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Towards a Comparative Analysis of Global Cooperation in Different Policy Fields

While our common theoretical focus at the Käte Hamburger Kolleg/Centre for Global Cooperation Research is to gain a better understanding of how global cooperation takes place in complex and polycentric governance contexts as well as how and why it unfolds (or fails) over time, we are well aware that there is not one single answer to these questions. Rather to the opposite: We expect to find patterned variety rather than uniformity. Such patterned variety asks for systematic comparative analysis across policy fields within each of our thematic fields.

In respect of ‘Global Cooperation and Polycentric Governance’, a comparative analysis of policy fields will be useful to identify and explain the diffuse/decentralized and fluid/changeable arrangements that tend to mark contemporary regulation. Comparisons can also contribute to a better understanding of how, why and with what consequences governance of a global problem is spread across geographical scales (local, national, regional and planetary) as well as social sectors (public, private, and public-private combinations). Between policy fields, we are likely to find variation in the degree of overlapping institutional mandates of agencies, as well as in the extent of blurred hierarchies and lines of command among the various governance agencies.

Our study of ‘Pathways and Mechanisms of Global Cooperation’ will also benefit from a comparison across policy fields: Forms, patterns, and lines along which global cooperation evolves, fluctuates or dissolves over time are also likely to differ significantly. For example, different actor constellations as well as cooperative or conflictual interactions between them can be expected to generate varieties of sense making, actions, mobilizations and outcomes. Depending on the constellation, we might discover diverse social mechanisms, defined as recurrent causal processes that explain the movement of global cooperation along specific trajectories. Furthermore, geographical scales can vary, too: Not every trajectory of global governance might start as a global initiative from the beginning, given that local, national or regional trajectories can develop into a global initiative over time.

In terms of our research, both clusters of questions are inherently related. Conditions of polycentric governance influence pathways of cooperation, and, in turn, trajectories of cooperation have an impact on the constellations of governance arrangements.

To identify and study this patterned variety, empirical research on ‘Global Cooperation and Polycentric Governance’ and ‘Pathways and Mechanisms of Global Cooperation’ at the Centre will comparatively analyze four policy fields where global cooperation is urgent and often hard to achieve. We seek to focus on the governance of

  • climate change
  • peacebuilding
  • migration
  • the Internet

Focusing our empirical research on four specific policy fields has practical and theoretical advantages. First, focusing on common policy fields facilitates interdisciplinary exchange and discussion at the Centre. Studying a common empirical phenomenon makes it much easier for people coming from different disciplines and applying different theoretical approaches and methodological traditions to talk with each other. Second, studying a limited number of policy fields allows us to compare forms, trajectories and architectures of global governance across these fields thereby also facilitating communication across the two research themes ‘Global Cooperation and Polycentric Governance’ and ‘Pathways and Mechanisms of Global Cooperation’. Comparing across different global policy fields is a useful method to assess under what boundary conditions basic human cooperative capacities are mobilized, in which ways, and with what effects.
While one could think of many more policy fields in which global cooperation is urgent but difficult, we have chosen these four fields because they represent variation along several dimensions that we consider as relevant for understanding global cooperation. Among these conditions are:

  • the presence or absence of state, private and civil society actors in global cooperation and the patterns and intensity of their relations to each other
  • the relative strength or weakness of multilateral institutions relative to more diffuse and fuzzy forms of governance architecture
  • the relative length of global cooperation, where its evolution over time may create liabilities as well as opportunities for subsequent developments.

While we believe that a systematic comparison across global policy fields is theoretically fruitful in order to identify the characteristics of different architectures and trajectories of global cooperation, it is also methodologically challenging. How can we make sense of interwoven, overlapping and multi-layered structures and processes in different issue contexts? Where are the boundaries between global policy fields, and how far are they separated from or interconnected with each other? We also want to explore negative cases for comparison, in order to avoid positive bias toward instances where global governance ‘worked’.

The following short descriptions of each policy field present our current provisional ideas of what might be of particular interest for the study of the conditions and processes that foster or hamper global cooperation in the complex, culturally diverse and uncertain global environment of the 21st century.

