A New World Order
A New World Order

A New World Order

Apr 15, 2004

Slaughter describes a vision of a world order where international institutions are embedded in an increasingly dense web of networks spanning the globe.


JOANNE MYERS: I’d like to welcome you to our lunch this afternoon. I know that most of you have one time or another attended a Merrill House program, and I believe have left stimulated about what you heard discussed here. So in keeping with that tradition, we thought we would do something just a little bit different today and have a lunch in honor of our guest as a way of acknowledging her bold and creative thinking. And she has a new book which she will be discussing, called A New World Order.

When the Cold War ended, so ended the old way of looking at the world. For example, after Iraq had invaded Kuwait and George Bush the First announced plans to halt the advance of Saddam Hussein, he declared a new world order. While he was correct in saying that the world was about to change, it was not transformed in the manner he had envisioned. And although the reliance on multilateral institutions is still the norm for global governance today, the frosty clarity of that time has given way to a foggy bottom of differences, leaving us to search for solutions in order to remove the obstacles that abound for solving many of the world’s problems.

For many of you, thinking about global governance is your occupation, for others a preoccupation, and with each new international crisis there is a concern about the asymmetric manner in which countries approach these major challenges.

Accordingly, Ms. Slaughter’s recent work may help you to find a solution for these concerns. Her studies look at multilateralism in a new light and ask us to completely rethink our views of the political world. In so doing she too proclaims a new world order, but with a recognition that it is already here. And, unlike George the First, and even George the Second, her perception of this fearful new world appears to be more consistent with reality, for her world is one where governance takes place not through communication with nation-states’ presidents, prime ministers, or international organizations, but through a complex global maze of government networks composed of courts, regulatory agencies, executives, and even legislatures—all of whom are networking today with their counterparts abroad, creating a dense level of relations.

She concludes by telling us how these networks can become the solution to the globalization paradox. Although differences in viewing the world may remain, Ms. Slaughter believes there are ways to work together to ensure a more peaceful and secure world, and the ideas presented in her book just may be the answer.

It is my pleasure to ask that you join me in welcoming our guest today, Ann Marie Slaughter.

I would just like to say one more thing. She is the mother of two sons.


ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER: Thank you. I should just ask for questions. That was a wonderful, succinct summary of the high points.

I started work on this book in 1994, when “a new world order” meant something quite different. That was still at the end of the first Bush Administration. I was writing about the legal relations among liberal democracies and looking at the web of complex interdependence that many people like Joe Nye and Robert Keohane have written about.

Over time, I became increasingly convinced that what was most important about that work was not the relations among liberal democracies, but the networks themselves and how they expanded.

I will talk first about how I see government networks evolving if we have the eyes to see them and, even more importantly, use them; and then I will tell you how these networks could be used both in fighting terrorism (since that is the subject of the moment in Washington) and in rebuilding Iraq (since that is the subject of the moment globally).

My basic argument is that governments are following in the footsteps of corporations, nongovernmental organizations, and criminals in responding to globalization by organizing themselves into networks. When I became dean [of the Woodrow Wilson School], a number of friends sent me corporate management books. It took me about a month of deaning to realize that these had no bearing whatsoever on my situation. I can’t fire anyone, I can’t order anyone around, so these books were not relevant.

But one thing I found interesting about these books was that all of them focused on the shift from hierarchy to network: from a situation of command and control—i.e., being able to direct people to do things in your corporation—to the challenges posed by a more horizontal structure, requiring one to manage a regional or global network. In response to globalization, we have seen everything from the Star Alliance to various kinds of corporate networks.

Likewise in the NGO [non-governmental organization] world: we have seen the power of the human rights movement, the labor rights movement, the anti-globalization movement, the environmental movement, all of which consist of networks of organizations. They interact, coordinate, exchange information regularly, develop common practices, and operate globally while retaining their distinct (often national) identities.

