Skip to main content Skip to navigation



The Global Research Priorities - Global Governance (GRP-GG) is a network of 80 scholars from 12 departments across all four faculties of the University.


To learn more about those involved in the network please visit the people section of our website.


If you would like to join the Global Governance GRP please click here



Global Governance - A vision of the GRP


Because our society is acquiring more global dimensions and governance of global problems is becoming ever more complex, global governance is an exciting and expanding field of inter-disciplinary research.

Global governance is a subject of study that need not imply any particular theory or method. On the contrary, it is the richer for attracting and generating debate among researchers from diverse disciplines and backgrounds. Below we explain how and why global governance is a contested term, and at the same time, identify some key features of global governance scholarship as it relates to this GRP. We explain why such scholarship is increasingly important and complex, and the types of activities which this GRP particularly seeks to support.


The phrase ‘global governance’ was coined in the late 1980s and first became popularised through the Commission on Global Governance (1992-95).[1] Academic writings on ‘global governance’ – including some biting critiques of the concept – began to flow in the 1990s and have continued until the current day.

Recognising A Contested Concept

The use of the term ‘global governance’ does not suggest that this GRP endorses any normative vision of governance on a global scale. Rather scholars researching in this field come together because they recognise that there are increasing numbers of global issues where, as a matter of fact, governance efforts have evolved far beyond the traditional picture of individual States exclusively regulating their own distinct territories. ‘Global governance’ is thus less a framework of analysis and more a locus of critical debate.

Towards a Working Definition

Conceptions of ‘global governance’ in the academic literature are often vague and divergent. Nevertheless, for the purposes of defining the scope of coverage of this GRP, it is possible to set some parameters to the topic and identify some defining features of this area of study.

‘Global’ applies to conditions that manifest themselves beyond individual countries and regions. ‘Global’ problems cross borders and in some cases envelop the planet as a whole.

‘Governance’ refers broadly to constitutive practices and regulatory aspects of society: the formulation, application and review of rules, norms, standards and principles that are invoked to bring order and/or to effect change in a human collectivity. Combining the two terms, ‘global governance’ can refer to regulatory processes and constitutive practices that shape social relations on intercontinental and planetary scales.

The Increasing Importance and Complexity of Scholarship in this Field

The steep rise of global governance studies, particularly over the past twenty years, has been spurred by two broad trends:

1. Global aspects of society are becoming more important.

There is an increasingly long list of substantially globalised issues including climate change, employment patterns, energy provision, economic flows, food security, health and other social policy concerns, human rights, intercultural relations, new information and communications technologies, political mobilisations, trans-border production chains, and various developments in warfare.

2. Regulation and Constitutive Practices in contemporary (more global) society involves more than the nation-state.

‘Governance’ includes but also extends beyond individual ‘governments’. Global governance is a term that recognises that a range of different actors in different fora play a part in regulating issues of global concern. These include:

  • Global-level regulatory agencies, e.g. the International Monetary Fund or the World Health Organisation.
  • National Governments - while the state today lacks a monopoly on governance, national governments retain major importance in global regulation, especially in widely prevalent (but under-researched) ‘trans-governmental networks’ of state officials, and other co-operative endeavours.
  • Local authorities ‘below’ the state and regional apparatuses ‘above’ the state. These can also be relevant in the regulation of many global issues (e.g. fair trade cities, regional trading blocks etc.).
  • Non-State actors such as business organisations and civil society actors can pay regulatory and constitutive roles in global affairs, for instance, as sponsors of global accounting standards or in creating regulatory frameworks for conflict-free diamonds.

The complexity of global governance arrangements is compounded by the fact that frameworks for global policy are increasingly taking on ‘trans-sectoral’ or ‘multi-stakeholder’ forms that combine official, commercial and civil society inputs. Examples include the Global Reporting Initiative (on corporate social responsibility) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

It is therefore important to stress that ‘global’ describes what is governed more than where it is governed.

Global governance also goes beyond visible regulatory institutions. Scholarship in relation to global governance issues therefore also considers the ‘governing’ impacts on global circumstances of discourses and other embedded social structures. This might include the disciplining effects of, and resistance to important ideational paradigms (e.g. neoliberalism); the use of the term ‘global’ itself as a hegemonic discourse; and the impact of deeper inequalities and structures of class, gender, space, nation, race, sexuality, age etc. on the way in which global affairs are governed.

The Priorities of the Global Governance GRP

The goal of GRP-GG is to foster longer-term interdisciplinary interactions between academics, at Warwick and other universities, that will give rise to important new understandings and insights into issues of global governance.

To work towards this goal, the GRP will potentially co-ordinate and/or support any inter-disciplinary academic activity (events, research, dissemination etc.) that falls within our broad definition of global governance. We will prioritise activities that

  • foster longer-term interactions between academics from different disciplines (as opposed to one-off events where no further interactions are envisaged)
  • activities that create ‘impact’ e.g. the dissemination of existing inter-disciplinary research to non-academic audiences
  • demonstrate how an inter-disciplinary approach will contribute significant added value to important issues of global concern
  • have shown enthusiasm for engaging as widely as possible with academics from other disciplines through long term engagement with the GRP and/or other relevant networks at Warwick and beyond (e.g. through the Queen Mary/ Monash/ Warwick alliances).
  • have potential for generating longer-term and/or larger scale inter-disciplinary research projects, including those that could potentially form the basis of an external funding application

[1] Our Global Neighbourhood : Report of the Commission on Global Governance (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1995).