Extraterritorial and non-state obligations
There is general consensus that, whatever the ‘maximum available resources’ of developing countries might be, they are insufficient to fully realise economic and social rights. Therefore, these rights can only ever be fulfilled if it is accepted that the obligations emanating from economic and social rights go beyond the state of citizenship or residence.
The early social justice movement
The anti-globalisation or anti-capitalist movement, now definitively rebranded as the global social justice movement, famously burst on the scene at the World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle in 1999. As discussed in many places, it had roots in anti-imperialist thinking and specific struggles in the South such as the Zapatista uprising and the Ogoni movement, as well as in environmental and labour rights movements in the North. While the mix of groups and intellectual traditions was rich, human rights activism was remarkably absent from it. For instance, neither the anti-Bank coalition 50 Years is Enough nor the loose anti-corporate and anti-WTO network Peoples Global Action had any participation from human rights groups, or, for that matter, from specialised economic and social rights groups (50 Years is Enough URL; Peoples’ Global Action URL).
This brings us to the second tension and source of confusion. There is a paradox at the heart of human rights law, which again is revealed most forcefully in relation to economic and social rights. On the one hand, the very manner in which human rights are expressed signifies a breach with the tradition of absolute sovereignty, according to which each state could treat its own citizens as it pleased, and no other state had a right or responsibility to interfere. On the other hand, human rights law is also the product of an era that still thought largely in terms of stable populations sitting tight behind their borders and subject only to national political and economic forces. On the obligations side of human rights law there is a heavy assumption that every state has specific obligations to its own citizens, or at least the individuals under its jurisdiction, which go very much beyond obligations to the citizens of the rest of the world. It is when it comes to obligations to the citizens of the rest of the world (‘extraterritorial obligations’ in legal jargon) that international law becomes most nebulous and controversial. This finds expression in the debates surrounding humanitarian intervention, for instance, but it is also a contentious issue when it comes to the obligations of rich states in relation to the economic and social rights of the citizens of poor states. The notion that non-state actors, including inter-governmental organisations, transnational corporations or non-governmental organisations (NGOs), might have legal human rights obligations is even more underdeveloped. The state-oriented way of thinking about obligations has the advantage of legal certainty, and it is in this area that many recent victories, described in this chapter, have been achieved. However, the exclusive reliance on obligations of the state towards its own nationals is also increasingly felt to be inadequate for addressing social justice issues in a globalised and privatised world.
Thus the dilemma is that Muslim scholars are facing in an era of globalisation the task of ‘de-terrorisation’ (facing militant groups) and ‘de-totalitarianisation’ (facing authoritarian regimes), while struggling with the consequences of ‘de-territorialisation’ of their faith communities that are no longer confined in political boundaries. Moreover, in an age of rising unilateralism and global hegemony, the propaganda of fear and nightmares under the banner of war against terrorism or war against the ‘war on terror’ overwhelms their tasks. And the dilemma for Western scholars lies in the fact that concepts of a territorially bounded civil society are no longer relevant. On the one hand, globalisation has brought about what Ulrich Beck calls the debounding of risk (Beck 1992). On the other hand, it has brought about a greater consciousness of genocide and human rights violations in distant places. And this greater consciousness is expressed in the growing importance of human rights and humanitarian law. Thus Western thinkers share with their Muslim colleagues the task of de-territorisation and de-totalitarianisation, including the need to address the security measures that curb civil liberties in democratic Western countries, while at the same time they also have to foster a global concept of civility that can help to underpin new non-state layers of authority and international legal frameworks.
These efforts are linked to the sociological critique of modernity. The writings of Bauman (1991) and Taylor (1991) actually resonate with the ideas of Muslim scholars and intellectuals who criticize the social malaise of modernity and the atomistic nature of modern ‘togetherness’. The ‘urbanized lonely crowd’ is characterised by apathy, and an unwillingness or inability to bear the moral responsibility of political decisions; it is easier to go along with authority, even if it leads to violent conflict, than to express dissent or act as a moral agent in challenging the nation state. If the outcome is the ‘end of public man’, then civility itself is at risk. Globalisation can be regarded as an extension of modernity, ever increasing the scale and anonymity of global cities, speeding up the loss of identity, allowing people’s lives to be shaped by market forces, and stretching the distance between the citizen and political authority. But at the same time, by challenging the autonomy of the nation state, generating new overlapping forms of authority (global, national, local) and shifting the balance between the market and the state, globalisation offers new spaces for recovering civility. If global civil society is to play a role in combating violence and fostering civility, it has to be through revitalising public man and woman, through restoring social networks and implementing survival strategies that would allow people to claim moral responsibility and challenge the uncontested monopoly of the nation state over the relations of power, the definition of order and the use of ‘legitimate’ violence.