We talk about terrorist networks all the time, but as Moises Naim wrote in Foreign Policy [go to article (PDF: 5 pages)], terrorism is only one of at least five crimes committed by global criminal networks. Money laundering, arms trafficking, trafficking in people, trafficking in drugs, and even intellectual piracy round out the list.

The argument of my book is that governments are networking as well, and for many of the same reasons. I have not tried to explain causally how these networks arose. But if you look in virtually any area, you will see that government officials, who once defined their jobs as domestic, increasingly see their work as having an international component.

Indeed, you can track this just by looking at the budgets of Washington agencies. The Environmental Protection Agency employs its own international lawyer; the SEC [Securites and Exchange Commission] has an entire international division devoted to networking with its counterparts around the globe; and the Justice Department, which once consisted solely of domestic lawyers, now has an enormous international division.

One of the early signs that this topic might be worth writing about occurred when a young Canadian who was a student of mine at Harvard Law School came back from spending a summer at the Canadian Embassy and said, “I spent my entire summer arranging visits for regulators. I did not see diplomatic traffic as I expected. It was all the agriculture ministers and the transport ministers—and not actually the ministers themselves, just the lower-level people.”

We were used to discussing these networks in international economics. We could talk about the Basel Committee [on Banking Supervision and the International Organization of Securities Commissioners. And let's not forget all the “G” groups—the G7 and now the G8—which entail meetings of leaders but also separate meetings of finance ministers. After the East Asian crisis, there was a separate communiqué from the finance ministers, a very deliberate move. Op-ed pages were full of calls for a “new global financial architecture.” Jeffrey Garton wrote about the need for a global central bank, and my colleagues had visions of redoing the Bretton Woods institutions [the World Bank and International Monetary Fund] and rethinking this agreement.

What did we get? We got the G-20. The G-20 is a government network of twenty-odd finance ministers from the G8 and several other critical countries, such as Brazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea and Turkey.

These networks can be found all over in the regulatory arena, and increasingly they are formalized entities. We now have an International Competition Network and an International Network for Environmental Enforcement.

You also see the phenomenon in the judicial area. (Lawyers who track this sort of thing are aware of these judicial networks, which are not connected to the regulatory networks.) The United States Supreme Court holds summits with its counterparts—first in Europe, then in India, and soon in South Africa.

There are also organizations of constitutional judges. The Chief Justice of the Canadian Supreme Court writes of a “global human rights dialogue taking place among the justices of the world’s national courts.”

Our own Supreme Court has been debating this very point. Five justices are in favor of citing foreign opinions and four against. Congress is considering a bill to block the citation of foreign opinions in U.S. courts, which suggests what a hot-button issue this has become.

The American judges who believe in talking to their foreign colleagues and citing their work say, “This is what it takes to be a well-informed judge in the era of globalization. You need to know what other courts are doing because we are tackling many of the same issues. We are engaged in a common enterprise. And if we don’t know, we are worse off, both because we seem parochial and because our opinions are less informed.”

Inevitably, legislators are more parochial; they respond to domestic constituents. In this country anyway, every time a congressperson goes abroad to talk to their counterparts, someone labels it a junket, so they are generally quite careful about making these trips. At the UN's major summit meetings, we have seen groups of legislators meeting to discuss issues of sustainable development and environmental protection generally. There have been legislators at the most recent WTO meetings. And if you dig further, you will see nascent networks of legislators concerned with specific issue areas as well as legislative networks between specific countries. Ultimately the elected representatives of a group of people must talk to one another.

The networks everywhere you look have developed because many national officials have realized that they cannot do their jobs in a global era without getting to know and working with their counterparts elsewhere.

You could now ask, “So what? We have all these people talking to each other, networking; but the big issues of the day are in the arena of high politics—terrorism, nonproliferation, ethnic conflict, and major (or at least potential) economic crises. Networking is what happens among bureaucrats. This isn’t relevant to world order in the grand terms that George Bush initially proclaimed it.”

The second half of my book says: “Not so." These networks are a critical dimension of any world order we hope to establish in this century to address the problems we face now and at least in coming decades.

