Panel Paper: Intellectual Currents in Global Policy Studies

Thursday, July 13, 2017 : 10:05 AM
Stoclet (Crowne Plaza Brussels - Le Palace)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Diane Stone, University of Canberra
This paper addresses conceptual thinking on the concepts of ‘global policy’ and ‘transnational administration’. These concepts are not consensual or well established in the scholarly lexicon.  Instead, there is considerable debate, indeed resistance, to such ideas alongside creative thinking, experimental policy practices and theoretical work to give these concepts academic resonance and policy purchase.

The paper is structured into three parts.  The first part concentrates on academia and evaluates the development of the idea of global policy and transnational administration in scholarly journals and other academic publications.  Only this century were journals such as ‘Global Social Policy’ and ‘Global Policy’ created.  This part also investigates the burgeoning interest of students in global policy studies and the equally fast growth of graduate degrees launched by higher education institutions.

While there is increasing use of the term ‘global public policy’ the tendency within policy studies has been to jump past conceptualisation of ‘global policy processes’ directing attention to empirical phenomena such as ‘global policy networks’ or ‘global public-private partnerships’.  Public administration and policy scholars have stopped short of suggesting that there is a separate and distinct global public domain defined by its own policy processes distinguishable from processes that occur between nation-states or within and between international organisations.

The second part of the paper goes beyond the academy to focus on the roles played by the world’s leading think tanks, international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), global dialogues and research institutes. The collaborative knowledge networks they have built have also been important for conceptual advancement. 

Think tanks – whether independent civil society based or located in government departments, universities or corporations – have initiated research projects on aspects of global policy / transnational administration. Think tank networks have coalesced around international organisations – such as the Think20 circulating the Group of 20. There are quasi-consultancy units such as the Global Public Policy Institute or bodies like International Crisis Group and Transparency International that provide advisory and monitoring services on global policy.  

The third part focuses on official understandings of global policy and transnational administration. Within international organisations the meanings can be opaque and shifting. As the World Bank notes, “the definitions of global programs and institutional partnerships are ambiguous at the operational level, as is the extent to which global programs are expected to focus on global public goods” (OED, 2002). The United Nations, and especially UNDP and UNIDO, have been at the forefront of articulating not only dimensions of “publicness” in the global sphere but also questions of policy delivery. That is, the challenges in how international organizations create and finance global public goods.

In sum, a diverse knowledge ecology has emerged around the notions of ‘global public policy’ and ‘transnational administration’. The paper will address some of the different conceptual formulations; how and by whom these ideas have been communicated and applied; and conclude with some propositions about the extent to which government and International Organisation agendas and practices have been influenced by such thinking (or not).