There is a powerful case for questioning the state’s monopoly of ‘legitimate’ violence, not so that non-state actors can use violence freely to pursue their goals, but so that the use of force by the state itself can be placed under greater constraints. The strengthening of international law and prohibitions on war during the last half century has paralleled the emergence of global civil society. The rule of law, as Arendt pointed out, depends on legitimacy, and that legitimacy is manufactured by civil society. Whereas international law was previously largely based on a balance of power between states, today a global public opinion involving citizens’ groups, global media and individuals is helping to revise the notion of legitimacy as a phenomenon restricted to the national level. Measures such as the establishment of an International Criminal Court, which hold decision makers accountable for policies that result in genocide, mass destruction of cities and their heritage, and massive casualties and death among civilians are important steps towards holding states accountable, legally as well as morally; and such measures are often the consequence of civic ideas, campaigns and pressures (Glasius 2005). In other words, the question is not only how to challenge the nation state’s monopoly of ‘legitimate’ violence, because this could increase the risk of privatised violence, but also how new agents, such as civil society entities and networks, can monitor the state’s use of this power and take over the ‘civilising’ role at this crucial moment of human history, and how they can deliberate in a democratic manner about the best strategies to achieve this goal. To put it another way, can such agents live up to the promise of ‘civilisation’, which the nation state has failed to fulfil historically?
Our central argument is that war, meaning violence between socially organised groups, normally states, has become morally unjustifiable in the context of the changes we tend to group together under the label of globalisation. These changes include the growing consciousness of humanity as a single global community, the unacceptable destructiveness of war, increased interconnectedness in all fields, the importance of human rights, both as norms and as laws, and above all, new forms of overlapping political authority, often described as global governance, that involves states, international institutions, as well as civil society and, indeed, networks of individuals. There may be cases where the use of force is justifiable to protect individuals against violent crime or human rights violations, but only within a new ethical framework that could underpin the new forms of overlapping political authority. And even in those cases it is necessary to define the limitations of the use of force, the relevant authorisation, and the acceptable justifications. Global civil society seems to us to be the main medium through which such an ethical framework can be developed and sustained.
Towards global civility
In fact it is the multiplicity of globalisation processes, their contradictory tendencies and unregulated development that makes the world of today so dangerous (see Berger 1998). The intensity and frequency of encounters between adherents of different values and world views result from the freedom that states have in part given, in part been forced to relinquish, to individuals and business in an enormous expansion of markets and development of technology. The scope for free association worldwide by non-state actors needs now to be accompanied by a similar growth of worldwide civility. A climate of tolerance and preparedness to settle disputes peacefully can no longer be seen as the responsibility of state agencies alone, any more than good behaviour and mutual respect within states can be produced by law.
Globalisation processes, being pervasive and therefore often equated with our world as a whole, have become the target for those seeking to redress the imbalances and injustices in that system. Institutionalisation, equated with absorption into a global system, is then often seen as a cause for the inability of the system to change. It was resistance to this process by the anti-globalisation movement that captured global media attention when its demonstrations brought the Seattle meetings of the World Trade Organization (WTO), in December 1999, to a premature end.
Globalisation processes penetrate and change the ‘causal chemistry’ and ‘fabric’ of existing conflicts as well as emerging and re-emerging ones. By involving more frequent movements of objects, meanings and people across transnational space, they lead to a greater exposure of different audiences to each other, and to more frequent and intense contact between world views. Such contacts may challenge or reinforce long-held cultural assumptions about the world, identity and meaning, and they may also increase the frequency of ‘meshing’ and depths of interpenetration, including acceptance and rejection as well as patterns of innovation and diffusion. Whatever the outcome, such contacts also contribute to greater conflict potential (see Anheier and Isar 2007).
