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Teaching private governance : a critical analysis of the UN Global Compact Janes, Tracey

Abstract

The central purpose of this thesis is to explore the creation and potential role of the UN Global Compact. Conceptualised as a 'multi-stakeholder learning network' with representatives from both the public and private sector, the Global Compact represents a new institutional model that does not fit the traditional categories of international organisations. The problem that emerges is how we understand this type of collective action and its significance is for global governance. The key theoretical question is what direct and indirect factors have influenced the shifts in global governance towards the development of non-traditional governance mechanisms like the Global Compact? The assertion here is that the dual processes of privatisation and corporate social responsibility have legitimised the transfer of material and moral authority to the private sector. This enhanced position has led to the trend, towards cooperative approaches between formerly oppositional groups and in a cyclical fashion these regimes have legitimised private governance. Environmental factors have clearly impacted the design and intention of the Global Compact. The network's directional and operational features, including broad, non-binding principles and an emphasis on learning and information-sharing, reflect a distinct focus within the network on process rather than outcome-oriented goals. It is argued here that the formation of a voluntary, self-regulative, and non-hierarchical model of global governance reflects the institutional limitations and a 'spirit of cooperation' imbedded in the network. As a product of both environmental constraints and normative expectations, the effects of the Global Compact formation are difficult to determine objectively. It will be shown here however, that the potential implications at the micro-level are based on the ability to affect individual firm behaviour or assessment of interest, and at the macro-level come from the Compact's contribution to norm diffusion, the nature of interaction between actors, and the legitimised transfer of authority to the private sector. The final analysis that emerges from this study is that the long-term significance of the UN Global Compact lies in the inclusive and process-oriented design of the network as both an indicator and a contributor to the changes in global governance.

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