Let me state very clearly that I am not for an instant proposing that these networks should replace existing international institutions. In many cases they may be hosted by and work with those institutions as part of the reform process. Many people thought I was arguing in 1997 that the new world order is national government officials and the sooner we get rid of international bureaucracy, the better; but that is not what I am saying.

So why do I argue that these networks are so important? Because we face a governance trilemma. We need global capacity in virtually every area—from the environment to labor to economic regulation to the management of public health.

We do not want a centralized global institution, which is the normal way one responds to the need for increased governance capacity. In essence, one creates a government, whether at the local, state, or national level. This will not happen globally. I say that with great confidence as an American, because it is very clear the American people won’t support it, nor would many people elsewhere in the world support the idea of having a truly global government.

We are unwilling to accept the centralization of power and the distance between the government and the governed that a truly global government would mean. So what do we do?

If national government officials can work with international institutions, we should be able to get the requisite global capacity. We can coordinate our responses to various crises—we can even go beyond coordinating and adopt common policies. That's if we are willing to empower these networks and monitor them appropriately.

I argue that it is possible to harness the capacity of every country in the world to work globally without moving them from the national to the international sphere. They must effectively have a dual function: they must still be accountable to their national governments, to their constituencies, and represent national interests; but they must also recognize a set of common global interests.

The third part of the trilemma is that we need to know for certain that decisions are being made by government officials who can be held accountable for their actions. Many of the responses to this dilemma have been: “Sure, we need global governance capacity. But as we don’t have global government, let's have global policy networks.” And indeed, the Secretary General recommends global policy networks in his Millennium Report.

A global policy network includes anyone who is interested. It includes nongovernmental organizations, independent experts, activists, scientists and international officials; it can also include the private sector. The idea is that to implement global policy, we need to harness everyone.

As a dean of a public policy school, I spend a lot of time talking about how to implement public, private, and nonprofit partnerships. But When it comes to decision-making, that makes me quite nervous, because I cannot be certain who has made those decisions. Is it your government official who is part of that network? Is it the NGO? Is it an NGO you like? Is it an NGO you don’t like? Are these people scientists? Are they good scientists? How do we know?

Within these global policy networks we need the spine of an identifiable government network.

For example, if you have a global network of environmental regulators, and you know who they are, when they meet, and what is on their agenda, you can hold them accountable either by national parliaments or through global mechanisms. You might still encourage them to interact with NGOs and the corporate sector and anyone else, just as domestically we want a regulatory agency to have notice and comment, we want them to engage with everyone. But at least you still know who is making the decision.

A world of government networks is a world in which you have the capacity, at the national level, but these are government officials whom you can hold accountable.

Let me close by describing what the overall vision of this world order would look like, and then I'll offer two suggestions about how it might operate.

The vision is Atlas at Rockefeller Center. The globe that he holds up is called an armillary sphere, a particular globe used in the Middle Ages with encircling bands.

My vision of a world order is a sphere that would have international institutions do important things that only international institutions could do, but they would be embedded in an increasingly dense web of networks that would span the globe.

How would we use those today? One of the things that has been interesting with the Richard Clarke book and the 9/11 Commissions has been the evidence that one of the principal culprits of the failure to prevent 9/11 was the failure to take terrorism seriously because of a lingering Cold War mentality. It was fixed in our heads that only states can do real damage, not non-state actors. And we of course deal with states in traditional ways: we go to war, we have economic sanctions, and we threaten them in various ways.

Suppose that the American president had taken seriously the need for networks. He and his staff would have proposed the creation of new institutions. They would have said, “We need a network of justice ministers because we are collaborating closely now with many of our allies, and ultimately we need to harness the justice apparatus of every state.”

Financial regulators—we are going to cut off terrorist financing? Why not task the G-20 with creating a plan to implement through the G-20 to extend to as many finance ministers as possible?

Intelligence—we are probably already doing that. It is harder to do publicly with Immigration or Customs. We can respond to a global threat with a multilateral response by creating a formal network with concrete tasks.

