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Open Access The Public-Private Distinction in Global Governance: How Relevant is it in the Case of Voluntary Sustainability Standards?

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The Public-Private Distinction in Global Governance: How Relevant is it in the Case of Voluntary Sustainability Standards?

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Whether global rules and standards originate from a public intergovernmental body or from a private organization has significant implications for the applicability of international law such as WTO law. However, how sensible is this distinction between public and private? This paper argues that the distinction between public and private standards only makes sense if one looks at the legal status of specific standard-setting organisations. However, the distinction between public and private begins to blur and fade if one switches the unit of analysis. First, the paper shows that private standards are often based on internationally agreed (public) rules and norms. Second, the paper argues that governments on purpose or in the design of their policies take these private initiatives on board. Hence, they become an integral part of ‘public’ governance. These arguments are developed on the basis of an analysis of Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS).

Affiliations: 1: Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies, University of LeuvenBelgium axel.marx@ggs.kuleuven.be

10.1163/23525207-12340022
/content/journals/10.1163/23525207-12340022
dcterms_title,pub_keyword,dcterms_description,pub_author
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Whether global rules and standards originate from a public intergovernmental body or from a private organization has significant implications for the applicability of international law such as WTO law. However, how sensible is this distinction between public and private? This paper argues that the distinction between public and private standards only makes sense if one looks at the legal status of specific standard-setting organisations. However, the distinction between public and private begins to blur and fade if one switches the unit of analysis. First, the paper shows that private standards are often based on internationally agreed (public) rules and norms. Second, the paper argues that governments on purpose or in the design of their policies take these private initiatives on board. Hence, they become an integral part of ‘public’ governance. These arguments are developed on the basis of an analysis of Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS).

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/content/journals/10.1163/23525207-12340022
2017-01-12
2017-12-17

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