The severity and far-reaching implications of these unresolved issues suggest global civil society may indeed have reached a critical juncture. Global civil society actors can no longer avoid taking a position on violence for just causes, but if they are to assert themselves in the name of civil society they can hardly avoid contributing to the creation of institutions globally that are equivalent to those that sustain civil society within states. Global governance is then not an optional interest for civil society – its very future, globally and nationally, depends on it. Indeed, global civil society has to engage in profound self-examination, the importance of which extends beyond itself and to the international community at large. The global conditions for its own continued existence may even be those for the survival of humankind.
At the same time, a new challenge has arisen and threatens state institutions and hence also civil society. In part it arises from, and is assisted by, the same set of globalising forces that favour the rise of civil society, and this affinity is sufficient for many to discredit the ‘civilising power’ of civil society altogether. Terror groups operate across borders employing the new means of communication, transportation, media and messaging, including smart weapons. They appeal to values that are beyond the nation-state and at the same time exploit the freedoms of movement, association and speech that the democratic state serves to protect. They attack non-military targets and the civilian population. Indeed, they are an even greater challenge to civil society than they are to the state.
We need to ask how globality makes a difference; and specifically, if civil society requires a state order to guarantee the peaceful conditions of its continued existence, when national states are relatively less able to exercise control, can global civil society thrive without a global equivalent to the state, whatever it may be called? Global civil society may often resist the forces of economic globalisation but at the same time it draws strength from increased opportunities for transnational mobilisation and organising. In the absence of a global state does it have the capacity to fill the resulting void?
The last three centuries have experienced the evolution of civil society through alternating periods of peace and war, while the transformation of technology and economy present it with a quite different set of challenges from those it faced in the revolutionary period of Western history. But the idea of global civil society is just as much borne by, and a response to, globalisation as eighteenth century civil society was inextricably linked with the rise of capitalism. Violence could not be ignored then, and neither can we fail to respond to the popular and political currents following the events of 9/11 and their aftermath.
In the new field of forces in a globalising world, global civil society has achieved a degree of autonomy that was always implicit in the rights to free speech and association that the eighteenth-century proponents of civil society advocated. The advocates of those freedoms acknowledged the need for the state to defend them, but in their political economy they saw their scope extending beyond boundaries to underpin worldwide markets. Reacting to the consequences of free trade, it was free association across countries that led to the international labour movement. The universalism of those ideas from earlier centuries, plus the longstanding cosmopolitanism of academic and cultural elites, allied with the communication possibilities of our time, has helped shape today’s global civil society.
Given the rapidly changing contours of global climate policy, those groups that are flexible in their approach to the issue and that show themselves willing to engage with new actors in order to construct imaginative and diverse coalitions of interest are likely to be more successful in the long- term. A reading of where power lies in the climate debate suggests that attention increasingly needs to turn to the power brokers in the global political economy. Pension funds, export credit-rating agencies, banks, as well of course as the larger multilateral development banks that oversee the allocation and use of significant sums of aid money, are central actors in day-to-day decision-making, in direct and indirect ways, about whether resources are channelled into activities which benefit or undermine the goal of climate protection. Groups with more access to the legal and scientific expertise necessary to meaningfully engage the international negotiations on climate change appear to enjoy the most influence on climate policy, as traditionally understood. Yet ultimately the real agents of change may be those groups which are able to alter the behaviour of economic and corporate actors whose decisions chart the climate footprint of the global economy in more direct and immediate ways than the governments that continue to attract most attention from civil society activists.
In many ways the threat of human-induced climate change represents a classic collective action problem. It is a problem which affects everyone and which, to different degrees, is caused by everyone. The scale of international cooperation that is required is in many ways without precedent. The sources of the problem are widespread and ingrained in the everyday practices of production and consumption. The problem spans from the global to the local level and therefore requires changes at all levels of human activity from the household upwards. This presents an enormous challenge for effective interventions. As Geoffrey Heal (1999: 222–3) notes, carbon dioxide is produced as a result of ‘billions of decentralised and independent decisions by private households for heating and transportation and by corporations for these and other needs, all outside the government sphere. The government can influence these decisions, but only indirectly through regulations or incentives.’
