York prof behind today’s prestigious Helsinki Discussions on global governance

Today, more than halfway around the world, York University Distinguished Research Professor of Communications, Culture and Political Science Stephen Gill is watching his vision become reality.

Gill is at the University of Helsinki in Finland as the institution’s inaugural Jane & Aatos Erkko Visiting Professor in Studies on Contemporary Society. As part of his role with the Finnish university, Gill has organized an international conference titled The Helsinki Discussions, which will examine critical perspectives in global governance.

Left: Stephen Gill

"This one-day landmark event brings to Helsinki some of the world’s leading critical thinkers on global political economy, law and international relations," says Gill. "They will address the challenges of achieving sustainable and democratic governance in the 21st century."

Gill has asked the international contingent of thinkers and theorists to develop a dual perspective on the nature and future of global governance.

First, they will consider global governance as the practices associated with enduring forms of international rule beyond the purview of individual nations – that is, as it has been normally understood in politics and diplomacy since ancient times. In this sense, global governance involves consideration of the main mechanisms that have emerged to stabilize, modify and legitimate the global status quo, such as the G8 or the G20. Consequently, global governance is mainly evaluated from the perspective of the most powerful states and economic interests. Global governance today involves devising durable methods, mechanisms and institutions – including those of peace and war – to help sustain an international order that is premised on the primacy of capitalism and the world market as the key governing forces of world politics.

Second, participants will also develop critical perspectives on global governance – involving not only a demystification of the power relations between leaders and led, but also an assessment of the potential for changes in those relations. Conference participants will analyze global governance not just from the vantage point of dominant power, but from the perspectives of subaltern forces. Participants will question the necessity, desirability and sustainability of existing institutional arrangements in light of global economic, social and ecological crises and challenges.

Joining Gill in The Helsinki Discussions are some of the world’s most distinguished thinkers and theorists. They are:

  • York political economy Professor Isabella Bakker. A Trudeau Fellow (2009-2012), Bakker is a visiting Fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies and a consultant on gender and human security issues to the United Nations (UN).
  • Author and University of Warwick Professor Upendra Baxi, who teaches law in development and was previously a professor of law at the University of Dehli in India and its former vice-chancellor. 
  • University of Cape Town Professor Emeritus of Medicine, Dr. Solomon Benatar, now a professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto and  a founding member of the Academy of Science of South Africa. He is an elected foreign member of the United States National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine and a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. 
  • University of Victoria international relations and international law Professor Claire Cutler, a researcher interested in advancing critical theory in international relations and developing a radical political economy critique of both public and private international law.  
  • Hilal Elver, a Distinguished Visiting Professor in global & international studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She was founding legal adviser to the Turkish government’s ministry of environment and general director of women’s status in the prime minister’s office. In 1994, Elver was appointed chair in environmental diplomacy by the UN Environment Program at the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies in Malta.
  • Richard Falk is the Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law and Practice at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in global & international studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
  • Adam Harmes, a professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario whose work deals with global political economy, global finance and global governance. His current research examines the competition between neo-liberalism and social democracy over multi-level governance in federal, regional and global contexts.
  • Political science Professor Mustapha Kamal Pasha is the chair of the Department of Politics & International Relations at the University of Aberdeen, UK. Previously, he taught at the School of International Service, American University in Washington, DC (1993-2005).
  • York political science Professor Nicola Short, whose current research examines the political economy of inequality and difference in world affairs from the perspective of Gramscian political theory.
  • University of Helsinki world politics Professor Teivo Teivainen, director of the Program on Democracy & Global Transformation at the San Marcos University in Lima, Peru. As a representative of Network Institute for Global Democratization, he is a founding member of the International Council of the World Social Forum.

The conference speakers will address a variety of contested political issues including such noteworthy topics as the legitimacy of global institutions; social justice, taxation and redistribution; privatized security governance; gender, race and equitable development; environmental issues and climate change; global health; the rights of subordinated peoples in an era of globalization; Islamic conceptions of justice and leadership; corporate social responsibility and public-private partnerships; and various mechanisms of regulation in finance, the workplace and in trade and investment.

The event has been organized under the auspices and sponsorship of the Jane & Aatos Erkko Chair on the Study of Contemporary Society at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki. Other sponsors are the Social Science & Humanities Research Council of Canada; the Finnish Institute of International Affairs; and the University of Helsinki’s Office of the Rector, the Centre of Excellence in Foundations of European Law & Polity, the Centre of Excellence in Global Governance Research and the Faculty of Law.

For more on The Helsinki Discussions, visit the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies Web site. 

About Stephen Gill

Gill is the inaugural Erkko Visiting Professor in Studies on Contemporary Society at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies and a Distinguished Research Professor of Communication, Culture and Political Science at York University. His publications include The Global Political Economy (with David Law, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988); American Hegemony and the Trilateral Commission (Cambridge University Press,1991); Gramsci, Historical Materialism and International Relations (Cambridge University Press, 1993); Globalization, Democratization and Multilateralism (UN University Press & Palgrave Macmillan, 1997); Innovation and Transformation in International Studies (co-editor, Cambridge University Press 1997); Power, Production and Social Reproduction: Human In/security in the Global Political Economy (co-editor with Isabella Bakker, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Power and Resistance in the New World Order (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003 & 2008).