Critical Perspectives on Global Governance

University of Helsinki, Friday 7 May 2010, 10:00-17:00
Venue: Small Assembly Hall, Fabianinkatu 33, University of Helsinki

There will be a landmark one-day event, open to the public, in Helsinki organized in conjunction with my Visiting Chair at the Collegium for Advanced Studies. It is devoted to critical reflections on the current global crises, the question of political leadership and the nature and future of global governance. The event includes some of the world’s leading critical thinkers on global political economy, law and international relations. They will address the challenges of achieving sustainable and democratic global governance in the 21st century.

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In aphabetical order, the participants are:

ISABELLA BAKKER, Professor of Political Economy and former Chair of Political Science at York University, Toronto.

UPENDRA BAXI, Emeritus Professor of Law in Development, University of Warwick. He was previously Professor of Law, University of Delhi (1973-1996) and was its Vice Chancellor (1990-1994).

SOLOMON (SOLLY) BENATAR, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, University of Cape Town and Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto.

CLAIRE CUTLER, Professor of International Relations and International Law in the Political Science Department at the University of Victoria, Canada.

HILAL ELVER, Visiting Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara.

RICHARD FALK, Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

ADAM HARMES, Associate Professor in Political Science at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.

MUSTAPHA KAMAL PASHA, Professor and Chair of the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Aberdeen, UK.

NICOLA SHORT, Associate Professor of Political Science at York University, Toronto.

TEIVO TEIVAINEN, Professor of World Politics at the University of Helsinki as well as Director of the Program on Democracy and Global Transformation at the San Marcos University in Lima, Peru.


Participants will develop a dual perspective on the nature, and future of global leadership and governance.

First, they will consider global governance as the practices associated with enduring forms of international rule beyond the purview of individual nations – that is as it has been normally understood in politics and diplomacy since ancient times. Thus global governance involves consideration of the main mechanisms that have emerged to stabilize, modify and legitimate the global status quo, such as the G8 or the G20. Thus global governance is mainly evaluated from the perspective of the most powerful states and economic interests. In this sense global governance today involves devising durable methods, mechanisms, and institutions – including those of peace and war – to help sustain an international order that is premised on the primacy of capitalism and the world market as the key governing forces of world politics.

Second, participants will also develop critical perspectives on global governance – involving not only a demystification of the power relations between leaders and led, but also assessment of the potential for changes in those relations. Participants will analyze global governance not just from the vantage point of dominant power but from the perspectives of subaltern forces. Participants will question the necessity, desirability and sustainability of existing institutional arrangements in light of global economic, social and ecological crises and challenges.

Thus a central question to give political focus to our considerations is encapsulated in this quotation:

“In the formation of leaders, one premise is fundamental: is it the intention that there should always be rulers and ruled, or is the objective to create the conditions in which this division … of the human race … is no longer necessary?” (Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, 1971).

The speakers in Helsinki will therefore engage with contested political issues such as: the legitimacy of global institutions; social justice, taxation and redistribution; privatized security governance; gender, race and equitable development; environmental issues and climate change; global health; the rights of subordinated peoples in an era of globalization: Islamic conceptions of justice and leadership; corporate social responsibility and public-private partnerships; and various mechanisms of regulation in finance, the workplace and in trade and investment.