Rules, Procedures and Governmental Culture

Every political process needs a set of rules, procedures, practices, regulations, and guidelines to make operational the setting and acceptance of a society’s ground rules. Whether they are rules for selecting candidates for office or the procedures for filing a court case, these ground rules provide the ‘acceptable way’ to run the community. At the international level these ground rules include one-nation-one-vote, the rules for CSO and MNC access to international meetings, the acceptable methods for intergovernmental negotiations (informal sessions, work groups, task forces, friends of the chair, etc.), and the appropriate roles for support staff in intergovernmental negotiations.

The formal intergovernmental system is governed by a set of treaties and conventions, a set of organization-specific rules of procedure, and a cultural pattern that is unique to each intergovernmental body. To keep all these legal agreements in balance, there is even a convention on how to make conventions. 1

The informal international governance system is more complicated. Within the international market, the rules are by design as vague as possible. The lack of a formal legal system for the international market and globalization has created a reality where market power has resulted in a series of rules of accepted behavior specific to a particular market segment. These market specific practices are reflected in international commodity market pricing structures, international patterns of mergers and acquisitions, international informal market boundaries, historical associations between particular groups of financing institutions and manufacturing enterprises, and alliances between particular commercial service providers and individual firms. 

GRI's recommendations in this area focus four important areas: how to change the culture to recognize that official institutions and unofficial global institutions are part of a global governance system; how to better incorporate key MNCs and leading international CSOs into the state-centric UN system (e.g. the preparatory process for the Rio+20 conference); how to provide an international political role for national parliaments and legislatures; and how to deal with the consequences of highly fragmented international institutions. The Global Agenda Council on the Future of Government examined a number of other institutional and cultural issues.

In this sphere, the pending governance issues include access to documents and proceedings by non-state Actors (e.g. implementation of Rio principle 10); high level representatives for intergenerational equity (i.e. a special representative for future generations); access to information on sustainable development from globally large corporations; and standing before international panels and bodies by different groups of non-state Actors.

Topics not addressed by the GRI include regulatory arrangements for the global market; the election or selection of MNCs and other non-state actors to participate in formal international governance; the obligations to implement the outcome of official international decisions by MNCs and other non-state actors; non- and under-representation of key communities in global governance; dominance in international communication of the English language; and access to MNC decision-making processes.


Related Ideas: Fragmentation of information and leadership; Reconciliation; Informal conference planning; Principled-based carbon accounting

The Readers' Guide welcomes commentary – critical or otherwise – of the description above as well as the identification of related issues and case studies.

  1. ^ Vienna Conventions on Law of Treaties (1969).
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