The Inclusive Governance Initiative, launched in 2020 as Chatham House marked its centenary, is exploring how global governance can be reshaped to meet the challenges of today’s world. The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the urgent need for change in the structures and mechanisms of international cooperation. Greater inclusiveness must be a central ingredient, and must go beyond symbolism: the meaningful inclusion of a wider range of non-state actors and the more equitable participation of states are essential for progress on complex, interconnected global issues. The transformation of multilateral bodies and international governance structures into effective agents of change for today’s world is long overdue.
The architecture and functioning of international governance have threaded throughout the institute’s work since its earliest years. Drawing on that foundation, along with diverse expertise across Chatham House’s research programmes, the Inclusive Governance Initiative aims to identify practical pathways for embedding inclusivity into global governance arrangements. While inclusivity alone will not address the complex issues around effectiveness and legitimacy in current global governance – and raises many challenges in its execution – it is a necessary ingredient for the development of governance arrangements that can both command broad support and deliver solutions in today’s environment.
During 2020, Chatham House hosted a series of roundtables with actors on the front lines of global governance who have been – or are currently in the midst of – tackling questions of participation in their specialized domains. The aim of the roundtables was to step back from daily policy discussions and reflect on process: what works well, what does not, and how we can build global governance mechanisms that are more representative, collaborative and effective.
Participants considered the challenges to global governance through a wide lens: in each case not only the role of international organizations, but also the range of mechanisms and processes outside official structures that contribute to international cooperation and the evolution of the goals, norms, rules and standard practices of good governance. As agency and power have dispersed in recent years, an ever-wider range of governance approaches has emerged. How these fit within the existing global governance ecosystem, and whether they can address criticisms around the legitimacy and efficacy of current practice, remain open questions.
The roundtables focused on three areas where arrangements are currently in evolution: digital governance, environmental governance and economic governance. Our conversations gathered perspectives from Africa, the Americas, East Asia, Europe, the Middle East and South Asia, as well as from a diverse range of sectors including international and regional organizations, international coalitions, national and local governments, the private sector, trade associations, civil society organizations (CSOs), philanthropic organizations, grassroots movements, technical communities and academia. To encourage frank exchange, the roundtables were conducted under the Chatham House Rule.
The roundtables provided a wealth of observations on areas of progress as well as deficit in global governance. They identified opportunities for advancing inclusion and obstacles that need to be overcome. This synthesis paper highlights 10 cross-cutting insights that came out of the roundtables, both on the state of governance and on emerging practice. The aim is to assist public policy actors in crafting more inclusive approaches to global challenges, and in delivering more sustainable and legitimate solutions for communities. The recommendations are not intended to be comprehensive. Our consultations covered a limited span of governance issues, and this is a rapidly evolving arena. Rather, the aim of this paper is to share views from governance areas in which the push towards greater inclusivity is under way, in order to spur thinking in these and other global domains.