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1  GOLD MERCURY INTERNATIONAL Global Governance: Towards a New Ethic

Global Governance: Towards a New Ethic GLOBAL GOVERNANCE POLICY SERIES

Keywords: Global governance> globalisation> sustainability> global values> global ethics> dialogue> Anticipatory Governance> global solutions> global complexity> nation state> sovereignty> global public goods> global citizenship.


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“For the last thirty years […] when asking ourselves whether we support a proposal or initiative, we have not asked, is it good or bad? Instead we inquire: Is it efficient? Is it productive? Would it benefit gross domestic product? Will it contribute to growth? This propensity to avoid moral considerations, to restrict ourselves to issues of profit and loss—economic questions in the narrowest sense—is not an instinctive human condition. It is an acquired taste.” Tony Judt, What Is Living and What Is Dead in Social Democracy?

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Introduction We are entering into new global realities. Our 21st century society has been shaped by the multidimensional impacts of globalisation: the speed of technological advancement, economic, political and social liberalisation. We face a profound crisis in global governance as the existing international institutions seem incapable of making decisions to lead nation states, corporations and citizens into a sustainable future. It is now crucial to reconsider our conception of governance and leadership, as we search for consensus on the ethical basis of human coexistence and cooperation.

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Global Governance The ongoing process of globalisation is rapidly reducing the significance of borders and people are becoming more and more interconnected. As a result, many problems cannot be dealt with by individual states anymore because they are affecting people regardless of their nationality. Decision making on a global level - global governance - is needed and issues have to be addressed through cooperation between different actors. Global governance should not be confused with global government. In fact, as there is no global government and no universal global enforcement power, global governance relies on a variety of actors. A few decades ago, global governance referred primarily to intergovernmental and/ or bilateral relationships. Today the international system increasingly incorporates the voice of NGOs, citizens’ movements, multinational corporations and the common realities we share through a democratic global media. The current multilayered and polycentric system of global governance is not only a reaction to globalisation itself; it is actually shaping globalisation through the vehicles of regional and global organisations. This includes the UN, the G8, G20, the IMF etc, national and international law, international treaties, international policy making and multiple non-state actors. The way in which the ‘global governance’ system is structured thus impacts everyone, from the individual citizen to the boardroom CEO. We need a way to understand sustainable global governance without taking recourse to several qualifications in international relations. The global governance ‘complex’, or system, is a matter of concern for everybody in helping to facilitate a ‘good global community’ and manoeuvring prospective conflict over global public goods such as scarce resources, human rights, the environment, through democratic platforms. This article aims to reduce the current and future complexity of global governance to something remarkably simple: a global ethic. Globalisation has undeniably created complex ethical dilemmas at the micro and macro level. Yet it is not a “new way of thinking” that we so desperately need; it is an assiduous application of what we have always known—that we need a code of discipline, integrity and respect for our global neighbours. The UN Declaration of Human Rights marked a significant stage in our 20th century global morality—it showed that human suffering was a global concern

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and helped lay the preliminary basis for a global moral community. A strengthened global values framework in action should bolster global governance institutions which should, in turn, reinforce the accountability and legitimacy of the state to its citizens. The nation state is today the most relevant political unit for citizens. What is not so clear is how the concept and management of state and national sovereignty will evolve in a more regionalised and globalised world. We have seen clearly how individual and sovereign nation states failed to predict and avoid a global financial crisis in 2009 and how a group of nations acting as a group (the EU) are moving to rescue member states on the verge of collapse.

