Democratic Global Governance? The United Nations and Transnational Actors

Zdenek Stepanek

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis deals with the issue of democracy in global governance. In particular, it addresses the involvement of non‐state transnational actors in international relations and organisations and assesses their potential of being a complementary channel of global decision‐ and policymaking, enabling a possibility to express views of more stakeholders and thus serve as a democratizing element of global governance. It considers itself with the clarification of the notions of global governance and democracy and maps different theoretical approaches to study of these terms. It argues for the use of combination of insights from realism, transnationalism, liberal institutionalism, constructivism and pluralism as bedrocks for analytical understanding of global governance. At the same time it stresses the importance of normative view on global governance. The theory of democratic polycentrism serves as theoretical departure point and framework for understanding and analysing democracy at the global level. Furthermore, this thesis aims to contextualize the involvement of transnational actors in international relations from historical and theoretical perspective. It maps the emergence of these actors and calls for concurrent use of theories of international relations and theories of multinational firm in order to be able to grasp this issue in a complex and coherent manner. The inclusion of transnational actors into global governance mechanisms is further analysed on the example of the United Nations, which can be considered today’s most developed platform for solutions of problems that need to be dealt with collectively by the humankind. The light is shed upon the mechanisms that various parts of the UN system use for collaboration with the non‐state and transnational actors. Furthermore, the possible roles and functions these actors can perform are examined. On this factual basis, this thesis aims to assess the potential of transnational actors to democratize global governance. Thus, their inner democratic credentials are analysed in order to identify opportunities and challenges of their involvement. The concept of input, throughout and output legitimacy was chosen as a theoretical framework. Keywords: global governance, democracy, democratic polycentrism, stakeholder democracy, transnational actors, NGOs, transnational corporations, United Nations, legitimacy.

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2014
Number of pages90