Democracy and Dissent
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Democracy and Dissent

The Challenge of International Rule Making

Frank Vibert

Frank Vibert expertly examines the fundamental issues involved in attempts to rethink international institutions and their rule making procedures. He analyses the basic problems with the existing system and the main approaches to its reform. The book rejects the idea that there are any simple institutional ‘fixes’ for current problems – such as relying on the G20 to coordinate global rule making and also rejects more ambitious attempts to prescribe new general organizing principles for world governance. It calls instead for specific remedies for specific problems. The author recommends new procedures for all international rule making so that both expert groups and governments are subject to much stronger external checks on what they do.
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Chapter 2: Managing Strain – Styles of International Rule Making

Frank Vibert


International rules now emanate from a bewildering array of institutions and in an equally bewildering variety of forms.1 The most important venues are often small and obscure. The source of rules that affect the well-being of individuals and communities can be traced to their origin only with difficulty by anyone other than the cognoscenti. Bodies such as the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF), the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), or even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are not household names, but their actions range from preventing the financing of terrorism to preventing the export of equipment that could be used for the production or delivery of nuclear weapons, and to assessing whether and to what extent human activities might contribute to climate change. In addition, the form in which rules are transmitted from the international level where they are conceived, to the national and local level where they are applied, is equally diverse and bewildering. Moreover, in their passage from the international venue where they have been agreed, to the regional, national and local levels where they are applied, many of the rules change their nature, becoming precise where they were flexible, binding where they were exhorting ‘best practice’. It is a world that is comprehensible only to experts and specialists. In order to start describing the present state of international rule making, this chapter first compares two ‘ideal’ styles of international rule making (they are ‘ideal’ only in the sense of being simplified and abstract)...

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