The late-2000s financial crisis (often called the Credit Crunch, the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), and sometimes referred to as the Great Recession is considered by many economists to be the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

This paper argues that sustainable global governance must be seen through the lens of an engaged and normative discussion of global values that form a global ethic. Once sustainability is understood as a key moral concern of global governance, the principle could exert great influence on the shape of the future governance system. Values, principles and ethics are often seen as the ‘soft’ side of global governance, but sustainability cannot be achieved without considering them, and without questioning whether and to what extent sustainability is a moral problem that transcends old boundaries—be they political, cultural or economic. As well as considering the global governance system today, with examples of it in action, we will lay out a roadmap for a new global set of values that can shape tomorrow’s governance system when promoted by the right kind of leadership. Ultimately, the global community strives for a new set of norms to underpin a set of constitutional guarantees in all nations, leading towards a global ethic that supports a robust international governance complex.

The Global Governance System An early definition of global governance from the sphere of international relations referred to the “systems of rule at all levels of human activity - from the family to the international organization- in which the pursuit of goals through the exercise of control has transnational repercussions� (Rosenau, 1995: 13). In theory and practice it remains a complex phenomenon, encompassing myriad definitions across economics, politics, social studies, literature etc. Day to day we often refer to it haphazardly, hoping that by its very utterance a magic wand may be waved over a set of complex processes, helping to instill a sense of order and control in our minds. Formerly, a Westphalian order of states had provided the dominant political unit in the international system. Defined and precise national boundaries symbolised sovereignty and people were seen first and foremost as citizens. After World War II, the traumatised allied nations actively supported a formal institutionalist stance to prevent a repeat of disasters on a global scale by setting up the United Nations (as a replacement for the failed League of Nations), the IMF and World Bank. Furthermore, advances in weapons technology now introduced a fear of war between the great powers, and much effort was focused on disarmament and arms controls. The realisation dawned that there was more to be gained through cooperation and, at least at state level, there was a movement towards cooperative, collective action. In the thirty years after World War II there was a sense of extraordinary vision being deployed with the imagining of a better world. During the 1990s, the collapse of the Soviet Union marked the end of that particular period of history of bipolar (US and Soviet Union) balance of powers. The breakdown of state hegemony accompanied by growing activism of civil society, liberal market capitalism and the growth of information technology paved the way for a burgeoning transnationalism. States actively also invested in international institutions to pursue mutual goals; economies and businesses linked parts of the world through transnational trade and capital flows and communities gained increasing awareness of other societies and cultures through transport, migration and mass media. The constant contact with outsiders suddenly made the world a smaller place than ever, but arguably the centre of political power for most people remained the state.

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Transnational Civil Society: International Standards & Industry Policy:

Human Rights Watch, World Wildlife Fund

Media: CNN, El País, Al Jazeera, Wikileaks

UN & UN Agencies:

International Accounting Standards Board, Global Health Council, FIFA

Security Council, World Health Organisation

International Institutions:

Multinational Corporations:

NATO,OSCE, World Bank, WTO

BP, Wal-Mart, Apple, Google


Citizen Trade Union Groups:

Informal Clubs, & Forums:

Trade Unions, Political Parties, Academia, Professional Associations

G8, G20, World Social Forum

Illigitimate Actors: Rebel Groups, Mercenaries, Al Qaeda, Organised Crime, The Mafia

Global Governance System The global governance system is a complex web of interactions and connections between the actors. Depending on change and events, all actors influence one another proactively and reactively


Global Governance Actors A global actor is identified by its unique objectives and resulting policies. It also has the ability to consistenly impact other actors and global phenomena 2

Regional Entities:

Traditional Authorities: Religious Institutions, Royal Houses, Tribal Leaders

National Federal Municipal Governments: City of London, State of Texas, Government of Rwanda

European Union, Economic Community of West African States , Arab League

Government Civil Society Illgitimate

The above diagram lays out the existing global governance dynamics. This includes governmental actors, civil society actors and illegitimate actors. Their interactions create a complex web of push and pull relationships, some beneficial to the global arena and others detrimental. Considering actors’ inability to make decisions on pressing concerns (as evidenced by the difficulties in 2009’s Copenhagen climate summit) the actors do not understand the complexities or are unable to adjust to them. There are a great many actors that are not considered and even more connections that go unnoticed or remain underdeveloped.

