Private Standards and Global Governance

Private Standards and Global Governance

Economic, Legal and Political Perspectives

Leuven Global Governance series

Edited by Axel Marx, Miet Maertens, Johan Swinnen and Jan Wouters

The expert contributors assess the state-of-the-art with regard to private regulation of food, natural resources and labor conditions. They begin with an introduction to, and discussion of, several leading existing private standards, and go on to assess private food standards and their legitimacy and effectiveness in the context of the global trade regime.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Axel Marx, Miet Maertens, Johan Swinnen and Jan Wouters

Subjects: development studies, development studies, law - academic, regulation and governance


: private standards and global governance1 Axel Marx, Miet Maertens, Johan Swinnen and Jan Wouters During the last three decades many social scientists have discussed the impact of globalization. Some critics have argued that existing multilateral and governmentally driven initiatives are incapable of addressing the global challenges that result from trade liberalization and increased economic globalization. At the same time, one can observe the emergence of new non-state market regulatory initiatives. These private voluntary regulatory initiatives aim to govern production processes and supply chains across the globe according to a set of ‘private’ standards. These standards may contain rules with regard to a diversity of issues such as food safety, ecological protection, labour conditions, human rights protection and others. Several authors consider private standards, besides other instruments, as an increasingly important global governance tool. As a result, across disciplines and focusing on different areas of research, several scholars have started to study this phenomenon. Initial studies have focused on the emergence of private standards, their design and diversity and their legitimacy as a global governance tool. Recently, scholars also started to address their effectiveness as a governance tool. Hence, along with the proliferation of private standards, the scientific literature on this theme has increased tremendously in the last decade. What emerges from these studies is a complex picture of private governance raising several unresolved issues with regard to questions of their effectiveness and legitimacy, their relationship with public policy arrangements, as well as to the overall issue...