No world government runs world society; no world president or prime minister can issue binding decisions. Much as the UN General Assembly might like to take on this role, no legislature makes global policy. Some international courts impose sanctions for some violations of international norms, but their authority hardly matches that of domestic judicial systems. Yet the world faces many problems that no single government can tackle by itself. Some problems spill across borders, as in the case of national financial troubles that endanger global markets. Others have to do with easing exchanges between countries, such as the case of devising common shipping methods to facilitate trade. Still other problems are really of planetary scope, most clearly in the case of environmental issues such as ozone depletion or global warming. If anything, globalization has helped to increase the number of such problems. The tighter web of global connections entails new risks as well as opportunities. But old political forms are poorly tailored to cope with several twenty-first-century problems. What is to be done about the mismatch? “Global governance” is the term used to describe the various efforts to find effective solutions for common problems, in the form of new norms, agreements, and institutions, all in the absence of an authoritative center or policy-making body.

As commonly used, the term suffers from fuzziness. Introducing a volume on Globalization and Governance (1999), ...

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