During the last two decades it became clear that the Earth system is probably the most important global common of humanity. Protecting the climate system and avoiding global warming beyond 2 degrees Celsius is part of the academic and political debate about the “Era of the Anthropocene” (Crutzen 2006). Stabilizing the planet, fighting escalating climate change, and avoiding tipping points in the Earth system are therefore cornerstones of the debate on global governance in the 21st century.

Climate protection is a very dynamic field of global cooperation (Hirschfeld/ Hansen/ Messner 2017). Global climate negotiations started in 1995, driven by the United Nations (UNFCCC). The main foci of negotiations, the debated instruments to solve the climate dilemma, and the overall climate architecture changed profoundly over time. During the first phase, climate change has been perceived as an environmental policy issue. Controversial discussions focused on responsibilities of different country groups to protect the climate system and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The turbulent and stalled negotiations in Copenhagen (2009) marked a major shift. It became clear that effective climate protection implies a profound transformation towards a decarbonized global economy. An environmental policy field translated into an arena driven by economic concerns, innovation, investments, trade, infrastructural challenges, and complex justice issues, regarding the costs and benefits of the impacts of global warming and of the transformation towards sustainability (Leggewie/ Messner 2012). Interestingly, science is a key driver of global climate policies. Since 1988 the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) provides the knowledge base for global climate negotiations and probably the legitimacy for transnational collective action. In 2015 the negotiations led to the Paris Climate Agreement, based on the common goal of stabilizing global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius, voluntary, non-binding contributions of nation states to reduce carbon emissions, and financial as well as technical support for vulnerable countries and people to cope with the impacts of rising temperatures and changing ecosystems. Moreover, over time, the intergovernmental UNFCCC negotiations have been complemented, within the UNFCCC framework, by manifold activities and initiatives of non-state actors: cities, NGOs, private investors, and universities form part of the climate governance architecture. Against this background climate change is often perceived as an example for emerging polycentric, multi-scalar, and multi-actor governance structures and dynamics.
 

In the first phase (2012-2018), research at the Käte Hamburger Kolleg/Centre for Global Cooperation Research focused on:

  • the role of knowledge and transnational learning communities in climate negotiation arenas and in processes of transformation towards a decarbonized global economy (Messner et al. 2011, 321-360);
  • actor oriented analysis of shifting climate protection architectures, demonstrating the changing roles of intergovernmental institutions and private actors like city alliances or knowledge and faith-based organizations (Messner et al. 2014);
  • basic principles and mechanisms of global cooperation, which allow for embedding power structures in international arenas in dynamics of collective action and joint problem solving (Grimalda et al. 2016; Messner/ Weinlich 2016).

 

In the second phase (2018-2024), research on climate protection will focus on three areas:

  1. Based on the concept of “collective intentionalities” (Tomasello 2014, Messner/ Weinlich 2016), we will study whether and how preconditions for cultures of cooperation emerge in the field of climate policies. Do polycentric structures in this policy arena result in stabilizing trajectories of cooperation or in processes of eroding collective action? Could the analytical and normative concept of the ‘Anthropocene’ become a meta-narrative for global climate policies, creating common normative ground for actors with diverging and converging interests?
  2. Which world order models are emerging and driving global climate policies? At the heart of the Centre’s application for the first phase was the hypothesis that increasing globalization could lead to a successive harmonization of concepts of global cooperation. However, a growing number of actors in an increasing number of countries are questioning global cooperation; nationalism is an important trend around the world. We are also witnessing a pluralization of world order models (even and especially in the West). Consequently, interdisciplinary research will be carried out on the diversity of world order concepts in the arenas of climate change policies. From an empirical perspective, we will focus on which world order models are actually emerging and gaining in relevance, and which actors are participating in their emergence and dissemination. In theoretical terms, the main question is whether emerging world order models may facilitate or undermine global cooperation. Interdisciplinary analysis and theory building will assess how far diverse world order conceptions are bridgeable by the cultures of cooperation that are identified in the first part of our research and to what extent these competing visions seriously obstruct the prospects for global cooperation.
  3. The overall international system is changing:
  • global cooperation with the multilateral system has increasingly stagnated, while a variety of transnational governance schemes have developed that aim to foster global cooperation between a range of public, private and civil society actors;
  • the BRICS have learned to operate within the existing global order without substantially challenging its underlying rules, while the USA and other Western countries have advanced conceptions of ‘our country first’ which seriously question the need and benefits of global cooperation;
  • multiple new alliances of non-state actors have indeed emerged, but this development has also involved a rise of coalitions that challenge rather than broaden the legitimacy of multilateralism and of collective global action by promoting nationalism and protectionism; as a result we need to examine the greater intricacies of legitimation processes;
  • the EU has gone through a major economic crisis and subsequent political challenges as its member states face increasing numbers of refugees. Meanwhile Brexit and right-wing populist movements are threatening the foundational ideas of the EU and its role as a major driver of global cooperation.