This is happening informally, but President Bush's view is: “That’s not the important stuff. The big stuff is what's going to help prevent terrorism.”

But if you ask me, the small stuff—creating the networks of cooperation and making sure we know what they are doing and giving them assignments—is a far better way to go.

Imagine if we had been thinking about rebuilding Iraq by harnessing the governance capacity of every well-functioning government in the world. There is a global network of utilities regulators, for example. This is not sexy stuff, but it’s important. They could have been detailed to do some of the work on the ground.

Financial, judicial, legislative capacity—the capacity is there. If the UN, all its agencies, and the governments involved worked with these networks, we would have a capacity for global nation-building as well.

Questions and Answers

QUESTION: Have you thought about the possibility that your new world order may have already become an old world order, because it was based on a different time, a different zeitgeist—when the world was moving towards a borderless world and we were all coming together in these networks? Post-9/11 the borderless world has become a borderful world, with fingerprinting at borders and visas denied to students. Nowadays one finds that informal networking is crumbling under these new restrictions, but you do have stronger intergovernmental processes to replace that.

If you agree that we have moved towards a more borderful world, how does that impact your vision of a new world order?

ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER: My vision assumes a borderful world. It was initially written to counter all the people talking about a “new medievalism” and states disappearing. My response was that the state is not disappearing, it is disaggregating, and it is now operating through its component government institutions. We think that it is less powerful because we see the diminished ability of a sovereign to command, whether it is over economic policy or military affairs; but governments have been responding by cooperating with their counterparts in other countries.

The assumption of this world order is precisely that territorial nation-states will remain the building blocks of the international system. After 9/11 I don’t have to make the argument very forcefully because we are seeing it.

Instead of coming together in a global polity, we are assuming that legislators, judges, regulators, and national leaders who have responsibility for a particular territory cannot accomplish all they need to without cooperating with their counterparts abroad.

My argument is totally opposed to the “clash of civilizations.” This is not about putting up walls between Islamic, Western European, and Asian governments. Government officials are not the same the world over, but they do have a common core.

In a world where borders are going up and apparent conflicts are proliferating, my conception of a new world order is a good way to counter such trends.

QUESTION: What you are prescribing here is a future network which is very good and valuable, but you can’t get away from politics.

ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER: If this were just a network of global bureaucrats, yes, it would do some good, but it would not have nearly the potential that I argue for.

In the end, you will not even get the lower-level bureaucrats doing anything important unless there is political leadership. That leadership can come from the ministers, but at some point there still has to be either agreement, or at least tolerance, by the head of state.

We need to be discussing political issues from within these networks. Here’s an example: the WTO [World Trade Organization] is stuck on agricultural subsidies, one of the biggest issues faced by the developing world. In my model world, the G-20 leaders would task their development, trade and agriculture ministers to meet together, who would in turn form networks (and networks of networks) to come up with a viable solution.

Would that substitute for the WTO? No. You would still have need for broader decision-making processes. Would it help us break the logjam, and would you at least know that you were dealing with a situation that, if states could reach agreement, would offer a fighting chance of getting broader consensus? I think so.

But it would have to be at the absolutely highest level, and there will inevitably be lots of political conflict. Indeed, it is a terrifying vision, but at its worst it’s a global interagency process. Much of the reason why people like these networks is that when the finance ministers all agree, they can use each other to bolster their views domestically.

QUESTION: As a European, my immediate reaction was that you are describing how the EU works. As a network it satisfies all of your conditions except for one: it does deal with governments. The objective at the end of the process, which in May will involve twenty-five countries, is more or less to either legislate or reach common oppositions in the way you defined them.

ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER: In many ways the EU is a far better model for global governance than certainly the U.S. market. I write about vertical networks between national officials and their supranational counterparts, and argue that ultimately, if you have this full order and you want teeth, that’s where you get teeth. You get it as you did in the EU. You will never have international law properly enforced unless it is enforced through individuals at the domestic level.

