Inequality in new global governance arrangements: the North South Divide in city networks for global environmental governance

S. Bouteligier

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paper

Abstract

Networks are often portrayed as more equal governance arrangements. Their horizontal character easily leads to the assumption that they go beyond traditional divides. Power relations within networks are neglected because the collaborative activities receive the bulk of attention. However, from a critical reading of the network and flows literature we know that networks are not free of power relations, and that they create new inequalities and sometimes even intensify existing ones. Increasingly, city governments pursue innovative policies by exchanging knowledge and best practices in city networks. The revolution in communication technologies has facilitated the development and maintenance of such networks and some operate at a global scale, including cities from both the Global North and the Global South. It is believed that these governance arrangements empower cities because they (1) provide them with resources (access to information, financial and technical assistance etc.), (2) strengthen cities’ capacities to deal with complex (environmental) problems, (3) make that cities establish relationships with actors that would otherwise be inaccessible and (4) voice cities’ concerns at the international level. Despite the potential for empowerment, I argue that the inclusion of cities from the Global South in global city networks does not assure equal voices and positions for cities from the Global North and the Global South. In response to the critique that literature on the network society has silenced power, Manuel Castells (2009) has distinguished four types of power in networks. Using Castells’s conceptual framework, this paper addresses power relations in two city networks for global environmental governance: the World Association of the Major Metropolises and the C40 Climate Leadership Group. A large number of interviews and direct observations of network meetings have provided the author with significant empirical evidence on the day-to-day reality of network interactions. Power relations that result from informational, ideational and financial flows are at the core of attention. The paper reveals contributor/receiver linkages and their consequences for the networks’ functioning. The conclusions are framed by theoretical considerations on the significance of cities from the Global South in processes of political globalization.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2011
EventInternational Workshop: Inequality in Global Governance, Leuven, Belgium -
Duration: 8 Nov 20119 Nov 2011

Workshop

WorkshopInternational Workshop: Inequality in Global Governance, Leuven, Belgium
Period8/11/119/11/11

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    Bouteligier, S. (2011). Inequality in new global governance arrangements: the North South Divide in city networks for global environmental governance. Paper presented at International Workshop: Inequality in Global Governance, Leuven, Belgium, .