The Mobilisation around the Republican National Convention in New York
The Republican Party held its 2004 National Convention (RNC) from 30 August to 2 September amid heightened expectations of disturbances caused by anti-Bush activists. The run-up to the New York convention was characterised by reports and rumours of planned and potentially spontaneous protests and of how the police and security agencies were preparing to deal with these incidents (Carpenter 2004; Gibbs 2004; Shachtman 2004; Terdiman 2004). Comparisons were made to the battle of Seattle in 1999, when over 40,000 protesters descended on the city from all over the world to protest against the policies of the World Trade Organization (WTO), leading to scenes of violence and contributing to the breakdown of the WTO talks. What was particularly interesting about these reports was that the central role of wireless communication was taken for granted, not just in the protests but in all aspects of the convention. In the event, several (mostly non-violent) protests were indeed coordinated primarily via wireless communication and the internet, leading to over 17,000 arrests. The convention itself was hardly affected by the protests apart from a few minor disruptions. In fact, President Bush experienced a bounce of two percentage points in the polls (among likely voters) after the convention (The Economist 2004; Jones 2004). These events occurred too recently for any judgements to be made about their immediate or long-term impact. Preliminary examination, however, indicates that this was a case where the use of wireless communication technologies served to enhance efficiency but not to effect change.
The establishment of the UN in the first place was feasible only because the historical climate that existed immediately after the Second World War strongly supported steps at the global level to prevent the recurrence of strategic warfare in the form of a third world war. This shared resolve reflected the enormous casualties of the war just ended, as well as the shock of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan. It also reflected the capacity of the victorious powers in the war to impose their will on the post-war world. Political space existed, but only for a short time, to institute a new type of global architecture that was intended to build upon and correct the deficiencies of the League of Nations that had emerged after the First World War in a somewhat analogous political climate. The structures embodied in the United Nations, even under these favorable circumstances, were shaped by the persisting primacy of state sovereignty as the constitutive principle of world order. As a result, the United Nations as established fell far short of what would be needed to realise the aspirations announced in the Charter, but even the scaled-back arrangements agreed upon in San Francisco would have been impossible only a year or so later as the hard lines of tension and distrust associated with the cold war began to define the new geopolitical condition of bipolarity. Had the world leaders not seized the moment in 1945, it is rather doubtful whether the United Nations would have been established in any form, and world order would have been entirely based on regional blocs of states and traditional alliances.
It is in these ideological and historical circumstances that this chapter considers the issue of UN reform from the perspective of global civil society. It begins by presenting the debate on reform as emerging out of a swirl of conflicting political projects, and then proceeds to discuss how reform has accompanied the evolution of the UN. Because changes in the Charter of the United Nations are often impossible to achieve by formal amendment, the story of reform is often mainly told in terms of shifting patterns of practice, especially in the Security Council and Secretariat, which adapt the UN to changing values and imperatives, and amount to what might be described as ‘reform from within’. This discussion is followed by a consideration of three important reports addressing UN reform produced on the initiative of the Secretary-General. This is essentially a state-friendly approach to UN reform that can be understood as ‘reform from above’. A further section considers some prominent initiatives that emanate from global civil society and enjoy widespread support in the more radical reformist domains, and can be understood as ‘reform-from-below’ (and without), although on occasion with crucial collaborative support from coalitions of governments. It is this pattern of political action that successfully brought the International Criminal Court into being despite intense opposition from leading geopolitical actors. That is, this kind of globalism is a new form of diplomacy that should not be regarded as either traditionally statist in character or a postmodern instance of non-state transnationalism. It is really a diplomatic hybrid that could be tentatively identified as the ‘new globalism’.
But it can be argued that the benefits to the global economy and to global emancipation that would flow from the freer movement of labour could negate security fears. Free movement of labour would contribute to prosperity and welfare in both rich and poor countries. The former would benefit from the increased availability of young skilled workers, in terms of both pensions and economic growth. The latter would benefit from remittances and, hopefully, compensation for the brain drain. Just as both Europe and America benefited from migration in the 19th century, so both North and South could benefit today. Such a virtuous circle could turn out to be the best way to minimise security fears. Criminals and terrorists can always circumvent borders. Indeed, the more that borders are fortified, the more this encourages illegal trafficking. The best way to deal with criminals and terrorists is to marginalise the informal economy and the economic sources of insecurity in which they thrive.
If freedom of movement is a human right, there should be no management of migration; accordingly, these groups campaign against the organisations, structures, and practices that they see as inherent in the neo-liberal economic system. No border network (URL), a European coalition of grass-roots organisations and activists established in 1999, is against the International Migration Organisation, which it argues is fundamentally flawed:
Their basic policy is not concerned with the well being of people but the well being of economies. Secondly, their ideology is based on racist principles of homogeneous ethnic states and xenophobic concepts of ‘home’…In an era of globalisation migration appears as a major social movement against the imperialist concept of zones of differentiated reproduction cost. The IOM has been best prepared to implement concepts of enforcing the borders necessary to uphold such a regime and to conform to new forms of neoliberal migration management.