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Today we are conscious of participating in a global society, even though what it means to be a global citizen varies widely across the world and is not the exclusive determiner of our identity. However, we are now irrevocably linked to the outside world and are awakening to our new responsibilities. In 2010, the humanitarian crisis in Haiti following the earthquake prompted an unquestioningly rapid response from across the globe. This interconnectedness makes us part of a real global community— we felt it with Obama’s election in 2009, when people across the world took part in the celebrations, from the streets of Washington to the most remote villages of Kenya. We need the global governance system to support these ideals of communality.

Although the situation in Haiti remains critical, shortly after the earthquake, humanitarian aid was immediate. Actors such as the Dominican Republic, U.S., European and Latin American countries, the International Red Cross, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB), among others, announced the shipment of money, food, volunteers, firefighters, experts and even specialised search dogs to assist the Caribbean nation.

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Unsustainable global governance practices: absolute power corrupts absolutely For now, as much as global governance is touted as a participatory and cosmopolitan reality, the international community has not yet risen to the challenge of protecting global public goods and fully promoting sustainability. Examples of unsustainable governing practices abound and the reasons are not a lack of will—they are deeply political. Part of this is that the world is experiencing a failure of global governance. The West found its financial regulatory system fatally flawed in the face of an economic crisis; the UN Copenhagen (dubbed ‘Hopenhagen’) summit on climate change showed how much political in-fighting could set back the sustainable governance agenda. Yet even before the financial crisis, there were deep underlying structural, political, and moral cracks in the old foundations of global governance. It might help to outline the main political criticisms directed at the global governance system today, as a starting point for how we might develop our behaviour accordingly and help shape a more sustainable system. We will see that problems with the institutional order are linked to problems with the global power order.

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Overlapping and insufficiently clear jurisdictions among multilaterals

Global institutions must operate in a coordinated way; otherwise it would be more efficient if each state acted in their own interests. This communication needs to be revolutionised to clearly demarcate and delegate responsibility.

Inadequate funding of multilateral organisations

Lack of investment by private/public actors means that multilateral organisations become unable to provide public goods even if they have the desire to do so. Lack of research and information also leads to unaccountability and inefficiency.

No clear demarcation of responsibility

The global community does not yet have a coherent idea of what the institutional division of labour for achieving global governance should look like. Some argue that the WTO, for instance, should have a greater remit to directly combat poverty. Elsewhere, climate change or the Millennium Development Goals are not delegated in the most productive way. On the other hand, when no one seems in charge, great injustices will surface as, for example, the nefarious activities of oil companies’ in poor but oil-rich African countries show.

Re-emergence of nationalist populism, unwillingness to engage with multilateral organisations

The weakness of the national state in many places inclines politicians to use what power they have to revive national anxieties and symbols. Nationalism surges also when international systems seem unjust, or when countries consider themselves discriminated against. This unwillingness to engage often also takes the form of economic protectionism.

Inequality of voting rights within multilateral organisations

An inequality of voting rights in institutions such as the WTO or the UN Security Council revolves around issues of integrity, accountability and legitimacy. There is a need to redress the deficit in structures of power so that, for example, Southern countries do not feel that Northern liberal hierarchies are coercing them and to address outdated power configurations given the rise of China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico. However, political voting rights must also be accompanied by a concrete redistribution of material resources from rich to poor. There should be no major discrepancy between institutions’ behaviour and their explicit goals of justice, legitimacy and democracy.

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Undermining of formal institutions by growing importance of informal gathering of states

This is linked to the inequality of representation within international institutions which can force new coalitions to gather as a substitute or even in retaliation. In addition, there are new coalitions built on like-minded thinking, such as that between Canada and the Nordic countries. Another source undermining the institutions are gatherings of NGOs and civil society who by virtue of having more information and political will become more powerful to enact change than formal institutions.