How do these dominant trends change the dynamics in the field of global climate policies? We interpret the current dynamics in the world order as a profound transformation of the established intergovernmental system towards a new global order – which is still ‘in the making’. Research on climate policies will help as to better understand these shifts in the international system which are currently characterized by disjuncture which encompass the co-existence of stagnation in the multilateral system, threats to global cooperation as well as strengthening transnational cooperation.

 

Selected references

Crutzen, Paul J. (2006). 'The "Anthropocene"', in Eckart Ehlers, and Thomas Krafft (eds.), Earth System Science in the Anthropocene, Heidelberg: Springer, 13–18.

Grimalda, Gianluca, Pondorfer, Andreas, and Tracer, David P. (2016). 'Social Image Concerns Promote Cooperation more than Altruistic Punishment', Nature communications, 7.

Hirschfeld, Jesko, Hansen, Gerrit, and Messner, Dirk (2017). 'Die klimaresiliente Gesellschaft: Transformation und Systemänderungen', in Guy Brasseur et al. (eds.), Klimawandel in Deutschland, Berlin, New York: Springer Open, 315–321.

Leggewie, Claus, and Messner, Dirk (2012). 'The Low-Carbon Transformation – a Social Science Perspective', Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, 4, 041404.

Messner, Dirk et al. (2011). A Social Contract for Sustainability, Berlin: German Advisory Council on Global Change.

Messner, Dirk et al. (2014). Climate Protection as a World Citizen Movement, Berlin: German Advisory Council on Global Change.

Messner, Dirk, and Weinlich, Silke (2016). Global Cooperation and the Human Factor in International Relations, London/ New York: Routledge.

Tomasello, Michael (2014). A Natural History of Human Thinking, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Since the 1990s, peacebuilding has emerged as a central field of international intervention practices related to fragile states. The underlying concept was shaped by shared liberal norms aiming at the transformation of war-torn societies towards democracy and market economies. Respective governance interventions in the Global South were supposed to reflect universal knowledge (e.g. ‘Institutionalization before Liberalization’) and a globally defined Responsibility to Protect (R2P) that became broadly accepted in the Millennium Plus Five Declaration from 2005.

Meanwhile, the liberal paradigm of peacebuilding, designed as a one-way transfer of knowledge, norms and resources, has plunged into a deep crisis. The ‘everyday worlds’ and hybrid political institutions of war-torn societies turned out to be resistant against top-down, linear social engineering. In addition, local agents increasingly emancipated from post-colonial dependencies. Subsequently, new approaches gained importance that focus on complexity and ‘local resilience’ and delegate responsibility, formerly defined globally, to the micro level. Although this one-way ‘delegation’ also is inherently problematic, the shift from a more functional, socio-technocratic macro-perspective to dynamics and agency on the micro-level is innovative as it allows for new insights into cooperation practices between international and local actors.