The mobility of qualified workers, and to a lesser extent unskilled workers, which has increased since the 1990s in the wake of the end of communism, the expansion of the EU and continued effects of economic globalisation, has thrown the spotlight on laws and policies regulating the national, regional and global flow of migrants. However, as illustrated below, policy-makers are still grappling with the contradictions of nation states attempting to regulate a phenomenon that is global or at least regional.
Thus, to use the language of previous yearbooks, Supporters are those who favour the free movement of labour, while Reformers favour fewer restrictions on the movement of labour (Kaldor, Anheier and Glasius 2003). They include pro-capitalists who are pro-economic liberalisation, such as free-market think tanks and economists who support the free movement of labour in order to promote economic development and who view labour as a commodity. And they include those in the anti-capitalist movement who believe in the free movement of labour as a basic human right. Rejectionists are against the free movement of labour, while Regressives favour controlled immigration to meet domestic economic needs but are wary of wider migration (or asylum seekers), who are perceived as a threat to both the social security and the culture or identity of a nation. The former favour domestic labour over foreign labour, while the latter are more fearful about national security. Both Rejectionists and Regressive globalisers share the notion of what Ulrich Beck (2004) describes as a ‘container culture’, which is bounded by, in this case, national boundaries, and not influenced by ‘external’ influences.
Economic theory of movements in goods and people
In economic theory, both classical and neo-classical, labour is categorised as free labour, that is, free to move about and free to enter into contracts. In classical economics, labour was seen as a class comparable to capitalists and landlords. In neo-classical economics a labourer is anyone willing to supply labour services. Karl Marx added a historical dimension to this definition. He said that under previous modes of production, such as ancient (slavery) and feudalism (serfdom), workers had access to the means of production – land, tools, and so on, but no freedom to move and no right to contract out their labour services. With the advent of capitalism, workers were separated from the means of production and therefore had to sell their labour power, their capacity to work, on a periodic basis. They were thus free in the double sense of being divested of any means of production and free to move and enter into contracts (Marx 1867/1887).
It was during the years following the First World War and even more so after 1945 that migration became difficult. The reason was the rise of the nation (territorial) state in Europe and later Asia and Africa (the Americas remained open to migration). As a result partly of the war effort and partly of the growth of the mass franchise, the state had to promise to look after the well-being of its citizens (in return for the obligation to be conscripted). This historical shift in the nature of the international system set up obstacles to the free movement of people. Passports were not usual for international travel until then, and much of the British Empire allowed free movement. (South Africa, especially after the Boer War, was an exception; Australia also switched to a whites-only immigration policy when the federation was set up at the beginning of the 20th century). Territorial states made distinctions between citizens and aliens. Citizens were entitled to the benefits that the state accorded them, had the right to vote, and could reside in the country. But resident aliens were not entitled to benefits, although they had to pay taxes and abide by the law. They had also no franchise. Immigrants and refugees became legal categories denoting people with restricted right of abode. The territorial state continues to restrict outmigration as much as in-migration, although here again the US is an exception in having a half-open door to immigrants (Harris 1995).
These diverse responses indicate the complex causes and effects of the movement of labour, an increasingly significant feature of globalisation, the extent and impact of which civil society, nation states and institutions of regional and global governance have begun to consider in recent years (Klein Solomon and Bartsch 2003; Aleinikoff 2002).
A second and more sensitive priority is the drafting of clearly legible ‘sets’ of proposals resulting from the Forums, designed not only for the participating organisations but as a means of mobilising others at the national, continental and global levels. It is clear that neoliberalism functions as a system, and cannot be challenged only by random, single-issue responses. In order to capture the attention of wider audiences and sectors, as well as to neutralise its adversaries who accuse it of ‘not proposing’ viable alternatives, the WSF movement must put forth sets of coherent measures serving both as a system and as an official public manifesto. In order to succeed in this complex task, two major pitfalls must be avoided: first, that of generalised concepts contained in verbal form in the programmes of governments and parties; and second, that of over-specification, potentially appealing only to the most radical factions of the movement. Here, the objective should be the creation of a new paradigm divergent from the neoliberal one, while leaving enough doors open to respect the diversity of the movement’s participants and preserve all prospects for enlargement.
