Gauging Global Governance: The Effectiveness of Transnational Public-Private Governance Initiatives and Intergovernmental Organizations

Funded by Swiss National Science Foundation and the University of St. Gallen

New players, including firms and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), are engaging in global governance. With these new players have come new forms of governing in which varying mixes of state and non-state actors cooperate. Among these innovations are transnational public-private governance initiatives (TGIs). TGIs are institutions in which states and/or intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) work together with business and civil society actors to govern global policy issues. Examples include the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GF) in the health sector, and the Kimberley Process in the security area.

TGIs have been growing rapidly since the 1990s. According to a new dataset, the number of TGIs in 2017 was seven times greater than in 1990. Today, TGIs contribute to governing a broad range of global policy domains, including environmental protection, human rights, health, trade, finance, and security.

Despite their proliferation, we know little about the effectiveness of TGIs, defined as the extent to which they attain their goals. Existing evidence suggests that TGIs vary markedly in their effectiveness. In the global health domain, for example, the GF has been highly effective, reaching a large number of people with HIV/AIDS drugs, tuberculosis therapies, and malaria treatment. The Children’s Vaccine Initiative, by contrast, has performed poorly and has been unable to develop improved vaccinations for children. In the labor rights area, the Common Code for the Coffee Community has contributed to improving the social practices of coffee producers, while the Global Alliance for Workers and Communities has failed to enhance workplace conditions in developing countries.

This variation in TGI effectiveness raises important questions, addressed in the proposed project: 1) Are TGIs effective instruments of global governance? 2) Why are some TGIs more effective than others? 3) How does the effectiveness of TGIs compare with the effectiveness of IGOs?

Based on a mixed-method research design that combines case studies and statistical analysis, the results of our research will benefit both scholars and policy-makers. Drawing on theories of international cooperation and institutional complexity in global governance, our research will identify the factors that explain variation in TGI effectiveness. The project will also provide an empirically grounded perspective on how TGIs compare with IGOs, addressing the important question of whether the new forms of global governance matter. By so doing, we will extend current understanding of new forms of global governance and provide insights for policy-makers and activists thinking about creating new TGIs. We provide the first large-n, comparative analysis of the effectiveness of different forms of global governance and one of the first studies that leverages a big data approach to the study of global governance institutions. More generally, our results will provide insights about the provision of collective goods at the global level and the quality and legitimacy of global governance.