In the first phase of funding (2012-2018), research at the Käte Hamburger Kolleg/Centre for Global Cooperation Research focused theoretically and empirically on cooperation along the “international-local” / “externals-locals divide” (Debiel et al. 2016) as well as on new forms of governing complexity (Chandler 2014). The following three results stand out:

  • Previous cooperation practices were shaped by a fundamental asymmetry. While international interveners experimented with local strategies of conflict resolution (‘local ownership’), they never fully acknowledged the political and moral agency of local actors, expressed primarily in terms of autonomy. This implicit paternalism broadly failed and led to an ‘endless supervision’ of the Global South which became normatively more and more agnostic. Some of the research at the Centre even argued that ‘non-intervention’ might be the best way to deal with post-colonial ‘traps’ of peace- and statebuilding.
  • The ‘epistemic authority’ of liberal-universal conceptions of peacebuilding has been substantially deconstructed. Often well-intentioned policies did not result in political and economic transformation, but rather in disciplining cultural diversity. More recent resilience concepts, therefore, relate to societal bottom-up processes and include context-specific details in their analysis. This response to increasing complexity, however, has a problematic implication: International peacebuilders find it increasingly difficult to formulate their own preferences.
  • Besides frictions and tensions, the interplay of international and local actors is also characterized by the constructive reflection of difference. With a focus on transcultural learning processes, research at the Centre developed the concept of “relational sensibilities” which looks for new ways of coping with asymmetry and alterity in peacebuilding missions (Chadwick et al. 2013). First empirical research discovered that the building of trust substantially relies on creative ways to cope with ambiguity, differing time horizons and normative conflict (e.g. related to gender).


In the second phase of funding (2018-2024), research in the policy field of peacebuilding builds on the above sketched results. The research agenda of the first three years (2018-2020) puts a focus on the following two thematic areas:
 

  1. Which synchronic and diachronic learning experiences have been made in the ‘glocal’ arenas of peacebuilding, especially with regard to otherness and ambiguity? In how far do respective lessons learned contribute to globally shared knowledge about successful cooperation (Pathways and Mechanisms)?

    Looking at incremental as well as disruptive processes of change, the research projects of this cluster investigate how international and local actors deal with cultural and normative difference. One focus lies on friction spaces that emerge between the logics of action of international bureaucracies and local actors. These materialize, inter alia, in the handling of mandates for international missions, which due to their ambiguity leave room for interpretation. Beyond that, normative frictions become evident in conflicting legal systems (legal pluralism) and divergent understandings of ‘gender’. Besides studies on the micro level, we intend to investigate how epistemic and expert communities as well as international bureaucracies evaluate experiences of success and failure. We especially welcome studies that are informed by historical science, social and legal anthropology, cultural studies and the sociology of knowledge. Moreover, we encourage project proposals that have a comparative outlook or encompass different levels of action (international, regional, national, local) and policy fields.
     
  2. Which new challenges arise in the field of peacebuilding as international authority has been increasingly eroded by the fragmentation, overlap and blurring of regulative spaces? Are there effective forms of ‘meta-governance’ that cope with these conditions and take into account epistemic, normative, cultural and legal diversity (Polycentric Governance)?

    Peacebuilding can no longer be grasped in terms of a multi-level-system following the subsidiarity principle or a hegemonic order. Rather, transnational polycentricity with overlapping legal systems has emerged, also referred to, inter alia, as networked governance, regime complexity, global assemblage or multi-scalar meta-governance. Firstly, research in this cluster focusses on mapping the interaction relationships and, even more importantly, the underlying systems of regulation, power structures and authority claims. Secondly, and in a theory-oriented manner, we will investigate to which extent higher responsiveness to complexity and local context correlates with deficits in terms of rule compliance and accountability. One focus lies on the relation of voluntary and binding standard setting. Thirdly, the cluster evaluates whether or not new forms of orchestration or experimental governance increase the performance peacebuilding and on which ‘stories’ their legitimacy is based. The Centre particularly expects added value form project proposals that build on findings from ethnography, organizational sociology, administrative science and international law or work with narrative methods. Moreover, we would take advantage from studies that relate developments in peacebuilding to other policy fields, which are also characterized by the proliferation of centers of authority and the diffusion of power, such as development policy and humanitarian aid.


Selected references

Brigg, Morgan (2014). Culture, 'Relationality', and Global Cooperation, Duisburg: Käte Hamburger Kolleg/Centre for Global Cooperation Research, Papers 6.