The EU is a reasonable model. The EU is also aiming for integration in a way that would not be true of most of these networks. Nevertheless, the EU has also recognized that most of the work has to be done by national-level officials and you have supranational entities whenever it becomes essential.

To move from using networks as talking shops—by that I mean they promote convergence and have an effect on each other’s behavior, but there is no compliance—you must have either one of two things: a group of national leaders that tasks the network with “you’re going to come up with this and then we are going to implement it”; or a connection to a supranational institution with the power to implement the network's decisions.

The Basel Committee has that power. When it adopts capital adequacy regulations, people who have the power domestically can implement these regulations. It’s a great advantage over normal international law. This is not a two-step process. If you give them the power to make a decision, then the decision, once taken, so long as it is cleared domestically, is effectively already being implemented.

I agree that there are big question marks over how you connect networks to political will and how you coordinate the networks with one another. But I am convinced that once you have found a way forward, networks will have the enforcement capacity that is now lacking—and this will make them stronger than many of our existing systems.

QUESTION: In our era where unilateral action has been given such value, your notion of multilateralism seems very appealing.

My concern is that if you look at the issue of world poverty and what to do about it, you see that we have multilateral institutions—the World Bank, the IMF—run by the finance ministers or governments. The governments in the developing world themselves are often captive to the elites in their countries. They join together with powers in the West and they don’t want to rock the boat too much.

How does your model break through this problem of elites to get at the underlying issues citizens of these countries are facing?

ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER: My vision holds the prospect of getting people involved in decision-making who are closer to the disenfranchised person than our existing international institutions are.

Take AIDS, for example. You create a global network of health ministers to talk to each other about what they have done and what they will commit to do, holding each other to account for these commitments.

When you talk to the members of the G-20, they’ll say, “Much of this operates through personal pressure and socialization.” You meet with each other, you say, “We commit to this,” and then you come back and ask, “Well, what did you do?”

It’s not perfect, but you are getting closer to the people on the ground than when you are talking about permanent representatives to an international institution, where there are multiple layers. You go from the ambassadors to the parliament, and you finally get some implementing regulations, which in many developing countries often get lost in the process .

These networks also have real potential for socialization. The EU has done more than any other entity in establishing peace where there could have been conflict post-Cold War through the simple device of “we are a club and you want to be a member.”

To reign in fledgling ministers, legislators, and judges, you say “You want to be a part of our network? Here are the norms.” Whether it’s clean governments or independent judging, you propose that NGOs can monitor us, we can commit to one another, and we can even commit more publicly—this is a way of supporting you in trying to do the best job you can.

Not perfect, as the elite problem is still there, but a bit better.

QUESTION: How do you expect to cope with the inter-network rivalries, which will then search for vested interests and develop centers vertically? You will end up with the same power struggle around the world.

ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. I’m an international lawyer who spends my life telling my fellow international lawyers, “You can’t get rid of politics; you can’t even think you will get rid of politics.” You will have jockeying, as you do already. If I were to write the next book, much of it would be about how these networks coordinate internationally, and how our own government would have to change. Our State Department is still sitting there as if it were 1950. In fact, economic policy is being run out of the Treasury, and military policy out of the Pentagon.

I would focus on how we can change our own national government structure, and those of other governments as well, to respond to new realities.

There is no solution that won’t give us politics on a global scale if we are truly going to tackle global problems. The question is, are we going to do it this way, or will we do it through international institutions? (Or are we going to just throw up our hands?)

QUESTION: How would you ensure that your network is not run by an oligarchy, a group of nations and a group of officials that would set the agenda? And how would you ensure that everybody is connected, the North as well as the South, especially as the South is still in the process of formulating its policies?

ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER: Many of these networks sprang up as a way of making policy and moving it more quickly than you could do through a traditional international organization where everybody has a vote, and you effectively see, say, the finance ministers of smaller countries banding together. In intellectual property, this is very clear—the ministers of some countries move further than the whole would move.

