Former UNESCO Official and Chuo University Professor Takeo Uchida finds political and institutional deficit to implement global governance. (17/10/2015)

 Uchida endorses Kofi Annan and The Elders’ proposal to include a new category of semi-permanent membership in the Security Council representing a modified Model B proposed by the 2004 High-Level Panel on New Threats, Challenges and Change.

New Trends in global and regional security and governance: East Asian perspectives

Dr. Takeo Uchida, former Professor at Chuo University
Paper presented at the 15th East Asian Seminar on the UN System on
East Asian Partnership in Global and Regional Governance
Fudan University, Shanghai, 16-18 October 2015

 1. The concept of global governance at its 20th anniversary: is it at risk?

 While the World Bank report on African development in 1989 is often quoted as the first instance of the use of “good governance”[1], it was the report of the Commission of Global Governance, Our Global Neighbourhood, published in 1995, that helped spread the use of “global governance” through the UN, academia, policymaking circle and mass media. Kofi Annan, for example, referred to “good governance” in his annual report of 1998[2], and to “global governance” in his 2000 report[3]. A numerous academic publications have since addressed the issue of global governance mostly by the so-called liberal institutionalists who assign important roles to the private sector and civil society. They agree, however, to the predominant place of the nation states in governing the world. The realists, on the other hand, tend to underestimate the functions of non-state actors in shaping the world order[4].The UN Millennium Declaration of the year 2000 specifically referred to the need for “policies and measures, at the global level” to address the challenges of globalization[5]. The Declaration thus can be interpreted as the recognition by the member states of the idea of and the need for global governance. In 2010, the General Assembly chose to address the theme of “Reaffirming the central role of the United Nations in global governance” where more than 180 representatives debated on how the UN should be strengthened and invigorated to tackle the global issues of peace, development, and human rights. The concept of global governance was very much alive within the UN only five years ago.

 However, the deepening world economic recession and political turmoil in the Middle East, Europe as well as in Africa have posed grave questions about the current state of global governance. Some researchers have pointed to “governance deficit” or the political and institutional deficit to implement global governance[6].Similar voice is raised that “…the problem-solving capacity of the existing system of global institutions, both multinational and transnational, is in many areas not effective or accountable enough to address the mounting crises we face[7]”. This speaker tends to share such rather pessimistic view unless certain fundamental reforms are carried out in the present institutions of global and regional governance through political consensus. The conditions for better regional governance will be briefly discussed after reviewing the current state of affairs in East Asia.

 2. An overview of regional governance in East Asia

 Global or regional governance is a very comprehensive and inclusive concept that could be broken into some sectoral governance such as security governance, economic governance, and environmental governance.

  1) Security governance: Security governance in East Asia has to be greatly enhanced and strengthened overcoming the legacies of World War II and the cold war. New and non-traditional security challenges such as human security and cyber security are becoming increasingly more important when the traditional inter-state security remains very fragile and precarious[8]. Japan and Korea are tied by the respective security treaties with the United States, while China leads the Shanghai Cooperation Organization that has 6 members as well as 8 observers and dialogue partners. At the same time, Japan, China and Korea are in the ASEAN +3, and ASEAN Regional Forum and East Asia Summit that has 18 members, including India, Australia and New Zealand, Russia and the United States. The three counties began the trilateral summit meeting in 2008 and met five times. The tense diplomatic relations between Japan and China on one hand, and Japan and Korea on the other has prevented the summit meeting from taking place in 2013, and 2014. The sixth summit is scheduled to take place in Korea this year, which is indeed a welcome initiative by Korea.

  2) Economic governance: The world economic crisis of 1998, originated in the United States, impacted the G-7(8) quasi hegemony and brought in the G20 as the main actor for global economic governance. The first G20 Summit was thus held in Washington D.C. in November 2008. The 10th such summit is scheduled to take place in Antalya, Turkey in November 2015. It should be noted that the initial expectation for the G20 to play a leading role in world economy has considerably diminished today, due largely to the low commodity prices and high financing cost. The World Bank Report recently stated that “In most developing countries, the growth slowdown underway is a reminder of the need for structural reforms, including promoting diversification beyond commodity exports[9].” Regional economic governance in Asia includes the Chiang Mai Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). These should be further examined at the Working Group B on “East Asian Perspectives: Development and Human Rights” as well as the Plenary Session III on “East Asian partnership in defining a post-2015 development framework at the UN.”

