Globalisation, civil society, and the multilateral system

This paper analyses the significance and scope of the globalisation process, focusing on its implications for the autonomy of national actors, on the one hand, and on the new demands that global governance imposes upon multilateral action, on the other. It is argued that the current form of globalisation is in fact compatible with some degree of autonomous coordinated social action outside the realm of the market. This allows us both to differentiate between the realities and mystification (i.e. ideology) that underlie the concept of globalisation and to reject the standard discourse and economic therapy offered by certain international organisations to developing countries. If globalisation does not rule out the possibility of autonomous national-level action, it also establishes the basis for more solid and effective multilateral action. The factors that support the need for such action in the future are analysed, action that responds to demands for greater management of international public assets, and to calls for more effective global governance. The article ends by analysing the necessary characteristics of such a multilateral system if it is to meet the needs arising from a new international reality. This article is freely available as a chapter in Debating Development: NGOs and the Future.