Miguel Maduro, Director of the European School of Transnational Governance, tells the Brunswick Review about evolving paths of power beyond the state
In a hotel café in the lower east side of Manhattan, Miguel Poiares Maduro is an unassuming customer, eager to talk about his tickets to current Broadway musicals and the gray drizzle dogging pedestrians outside. It takes some concentration to recall that this pleasant college professor is also former Advocate General of the European Court of Justice, a member of the European Council of Foreign Relations and the World Economic Forum, and of the EC High Level Group on Media Pluralism and Media Freedom. In his current role as Director of the newly established School of Transnational Governance at the European University Institute, Mr. Maduro is perhaps the world’s leading authority on the important power lines being drawn beyond the control of any individual state.
Over breakfast and coffee, he described how states worldwide have ceded some authority to private companies and non-governmental organizations, often involuntarily. Large parts of global society are directed by multinational players who may or may not be answerable to governments or citizens. Professional sports organizations alone account for 1 percent of the world’s GDP, and yet are left to rely on their own internal systems of governance.
In 2016, Mr. Maduro was brought in as Chairman of the Governance and Review Committee for FIFA to help reform the worldwide soccer organization then embroiled in ethics investigations. His service, along with several others, was terminated in 2017, over disagreements with FIFA’s President. He talks easily about that experience, the lessons it holds for society’s handling of transnational governance generally, and how the School of Transnational Governance intends to facilitate that conversation.
The school, launched in 2017 and based in San Domenico di Fiesole on the outskirts of Florence, engages and trains high-level officials and executives in positions in government, NGOs and the private sector. In the process, Mr. Maduro says, the school hopes to map the different forms of governance beyond the state and the issues they impact, to empower individuals and societies seeking to answer this growing challenge.
Is good governance fairly well defined? Or is it still evolving?
Definitely still evolving. The only common element between these organizations is that they require governance that states themselves aren’t able to provide. The forms that governance takes are extremely diverse.
A lot of work needs to be done, both in systematizing these different forms, but also in discussing and seeing what they have in common with each other. Then, we need to link those with the traditional core uses of governance.
We’re living in an increasingly interdependent world. Migration, climate change, security, trade, even traditionally national areas like social justice or taxes, are now matters involving transnational governance. But our forms of governance are still largely determined by a state-based world.
It’s as if we have software being developed now, changing as we speak, but our hardware remains stuck in the ’60s. That’s the difficulty. We want to update that hardware and also study and know the software.
I suppose you’re watching the Cambridge Analytica headlines?
Yes, exactly. In theory, our privacy and personal data would be regulated by national laws. In fact, by engaging with multinational organizations, we’ve given regulation of our privacy, our personal data, to those actors. And what’s the right mechanism of accountability, of regulation, when the company that controls that data itself transcends the borders of the state?
There’s a mismatch between our actions – even sometimes writing social media posts for our state or local community – and our more traditional expectations for how regulation works.
Is preservation of a free press a concern of the school?
It is a core issue for governance beyond the state. You can only have good governance if you have a free and informed public space. Journalists are the editors of democracy: They shape the public agendas we discuss, and furnish us with information. But they’re being replaced – citizens and organizations are shaping the public agenda through social networks that don’t always have editorial processes. Not surprisingly, the quality of information is lower.
We’ve seen transnational processes – alleged interference in elections, or in political processes through fake news, for instance – but citizens don’t understand the transnational dimension. So they turn to ineffective traditional political solutions. The more the media is able to convey the complexity of these issues, and in a manner that’s accessible to citizens, the better citizens will be able to engage in democratic deliberation. They’ll be able to provide their political leaders with the right sort of incentives for governance that needs to happen beyond the state.
Is there a risk that populism could reverse the trend toward more transparency and better governance?
There are really two trends, and they don’t necessarily move in the same direction. On the one hand, there’s increasing awareness of the importance of good governance and a demand for it.
On the other, we’re increasingly inept in forms of governance to match what’s needed for an interdependent world. Those trends are moving in opposite directions. It’s a mismatch between where you need governance to be and the existing models of governance today.
This can lead to populism that presents very simple solutions to complex issues. But you can’t address these problems appropriately by just retreating to the state – not effectively at least. It’s evolution. But political solutions that promise that are appealing. Citizens choose these traditional political solutions because there is no obvious alternative forum for governance beyond the state where they have a voice. There seems to be no form of effective or even possible governance for these transnational situations.
That’s really the challenge we have today. That’s what makes a project such as the School of Transnational Governance so important.