Global governance is an as yet untested way of managing global issues more effectively. Fundamentally, what global governance means is this: The nation-states of the world entrust a supranational decision-making body with the task of managing one or more global problems, and commit to honouring its decisions. In other words, nation-states hand over their sovereignty, relating to one or more well-defined global issues, to the supranational body. Depending on its jurisdiction, the new governing body may consist of a global parliament and a global cabinet with associated administrative staff – if its scope is the governance of the entire global community – or it can consist of a limited number of people, if it is only concerned with a few global issues.
Most political issues in our global community concern only, or mainly, a single country or the citizens of a few countries, and are therefore managed by those countries. However, the past century has seen the rise of several new major problems and risks threatening the whole of humanity.
In the course of human history, many thinkers have proposed ideas concerning global governance. Unsurprisingly – as it is only during the last century that any existential global problems have been identified – these thinkers were mainly concerned with the system of resolving disputes through warfare. In civilized countries, disputes have long since been settled by the courts instead of by the physical or financial strength of the parties, but the old system survives in the international arena. The first practical attempts to establish global governance were made only after the two world wars. The League of Nations was established in 1920, following World War I, to maintain peace, and became defunct at the start of World War II in 1939. After the second world war and two atom bombs, political leaders realized that nuclear war could mean the end of humanity. This led to the founding of the United Nations, with the aim of preventing future wars. Because the major powers had the right of veto in the Security Council, the UN remained a half-measure. It has been useful in a number of ways, but has failed in its main goal – preventing war.
Meanwhile, a number of other catastrophic risks threatening the future of humanity have emerged, such as climate change and population growth. They not only aggravate climate change, but also reduce each human being’s share of already scarce natural resources.
Until now, we have been trying to solve today’s global problems with yesterday’s tools, i.e. international agreements between nation-states. Such negotiations between sovereign states have consistently failed to solve difficult, complex and important global problems. Hundreds of states with competing interests have been unable to agree, or reached inadequate or belated compromise solutions. In other words, experience shows us that global challenges require global solutions; and global solutions require a supranational decision-making body, i.e. global governance. The global governing body, in turn, needs to fulfill a number of requirements to be able to tackle global challenges. It needs to be effective, neutral and equitable, and it needs to inspire trust. Also, its decisions need to be scientifically based and guided by the good of all humanity.
It is not an easy task to design a governing body that would fulfill all these requirements, and then embed it effectively into the existing global political system. To stimulate ideas on how to solve these problems, the Global Challenges Foundation announced a global prize competition in November of 2016, calling for suitable designs for a supranational organization to manage major global risks. The competition sparked a great deal of interest, and received 2,702 submissions from 122 countries.
At the time of the awards ceremony in May of 2018, the international jury found that none of the entries had succeeded in satisfying the full set of criteria, and no first prize was awarded. Instead, at the suggestion of the jury, three entries were awarded USD 600,000 each. Teams were formed to further improve some of the proposals.
Now we have come up with a model that we will present to the public. It may not be perfect and we hope that can be improved through public debate. We believe that if we deal with global catastrophic risks mainly in the way our chosen model advocates, we may even have the chance to get out of our climate adventure with a positive net effect.