Chadwick, Wren, Debiel, Tobias and Gadinger, Frank (2013). ‘Relational Sensibility and the 'Turn to the Local'. Prospects for the Future of Peacebuilding’, Global Dialogues 2, Duisburg: KHK/GCR21.

Chandler, David (2014). Resilience: The Governance of Complexity, London: Routledge.

Debiel, Tobias, Held, Thomas, and Schneckener, Ulrich (2016). Peacebuilding in Crisis: Rethinking Paradigms and Practices of Transnational Cooperation, London: Routledge.

Along with topics such as climate change, terrorism, cybercrime and others, migration has become a priority concern in many national and international debates. From a policy perspective, migration is a cross-cutting issue with numerous economic, political, demographic, gender, humanitarian, environmental and security aspects. For the first time, migration was included in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda adopted at the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Development Summit. Migration is mentioned throughout the 2030 Agenda, and essentially all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) touch upon aspects of migration. Due to the encompassing, multifaceted and pervasive nature of the phenomenon, the debate on causes and consequences, advantages and disadvantages of global migration is not confined to experts and policy makers, but captures the attention and passions of the general public. More than in any other policy fields, rational arguments are mixed with or influenced by emotionally charged narratives of hope and fear. This situation, in turn, calls for the involvement of a broad range of scholars from the social sciences and the humanities at the Käte Hamburger Kolleg/Centre for Global Cooperation Research.

In the first phase of funding (2012–2018), research at the Käte Hamburger Kolleg/Centre for Global Cooperation Research already touched upon a few aspects of international migration and its consequences. In particular, we examined diaspora communities from Iran, North Africa, South Asia, Central and Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, and explored how they construct identity and a sense of belonging in their respective host states (Carment/Sadjed 2017). Other contributions focused on how interactions between host states and migrants are shaped through practices of hospitality and gift-exchange as defined by Marcel Mauss (Heins/Unrau 2018) or on complex intersocietal south-south relations (e.g., Kaag 2016). In addition, we started a line of research on anti-immigration movements as factors eroding the domestic preconditions for benevolent global cooperation (Heins/Unrau, forthcoming).

In the second phase of funding (2018–2024), research in the policy field of migration significantly expands its focus. The research agenda of the first three years (2018-2020) generates a range of topics at the intersection between the policy field of migration and the thematic areas of ‘pathways and mechanism of global cooperation’ and ‘global cooperation and polycentric governance’. Examples of questions to be addressed are the following:

  • Pathways and Mechanisms: In which areas of migration is global cooperation necessary or urgent, and why? What is the role of international organizations in the field of migration? How do politically fabricated emotions shape agendas in this field? Do people or states learn and, if yes, how?
  • Polycentric Governance: How do neo-authoritarian policy measures such as the militarization of state borders affect global-local interaction with regard to migration? Are states really in charge? What’s the role of new players such as, for example, sanctuary cities in the US? What are the conceptual boundaries of the migration industry and other migration facilitators, and what have we learned about them in recent times?


From the particular viewpoint of the Centre, it is worth emphasizing that this policy field raises fundamental questions about the reality as well as the very desirability of global cooperation (e.g., Micallef/ Reitano 2017). Cooperation is not a neutral term. It entirely depends on our normative conception of world order whether states should cooperate more closely with each other or with non-state actors in order to control or contain the international flow of migrants; whether the migration industry or other, non-commercial immigration-supporting networks are seen as part of the problem or part of the solution; or whether different types of migration are framed as a political problem at all.

At a time of proliferation European-driven ‘migration partnerships’ with origin countries, we suggest taking a closer look at the dynamics of migration-related problems that seem to require specific kinds of cooperation among different sets of actors. Here are some examples:
 

