Review: Critical Choices – The United Nations, Networks, and the Future of Global Goverance

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Wolfgang H. Reinicke (Editor), Francis Deng (Editor), Jan Martin Witte (Editor), Thorsten Benner (Editor), Beth Whitaker (Editor), John Gershman (Editor)

5.0 out of 5 stars Global Hybrid Network Governance Primer for UN+, July 21, 2011

By  Robert D. Steele (Oakton, VA United States) – See all my reviews

Last week I reviewed the first book on this topic by the first author (Wolfgang Reinicke), Global Public Policy: Governing Without Government. I overlooked that book published in 1998, and this book in 2000, for lack of consciousness. Evidently others did as well given the lack of reviews. What makes both these books even more important now is the appointment of the primary author, Wolfgang Reinicke, to the position of inaugural dean of the school of public policy at the Central European University founded and richly endowed by George Soros. To understand how much George Soros has broken away from the government-financial crime axis, his essay free online and also the first fifty-seven pages of The Philanthropy of George Soros: Building Open Societies is essential reading.

I read this book at three levels: for content on its merits; for insight into the specific individuals and agencies behind the book; and for insight into where George Soros might be hoping that Dean Reinicke will go with network governance, what some of us call Panarchy, which is rooted in what we call M4IS2 (Multinational, Multiagency, Multidisciplinary, Multidomain Information-Sharing and Sense-Making). In other words, secrecy is out, transparent true cost information about everything is in–transparency breeds truth, truth breeds trust, and this is how we achieve a non-zero prosperous world at peace that works for all, not just the top 1%.

On page 91 one finds a quote better suited to the front matter, from Kofi Annan:

QUOTE (91): The United Nations once dealt only with governments. By now we know that peace and prosperity cannot be achieved without partnerships involving governments, international organizations, the business community, and civil society.

This book is a primer on networks intended for UN leaders and staff, as a foundation for educating and inspiring Member nation representatives to the UN. It concludes with a three-track approach being recommended to the UN in theory:

01 Strengthen and consolidate existing networks by focusing on implementation and learning processes;

02 Build implementation networks that will help to revitalize weak or weakening conventions that are important to the UN mission; and

03 Launch new networks where they are needed.

The basic premise of the book is that political and economic liberalization combined with dramatic progress in information technology has opened up two gaps: an operational gap, and a participatory gap.

The authors identify six vital contributions made by global public policy networks outside of government:

01 Placing new issues on the global agenda

02 Negotiating and setting global standards

03 Gathering and disseminating knowledge

04 Marking new markets and deepening old markets

05 Creating innovative implementation mechanisms

06 Addressing the participatory gap

On more than one occasion the authors articulate the view that we are in the early stages of a paradigm shift a la Thomas Kuhn. Many of us have been right there with them, including Jonas Sach with his Epoch A (top down command and control) versus Epoch B (bottom up multicultural consensus), Buckminster Fuller, Robert Ackoff, and Kirpatrick Sale.

The book was funded by the UN Foundation and the Better World Fund, and shines a very positive light on the UN Vision Project on Global Public Policy Networks, with Francis Deng (co-author) and Maureen O'Neil (Foreword) being especially noteworthy.

Chapter 4 is in some ways the heart of the book, discussing six ways of creating and sustaining networks. I consider this well-intentioned but off the track–the networks that matter have a life of their own, what governments and the UN have to learn is how to share information and appreciate clarity, diversity, and integrity both within and without.

01 Getting the network off the ground through leadership and the creation of a common vision.

02 Balancing adequate consultation and goal delivery

03 Securing sustainable funding (because money talks)

04 Maintaining the “structure” of structured informality

05 Finding allies outside one's sector; and

06 Tackling the dual challenge of includsion (North=-South and local-global

I will not repeat my concerns as spelled out in my review of Global Public Policy: Governing Without Government but do have to observe that this book is–understandably so–out of touch with the major literatures that have evolved in the past decade on collective intelligence, wealth of networks, cognitive surplus, ecological economics, and my own focus since 1988, open source intelligence (now M4IS2).

The book concludes with a list of UN roles and UN “needs to do.”