It seems to me that the World Social Forum process represents a double historical turning point: first, through the continuing elaboration, at the local, national and global levels, of a growing body of analyses and proposals widely shared by social players committed to finding viable alternatives to neoliberal policies; and second, through the geographic multiplicity of its forces and actors. This is clearly expressed in its choice of a Brazilian city, a city of the South, as its symbolic headquarters.
The dates selected for the Venezuela meeting parallel those of the Davos World Economic Forum (WEF) so as to prevent world leaders from marking the beginning of each year by dominating the media’s agenda with the unchallenged expression of their vision for the planet’s future. Past experience has shown that the simultaneity of these two events is an important asset. This had been acknowledged by Klaus Schwab, founder and chairman of the WEF who, addressing journalists in Buenos Aires on 21 March 2001 (two months after the first WSF), argued that the World Social Forum had affected the WEF’s reputation in a negative way: ‘Very smartly, place your name next to another, globally known one, and you become famous.’ In other words, Schwab’s statement was effectively saying, ‘Without Davos, nobody would have ever heard of Porto Alegre.’ While this claim is certainly exaggerated, one has to recognise that we have indeed been able to make the most out of the concurrence of these two events.
It should be stressed, however, that the novelty of the utopia has managed so far to overcome the emergence of severe political divergences. At this juncture, it is adequate to distinguish between high-intensity cleavages and low-intensity cleavages. The former are the cleavages where radical discursive differences translate themselves into some form of factionalism, be it collective splits and abandonment of the political organisation or organised tendencies inside the organisation; the latter, by contrast, are those in which the discursive differences, no matter how radical, do not preclude continued participation in the organisation. So far, the divergences or cleavages within the WSF have been of the low-intensity kind. Contrary to what happened in the thinking and practice of the left in Western capitalist modernity throughout the twentieth century, the WSF managed to create a style and an atmosphere of inclusion of and respect for divergences that made it very difficult for the different political factions to exclude themselves from the start with the excuse that they were being excluded. The WSF’s ‘minimalist’ programme, stated in its Charter of Principles, contributed decisively to this effect: emphatic assertion of respect for diversity; access denied only to movements or groups that advocate political violence; no voting or deliberations at the Forum as such; no representative entity to speak for the Forum. It is almost like a tabula rasa where all forms of struggle against neoliberalism and for a more just society may have their place. Confronted with such openness, those who choose to exclude themselves find it difficult to define what exactly they are excluding themselves from.
That difficulty is compounded by our anguish about the intensity and speed with which the world situation is deteriorating, which demands urgent action. Not to mention that with every passing day more and more people die for lack of food, medicines or basic sanitation, while the incessant quest for profit at any price continues to dominate economic activities in countries rich and poor. The dialectic of action and reaction set up by the present government of the United States in its war on terrorism is, in turn, driving insecurity worldwide. To make the situation even more serious, the same government – as if its threatened ‘preventive wars’ were not enough – is ringing China with military bases, signalling in that way the new enemy it intends to confront to maintain US hegemony. In addition, accepted and completely feasible measures to address the ecological risks facing humankind are being adopted at an extremely slow rate, and social irresponsibility on the part of business and government continues to prevail over efforts to control the harmful environmental effects of many systems of economic production and activity. In short, the prospects we face are little short of terrifying.
Thus, in the context of globalisation, accountability is a persistent and growing problem in search of a solution rather than a solution in response to a problem, in part because it relates to questions of legitimacy. Accountability becomes part of the global political economy: some stakeholders have more voice than others and are the preferred audience of accountability for legitimacy reasons; some jurisdictions are more ‘hands off’ and others are more controlling, even restrictive; some audits in some countries are demanding, others are easy. Accountability becomes a political issue that reflects power differentials among stakeholders, and an economic issue that reflects transaction and compliance costs.
Conclusion: risk and human security
The past year has been a roller coaster year for global civil society. Events like the tsunami or the London bombings have exposed the meaning of world risk society. Global civil society action, ranging from respectable reports to anarchic demonstrations, can be understood as attempts to portray both everyday dangers faced by millions of people in the poorer and more violent parts of the world and their translation into risks faced by people living in the richer, supposedly more secure parts of the world.