  • The demise of the Refugee Convention: The single most urgent problem is the lack of protection for rising numbers of refugees and the failure of the 1951 Refugee Convention, epitomized by mass detention, deportations, refugees kept languishing in protracted exile, the enslavement of refugees in countries such as Libya and the growth of the UNHCR to become the number one adjudicator of refugee status in the world.
  • Westphalia and global inequality: Given that migration is not always, but often an effective way of reducing global income inequalities, the discretionary control over state borders is a problem that needs to be solved by more open border regimes and the easing of immigration requirements where immigration is mutually beneficial for everyone involved.
  • Post-Westphalia and stratified mobility: Increasingly restrictive approaches to ordinary immigration and naturalization applicants are a problem, but so is the opposite phenomenon of states joining the global race for talent and wealth and establishing new regimes of “stratified mobility” (Shachar 2016). A drastic example are passports issued through ‘golden visa’ schemes to lure super-rich foreigners who now can simply buy citizenship.
  • Migration and crime: We should also pay attention to growing linkages between migration control and the control of crime including the criminalization of ethical and legal assistance to migrants. This interlinking is also referred to as ‘crimmigration’ and is visible in public and political discourse, in policies and laws, and in certain immigration and law enforcement practices.


In addition, we are interested in advancing in-depth studies in migrants’ and refugees’ perceptions of Europe, the complex decision-making that determines routes and destinations to and within Europe or the USA, and the question whether migration can be managed or governed at all.

The Centre’s fellows and researchers working on the global governance of migration collaborate closely with the INZentIM’s research cluster 'Transnational and Global Processes'.


Selected references

Carment, David, and Sadjed, Ariane (2017). Diaspora as Cultures of Cooperation: Global and Local Perspectives, London/ New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Heins, Volker M., and Unrau, Christine (2018). 'Refugees Welcome: Arrival Gifts, Reciprocity, and the Integration of Forced Migrants', Journal of International Political Theory, 14 (2).

Heins, Volker M., and Unrau, Christine (forthcoming). 'Anti-Immigrant Movements and the Self-poisoning of the Civil Sphere: the Case of Germany', in Jeffrey C. Alexander et al. (eds.), Breaching the Civil Order: Radicalism and the Civil Sphere, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kaag, Mayke (2016). 'Islamic Charities from the Arab World: Intercultural Encounters of Humanitarianism and Morals', in Volker M. Heins, Kai Koddenbrock, and Christine Unrau (eds.), Humanitarianism and Challenges of Cooperation, London/New York: Routledge, 155–167.

Micallef, Mark and Reitano, Tuesday (2017). 'The Anti-Human Smuggling Business and Libya’s Political End Game', ISS North Africa Report 2, Pretoria: Institute for Security Studies (ISS).

Shachar, Ayelet (2016) 'Selecting by Merit: The Brave New World of Stratified Mobility', in Sarah Fine and Lea Ypi (eds.), Migration in Political Theory: The Ethics of Movement and Membership, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 175–201.

In comparison with the other policy fields under study, governance of the Internet is a relatively new and still emerging policy field. The Internet lies at the heart of a rapidly emergent digital society, with far-reaching implications for human existence culturally, ecologically, economically, geographically, politically and psychologically. In just three decades this communications infrastructure has come to connect 4.0 billion regular users across the planet, some 52% of the world’s population. As such, the Internet stands as a remarkable instance of global cooperation.

With fellows at the Centre we wish to explore how this global communications infrastructure is governed, e.g. how, by whom, and in whose interests the rules and standards along which it operates are developed and put into practice. How do conflict, contestation and cooperation evolve around these rules (or the absence thereof) and their implementation?

Developments in the policy field of global Internet governance – sometimes also referred to as ‘cyber governance’  – raise all manner of questions related to the Centre’s research themes 'Global Cooperation and Polycentric Governance' and 'Pathways and Mechanisms of Global Cooperation'. Regarding polycentric governance, what does the case of the Internet suggest about the shape, promises and perils of new global governance regimes? Regarding pathways, through what channels and dynamics has global cooperation around the Internet unfolded?

Layers of the Internet to be studied

Three broad layers of the Internet might be distinguished in terms of global cooperation and governance: physical infrastructure; virtual infrastructure; and content. The first of these aspects relates to the governance of Internet hardware, in terms of root servers, cables, satellites, exchange points, firewalls, communication devices, etc. The second aspect covers the governance of Internet software, in terms of numbers and names (addresses on the Internet) and protocol parameters (technical standards that enable data movement in cyberspace). The third aspect involves global and transnational cooperation on the rules and standards that govern the information that flows through the Internet (text, images, sound, etc.), with associated questions of e-commerce, Big Data, freedom of speech, hate speech, terms and conditions of use, and so on. Some policy concerns run across the three layers: e.g. cybersecurity, data protection, human rights, intellectual property, and social stratification.

