The thematic field of “Global Cooper­ation and Polycentric Governance” deals with the question of how increasingly complex structures and regulatory processes of global governance, with their fluid, trans-sectoral and decentralised character, affect forms of global cooperation. Questions of temporality and processes are the focus of research on “Pathways and Mechanisms of Global Cooperation”, which aims to show which types of processes contribute to the success or failure of cooper­ation over time, which alternative paths can be identified, and which mechanisms hinder or promote global cooperation.

We see the relevance of both research agendas, for example, against the background of current developments in the global governance system. On the one hand, a situation of standstill or a massive crisis of multilateralism has been diagnosed, especially with regard to the withdrawal strategies of the USA, Brazil and some EU members concerning cooperation in fields such as climate or migration. Therefore, a special focus has been placed on researching new actors and controversial architectures in international migration governance. This is also the subject of a workshop and a Special Issue to be published in 2020, which will, for example, critically examine the potential of recent developments such as the Global Compact for Migration.  

At the same time, so-called “anti-globalisation” coalitions are paralysing the progress of global cooperation projects. Particularly pertinent here is the motif of inside vs. outside, which is used in right-wing populist narratives against migration and in favour of nationalist isolation. Several events and publications at the Centre in 2019 have focused on aspects of these anti-globalisation narratives, for example the visual appeal of right-wing populist election posters and the anti-immigration narrative of the Pegida movement.

Finally, the increasing ‘politicisation’ and pluralisation of actors with an interest in global processes increases the complexity of institutional and informal arrangements for global cooperation. This can be seen, for example, in the fields of Internet governance and in the current climate protests, in which new and established actors compete and cooperate. The Centre addressed both topics in events such as the Käte Hamburger Dialogue on New coalitions of change for just & in-time climate protection? with a focus on the role of the Fridays for Future movement, and a workshop on Contested Power and Authority in Internet Governance.

In this context, the phenomenon of polycentric governance raises pressing questions, for example with regard to effectiveness, democracy, accountability and justice. The research results are reflected in the current book project (DIS)ORDER: Techniques, Power and Legitimacy in Polycentric Governing, which, in addition to taking stock of current theoretical approaches in the field of polycentric governance, will work through a collaborative and interdisciplinary dia­logue format. With a view to similar observations, a central research project of the Pathways and Mechanisms group is directed against deterministic and alarmist diagnoses. As the interdisciplinary book project Imagining Pathways to Global Cooperation shows, global cooperation is not a uniform system that functions or fails as a whole. Instead, there is a multitude of different processes that occur simultaneously and can be understood as transnational and global cooperation. These processes can generate new ideas, but they can also challenge existing paths of cooperation.

A decisive driving force of emerging cooperation projects are the imaginaries, as a collectivised and institutionalised form of creative imagination that can become action-leading, communicated through symbolic representations such as narratives, material artefacts or films. The actors in cooperation processes reflect not only on their goals, but also on ways and possible alternatives for their implementation. This kind of self-thematisation in the ongoing process, which we understand as reflexivity, can open up new paths, question established ways and enable change.