  3) Environmental governance: The regional environmental governance appears to be moving more smoothly than other sectors of governance. The Tripartite Environment Minster Meeting (TEMM) continues to function amid the tense political situation in the region, the latest meeting taking place in Shanghai in April 2015 which adopted the joint action plan for 2015-2019. The Acid Deposition Monitoring Network in East Asia (EANET) established in 2001 now embraces 13 countries and aims at a common understanding on the state of acid deposition problems and providing policy makers with valuable information on the air pollution and other related issues[10].

 3. Conditions for a better regional governance

 A community is said to require three I’s, or common interests, institutions, and identity[11]. The same requirements appear necessary for regional governance in so far as it presumes building a kind of community where the actors (are supposed to) behave in accordance with the accepted rules and benefit from so doing. In forward- looking governance, future vision may be added to the list.

  1) Interests: Economic interdependence among Japan, China and Korea has increased considerably during the past decade or so. Economic benefits from the interdependence are mutual and have helped improved the level of living standard for the peoples. Sound regional environment is no doubt a positive and win-win condition for healthy lives of the peoples concerned. The lack of convergence of interest is found in security arrangements as described above. Working Group A on “East Asian cooperation in enhancing peace and security” might further elaborate the issue.

  2) Institutions: As referred to earlier on security governance, in comparison with other world regions, Asia lags behind in setting up pan-regional institutional frameworks. The center of institutionalization is the ASEAN, and East Asia is dependent on it, including the ASEAN+3, ASEAN Regional Forum, and East Asia summit, as well as APEC, a broader scale economic consultative mechanism. The proposed AIIB is still to earn more membership including that of Japan. The Japan-China, Korea Tripartite Summit will have to enhance its visibility and effectiveness in further developing mechanisms for exchange, consultation and problem-solving capacity.

  3) Identity: There prevails a common cultural and historical heritages in the three countries largely based on Confucianism and Chinese characters. No doubt, the impact of Chinese civilization on Japan and Korea is overwhelming even today and so will it be in the future. At the same time, the history and politics of the region from the late 19thh century prevented the peoples from forging a strong East Asian identity. The prospect for fostering mutual trust and confidence among the peoples is not encouraging especially in recent years. We might be advised, in this respect, to recall the original spirit of UNESCO. Its Constitution states “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.” It also declares “that peace based exclusively upon the political and economic arrangements of governments would not be a peace which could secure the unanimous, lasting and sincere support of the peoples of the world, and that the peace must therefore be founded, if it is not to fail, upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind.” The matter could be followed up by Working Group B dealing with “Human rights and culture: global and regional implications.”

  4) Vision: Related to Identity is “vision”. While identity is primarily based on the common experiences in the past, vision here is interpreted as the value –orientation for the future. Any social organization must possess and manifest certain goals and objectives for the future so that its members are united in their joint and dynamic missions and movements. Regional governance must also share the common future vision to be sustainable and developmental, and not static bound with the present. In East Asia, such a vision could be elaborated by mutual understanding and dialogue that is not restricted only to the region’s cultures and traditions, but is open to the world, particularly today when globalization is accelerating.

 4. Tripartite partnership within the United Nations

 Regional governance in different world regions is connected with global governance where the United Nations system can and should play positive roles in security, economy, and environment as well as in human rights. The UN Charter is catered to reflect regionalism in Chapter VIII (Regional Arrangements). The UN’s global forum could enhance regional arrangements by situating them in a global context. The three countries of Japan, China and Korea occupy very important places within the UN system. China is a permanent member of the Security Council; Japan is the second largest contributor to the UN budgets as well as in the Bretton Woods institutions; and Korea has its citizen as the incumbent Secretary-General. Nonetheless, compared with the significant and effective impacts of the European Union and the African Union on the work of the UN, the voice of East Asian countries is relatively weak or mute at its worst. 