The responses to the tsunami and to Darfur would suggest that shared risk perceptions on a global scale are possible, but only in very particular circumstances. Literally, the tsunami was a danger, not a risk, but the response to it has been to that of a risk: imaginable to us all, and fixable at least in its consequences by human agency. The Darfur crisis, on the other hand, was and is conceived as a danger: deplorable, inevitable, but not something we can internalise as a risk to us all that we must try to avert. This response is all the more paradoxical as in fact the Darfur crisis was man-made, whereas the tsunami was the natural disaster. It would suggest that the tsunami was a ‘one-off’ in global empathy, and in fact global civil society has a long way to go in representing environmental destruction, conflicts, hunger and disease as ‘other tsunamis’ or ‘global risks’ that could even hypothetically affect us all.
Consciousness of global risk
The 2004 tsunami, global poverty and Darfur
According to one set of authors, ‘the essence of risk is not that it is happening, but that it might be happening’. Moreover, most turn-of-the-century literature focuses on risk as ‘manufactured, not only through the application of technologies, but also in the making of sense’ (Adam and van Loon 2000: 2). In this sense, the tsunami that swept the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004 had nothing to do with risk. It had not been manufactured either in the technological sense or in the discursive sense. Instead, it came as a complete surprise, and afterwards it was no longer a risk but a reality.
The role that global civil society plays as the medium through which consciousness of risk is increased and risk protection is promoted also, of course , varies widely between rich and poor regions. Risk experienced in the poorer parts of the world is much more pervasive and less amenable to control than risks in the richer parts of the world. Indeed, authors like Douglas (1992: 38–54) and Luhmann (1993: 22–3) draw a distinction between risk and danger, between uncertainties that might be averted through alternative human decision-making and immediate threats to one’s daily survival. It could therefore be argued that worrying about risk is a luxury of privileged Northerners. People in conflict zones or at the margins of survival do not attend festival performances with a ‘risk’ theme. Yet it is the privileged Northerners who dominate global civil society and who therefore have the biggest say in determining what counts as global risk.
The de-bounding of risk
NGOs usually pushed for the second and third versions of the precautionary principle, which turned out to be more complex as it became clear that many risks at the global and transnational levels were of a different quality. Whereas the principle sought to establish an explicit – if typically under-specified and yet unproven – link between cause and effect, the risks of world society are of a qualitative different nature.
The precautionary principle, whose goal as a policy blueprint was to help manage risk, had a number of effects that went beyond the purpose of specific policies. It changed the relationships among stakeholders, including the general public, bringing about a new politics of risk management at the national and increasingly the regional and global levels. Importantly, it paved the way for civil society organisations to assume a greater role in the identification, handling and oversight of risk-related aspects of policy concerns such as the environment, human rights, industrial safety or transnational crime.
The precautionary principle and world risk society
The precautionary principle
The modern, state-centred concept of risk assumed its most developed expression in what has become known as the precautionary principle of policy-making (Lofstedt 2003; European Commission 2000). In its simplest formulation, taken from the 1992 Rio Declaration, the principle states, ‘where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.’ Subsequently, the application of the precautionary principle spread to other fields such as the chemical industry, pharmaceuticals, climate change, and even the threat of terrorism, although the term is largely used in relation to environmental risk. Indeed, it can be argued that the state’s responsibility for physical and material security – for protecting people against risks which range from nuclear war to poverty – was always an expression of the precautionary principle within the boundaries of the nation-state.
This is a yearbook about risk. What do climate change, migration, the tsunami of 26 December 2004, the terrorist threat and the fall in the dollar have in common? Ulrich Beck, one of the foremost theorists of risk, would say ‘world risk society’. Beck argues that the calculation and management of risk was part of the ‘master narrative’ of the first phase of modernity, the construction of nation-states and modern industry. The modern state was designed to protect and insure citizens against risk – the dangers posed by nature, personal risks of ill health and unemployment, as well as threats posed by foreign enemies. Civic preparedness programmes, military defence, and the welfare state are the results of the state’s response to collective risk.
Any model of gender and civil society has thus to incorporate global networks, institutions, influences and ideas. This then poses the challenge of moving beyond the nation state as the unit of analysis. Comparative work on gender relations and on civil society tends to start from the national context and seeks points of commonality and difference. Trying to understand international organising around gender and the continuities between this and national-local forms of activism calls for a different approach that is less framed, or maybe not at all framed, within the notion of territory. Given the plurality of norms and identities circulating in international contexts, the relative significance of the national is potentially questioned.
