Issues of Governance and Upgrading
Edited by Hubert Schmitz
3. 1 Making sense of global standards Khalid Nadvi and Frank Wältring* INTRODUCTION Globalization has heightened interest in global standards. Such standards address a wide range of issues from labour conditions, health and safety norms, quality management procedures, to environmental and social concerns. Various actors take a keen interest in these standards, notably consumers in advanced countries, international NGOs (non-governmental organizations), global buyers and producers, and UN agencies. Their interests and motivations for promoting standards diﬀer widely. Some are concerned with defending or advancing narrow interests. Others are driven by wider concerns such as protecting the vulnerable (people or environment) or halting the ‘race to the bottom’. However, governments and enterprises in developing countries ﬁnd that, while they are expected to comply with global standards, they have little say in the making of standards. Not surprisingly, global standards feature signiﬁcantly in key policy debates on the future of the world economy. This is apparent at four levels and revolves around the role of standards in: i) promoting economic eﬃciency and international trade; ii) reﬂecting concerns on the social and ecological dimensions of international trade; iii) providing pressure and opportunity to switch from the low to the high road of competitiveness; and, iv) pointing to new forms of global governance. However, the proliferation of standards in recent years has made it very diﬃcult to conduct an orderly analysis of these debates. In this chapter we seek to reduce the confusion and complexity that arises from...
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