In this chapter we have addressed the empirical question whether concerns about the democratic legitimacy of global governance are warranted. The emergence of a truly international public sphere—that is, an institutionalized arena for deliberative political participation beyond the limits of national boundaries, is considered by many observers a potential solution to problems of accountability and legitimacy that plague global governance. Granting greater access to non-state actors to these international institutions has long been considered conducive to the emergence of such a truly international public sphere.
Our chapter subjects this latter contention to empirical scrutiny by assessing whether important international governance systems that have substantially opened themselves up to non-state actor’s participation in
Fig. 3.8 Level of development at COPs (left) and WTO (right). Authors’ own compilation
recent years such as the WTO and the UN Climate Summits have led to the emergence of a truly international public sphere. In order to develop such an exercise we start out by identifying a normative benchmark. We do so by defining an international public sphere as an arena for deliberative political participation in which non-state actors largely have a transnational organizational, largely act upon global issues and that are characterized by a high degree of inclusiveness.
The largely illustrative nature of our empirical analysis only allows us to highlight some general trends. First, and despite some important differences across venues, non-state actors with a national organizational character remain central in these two global governance systems attending these conferences. Second, both non-state actors with a national and a global organizational character, although much more in the former case, devote a significant amount of their lobbying effort to national rather than global issues. Finally, while patterns of political mobilization in global governance do not seem to be skewed in favour of business at the expense of NGOs, non-state actors from developed countries enjoy privileged access to international institutions. Our (very) preliminary results suggest that there is still a long way to go before we can speak of the existence of a truly international public sphere in global governance.