An International Public Sphere in Global Governance?
In this section we proceed by looking at patterns of political mobilization by non-state actors in the context of two important global governance fora: the WTO and the UN Climate Summits. We look at this considering the three key properties of an international public sphere identified above, assessing actual patterns of political mobilization resemble fare relative to these three benchmarks.
We start with organizational scope, or the active participation by non-state actors that represent constituencies transcending national boundaries (see also De Bievre et al. in press). Figure 3.1 plots the evolution over time of the number of non-state actors that have participated to WTO MCs and UN CSs. respectively, distinguishing between groups with a ‘national’ organizational character and groups with a ‘global’ organizational character. We distinguish between ‘national’ and ‘global’ depending on whether the sources of funding of these organizations are purely national or stem from more than one jurisdiction. The first indication of these figures is that while the population of non-state actors accessing the UN CSs has consistently increased over time, in the case of WTO MCs we observe an increase around 2005 which is, however, followed by a marked decrease in the subsequent phase. Second, at COPs more organizations participate, which, as argued earlier, is most likely a result of the more stringent accreditation requirements at the WTO. Finally, and most important for our analysis on the potential at the conferences for the creation of a global public sphere, we see that the ‘national’ component of these populations is very significant. At each conferences—both at the COPs and at the MCs—the number of national oriented organizations exceeds the number of global organizations.
Fig. 3.1 Number of actors per COP (left) amd MC (right). Authors’ own compilation
Perhaps more telling regarding this second point is Fig. 3.2, which consider the evolution over time of the percentage, and not the absolute numbers, of ‘national’ and ‘global’ organizations attending these conferences. Figure 3.2 indicates with clarity that the organizational character of non-state actors actively participating to both UN CSs and WTO MCs remains overwhelmingly domestic (consistently over time 60% and 70% respectively). These figures suggest that while the population of non-state actors might be on the increase in some cases, the organizations representing constituencies transcending national borders remain a minority, while the vast majority of these populations is composed of ‘national’ organizations seeking access to international institutions. Moreover, we also see that at the climate conferences, more globally oriented organizations are active compared to WTO-MCs. This latter result is quite understandable given the nature of the problems at stake. While climate change is an issue that inherently requires joint action and has implications that are global in scope, trade issues are characterized by a more marked national dimension, both in terms of priorities and distributive effects.
These aggregate data of course obscures potentially interesting differences within the populations of non-state actors attending these two
Fig. 3.2 Percentage national versus global per COP (left) and MC (right). Authors’ own compilation
conferences. In particular, we note that there are important differences in terms of the organization character of active non-state actors depending on whether they represent concentrated or diffuse interests (Olson 1965). We capture this difference by distinguishing between ‘business’ organizations and ‘non-governmental organizations (NGOs)’ organizations. The results are presented in Fig. 3.3, for the COPs, and Fig. 3.4, for the MCs.
The results, portrayed in Fig. 3.4, for instance, show that ‘business’ organizations attending WTO MCs tend to be more ‘national’ than the average (around 8 % compared with around 70%), whereas ‘NGOs’ tend be relatively more ‘global’ than the average (around 40% compared with around 30%). Interestingly enough, Fig. 3.3 show the same results do not hold in the case of UN CSs, as we can observe a much more balanced distribution between ‘business’ and ‘NGOs’ concerning their organizational character.
An additional graph provides an even more fine-grained picture that is illustrative of two important points. Figure 3.5 provides an illustration of how different non-state actors are distributed regarding the ‘organizational character’ dimension across different sectors. The business category is further disaggregated into four subcategories, namely. labour, services, manufacturing, and agriculture, while the NGOs category is further disaggregated into three subcategories, human rights, development, and environment.
Fig. 3.3 Percentages domestic & global among business and NGOs at COPs. Authors’ own compilation
Fig. 3.4 Percentages domestic & global among business and NGOs at MCs. Authors’ own compilation
Fig. 3.5 Percentages national & global per sector at COPs and MCs. Authors’ own compilation
The key observation here is that all organizations representing different ‘business’ sectors tend to have a more ‘national’ organizational character and, in line with previous data, more so in the context of WTO MCs. This means that our data suggest that business actors defend more domestic interest, while NGOs defend, on average, more the interests of a transnational community. Yet, important to add is that even among NGOs a considerable amount of NGOs still defends the narrow interest of a single country. At the WTO MCs this is even more than half. At the CSs, with the expectation of the development organizations, also half of the NGOs defends the interests of just one country. In sum, our findings show that national groups are much more dominantly present at two crucial transnational political venues, and, perhaps more importantly, this hasn’t changed over time. The distribution between domestic and global organizations in the 1990s is similar to the distribution at the more recent conferences, over 15 years later. This means that, at least in terms of the issues that are defended at the conferences, we see no real development in the direction of an increased global sphere.