Global governance, regulation and transnational networks

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The global governance of many public policies related to Planetary Wellbeing has developed at a dizzying pace in recent decades. In fact, although we don’t have a world government, nor anything that closely resembles one, neither do we live in an anarchical world. We do have common rules and criteria for establishing agreements and common procedures for a host of activities which have a global dimension or impact that goes beyond our immediate surroundings. Sometimes, depending on the area in question, global regulatory initiatives are launched by states directly. However, it is more often that specialised transnational networks take it upon themselves to promote and formulate regulatory frameworks with a global scope in their specific fields, in a way that goes beyond the logic of large international organisations and sovereign states. There are numerous examples that can serve to illustrate this dynamic: from international seafaring and the adoption of banking regulations to mechanisms for certifying organic produce, among many others. 

Now, as a rule, each of these global governance spaces is highly specialised, and rarely establishes links with other spaces that deal with different issues, although occasional connections and interdependencies. It is normally the states, and to a much lesser extent major international organisations (we could view the European Union as a kind of hybrid formula halfway between the two), which have a certain capacity to interconnect disparate areas of public policy and impose and set criteria that commonly affect these different areas. In this regard, major international summits or treaties that are mostly negotiated behind closed doors often share an aim to establish complex commitments or agreements on matters that can be found at the crossroads of a series of different areas of global public policy.  In this regard, the collective action to face climate change has been clearly shown as one of these crossroads, given that the issue involves energy policies, industrial policies, consumption and transport models, as well as many other areas, and the measures that need to be agreed upon collectively have an impact that affects everyone -and not always in the same way. So, states, in their negotiations with one another, propose how the efforts that each sector should make are distributed, in search of the combination that is most beneficial to their own interests.

There is no doubt that global governances on health and the environment, among others, have become areas of global politics typified by complex structures of planetary collective action. In these fields, there are many singular actors and transnational connections play a highly relevant role, but it is the states themselves that continue to be essential key actors in making complex decisions which have a global impact across various different sectors. And these are urgently needed to improve the well-being of the planet. Specialised transnational networks can mobilise agendas and propose innovative regulations that spread globally and bring states closer to reaching international agreements. However, without more open decision-making structures and more inclusive political processes, which help to reduce the internal restrictions many states have to deal with, it is unlikely these networks will contribute to achieving the goals of a planet looking to improve its well-being.