Supranational governance: a challenge to building resilient states and peace

In troubled areas, the vital work of building peace and resilient states continues to be undone by weak and distorted governance at the supranational level. Transnational flows of weapons, narcotics, people, hazardous goods and especially money decisively influence who gets what, when and how. Resulting maldistributions of power and wealth can cripple state capacities, corrupt politics, delegitimise leadership and feed destructive conflict. Yet despite the high priority they give to fragile states, Western and multilateral approaches are failing to take these issues fully into account. As a result, peacebuilding and state-building efforts lack coherence and effectiveness, and can even be counter- productive.

This report discusses supranational governance and public authority in five issue areas: financial systems, security/ small arms, migration, extractive industries and obnoxious goods. Public control in all five is weak, although a few initiatives in supranational governance are showing promise. For each issue area, the report outlines existing international rule and enforcement systems or regimes; the interests steering or blocking them; and the resulting deficits in democratic supervision, coherence and compliance.

In all issue areas, problems manifest themselves in complex ways and vary according to context. In addressing them, no blueprints are available; indeed, attention must be paid to specific settings and to crafting approaches to fit them. At the same time, closer comparative study can yield common denominators and rules of thumb. The report identifies some common factors in supranational governance that can worsen state fragility or improve state resilience. One meriting particular attention is today’s global financial architecture – a central factor in all five issue areas.

The report concludes by suggesting ways in which supranational public authority may be better developed in order to promote state resilience and peacebuilding.

Note: this article has been republished in French by Centre tricontinental (CETRI).