Lack of engagement with civil society

Not enough attention is currently given to the vocal claims of civil society groups that represent and speak for particular cultural and transnational constituencies. International institutions need to be open and willing to engage with ‘outsiders’. This will also make them more responsive to the changing goals of global society and encourage them to recognise the importance of flexibility and transparency.

Inability to impose sanctions

This can be both a cause and a consequence of a lack of accountability and legitimacy and a failure to coordinate. Without the ability to impose costs to failure of standards, the lofty ideals of global institutions will have no basis.

Despite these shortcomings, global governance institutions remain essential. Without them, it is difficult to incentivise other member states and actors to coordinate their behaviour in mutually beneficial ways. Without them, inequality would grow and hatred, desperation, envy and insecurity—things which have been at least partly kept at bay during the prosperous bubble of the last few decades—would implode. Given the above list of woes in international institutions the conundrum that remains is this: global governance institutions need our support even if they do not maximise our own interest and measure up to our high standards of legitimacy, transparency and justice. We have to start with what we have today and begin the task of embedding a global ethic and a sense of global citizenship in order to reform our institutions.

©2008-2009 Nicolas De Santis, Corporate Vision Strategists Ltd. All rights reserved

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A roadmap for a new global ethic : Towards a global identity It is now clear that it is not so much the idea of international institutions that the world disagrees with; it is the flagrant double standards they promote, which in the long term could erode accountability and legitimacy beyond repair. These political failures are also moral failures and we have to cease to be comfortable living with them. Why is it that we have such trouble imagining an alternative society so different to the broken one we live in now? We propose this roadmap for achieving new norms of global behavior that will help to realise our vision of a more cooperative and coordinated global governance system: 1. We must first embrace the idea of a dialogue that puts moral values at the forefront when talking about global governance and sustainability. 2. New guiding principles must be formulated by visionary leaders who are supported by the force of civil society and, who lead their communities or nations to participation in global institutions. They will exemplify positive values and force us to appeal to global humanity, reflecting on ethical, cultural, and political issues from the position that states and political communities are not the exclusive centers of political order. They will act as our new moral agents and silo-breakers because they have a vision of a sustainable future and are willing to forego short term gains for long-term cooperative goals.

The UN Millennium Development Goals are a global action plan consisting of eight major development targets in areas such as poverty eradication, health and child mortality, which are hoped to be achieved by 2015. They are one of the biggest attempts to create a global ethic.

3. Exemplary leadership will lead to an engaged discussion about best practices in global sustainability across different areas. In time, policy and research will focus more on the value and effectiveness of international systems. Most research currently is focused on the domestic level and gross misunderstandings still occur in domestic and foreign policy. Since globalisation makes it easy to share and spread the fruits of this research internationally, best practice examples in governance and sustainability will spread and an innovatory revolution in governance will begin. 4. Inspired global citizens will develop, alongside their ties to local, regional and national sovereignties, a new global, transnational sense of responsibility. When the world acts for the best collectively, there will be a strong motivation to follow suit. 5. Best practice examples of sustainability through ethical leadership, more relevant global research and state investment in international institutions should eventually result in a pressure for international institutions to become fairer, more accountable, and transparent. 6. In turn, individual states will be strengthened, citizens will be empowered, states and international institutions will begin to work cooperatively.

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Anticipatory Governance Clear Vision

Sustainable & Cooperative Global Governance

Clear Goals


Universal Dialogue on a New Global Ethic for a Common Good



Empowered Empowered Citizen State Empowered Society


In the above diagram the inclusive dialogue about a new global ethic and ethical leadership in practice is the prerequisite to producing a strong global civil society, individual citizens and states, who by developing an awareness of the interconnectedness of their actions will invest in creating stronger international institutions. This is not just a political revolution; it is especially a cultural and societal one. The strength of the empowered international institutions will reinvigorate states, producing a constant flow of inspiration, empowerment and acting as each other’s checks and balances system.