Global cooperation has been most intense around root servers, the Internet address system, and data transfer protocols. Without standardization and coordination on these matters a single global Internet would not be possible. Global cooperation is also notable in regard to some content issues and cross-cutting concerns, although many measures in these areas are unilateral, bilateral and regional, or governed by private social platforms and intermediaries.

Questions to be studied

We see various ways that the Internet can be an interesting case for global cooperation research:

(a) in terms of our thematic areas 'Global Cooperation and Polycentric Governance' and 'Pathways and Mechanisms of Global Cooperation'; and

(b) in terms of comparison with global governance in our other focal policy fields, namely, climate change, migration, and peacebuilding.

As regards 'Global Cooperation and Polycentric Governance', global cooperation around the Internet is marked by transscalarity (local-to-global agencies), transsectorality (public, private and hybrid bodies), diffuse sites, fluid arrangements, overlapping mandates, ambiguous hierarchies of decision-making, and the absence of a final arbiter. Major competition is observed between national and global sites as well as between private and public players. If operated well, polycentrism in global cooperation around the Internet could provide benefits including broad expertise, creativity, speed, adaptability, responsiveness, relevance and democracy. At the same time, polycentrism in global Internet governance raises challenges of retooling officials and citizens, navigating crowded institutional landscapes, negotiating cultural diversities, living with considerable incoherence and uncertainty, limiting duplication, securing compliance, checking capture by special-interests, fostering due access for all affected, and obtaining accountability.

As regards 'Pathways and Mechanisms of Global Cooperation', the Internet raises particular questions about the role of (self-propelling) technological development in global cooperation. In this case large-scale global cooperation has been imperative if the technology is to operate at a full transplanetary reach. In addition, global cooperation around the Internet has long had a major sponsoring state (the USA), which has with time withdrawn its active stewardship of the global regime. Also key for global cooperation around the Internet has been a transsectoral elite network (popularly called 'the multistakeholder community') which has interlinked engineers, governments, business, and civil society groups in regulatory forums. Capitalist forces likewise warrant particular attention, given the enormous strivings for surplus accumulation that have propelled the global Internet development. Various discursive forces seem to have facilitated global cooperation in respect of the Internet as well: e.g., around constructions of 'security', 'efficiency', 'multistakeholder', 'accountability', 'public interest' and 'human rights'. The role of pivotal – in some cases almost evangelically driven – individuals in the various technical, official, commercial, and activist sectors should not be underestimated.

Compared to other research initiatives active in this policy area, the distinctive contribution of the Käte Hamburger Kolleg/Centre for Global Cooperation Research lies in our focus on global cooperation around the Internet. Also unlike other research centres, we approach the Internet as a case of a broader issue (global cooperation), rather than as a sui generis problem. Also unique is the Centre’s systematic comparative approach, where global cooperation around the Internet is explored in relation to experiences from other issue areas (namely, climate change, migration and peacebuilding).

Selected References

DeNardis, Laura (2014). The Global War for Internet Governance, New Haven: Yale University Press.

Dobusch, Leonhard, and Quack, Sigrid (2013). 'Framing Standards, Mobilizing Users: Copyright versus Fair Use in Transnational Regulation', Review of International Political Economy, 1, 52–88.

Flyverbom, Mikael (2011). The Power of Networks: Organizing the Global Politics of the Internet, Cheltenham: Elgar.

Mueller, Milton (2010). Networks and States: The Global Politics of Internet Governance, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Scholte, Jan Aart (2017). '‘Polycentrism and Democracy in Internet Governance', in Uta Kohl (ed.), The Net and the Nation State: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Internet Governance, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 165–84.

Tusikov, Natasha (2017). Chokepoints: Global Private Regulation on the Internet, Oakland, CA: University of California Press.