November 2, 2009
This article discusses the role non-state actors may play in the democratization of global governance. It is argued that the nature of international power in a globalizing world requires a redefinition of democracy that is more expansive than the traditional notion of electoral representative democracy. Within this context, non-state actors can play important roles in democratizing global governance because they can potentially represent a range of interests in ways that transcend national boundaries. Two case studies are considered: the World Bank Inspection Panel and non-state participation under NAFTA. These case studies demonstrate that while non-state participation can lead to more democratic governance, it can also lead to governance that is less democratic, particularly if corporate actors are allowed to dominate or if important stakeholders are excluded. While the participation of non-state actors in global governance is potentially problematic, the development and implementation of an appropriate policy framework could help to mitigate the potential risks of non-state actor involvement in international affairs. Framing the participation of non-states within the context of democracy is therefore important. Since democratic values are widely supported by powerful policy makers, understanding the participation of non-state actors within the context of democracy would lend support to government reforms to empower civil society actors in ways that could lead to more representative decision-making at the international level.