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Anticipatory Governance™ and envisioning change In this paper we have mainly been highlighting our loss of the ability to pertinently question the present. What about our ability to anticipate alternatives for the future? The answer forms part of the ethical and sustainable governance conversation we intend to invigorate. A critical framework to understanding the future and our role in it is through Anticipatory Governance, defined as “transforming short-term oriented decision making practices to long-term policies and agendas with vision and foresight, and making evidence-based decisions on informed trends, in order to create a future that is co-designed and co-created by professionals and citizens” (Gold Mercury International: 2010). The practical application of this process requires a paradigm shift in the way we make decisions and understand cooperation regarding increasingly complex and non-linear problems. It involves the capacity to imagine alternative futures and the multiple consequences of a given action. It is thus strongly linked to the idea of creating a dialogue for a global ethic since policy makers need to engage, imagine and collectively discuss future contingencies, incorporating the analysis of a variety of governance areas and sectors. Anticipatory Governance is additionally a highly realistic solution to the governance problems we face today, addressing anything from international networked terrorism to global pandemics. This is because the framework acknowledges that shared purposes are difficult to exercise and that our dominant mode of short-termist thinking has seen us participate in detrimental zero-sum

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games where one side has to lose in order for the other to win. Of course, people, states and global institutions will continue to be self-interested in part. However, Anticipatory Governance harnesses these “forces of self-interest to achieve socially desirable moral objectives� (Beckmann & Pies: 2009) and generate a shift towards mutually beneficial positive-sum actions. We now have the technology to analyse, monitor and collate information about our external environment. Monitoring systems have moved from processing data to processing information, meaning we not only collect vast amounts of data but we can organise it in ways which are socially useful to us, as information. If knowledge on best-practices of cooperation and morally good and sustainable governance is shared, then organisations, whether political or corporate, will have no excuse if they ignore this information when taking strategic decisions. If the global complex refuses to employ Anticipatory Governance then the next generation will rightly accuse us of gross negligence. What is more, refusing to anticipate the rich array of contingencies available to us will only result in futile fire fighting. Witness the alarm surrounding the financial crisis. Imaginative and timely global governance had not kept pace with global economic activity and without an effective means of regulation, our collective future was put at risk by toxic and unsustainable self-interest. What we see around us now might be something more akin to the old world, and its old ways of thinking are collapsing around us.

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Good global governance in action Having thus emphasised the need for an ethical dialogue in global governance and a duty to consider future contingencies, we shall end with summarising some select developments and why they have formed a significant milestone in the ‘learning process’ that is global governance. Successful global governance and the positive global ethic that goes towards creating it not just there to fill us with virtue but as we see, has legal, political, social and cultural impact, too.




Peace and

Nuclear Disarmament

Movement was splintered over history until extreme danger of nuclear war became clear to all nations in the 60s. The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), signed in 1968, was international in scope and led to international means to seek disarmament. States established trust in their counterparts to respect normative principles of non-aggression at the expense of scepticism.

Global Economic & Social Policy

European Union & adoption of the Euro

Europe created a currency union, the European Monetary Union in 2002 and launched the Euro. The Euro is a supranational currency, based on trust in regional institutional mechanisms (the European Central Bank). It ultimately promotes a cosmopolitan perspective of governance.

Global Resources

Private regulatory schemes to protect the world’s forests

In the 1970s the world’s forests made it on to the global agenda following concerns about increased deforestation, forest degradation and loss of biodiversity. Governments established various global forums such as the United Nations Forests Forum (2000-05). These largely failed. Now actors are turning to private regulatory schemes, such as the Forest Stewardship Council. Global governance failed in one area but innovated and turned to transnational civil society. Private-civil society regimes can be implemented as part of global governance without nation state involvement. The FSC, which is deemed a success, highlights the alternatives available, although there is still much to be done in governance of forests and the world’s other resources.


