Center for Governance and Sustainability

at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Options for the Future

When GRI project looked at the international juridical system, its recommendations covered four areas:

  1. Reducing the role of corruption in firm-to-state transactions (e.g.public-private partnership to support  voluntary anti-bribery compliance);
  2. Addressing illicit transactions and unapproved licensing of products and technologies (e.g. YGL Responsibility Licensing Task Force and the Global Agenda Council on Illicit Trade);
  3. Creating better coordination between national enforcement agencies (e.g. an ocean-focused Interpol); and
  4. Involving social media in quasi-law enforcement (e.g. web monitoring of election irregularities and using the web to enhance accountability).

GRI’s specific recommendation in this area can be found in the following thematic task force reports:

  • Global Agenda Council on Human Rights & Protection
  • Global Agenda Council on the International Legal System
  • Young Global Leader Global Responsibility Licensing Task Force
  • Global Agenda Council of Illicit Trade
  • Global Agenda Council on Ocean Governance

There are currently a number of significant governance issues in the international judicial sphere. Some of these involve the secrecy of existing arbitration bodies; the lack of public input to arbitration panels; the procedures of the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body; the role of the Dispute Settlement Body in tangentially-related trade matters, the lack of public oversight and private appeals mechanism from the decisions of Counter-Terrorism Commission; and the lack of effective enforcement of decisions of the International Criminal Court.

A new governance system to manage disputes arising from globalization would certainly have a number of other elements. It could include a court system for disciplining multilateral firms who are acting outside of acceptable international norms; a settlement system for environmental and social damages that are caused by cross border activities; a legal regime to control the growth of international oligopolies and monopolies; procedures for orderly nation-state and multinational debt bankruptcy; methods to deal with inappropriate payments and corruption in inter-firm transactions; and arbitration and mediation services that allows individuals to seek civil liability redress from actions in the global market.

As much as WEF wishes that there was a consensus on a new “geometry of cooperation,” there will always be those who disagree with any new policy. International competition and inter-firm conflict are simply normal, day-to-day activities. GRI posits that allowing some corporations to make decisions inside the new global governance system will somehow bring market competitors to comply with the outcome. GRI does not, however, provide any evidence for this assumption. It is quite reasonable to expect the GRI to explain how a competitive commercial market and civil society challenges to the same corporate and governmental policies can be presented as a new “geometry of cooperation.” This is crucial, as GRI sets up the outcome of the "geometry of cooperation" in Step One as potentially more important than international law.

GRI also does not addresses what would happen in the case of substantial non-compliance in globally significant areas. How would the WEF, concerned about the effectiveness of the global system, address those MNCs or states might then need to be, in WTO language, ‘disciplined’ ?


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

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