Global Governance and the New Society


By: Gerald F. Witherspoon, Sr.

Globalization has had a diminishing effect on national borders and communication technologies have narrowed the time and space of global interactions. The interconnectedness of different civil societies throughout the international community establishes a single ‘global’ civil society. There can be no society without citizens, and therefore, a global civil society would entail global citizenship. In An Introduction to Global Studies, Patricia Campbell embraces April Carter’s definition of global citizenship as “a useful category that makes connections among human rights, human duties, and cosmopolitan beliefs” (Campbell 2010, 26). Global citizens have expanded their understanding of civil affairs from the local to the international and concern themselves with active participation.

Traditional societies have governments, but there is no global government to govern the global society. To that note, states and non-state actors sometimes rely on international or supranational authorities to govern their affairs. These authorities constitute a form of global governance and comprise, according to B.K. Woodward, “the entire range of international public and private, legal and non-binding rules, and the promulgating institutions, regimes, and networks existing today” (2006, 250). Additionally, human rights violations have occurred in droves leading many to question the sovereign capacity of the states where the violations have occurred. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Stop Torture Permanently (STOP) are some prominent NGOs quasi-supplanting state governments (Woodward 2006).

Another non-state actor existent within the global society is Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), also known as Doctors without Borders. The organization was founded in Paris, France in 1971 and operates independent of government funding (MSF 2014). The organization demonstrates global awareness by providing emergency aid and medical assistance to individuals that have been negatively affected by various factors ranging from armed violence, disease, and other global tragedies. MSF International is based in Switzerland, has 23 global associates, and conducts international projects spanning seventy countries. In much the same way that globalization ignores boundaries, MSF offers their services irrespective of “race, religion, gender, or political affiliation” (MSF 2014).

Finally, the global civil society contains citizens who are still marginalized and experience inequality at an alarming rate. Others have accelerated their efforts at exploiting the system and extracting personal gains. Still others, like MSF, demonstrate global affection and humanitarian commitments to the society in which they reside. As global governance continues to evolve through the legal mechanisms established by the United Nations and other international bodies, non-state actors will play an ever growing role in maintaining order within the global civil society.



Campbell, Patricia J., Aran MacKinnon, and Christy Stevens. 2010. An Introduction to Global Studies. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell. (accessed January 7, 2014).

Médecins Sans Frontières. About MSF. 2014. (accessed March 26, 2014).

Woodward, B.K. 2006. “Global Civil Society and International Law in Global Governance: Some Contemporary Issues.”International Community Law Review 8, no. 2/3: 247-355. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed March 26, 2014).


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