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Global Environment

UN Conference on Climate Change, Copenhagen

Despite its many shortcomings, 115 world leaders gathered around one issue and engaged in difficult, complex debates. As an event it invigorated civil society and has spurred an energetic debate across the world. NGOs have so far shown the most respect for the multilateral process and it is up to them to show exemplary leadership and force politicians to change.

Global Culture

Civil rights movement

The African-American Civil Rights Movement (1955-68) aimed to outlaw racial discrimination against African Americans and restore suffrage in Southern States. Before long, however, it blossomed into a global dialogue incorporating matters of racial dignity, political and economic independence and freedom from oppression, beyond a mere legal focus. Civil society movements came into their own, including the use of boycotts, sitins and many more non-violent activities. Significant political and legal achievements followed.

International Law & Humanitarian Affairs

Establishment of the International Criminal Court

The logical extension of the Nuremberg trials, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (the Tokyo Tribunals), the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The ICC was set up to institute international criminal prosecutions for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Trials take place at international level when national countries are unable to. The court provides guarantees of independence and impartiality and a due process of justice.

Global Health

Eradicating Polio

Functional cooperation to eradicate polio took place through the World Health Organisation. It was a coordinated vaccine effort, with support provided from nations who willingly defer decision making, policies and practices to the WHO. Nations came to a consensus on regional and global health policies.

Global Science & Technology

CGIAR- the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research*

CGIAR was established in 1971 and is a strategic alliance incorporating hundreds of government and civil society organisations as well as private businesses. Its mission is to mobilise science for the benefit of the world’s poor. It represents the international community mobilising an international effort, specialising in food supplies and agriculture and putting into practice positive rights.

* CGIAR is a Gold Mercury Award laureate organisation

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Concluding remarks If we are to face economic, political or social uncertainty this century, at least let us be morally clear. We may have temporarily lost the ability to question our present with vigour, but we will not lose the will to offer best-practice, morally sound and sustainable alternatives for the future through an engaged anticipatory and sustainable global governance. We have to imagine change not just in our lives today, but imagine it for the next generation. Of course, there will remain great disagreement about the social function of global governance institutions, especially at a time when nation states are being put under severe pressure. It should be remembered, however, that governance is still carried out by individuals, even when they are part of global organisations. This is why it is important to focus on tangible principles and codes of behaviour. This article argues that global governance complexity should be underpinned by a global ethic, especially when we frame it in terms of a global responsibility. The leaders of today and tomorrow need to participate in strategic exercises of morally informed judgements in a world where agendas will conflict more, not less. Every decision now has multiple layers of power and impact. Leaders have to ask themselves again and again, what is the most sustainable decision we can make in the world today? Going beyond an expression of ideal values, we need to show that best practices and the acts of visionary leaders need application, criticism, modification and reapplication. Central to this project is a critical and communicative global civil society and global institutions that are willing to listen and engage. With new norms of behavior, more legitimate global institutions might arise, helping to reinforce the duties of the nation state. We cannot avoid moral considerations if we take the new responsibilities posed by globalisation seriously. As our world is becoming more and more interdependent we need to realise that we all share a common fate and that a global ethic is indispensable to address future global governance challenges.

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Written by Nicolas De Santis and Ayca Rodop

Gold Mercury International is an independent global think tank founded in 1961. Our Global Governance Model™ is a uniquely flexible framework to organise world complexity within the 8 major global areas. The model combines public and private approaches to generating policy debate and

new thinking in the context of Global Governance and Visionary Leadership. Since our founding in 1961, our commitment to the promotion of peace and dialogue through trade, cooperation and sustainable practices has captured the attention of statesmen, companies, the media and public opinion

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Mannazzu, G., De Santis, N. (2009). Anticipatory Governance Framework. Gold Mercury International.

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Nagel, T. (2005). “The problem of global justice”. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 33 (2): 113-147.

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To receive our Publications Catalogue please write to: Subject: Publications Catalogue

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Global Governance: Towards A New Ethic  

This paper proposes a holistic return to a dialogue of global ethics, values and morality to change behaviour within global leadership and t...