The concept of global studies is several decades old. It was not until the 1980s that the word ‘global’ began to complement ‘international’ in the formal diplomatic and political lexicon.
In the mid-20th century the UN Charter introduced the concept of the ‘common ends of Member States’, and over the next half-century the term ‘common’ attained juridical status (‘common heritage’ of the Antarctic, outer space and law of the sea treaties; ‘common security’ of the Palme Report; and ‘Our Common Future’ of the Brundlant Report). The concept of ‘global security’ was promoted by Gorbachev in the 1980s (with disdain form the West), and by the 1990s the word ‘global’ was entering standard discourse in UN General Assemnly debate. In the early-21st century, use of the word ‘global’ has become more frequent and mainstream, especially at the UN; indeed it is beginning to be a point-of-reference, a criterion, for problem-solving.
The critical distinction between ‘global’ and ‘international’ may be self-evident to scholars in the field of ‘international relations’ but remains politically contentious with some groups in some countries.
– ‘International relations’ is the study of the relations between and among nation-states, the development and strengthening of the international community of states, and the handling of common problems faced by nation-states.
– ‘Global studies’ is the study of humanity as a whole group, the emerging political self-identity of a global community of peoples; and the identification and resolution of global problems (those problems which threaten the planet and humanity as a whole).
International relations emerged as an academic discipline around the world in the 1960s; the first academic course In New Zealand being offered by Victoria University in 1972.
There are a number of global studies courses now offered in other countries, A Global Studies Association exists (which the Centre could perhaps join). Academic manuals have been published (e.g. ‘Global and International Studies’ by John Synott, Cengage, Vic., Aust.). No organisation, academic or other, yet exists in New Zealand to undertake global studies. The Centre aims to fill the gap in this country.
The Centre was thus founded in 2012 for the purpose of developing a qualitatively new methodological approach to the study of international relations. The expectation is that scholars and practitioners will look at the same reality – the world of the early-21st century – but from a different analytical perspective, namely, the planetary interest rather than the national interest. The new methodology rests on two distinguishing features:
– it adopts a global rather than a national perspective;
– it is inter-disciplinary in its academic nature.
Simply because the method of approach is global does not mean that it has surrendered the ‘national interest’; rather it is held that, if the true aim is achieved, the national interest and the global interest are compatible and, indeed, mutually reinforcing. This is explored further in some of the Centre’s research papers and associated publications.