The concept of global studies is only a few 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 Brundtland Report). The concept of ‘global security’ was promoted first by President Gorbachev in the 1980s. By the 1990s the word ‘global’ was entering standard discourse in UN General Assembly debate. In 1993, the UN Secretary-General observed that “the first truly global era has begun”.
In the early-21st century, use of the word ‘global’ has become more frequent and mainstream, and is beginning to be a point-of-reference, a criterion, for problem-solving. This is distinct from, albeit related to, the concept of ‘globalisation’ which describes the intensification of individual and group interaction around the world, especially in the economic and financial sectors, and through digital communications.
When used in the academic context, ‘global’ has to do with law, politics and policy-formation. 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. An academic manual has been published, viz.
- ‘Global and International Studies: An Introduction’, J. Synott, Cengage, Vic., Australia; 2009)
A Global Studies Association now exists. In the early 21st century, no organisation existed in New Zealand to undertake global studies, however, and the Centre was established in 2012 to fill the gap. Within universities across New Zealand, two welcome developments have occurred:
- In 2012, a Centre for Global Education Studies was established at Waikato University (https://www.waikato.ac.nz/globalstudies/home); and
- In 2018, a Bachelor of Global Studies was introduced at the University of Auckland: https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/study/study-options/find-a-study-option/bachelor-of-global-studies-bglobalst.html.
The NZ Centre for Global Studies was founded as a think-tank, for the purpose of developing a qualitatively new methodological approach to the study of international relations, but with the standard level of academic rigour. 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.
See the Special Edition on the Centre, contained in the Victoria University’ Policy Quarterly (esp. the second article on ‘Methodology’, pp. 10-14) here: