Dr. Tahseen Mahmood Aslam discusses a crucial matter
With the return of Donald Trump as the leading contender for Relevance of global society & US presidency the flag of nationalism has started to flutter again. Nationalistic feelings have also gained currency in many European countries particularly in Italy where the ultra-rightist party has taken the reins of power. In such scenario it is becoming increasingly difficult to talk about the relevance of the global civil society. While getting carried away by the rising tide of nationalism one tends to conveniently neglect that global civil society is just not a political slogan but is a far comprehensive phenomenon as it is about political emancipation and its underlying assumption is the empowerment of individuals and the extension of democracy. It is important that efforts are increased to impress the relevance of global society as it is the only way forward for the world.
There is hardly any doubt that so far the ravages of international conflicts have resulted in internalisation of international relations in which citizens have increasingly participated working at cross purposes with governments that were previously the sole arbiters in this area and this has become the backdrop of the general alienation from the fast spreading civil society. Moreover, the concept and practice of global civil society that were considered not very conducive to the specific designs of a nation-state became an imperative part of the reaction against lack of accountability of governance exercised on global level.
It must, however, be kept in view that the emergence of global civil society in the two decades has transformed the international realm and it has become a sphere of transnational values and is fast becoming an arena in which transnational actors are increasingly able to influence and overcome the narrow interest of national elites. The emergence of global civil society follows a new normative and ethical international agenda that is at times in variance with the conventional patterns of conduct followed by the nation-state. Global civil society therefore imbues a spirit of activism on part of common citizens that may not necessarily be in consonance with the views of the state apparatus particularly those segments that thrive on holding notions of status quo more relevant.
The actual strength of global civil society is that like the concept of human rights, few people would argue against the normative or ethical concept of civil society or global civil society. Even those who may dispute the existence of global civil society in practice would not argue against the use of the concept to highlight a positive normative goal or ideal. It is based upon the extension of political community as international politics is no longer seen as a political sphere limited to the narrow national interests of states. By virtue of its nature the global civil society places a normative emphasis on human agency, rather than the economic determinism of the market and the conservatism of the end of history. Moreover, the role of global civil society is the extension of democracy, the recasting of decision-making processes beyond exclusive national boundaries.
Global civil society actually represents a break between old forms of citizenship tied to the nation-state and new forms of moral and political community. Most of the members of global civil society proclaim morality as the basis of their actions as compared to the conventional state-based politics as the strategic basis for required political change. The traditional practice of realpolitik mostly defined as the struggle for power is negated by members of global civil society as they emphasise ethical and normative concerns of the normal and good life. The visible new situation is that the sphere of power and contestation has been internalised by the considerations of ethics and civility. It is considered the responsibility of non-state actors forming nucleus of global civil society to overcome the empirical and ethical divide between the domestic political realm and the happenings of the international arena.
Interestingly enough the end of Cold War witnessed a surprising shift away from the power relations between states towards a redistribution of power in favour of global civil society. The state system famously defined as neither divinely ordained nor easily swept away did experience a paradigm shift in the distribution of power within its parameters. This was quite unexpected and the established systems of power were not prepared for this change and the developing world particularly saw quite a contest in this respect that often proved violent and deeply destabilising. As was expected the struggle is lingering in nature and now it is in the throes of a reversal spearheaded by conventional corridors of power. On the other hand, the influence of transnational civil society looks to have come to stay as it is not easy to be eased back into pre-Cold War situation. The ingress of transnational society is quite formidable and it is dynamic in nature regulated by high social sense and spirit of camaraderie transcending physical boundaries.
The increasing activity of transnational actors has given rise to a phenomenal increase in the number of non-governmental agencies though many states of the developing world have tried to muzzle them as much as possible. The influence of non-government actors has grown in massive proportions and some have been able to push around even the largest governments particularly in the developed world. They represent associational revolution that is considered equivalent to the late nineteenth century rise of nation-state though it is not as all-inclusive as the state apparatus. Descriptively there can be little doubting the dramatic rise in non-state actors in international affairs and this phenomenon has been valued as symbolising crisis of old statist solutions to development and the need to free global economic initiative from bureaucratic constraints that are no longer rated as relevant. Non-state actors have gradually become a crucial mechanism for opening up political space and challenging state regulation in the developing world.
The associational revolution have given way to a growing consensus on the unique values of the third sector as a vital regulatory and constraining actor capable of challenging the power monopolies and inequalities enforced and promoted by both the state and the market that is taken to be its traditional ally in performance of governmental tasks. The decisive impulse of the global civil society hinges upon the adoption and expansion of international norms and regimes on human rights, the environment, children’s and women’s rights and rights of minorities and indigenous peoples in the last century. More importantly, the current global civil society is greatly devoted to highlighting the international terrorism and along with it champions the environment issues particularly the impact of changing climate on it.
The multiplication of the agenda of civil global society threatens the political monopoly of nation-states in international decision-making and reflects a growing alternative to states and the market representing a third force capable of empowering citizens and possibly transforming the international system itself. In the process global civil society has gained more currency as it provides a platform that is open in its intentions and approaches and it believes in a consensus-oriented decision making process. Global civil society is still in its nascent form and will take time to evolve into a mature alternative with the passage of time. This is the only way available to it to proceed and realise its full potential as it is the logical outcome of the resistance against arbitrary and often cynical conduct of a nation-state. TW