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 4: The Choice of Venue

Frank Vibert


INTRODUCTION An extraordinary mix of venues is used in international rule making. In May 1944 Keynes was aghast to learn that the United States intended to invite 44 countries to participate in the Bretton Woods conference that he was to co-chair. He complained to a friend and colleague that it would be ‘the most monstrous monkey house assembled for years’ and listed 21 of those 44 countries that in his view would not be able to contribute to the work of the conference.1 Yet, at an earlier point, when he had to defend the proposed international agreements in front of a political audience, he sang a different tune. He referred approvingly to the need for ‘consciousness of consent’ – meaning that it was desirable that all countries that were going to sign up to post war financial and monetary arrangements knew full well what they were doing and had agreed to the commitments they would be undertaking.2 Keynes’s ambiguity illustrates two very different sentiments about the form of venue for reaching agreement on international rules. In wishing the conference to be kept small and limited to those who could contribute to the substance of the discussion, he was expressing a preference for a venue where the experts could have fruitful talks. In referring to the importance of the ‘consciousness of consent’ he was enlisting a different principle – that a venue that included everybody was normatively ‘appropriate’ for an agreement that was intended to include all countries. Within three years of the...

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