, Volume 91, Number 6

Rama Mani



Global governance is in a state of chronic dysfunction. The 70th anniversary of the United Nations offers a timely opportunity to both analyse its disrepair and chart its future through this period of unprecedented upheaval. This article begins with a comparative analysis of two prominent endeavours to redesign global governance in order to address global challenges: the Commission on Global Governance, whose report was launched at the UN’s 50th anniversary in 1995; and the Commission on Justice, Security and Governance, which launched its report for the UN’s 70th anniversary in June 2015. Despite worthwhile recommendations, both reports suffer from two shortcomings common to such reform efforts.First, pragmatism overrules vision, reducing meaningful global transformation to piecemeal institutional restructuring. Second, the prevailing model of governance, based on nation states and shaped by national interests, remains unquestioned. Such endeavours neither acknowledge nor redress the unfettered pursuit of national interests— geopolitical, economic and military—that caused or failed to prevent today’s dystopia of fear and want for most and security for some. The paradigm of global governance needs urgent renewal to equip it to transform this dystopia. This requires two steps. First, looking backwards at the trajectory of philosophical thought on governance and the ideal state, in order to reground global governance in ‘utopian vision’. Second, looking outwards at four unfolding global trends of civics, ethics, physics and metaphysics that are reshaping reality, in order to update global governance to an ‘Ourtopian’ paradigm.

To read this article, you need to be a Chatham House member

Find out more about Chatham House membership