholder governance. Why is this shift to greater inclusion -- one of the most striking contemporary trends in global governance -- occurring? States remain the most powerful actors in world politics, and as the WTO and the UN Security Council show, they can readily cabin the role of private stakeholders when they choose to. This paper argues the rise of private actors has not come at the expense of public actors, but often to their benefit. Private actors bring many informational and political benefits to the exercise of regulatory power by states. This symbiotic relationship between public and private actors is insufficiently appreciated and helps to explain the rise of multistakeholderism in global governance. To be sure, the commitment to multistakeholderism varies markedly across issue areas. While more research is needed to move beyond the impressionistic, the overall pattern is broadly consistent. The inclusion of private power, far from threatening public power, often helps it to thrive.
Keywords: regulatory power, global governance, multistakeholder governance, private stakeholders, public power
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