You don’t want to have networks that have 191 nations, but you do have to ensure that there is genuine representation within these networks of countries affected by particular policies. So we need to have not just formal open membership but actual open membership—either by rotating countries, or else by creating smaller regional networks that can send representatives to the bigger networks.

Systems like this really do work. But you’re quite right that if you’re not careful, you’ll see OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] countries in their network dictating the terms to ministers who belong to other networks.

I do strongly believe that when you broaden these networks, developing countries have more power than they do in many formal institutions, because networks operate by consensus, they exchange information, and they are only as strong as their weakest link. If, say, the justice minister of Egypt says to the American attorney general, “This is great. You want me to do this. I don’t have the capacity to do this. This may be a best practice, but it contravenes this, that, and the other. We can’t do it"—then our Attorney General has to listen. There is no power to say “you must do.” There is only the power, as in much of the EU, to reach a coordinated solution.

QUESTION: How exactly should these networks be created?

ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER: Sometimes these networks are created in unusual ways. The International Organization of Securities Commissioners was chartered by an ordinance of the City of Montreal, which is about as far from being an international treaty as you can imagine. We need a more formal procedure.

I would not be averse to encouraging informal contacts as they are driven by functional needs, together with the effort to put some of these networks on a more formal footing.

For instance, with the Proliferation Security Initiative, if you said, “We will get a network of officials who are responsible for nonproliferation in their particular countries and we want this to be as global a network as we can. We’ll start informally with this group, but our ultimate aim is to formalize it and then take it to an international institution”—you would have a much different response than if you looked as though you were trying to go around existing institutions.

QUESTION: As I understand it, all of these actors will be at the table, with decisional capacities exercised by each of them. The states are to be held accountable, but how do you envision these other actors being held accountable, particularly if you recognize that states don’t have the capacity to regulate all of these actors?

ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER: You've described a nightmare vision, one of global technocracy rather than democracy, because most of the participants are unelected officials. There are two possible ways to respond.

One is at the national level. Different nations will have to decide what they are comfortable with. I mentioned earlier that there is now a bill in Congress to stop the Supreme Court from citing foreign law. That is an exact response to something that has come out of judicial networking. The judges get together themselves and they see nothing wrong with citing each other as persuasive authority.

You need to make it clear what is going on. You can do that sometimes by making these networks virtual—keeping a record of who is in them and when they meet. You can do this through Web sites.

You might decide you want hearings in this country, for instance, for our top officials. Before they go abroad to meet with their counterparts you need to issue instructions or hold hearings. You might decide, “No, it’s fine, they can decide what they want so long as the decision is vetted through appropriate channels domestically.” Different polities will make different calls.

Then there is the global accountability question. If you plan to use these networks as mechanisms of global governance, we need at the very least a set of principles to promulgate—principles to which the members of networks commit themselves, similar to what you see with NGOs and the corporate sector. Corporate networks adopt codes of best practice, codes of conduct, and then the NGOs hold them to account for these codes. The system isn’t perfect, but it’s a start.

You may also like

JUN 17, 2024 Podcast

Linguistics, Automated Systems, & the Power of AI, with Emily M. Bender

In this episode, guest host Dr. Kobi Leins & University of Washington’s Dr. Emily Bender discuss why language matters in the development of technological systems.

JUN 14, 2024 Article

A Conversation with Carnegie Ethics Fellow Sophie Flint

This interview series profiles members of the inaugural Carnegie Ethics Fellows cohort. This discussion features Sophie Flint, a a project manager for Strategic Resource Group.

Left to Right: Nikolas Gvosdev, Tatiana Serafin, Peter Goodman. CREDIT: Noha Mahmoud.

JUN 13, 2024 Podcast

How the World Ran Out of Everything, with Peter S. Goodman

In the final "Doorstep" podcast, "New York Times" reporter Peter Goodman discusses how geopolitics is connected to the goods that end up on our doorstep.

Not translated

This content has not yet been translated into your language. You can request a translation by clicking the button below.

Request Translation