Some version of this market, I contended, has existed everywhere and at all times. What differs in today’s market is the range of participants, the scope of boundaries of relevant markets and the limitations on the regulatory bodies capable of establishing and enforcing rules for participation and exclusion. The question for this chapter is how to define a global version of such a market and the role of civil society players within it. Put differently, one may ask how a new array of global voices and forces seeks to arrange or manipulate law and technology so that their messages can reach target audiences and have a competitive edge.
Others point to the ‘simultaneity’ problem – the fact that the transition to democracy is taking place at the same time as the transition from a statist planned economy to a market system. The introduction of economic liberalisation and privatisation has often led to dramatic falls in income and deterioration in public services, as well as increased inequality. These all contribute to dissatisfaction with the political class (see Bozoki in Kaldor and Vejvoda 1998; also Elster, Offe and Preuss 1998).
Finally, changes in media systems are confounded with numerous other global changes, seriously complicating judgments about the effects of communication per se. The adaptation of new technologies is ongoing and ever evolving, with ICTs put to many different purposes by myriad users, advocacy groups and governments. This has produced a wide open field of experimental application. Anecdotal stories of success may be found, but these successful deployments of the new media are not easily separated from the larger, democratically oriented efforts in which they are embedded. Thus, the same ends might well have been achieved by other means. The effects of new communication technologies then, are difficult to disentangle from the effects of other ongoing processes, such as the liberalisation of markets, the reform of education, or infusions of foreign subsidies. Communication effects, even if they can be isolated, are also not constant over the course of diffusion. Complex systems are very difficult to observe, given changes in what is done (that is, the introduction of new behaviour), changes in how things are done (performing existing functions in new ways) and changes in who does things and with whom.
It is in the practices of activists themselves where we find responses adequate to the challenge posed by that the unprecedented levels of the power of capital. For instance, as Victor Pickard describes in Chapter 10, Indymedia is committed to radical democratic practices in its networks both locally and globally, yet whether this is adequate to the task of democratising global governance is open to question when, as Clifford Bob shows, the same technologies are open to the National Rifle Association and, as Thomas Keenan describes, are central to the idea of global Jihad. Deane shows that activists are now going beyond attempts to practice deliberative democracy within their own spaces, to address global governance structures with the new norm of a ‘right to communicate.’ Yet that right has to be guaranteed in some way and the dilemmas around which the debate between Lippman and Dewey revolved, between management of information, individual participation and democratic decision making are ever more acute in a world confronted with global issues that require collective responses. Global civil society is forced to engage with state structures if it is to secure their democratisation. It has to take communicative democracy to the centre of state power if it is to build global governance and redress the inequalities that stand in the way of adequate action on a global scale.
Moreover that discursive model has its impact in turn on the practices of NGOs, sensing the demands of a global public opinion and responding to the urgings of activists. In Chapter 7 Helmut Anheier’s and Amber Hawkes’ review of the shifting locus of accountability shows the backlash against the gross excesses of capitalist organisations like Enron has gathered pace and extended to NGOs, and joined up with a broader sense of social accountability that informs debate about new kinds of democracy for a globalised world. The self-critique of capitalist organisations looks increasingly like the demand for participatory democracy and checks and balances that advocates of communicative power to the people have long demanded. We might say ‘suspiciously like’ of course, because this rapprochement between the agents and critics of the global corporation looks very like a replay of the earlier compact between governments and NGOs. The rise of private equity that bypasses the constraints on public corporations suggests new power strategies by the owners of capital. We may now be moving to a new stage of the continuing struggle to sustain democracy: a kind of democracy-lite in the form of accountability being forced upon and embraced by the corporate sector.
Finally, even if an ideal-typical public sphere were taking shape in global civil society, one may wonder how it could eliminate the tendency to concentrate power. Instead of the kind of formal equality of access that the ideal type of the? global public sphere requires, what is developing, in Monroe Price’s analysis, are precisely the kind of inequalities of power that correspond to the formal equalities of market capitalism. Everyone going around expressing opinions, even freely and equally, is not enough. A democratic theory must also have something to do with decision making. In Habermas’ conception, public opinion was somehow informing governmental decision making. How this link operated was always a problematic aspect of the theory, but it has not been theorised at all for the messy power landscape of political globalisation.