Research Handbooks on Globalisation and the Law series
Edited by John Linarelli
Chapter 8: Global social justice at the WTO? The role of NGOs in constructing global social contracts
A peculiar phenomenon afflicts global governance: while individuals make countless personal contracts with others and even with their states, a global level set of contracts between citizens and international organizations for the significant amount of international policy-making that impacts citizens on a daily basis does not exist. For example, inter- national organizations have developed policies to address a wide range of global issues such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), terrorism, nuclear proliferation and trade liberalization, but ordinary citizens are largely excluded from participating in the global governance of these issues. There is effectively no global level social contract involving international agencies, nation-states, and citizens. This deficiency contributes to legitimacy problems in global level policy-making that decrease the effectiveness of both policy processes and outcomes. It highlights the international political context in which non-governmental organizations (NGOs) conduct protests against the economic policies of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and advocate a global social contract, or more precisely, a series of global social contracts involving civil society, governments and business actors. A number of scholars have conceptualized the notion of a global social contract as a consent-based agreement to regulate corporate practice, a global redistribution scheme, or a contract to establish an equilibrium between the rights of capital and the social rights of workers. However, critics remain pessimistic about the emergence of global social contracts between civil society, international institutions and business actors.
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