Global Governance Centre
29 August 2023

Interview with Annabelle Littoz-Monnet

Annabelle Littoz-Monnet is Professor of International Relations/Political Science at the Geneva Graduate Institute and was Director of the Global Governance Centre (GGC) from 2017 until the end of August 2023. The centre was created in 2017 and built on the foundation of the Programme for the Study of International Governance (PSIG). Annabelle Littoz-Monnet is leaving the Centre to concentrate on new projects related to her research and professorship at the Institute.

You have been Director of the GGC for seven years. What are the centre's objectives and how has it developed in recent years?

It has been a great professional opportunity to act as Director of the GGC

Since my appointment as director, my primary objective was always to place the GGC on the "global map" as an interdisciplinary research cluster on global governance. Today the GGC attracts scholars from all over the world, who come to present their work, write for our blog, or stay for longer as visiting fellows. We are seen as a research centre producing creative and state-of-the-art research on global governance. 

We were very pleased for instance when Prof. Ueli Staeger, starting a new job as Assistant Professor at the University of Amsterdam, said of the centre: "The GGC has a distinct profile of cutting-edge, interdisciplinary, critical, and also policy-relevant global governance research. Staying affiliated with the Center while leaving Geneva will allow me to sustain my engagement in a thriving community of scholars, as well as practitioners with the same mindset.“

This leads me to my second objective, which was to create a space for interdisciplinary, critical, and innovative research in the field. This is necessary – at a time when the conduct of global governance seems to accelerate around the reaching of multiple "targets" and the production of endless indicators – to take some time to think, perhaps more slowly. This involves promoting interdisciplinary research that goes beyond "what works" types of questions. We need to reflect, instead, on the politics at play in the way we apprehend problems, as well as the ethical and democratic dimensions of all modes of governing. Such research is most policy-relevant. As Nobel Prize winner Octavio Paz said, what we might do best as academics is to "think, critically examine, appraise”.


Which achievements are you most proud of and why?

At risk of repeating myself, the achievement of which I am most proud is having provided a space for interdisciplinary, creative and critical research on global governance, which is now on the global "map" for scholars and practitioners in the field. This was achieved through concrete realisations, like the creation of The Global back in 2017 – the first blog from one of the Institute research centres, a strong line-up of talks by scholars from all disciplines and from all over the globe, a thriving visiting fellows programme, incubating creative projects, and a constant effort advertising and translating the research conducted by our group of scholars. When I was appointed, we entirely redesigned our communication strategy, creating the GGC newsletter and building our presence in social media – this was when I used Twitter for the first time! But the work of the GGC is also that of our researchers who, through their enthusiasm and creativity, have highly contributed to the life and renommée of the GGC.

I am also delighted that we created a genuine sense of community amongst faculty, doctoral researchers and our many visiting fellows who work on global governance. Through the organisation of academic, but also social events, like our buffet-lunches before the GGC talks and some lively apéro evenings, we have been able to stimulate more informal interdisciplinary discussions, networking opportunities and the emergence of ideas for the ‘next project’.

Finally, I also would like to mention our work putting the research of junior colleagues in the spotlight. Doctoral and post-doctoral fellows working on GGC projects, or visiting the Centre, conduct state-of the-art work. We have always included them in all our activities and publicised their work, through short news stories and more in-depth interviews, which we always publish.


What are the current and future challenges of global governance?

The challenges are manyfold, from the crisis of multilateralism and citizen discontent, to the ecological crisis, to the race towards technological innovation, and the (re)emergence of pandemics. But I would like to point to three less-frequently mentioned, yet equally important challenges of global governance. 

First, in the face of scientific and technological advances, in particular the digitalisation of our societies and artificial intelligence, we need to think about the kind of technological society we want to live in, the way innovation processes are driven and power politics therein. 

Second, as we observe an increasing privatisation and commodification of modes of governing, we need to reflect on what this means. As the mantra of "multistakeholderism" justifies multiple forms of public-private partnerships, as well as the involvement of private consultants, companies or philanthropic actors as experts, policy partners or producers of expertise, one needs to evaluate the implications this has on issues of accountability and on the way we "know" the world.  

Third, we need to reflect on the proliferation of benchmarks, best practices, ratings, rankings and targets in global governance. We need to explore how this knowledge is being produced and what its effects are. What sites and methods are being involved in the assembling of such data? What sorts of effects do they have on the way we see and apprehend the climate crisis, pandemics or yet education? Such questions are crucial, especially in the context of the knowledge practices of the SDGs. 


You have decided to pass on the torch to devote yourself to a research project. Can you tell us a bit about this project?

My new SNSF project explores the politics at play in the making and assembling of global governance expertise, with a specific focus on global health. I examine how we know what we know through an in-depth examination of the epistemic machinery of global health: its sites, its infrastructures, its knowledge techniques and its objects. I am delighted to embark on that new adventure with an excellent research team, which includes Juanita Uribe, Astrid Skjold and Leandro Montes