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Jennifer Smyser, Director of Policy Programming, the Stanley Foundation
Jennifer Smyser, Director of Policy Programming, the Stanley Foundation

Godzilla and Global Governance
Editor's Note

Hollywood moviemakers have long used some of humanity’s worst nightmares for their films: flesh-eating zombies, alien invaders, fast-spreading plagues, or World War III. Filmmakers know that we like the idea of conquering our greatest fears and that’s what entices us to go to the theater.

The new remake of the classic film Godzilla—the summer blockbuster featuring a gigantic prehistoric creature that feeds on radioactive material—is the latest cinematic rendition of an attempt to deal with our phobias.

“In the old days…Godzilla really meant something. He was the supreme embodiment of atomic-age terrors, meting out punishment (and also offering redemption) for humankind’s technological hubris,” wrote movie critic A. O. Scott.

“There is still plenty of that to contend with [in the new film], but the focus of global anxiety has shifted from nuclear annihilation to climate change and related problems.... We’ve made a big mess of things with our missiles and our power plants, but Godzilla…is nature’s way of restoring balance.”

While in the fictional world balance might be restored by a monster, that’s not an option for the world we live in. Since we don’t have Godzilla, the job is left to humankind. And for us the toolbox is global governance: the collective effort by countries, international organizations, and nonstate actors to solve common problems.

In today’s interconnected world, where the challenges and concerns of one country are often those of another, coordinated policy responses matter. The health of diplomatic relationships can impact policy progress on key issues that affect us all, like climate change. The ability of national governments to work together can determine whether preventive measures are taken in situations that might lead to mass atrocities or genocide. Habits of cooperation can influence the strength of a system to prevent illicit activities like nuclear trafficking.

But it isn’t just governments that have a role in global governance, and this means that nongovernmental experts, businesses, civil society, and others have to be part of the effort to conquer our greatest fears.

At the Stanley Foundation, we believe that global governance will only be improved with multilateral action that leads to lasting solutions. Only with effective global governance will we create a secure peace with freedom and justice.

And that’s the Godzilla-free and nightmare-free world we want to live in.


— Jennifer Smyser, Editor
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