UN roles include:

01 Convener

02 Platform and safe space

03 UN staff as social entrepreneurs (I'd laugh since a third of them are spies and a third corrupt or nepotistic, but if the UN ever develops both intelligence and counterintelligence — not something DSS or DPA are capable of — it might be possible to clean house.)

04 UN agencies as normative entrepreneurs

05 UN agencies as multilevel network managers

06 UN agencies as capacity builders

07 UN as financier

As I read all of this I cannot help but think about the Brahimi Report, and the report of the High-Level Panel on coherence. The reality is that the UN is not under the Secretary General's control, the Specialized Agencies are incoherent and “out of control” while also lacking a strategic analytic model, and as things now stand, the absolute last thing any UN agency is ready to do is make its information transparent, public, and easily shareable.

From the book, the UN needs to:

01 Create mechanisms for issue prioritization and coordination (this was written before the High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change issued its report itemizing and prioritizing the ten high level threats to humanity, in this order: Poverty, Infectious Disease, Environmental Degradation, Inter-State Conflict, Civil War, Genocide, Other Atrocities, Proliferation, Terrorism, and Transnational Crime.

02 Taking stock [this requires a public intelligence capability that does not exist]

03 Addressing selectivity and interagency coordination

04 Coordinating a multilateral division of labor

05 Reaching out to external partners.

In the latter regard, the book draws attention to the Global Knowledge Partnership but one cannot help noting that same organization does not list World Index of Social and Environmental Responsibility (WISER). Over-all, and I want to be kind here, this book is too heavily in the past of command and control and “leadership” where no leadership exists and no control is possible. Real networks are autonomous, and they are INFLUENCED not coordinated. They are INFLUENCED by sharing information and–here I draw on Tom Atlee, who enhanced the second of three points in my new essay on Public Administration in the 21st Century:

“Information-sharing and sense-making will be public, not secret. Information and the co-creative meeting of deep, authentic needs, not money, will be the driver of behavior, priorities, and spending. Information and the co-creative meeting of deep, authentic needs, not authority, will be the means by which diverse and disparate entities are harmonized as a virtual whole.”

The book concludes that the Global Compact was an important start, and offers interesting concluding thoughts including this one that I quote from page 113:

QUOTE (113): It is crucial for member states of the United Nations to understand that GPP networks are meant not to replace governments but to complement them.

I find myself very skeptical given that 43 of the governments on the planet are dictatorships, 41 of them “best pals” of the US Government, itself corrupt beyond most people's realization (see my review of GRIFTOPIA for a summary of Matt Taibbi's earnest appreciation), and that government today is legalized crime in at least half if not three quarters of the just under 200 so-called nation-states. In my world, transnational criminal networks are being joined by everyone else in routing around corrupt and inept governments, and unless governments decide to get honest and add value, I believe they will find themselves facing massive global tax strikes at the same time that millionaires the world over begin fearing for their lives and the security of their rather open properties.

For myself, this book, is missing two big things:

01 A call for truth and reconciliation, understanding that 50% or more of government expenditures in health, energy, the military and law enforcement, and other spending areas including agricultural subsidies, are nothing more than legalized fraud, waste, and abuse; and

02 A call for a global to local public intelligence network to support the global public policy network, and a public budget oversight network to keep the public policy network honest. Panarchy requires all three, and all three are central to the concepts developed by the Earth Intelligence Network (501c3), the same network that developed the Strategic Analytic Model that can be used to voluntarily harmonize all EIGHT tribes of policy: academic, civil society, commerce, government, law enforcement, media, military, and non-governmental/non-profit.

Other books I strongly recommend along with the two produced by Wolfgang Reinicke and others include:

2003 High Noon 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them
2003 Redesigning Society (Stanford Business Books)
2004 A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility, Report of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change
2005 Governing Water: Contentious Transnational Politics and Global Institution Building
2010 Who Governs the Globe? (Cambridge Studies in International Relations)
2010 INTELLIGENCE for EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainaabilty
2010 Designing a World That Works for All: How the Youth of the World are Creating Real-World Solutions for the UN Millenium Development Goals
2011 A Democratic Approach to Sustainable Futures: A Workbook for Addressing the Global Problematique

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