Center for Governance and Sustainability

at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Redefinition

pg. 24 : Redefine the international system as constituting a wider, multifaceted system of global cooperation in which intergovernmental legal frameworks and institutions are embedded as a core, but not the sole and sometimes not the most crucial, component. 

Readers' Guide Comment on “intergovernmental legal frameworks and institutions are embedded as a core, but not the sole and sometimes not the most crucial, component”           

This aspect of the ‘redefinition’ of the international system implies that the outcome of WEF's new ‘geometry of cooperation’ should be recognized as superseding intergovernmental agreements. This would  also mean that some non-state institutions could, in some undefined manner, be more important than official intergovernmental organizations.

There is, of course, precedence for this. The Kimberley Process is a multi-stakeholder governance system that is expected to prevent conflict diamonds from reaching the international market. It involves private firms, African mining states, international civil society and intergovernmental organizations in a certification system for all diamonds in international trade. The major OECD countries and diamond exporting countries have arranged for the UN to cede oversight of conflict diamonds to the Kimberly Process. However, the Kimberly Process is now on rocky grounds, as some of the 'cooperating' states and firms tolerate or support the flow of conflict resources, undermining the legitimacy of this effort.

As with many GRI recommendations, there are functioning precedents on a small or sector scale that WEF proposes to generalize to the wider international arena. Some of these precedents however will not add heightened legitimacy, as they are perceived by key constituencies to be quite inadequate instruments.

At the WTO, the Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement gives the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) de jura authority to develop product standards which are to be used by governments in setting their own domestic product import standards. 1 The unusual feature here is that the ISO is, at its core, a body of corporate executives whose recommendations on specific product groups are largely representative of the consensus view of the dominant firms in that particular sector. In this sense, a private industry-led body sets product standards and the international system (WTO) accepts the outcome as binding on member governments.

Related Ideas: Step One and Two; Opt-in-Opt-outism; new governing actors; Step Four

The Readers' Guide welcomes comments with alternative examples or counter examples, supplemental assessments of the extracted GRI text or commentary – critical or otherwise – of the above interpretation of GRI’s perspective.

  • 1. ^ H. Gleckman and R. Krut, ISO14001 A Missed Opportunity for Sustainable Global Industrial Development , EarthScan Press, London, 1998, Chapter 3

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