 One concrete example for the tripartite partnership might focus on the reform of the Security Council. As earlier referred to, there exists a general consensus about the need to reform the Security Council. Although the 2 models proposed by the High Level Panel in 2004[12] were not agreed upon, the Summit Outcome document recognized the need for Security Council reform so that it would become “more broadly representative, efficient and transparent and thus to further enhance its effectiveness and legitimacy and implementation of its decisions[13].” The intergovernmental negotiation is still going on today without making much progress in forging a consensus. The Elders, now chaired by Kofi Annan, proposed in February 2015 a series of reforms to strengthen the UN, including “a new category of membership” in the Security Council which could be immediately re-elected when that term expires[14]. This is a modified Model B proposed by the High-level Panel. While G4 and the African Union still insist on getting the permanent seats with veto power, it has met the deadlock, and will certainly face the same fate under the present circumstances. As the Elders say, it is a compromise that will not satisfy any one, but the Security Council will become more democratic, effective, and enjoy more legitimacy. If the leaders of the three countries could agree to and work together to realize the Elders’ suggestions, their leadership status within the UN would be strengthened and their voices might carry more weight for the better and strong UN.

 5. Conclusion: Is functionalism relevant?

 David Mitrany published one of the classics in international relations during World War II. He advocated functionalism which could make national borders meaningless by continuous and common social and economic activities across and beyond the borders. The failure of the League of Nations, he wrote, was because the League was accorded only the formal authority and promise for the future, and the most urgent and welcome social reconstruction and reform were delegated to the nation-states[15]. He also argued that a functional international structure is not a union of states, but a union of peoples[16]. (Recall that the UN Charter begins with “We the peoples”.) Mitrany specifically wrote that the elements of functional system could begin to operate in the absence of general political authority. Mitrany’s functionalism, therefore, can be considered as a forerunner of global governance, essence of which is “governance without government.” At any rate, we are to explore how to govern the globalizing world. The lessons from the League are yet to be fully learned, both at the regional and global levels, especially in socio-economic and cultural spheres. Even incremental changes over a period of generation(s) could result in great transformations that we may not be able to imagine, hopefully for the better.

 6. Possible issues for discussion

  1) A larger picture might be introduced in the discussion of regional and global governance. When we talk about the “new” trends, as distinct from the “old” trends, are we conscious of “critical juncture”, or a historic decision point, when there are clear alternative paths to the future[17]? Are we faced with the challenge that new governance architecture is necessary to replace the old one that has practically lost is legitimacy and effectiveness? Is this way we are to review “new” trends?

  2) Certain issues (such as global warming) must be tackled at the global level, but some issues (such as acid deposition) could be addressed more effectively at the regional level. What could be optimal linkages to be established between the two levels depending upon the issues in question?

  3) Could we make a common policy recommendation to strengthen the UN system, including the Security Council and the Bretton Woods institutions?


[1] World Bank, Sub-Saharan Africa: From Crisis to Sustainable Growth, 1989, pp.54-62.

[2] UN, A/53/1, para.114.

[3] UN, A/55/1, para. 19.

[4] See for example, Henry Kissinger, World Order, Penguin Press, 2014.

[5] A/RES/55/2

[6] See Part V of Joseph E. Stiglitz and Mary Kaldor, eds., The Quest for Security: Protection without Protectionism and the Challenge of Global Governance, Columbia University Press, 2013.

[7] David Held and Charles Roger, eds., Global Governance at Risk, Polity, 2013, p. 4.

[8] See a concise summary of the issue by Shin-wha Lee, “Northeast Asian security community: From concepts to practices”, in Martina Timermann and Jitsuo Tsuchiyama, eds., Institutionalizing Northeast Asia: Regional Steps towards Global Governance, United Nations University Press, 2008, pp.148-164.

[9] World Bank, Global Economic Prospects, June 2015, “Highlights for Chapter 1” p. 2.

[10] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Website “ EANET”.

[11] Kenji Takita, “Higashi Ajia kyodotai no Haikei to kadai (Background and Challenges of an East Asian Community,” Kenji Takita ed., Higashi Ajia Kyodotai e no Michi (Paths to an East Asian Community), Chuo University Press, 2006, p.2.

[12] UN, A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility: Report of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, 2004.

[13] UN, 2005 World Summit Outcome, A/RES/60/1, 24 October 2005.

[14] The Elders, “Strengthening the United Nations: Statement by the Elders, 7 February 2015.

[15] David Mitrany, A Working Peace System: An argument for the Functional Development of International Organization, The Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1943, p. 26.

[16] Ibid., p. 51.

[17] Kent E. Calder and Francis Fukuyama, eds., East Asian Multilateralism: Prospects for Regional Stability, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008, p.16.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *