On February 20, 2015, The Hague Institute for Global Justice and Stimson Center hosted a scholars’ consultation on the work of the Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance in New Orleans. The consultation brought together 18 leading academics and policy analysts who were also participants in the 2015 Annual Convention of the International Studies Association.

Following an introduction to the Commission and its research and policy agenda by Richard Ponzio (Head of the Global Governance Program, The Hague Institute for Global Justice), the scholars in attendance weighed in on various aspects of this agenda and reflected on the challenges and opportunities facing the Commission.

Thomas G. Weiss (The CUNY Graduate Center) initiated the dialogue by noting that the Commission should articulate clearly how it distinguishes itself from previous commissions and identify where there is, indeed, a demand for “big thinking” and big solutions and, indeed, a short label akin to “R2P” or “sustainable development.” He argued that states are looking for guidance on global governance reform that is not pigeonholed into narrow silos and that the appointment of the next UN Secretary-General (by December 2016) and election of the next U.S. President (in November 2016) represent hooks on which to hang what would otherwise be boring issues of “reform.”  He further observed that too many Commissions have failed to build on past initiatives and urged the present Commissioners to say something significant and concrete about an agenda for reform. In a similar vein, Roland Paris (University of Ottawa) urged the Commission to share its draft report and recommendations with experts for peer review and feedback, give definition to the concept of “just security”, and consider the role of the BRICS and Middle Powers in bringing about global governance reform.

Many of the experts present welcomed the promotion of global justice as a novel concept that adds value to current global governance debates. Mary Kaldor (London School of Economics and Political Science) stated that the focus on justice was particularly relevant, given the current alarming crises in Syria and Ukraine and strong feelings of alienation in the Arab World and elsewhere internationally. Necla Tschirgi (University of San Diego) added that the concept of social justice is also significant, noting that (i) a large percentage of global wealth is owned by a small number of people and that such financial inequities must be remedied; and that (ii) social justice  is a more universal, and less technical, concept than development.

Fred Starr (Johns Hopkins SAIS) observed that the concepts of security, justice, and governance are not new, and he urged the Commission to strive for clarity with regard to the fundamental building blocks of its arguments. He also advised strategizing on how to communicate the Commission’s findings to the educated public, and he advocated focusing on small, workable solutions to specific governance challenges. Michael Schroeder (American University) also supported this “incremental” approach to solving global governance problems. Mary Kaldor, however, disagreed with this approach, stating that “this is the moment for big ideas” that are relevant for dealing with today’s manifold crises and recommended consideration of ambitious measures, such as the Tobin Tax and an international carbon tax, to fund global public goods. Several experts were divided between advocating for the incremental approach proposed by Fred Starr and the more ambitious approach targeting large-scale reform, as advocated by Mary Kaldor and Thomas Weiss, among others. In the ensuing discussion, it was pointed out that “big ideas” can run the risk of remaining too abstract and all-encompassing, while an incremental approach might not grasp the underlying weaknesses of global governance at large.

Kuniko Ashizawa (American University) suggested that the notion of “global justice” may not, as yet, be prevalent in all parts of the world, especially East Asia, and she encouraged the Commission to consider further divergent understandings of this important concept. Iavor Rangelov (London School of Economics and Political Science) emphasized the emergence of a new “radical space” associated with the rise of populist movements in Europe and elsewhere. Other scholars expressed worries about a general sense of deadlock in reforming global governance structures, despite a multitude of pressing challenges including the flaring up of violent conflict and climate change.

Roger Coate (Georgia College) and Craig Murphy (University of Massachusetts, Boston) noted that no previous Commissions have dealt with justice and development issues in a significant way – a view that was supported by Necla Tschirgi. On this topic, Fred Starr noted that “justice” is a highly contested notion and will invite many contradictory points of view, which the Commission should take into account. He urged the Commission to pair abstract concepts of global governance with concrete recommendations about how it may be improved. Thomas G. Weiss advised the Commission to focus its reform agenda on the United Nations and to avoid re-hashing old ideas about such reform or reviving those that make sense. While favoring the call for bold and big ideas, Rorden Wilkinson (University of Sussex) also stressed the importance of achieving system coherence in global governance and that, in some instances, certain 20th century global institutions should be retired. Jeffrey Griffin (University of Nevada, Reno) echoed support for justice in global governance as one of the report’s “big ideas” and encouraged its application to transnational health issues too.

Experts lauded the intention to take the Commission’s work forward with a monitoring and implementation strategy over the coming years, with several describing this as a distinguishing feature of the Commission. Mary Kaldor emphasized the importance of such a “political platform” for the Commission’s work, while Craig Murphy identified the five-year horizon as a critical component of the project. Rorden Wilkinson cautioned that Great Powers are likely to push back on smart coalitions of states and NGO’s, as witnessed in the 1990s and early part of this century. Roland Paris stressed the need to translate the meaning of justice in practical ways, and that once the Commission sets its goals, it must stay focused and pursue them over the near and medium-term.  Thomas G. Weiss concluded the discussion by noting that the Commission’s follow-on mechanism to monitor the implementation of its recommendations would be a key to its success. He also stressed the importance of focusing on reform of formal intergovernmental institutions.

Dr. Richard Ponzio thanked everyone for their substantive contributions and welcomed their continued participation in the work of the Commission. Further details, including upcoming online and off-line consultations, can be found here.


Thomas Weiss, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Mary Kaldor, London School of Economics and Political Science

Frederick Starr, Johns Hopkins SAIS

Roland Paris, University of Ottawa

Necla Tschirgi, University of San Diego

Rorden Wilkinson, University of Sussex

Craig Murphy, University of Massachusetts (Boston)

Roger Coate, Georgia College

Kuniko Ashizawa, American University

Iavor Rangelov, London School of Economics and Political Science

Jeffrey Griffin, University of Nevada (Reno)

Michael Schroeder, American University

Svante Cornell, Institute for Security and Development Policy (Stockholm)

Sash Jayawardane, The Hague Institute for Global Justice

Joris Larik, The Hague Institute for Global Justice

Mark Bailey, The Hague Institute for Global Justice

Eamon Aloyo, The Hague Institute for Global Justice

Richard Ponzio, The Hague Institute for Global Justice