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Civil Society and the Legitimation of Global Governance

Jan Aart Scholte

CSGR Working Paper No. 223/07

March 2007



(From Introduction)


Along with the general intensified globalisation of social relations in contemporary history has come an unprecedented expansion of regulatory apparatuses that cover planetary jurisdictions and constituencies. On the whole, however, this global governance remains weak relative to pressing current needs for global public policy. Shortfalls in moral standing, legal foundations, material delivery, democratic credentials and charismatic leadership have together generated large legitimacy deficits in existing global regimes. This fragile overall legitimacy has in turn constituted a major obstacle to achieving the substantial further growth of global-scale regulation that is required to secure decent human lives for all in a more global world. Insufficient capacities for global governance and insufficient legitimacy of global governance are thus coupled in damaging mutual reinforcement.


This paper argues that – although there are of course considerable variations across different global governance institutions and different civil society initiatives – the general picture has been one of but partially realised potentials of legitimacy promotion. Like the tip of the proverbial iceberg, civil society activities concerning global regulation have so far made visible only a fraction of the total mass of possibilities. Hence prescriptions for the future centre on ‘more’ and ‘better’. Regarding more quantity, urgently required greater positive legitimation of global governance can be promoted with more civil society engagement, covering more regulatory institutions and extending through more stages of the policy process. Regarding better quality, to have greater positive legitimation effects civil society relations with global governance generally need to be more inclusive, more competent, more coordinated, and more accountable. Both sides to the interchange – civil society associations on the one hand and global regulatory bodies on the other – can take a range of measures to further these ends.




Globalisation, civil society, legitimacy, global governance, public policy.



Contact Details:


Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation (CSGR)

University of Warwick

CV4 7AL Coventry (UK)